Monthly Archives: January 2014

Canon References and Symbolism in The Sign of Three

Sherlock: Every Canon Reference You May Have Missed in BBC’s Series 1-3 by Valerie Estelle Frankel

has just gone on sale in paperback and ebook. To celebrate the U.S. premiere, I thought I’d post a sample of all the clever references in tonight’s episode….SPOILERS FOR TONIGHT AHEAD!

The Title

This riffs on the original story of a pact between four men who signed their documents with “The Sign of Four.” At episode’s end, Sherlock plays on this with his big reveal of the “sign of three.”

Symbolism: Sherlock’s Palace

GATISS: “[The Mind Palace] came about because I remember having in the midst – probably in Cornwall – in the midst of an absolute crisis of intractability, I said, ‘But he’s got to find out what it is, but he can’t just bloody look it up. What is it?’ and you said, ‘Why don’t we do a Mind Palace?’ ‘cause we’d both read Derren Brown’s book.”

RUSSELL TOVEY: “What, the Mind Palace isn’t a Conan Doyle thing?”
MOFFAT: “No, no. It’s a really interesting idea. It’s how you store information in your brain.”
GATISS: “Hannibal Lecter does it, and it’s a real idea.” (“The Hounds of Baskerville” DVD Commentary)

However, the creators couldn’t show more than superimposed text in “The Hounds of Baskerville” – doing otherwise would be too expensive.

The Mind Palace appears in “The Sign of Three” as a courtroom with Mycroft as the judge to Sherlock’s lawyer. The women Sherlock invites in play in a giant game of Guess Who? And stand like statues when he’s not using them – a perfect audience, barely alive to him. Mycroft is unimaginably tall and large, barking demands which only serve to confuse Sherlock and disorient him, as shown by his behavior during his wedding speech – the most disconcerted he’s ever appeared. Sherlock also mentions he’s plotted Mycroft’s death – their relationship is quite problematic. He finally dismisses Mycroft as the voice of his mind, insisting on Watson instead, with the words, “You keep me right.”

This seems to be a single room in his mind palace, yet it’s quite telling – He’s playing childish games and using people while Mycroft looms as the parent to Sherlock’s child. “Let’s play murder,” he says in the real world of the wedding. Sherlock rebelliously tells adult Mycroft, “I’m not a child anymore”: in fact a truly childish thing to say. Many references to Sherlock’s childishness appear in this episode:

 SHERLOCK (sitting down in his chair): You bring me tea in the morning?

MRS HUDSON (pouring the tea): Well, where d’you think it came from?!
SHERLOCK: I don’t know. I just thought it sort of happened.
MRS HUDSON: Your mother has a lot to answer for.
(She takes the cup and saucer over to him.)
SHERLOCK: Mm, I know. I have a list. Mycroft has a file.

MRS HUDSON (walking towards the door): I really am going to have a word with your mother.
SHERLOCK: You can if you like. She understands very little.

This may simply mean that Sherlock operates on a mental level far above her or it may relate to his relationship with her as a misunderstood child.

In this episode, John and Mary act somewhat like Sherlock’s parents – embarrassed by his impolite behavior yet also fighting for his needs when there’s a real crisis. In other episodes, John has also been overprotective of Sherlock, shooting the assailant in the first episode and hurling himself at Moriarty so Sherlock can escape in “The Great Game.” He tucks Sherlock into bed and is very protective of his feelings on discovering that Irene faked her death. Sherlock in turn acts completely panicked when John is threatened, showing that he might lose his only stability.

Before the wedding, Mary comforts Sherlock, pointing out that he shouldn’t be jealous of John’s having a friend before Major Sholto. All three work as a team to save the Major, entering a new level of partnership – a real “Sign of Three.”

Sherlock’s adult confusion at Irene Adler (possibly a frequent guest in his mind palace) and Janine the maid of honor appear here – in the final minutes he appears ready to ask the Janine for a dance before seeing she has someone already.

Another example of Sherlock’s childlike confusion appears during his first real conversation seen with a child:

SHERLOCK: Basically it’s a cute smile to the bride’s side, cute smile to the groom’s side and then the rings.
ARCHIE: No.
SHERLOCK: And you have to wear the outfit.
ARCHIE: No.
SHERLOCK: You really do have to wear the outfit.
ARCHIE: What for?
SHERLOCK: Grown-ups like that sort of thing.
ARCHIE: Why?
(Sherlock pauses for a moment.)
SHERLOCK:…I don’t know. I’ll ask one.
ARCHIE (thoughtfully): You’re a detective.
SHERLOCK: Yep.
ARCHIE: Have you solved any murders?
SHERLOCK: Sure. Loads.
ARCHIE: Can I see?
SHERLOCK (after only a momentary hesitation): Yeah, all right.

Sherlock implies that he understands being a boy but must consult a “real” adult on adult matters. He and Archie bond over gruesome case photos as Sherlock doesn’t sugar-coat or sensor the images as other adults would.

By the episode’s end he emphasizes his relationship with John and Mary, along with a hint of wistful jealousy:

SHERLOCK: Don’t panic. None of you panic. Absolutely no reason to panic.
JOHN: Oh, and you’d know, of course?
SHERLOCK: Yes I would. You’re already the best parents in the world, look at all the practice you’ve had.
JOHN: What practice?
SHERLOCK: Well, you’re hardly going to need me around now that you’ve got a real baby on the way. (“The Sign of Three”)

Canon References

  • Donovan warns Lestrade: “Jones’ll get all the credit if you leave now! You know he will!” Lestrade and Gregson spend the first episode battling to outdo each other on a case, and Jones is similar in “The Sign of Four.”
  • Holmes is shown getting on quite well with a little boy. On the show, he and the Baker Street Irregulars (a gang of street urchins) understand one another perfectly. This also works well as a nod to the film, Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars, which details more about the relationship.
  • John references Harry and her drinking problem, mentioned in the first episode. He also mentions he’s seeing the psychiatrist less.
  • Wedding telegrams echo the original Holmes’s fondness for telegrams.
  • One telegram Sherlock reads says, “…Oodles of love and heaps of good wishes from C.A.M. Wish your family could have seen this.” Mary flinches. It appears she’s had dealings with Charles Augustus Magnussen (Milverton in the short story). This also hints at her family situation–Mary notes in flashback that she’s an orphan.
  • Sherlock reads a telegram from Mike Stamford, Watson’s former colleague at Barts, who introduced them.
  • When Sherlock is asked to be a best man, he’s confused and notes that a philanthropist (and occasional murderer) is the “best man” he knows:

JOHN: The best man.
SHERLOCK: The best man?
JOHN: What do you think?
SHERLOCK: Billy Kincaid.
JOHN: Sorry, what?
SHERLOCK: Billy Kincaid, the Camden Garroter. Best man I ever knew. Vast contributions to charity, never disclosed. Personally managed to save three hospitals from closure, and ran the best and safest children’s homes in North England. Yes, every now and again there’d be some garrotings, but, stacking up the lives saved against the garrotings, on balance I’d say…

This is a flip on the original line – “I assure you that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little children for their insurance-money, and the most repellent man of my acquaintance is a philanthropist who has spent nearly a quarter of a million upon the London poor.” (“The Sign of Four”)

  • Everyone warns Holmes that the relationship will change. This is the case in the books, as Watson loses track of many of Holmes’s cases and only drops in on his occasionally during his marriage. At the end of “The Sign of the Four,” Watson says, “I fear that it may be the last investigation in which I shall have the chance of studying your methods. Miss Morstan has done me the honor to accept me as a husband in prospective.”
  • Holmes replies with the line he repeats several times in the episode: “I really cannot congratulate you.” Of course, in the book he says it in private, and on the show, he amends his answer, and finally adds that he actually does congratulate them.
  • Holmes’s other line from original story is repeated: “Love is an emotional thing, and whatever is emotional is opposed to that true cold reason which I place above all things” (“The Sign of the Four”). The wedding guests are not amused.
  • In the book Holmes is not seen attending the wedding – it’s uncertain that he even does so. It’s certainly believable that he would compose a violin piece, practice dancing until it’s exact, be immune to the bridesmaid’s charms (yet size up the men around them), catch a criminal during the reception, and then finally walk off alone into the darkness.
  • Speaking to young Archie, Sherlock says, ‘Get this right and there’s a headless nun in it for you.’ This nods to the series’ unaired pilot.
  • The cases mentioned in this one do not appear to be in the book: “The Hollow Client,” “The Matchbox Decathlete,” “The Mayfly Man,” “The Poison Giant,” “The Bloody Guardsman,” and “The Elephant in the Room.” The last of these appears to be just a play on words with the expression “elephant in the room,” except that “The Mystery of the Vanishing White Elephant” was a case in Basil Rathbone’s New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes radio show of the 1940s. “The Mayfly Man” and “The Bloody Guardsman” are solved in the course of this episode.
  • “The Mayfly Man” has elements of “A Case of Identity,” where a woman dates a mystery man who dumps her suddenly…it’s her own stepfather, scaring off suitors (This plot also appears in “The Empty Hearse”). Likewise in “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton,” Holmes starts “walking out” with a housemaid and even proposes marriage just to get information on the man she works for (foreshadowing the following episode). This is the actual solution.
  • Sherlock tells of “The Matchbox Decathlete” – a French decathlete found surrounded by 1,812 matchboxes, all empty except one. “The Inexplicable Matchbox” appears on John’s blog, There, he mentions Sherlock dressing as a clown and Mrs. Hudson being pushed from a helicopter. He’s unable to add details due to “Every Official Secrets Act.” This is adapted from the case “of Isadora Persano, the well-known journalist and duelist, who was found stark staring mad with a match box in front of him which contained a remarkable worm said to be unknown to science” (“The Problem of Thor Bridge”).
  • Lestrade hypothesizes a very small person with a blow-pipe snuck through the vents and murdered the soldier for “The Bloody Guardsman,” as Sherlock calls it. “The Poison Giant” has a similar plot. In “The Sign of Four,” Jonathan Small’s Pacific Islander accomplice fits this description, and this is actually how the murder was committed.
  • The locked room mystery death of “The Bloody Guardsman” also resembles “The Crooked Man” with a soldier out for revenge on another.
  • The Hollow Client is one of the cases on John’s blog, explained fully there.
  • There’s also the young woman who keeps hesitating on the pavement. Sherlock comments, “Oscillation on the pavement always means there’s a love affair.” “A Case of Identity” has the same line: “I have seen those symptoms before,” said Holmes, throwing his cigarette into the fire. “Oscillation upon the pavement always means an affaire de coeur. She would like advice, but is not sure that the matter is not too delicate for communication.”
  • The fan joke about Watson’s middle name appears again.

GATISS: “‘Hamish’ is from the Rathbone films, isn’t it?”
MOFFAT: “No. Doyle when he wrote these stories was appalling on continuity. Continuity was so bad, he once forgot Doctor Watson’s name and had his wife call him James. He’s called James for a whole story!”
CUMBERBATCH: “Maybe she just forgot the name!”
MOFFAT: “Someone came up with this brilliant theory that the middle name was Hamish – ‘cause it’s John H. Watson in the stories – and Hamish is the Scottish version of James, so she called him by his middle name.”

GATISS: “What’s great is, the lack of Doyle’s continuity is a great field for in-jokes.” (Commentary, “A Scandal in Belgravia”)

  • For the second episode running, Sherlock gets Lestrade’s first name wrong: Gavin this time, Graham in “The Empty Hearse.” Doyle only ever referred to ‘G. Lestrade,’ though he’s named Greg for Inspector Gregson.
  • “Vatican cameos” (Watson and Holmes’ code phrase for danger) appears again along with a quick glimpse of Irene Adler from the same episode.
  • Sherlock calls himself a high-functioning sociopath again, nodding to episode one.
  • Holmes asks Molly about her boyfriend while studying how to get only mildly drunk.
  • Molly calls Sherlock a graduate chemist. Watson remarks on his friend’s knowledge of chemistry and wonders if he’s a student in the first story.
  • Sherlock mentions his “international reputation.”
  • In his speech, Sherlock describes a case he failed to solve. These happen occasionally, but rarely. “I have been beaten four times – three times by men, and once by a woman,” Sherlock admits (“The Five Orange Pips”). In “The Yellow Face” he simply gets the case completely wrong.
  • Watson’s military career is mentioned, though it fails to get him any concessions.
  • Both Captain Sholtos (original and from this episode) are guilty of great betrayals.
  • Sherlock lets the phrase “previous commander” slip out, suggesting he’s Watson’s current commander. He does on occasion act like it, even in the books:

“Good morning, Holmes,” said the baronet. “You look like a general who is planning a battle with his chief of the staff.”

“That is the exact situation. Watson was asking for orders.”

“And so do I.” (“The Hound of the Baskervilles”)

  • In “The Illustrious Client,” Watson notes, “He gave no explanations and I asked for none. By long experience I had learned the wisdom of obedience.”
  • A client writes “my husband is three people,” and Holmes intuits triplets. Identical twin criminals appear in the film The Case of the Silk Stocking (2004).
  • Sherlock claims he learned napkin folding at an operahouse. An operahouse case appears in Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1991).
  • When Sherlock is drunk, the text surrounding his observations is ridiculously useless, emphasizing his current state.
  • Sherlock mentions he’s drugged Watson successfully before – this is seen in “The Hounds of Baskerville.”
  • Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes also has Watson and Holmes ending an era as Watson moves out and plans to marry. Mary in the movie says, “I know you care for him as much as I do … Solve this. Whatever it takes.” In this episode Mary shares both these last two sentiments.

 Doctor Who

  • Sherlock’s frenetic babble when he corrects himself after his Sign of Three slip-up or when the case intrudes on his speech resembles the Doctor’s. “Love a wedding!” he bursts out unconvincingly, mimicking many of the Doctor’s phrases (“Love an ood!”).
  • In this episode and in Moffat’s “The Doctor Dances” Sherlock and the Doctor both enjoy dancing and seem to resent being thought of asexual when interacting with Rose or Janine. Dancing and sex are a metaphor for each other in the Doctor Who episode.
  • When Sherlock gets drunk and scans the area, the usual deductions are replaced by words like “Chair? Sitty thing?” “Speaker high tech thing.” The Tenth and Eleventh Doctors sometimes talk like this, as the Tenth says, “This is my timey-wimey detector. It goes ding when there’s stuff” (“Blink”).

British Culture

  • Wedding Telegrams are sent by those who can’t make the ceremony and are often read aloud by the best man. Sherlock notes, “They’re not actually telegrams. We just call them telegrams. I don’t know why. Wedding tradition … because we don’t have enough of that already, apparently.”
  • Archie is the page boy. These are traditional at British weddings, roughly equivalent to the American job of ringbearer.
  • The classic line to finish the wedding toast is something like “Ladies and Gentlemen, please be upstanding and charge your glasses. I give you: The bride and groom.” Sherlock of course attempts this but then has an epiphany.
  • Other traditions like the white gown (popularized by Queen Victoria herself) are shared between Britain and the U.S. Others are a bit different: British women often wear hats to weddings (seen in Mrs. Hudson and some of the episode’s other guests). The British say, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, a silver sixpence in her shoe.” Waltzing and formality (such as Sherlock’s properly escorting the maid of honor) are more common in the U.K. The stag night is about the same as a bachelor party.
  • The Changing of the Guard features heavily in the episode. This ceremony is still held roughly every other day outside Buckingham Palace by The Queen’s Guard. They are a tourist attraction in themselves, considered British icons. Many tourists try to tease them or make them laugh, as they’re famously stoic, something Sherlock and John discuss.
  • “Am I the current king of England?” Holmes asks when playing the Post-it Note game. Obviously, there’s no such person, and hasn’t been in Holmes’s lifetime.
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Canon References and Symbolism in The Empty Hearse

Sherlock: Every Canon Reference You May Have Missed in BBC’s Series 1-3 by Valerie Estelle Frankel

has just gone on sale in paperback and ebook. To celebrate the U.S. premiere, I thought I’d post a sample of all the clever references in tongiht’s episode….SPOILERS FOR TONIGHT AHEAD!

The Title

Originally, this is “The Empty House,” site of a locked room murder XE
“murder” . There’s an additional empty house where Holmes lays a trap for Moriarty’s final lieutenant, Colonel Moran. “The Empty Hearse” references Anderson’s fan group, called this because they believe Sherlock never died and thus never traveled in a Hearse. They are correct of course.

Canon References

  • Having explained his Sherlock survival theory to Lestrade, Anderson talks about paving slabs outside Barts. This is an allusion to the solution to a Jonathan Creek mystery, “The Problem at Gallows Gate.”
  • In Serbia, Mycroft mentions Baron Maupertius from “The Reigate Puzzle.” Mycroft adds that Sherlock’s been “a busy little bee,” referencing his future hobby.
  • The Guy Fawkes plot is seen in several of Sherlock Holmes’s radio dramas: In “The Guy Fawkes Society,” Holmes goes undercover in a dangerous club to stop a plot again Parliament. In “The Gunpowder Plot” Guy Falconby plans to murder his cousin James Stuart by blowing him up on Guy Fawkes Day.
  • In The Case of the Silk Stocking (2004), Watson and Holmes work alongside Watson’s fiancé, an American psychoanalyst who’s aggressive and lectures Holmes on her chosen subject. She’s knowledgeable about her topic, but quite abrasive. Mary, by contrast, doesn’t get involved in their cases, just offers helpful hints. She appears to want to preserve the two men’s friendship. In the Robert Downey Jr. film, Mary looks like she’ll come between the two men, but by the end of the case, she tells Holmes that they love Watson equally and need to save him. She’s seen actively participating is the case of the sequel.
  • Watson’s mustache is iconic from the series and most adaptations, but here, everyone hates it.
  • A newspaper article foreshadows the third episode, reading, “Magnussen summoned before parliamentary…”
  • Sherlock admits: “Bit mean, springing it on you like that, I know. Could have given you a heart attack, probably still will. But in my defense, it was very funny.” In the book, Watson faints and Holmes apologizes for being so dramatic.
  • “You know my methods, Watson, I am well known to be indestructible” is a quote from the 1965 movie A Study in Terror.
  • One of Holmes’s planned escapes involves “a system of Japanese wrestling.” In the books, that’s the one he uses– the fictional martial art of baritsu.
  • In “The Empty House,” only Mycroft knew of Holmes’ plot, because Holmes needed his money. Here it is Mycroft, their parents, Molly and 25 members of his homeless network. No wonder John decks him.
  • Sherlock tells Watson: “I’ve nearly been in contact so many times, but I worried that, you know, you might say something indiscreet.” In the short story, he says, “Several times during the last three years I have taken up my pen to write to you, but always I feared lest your affectionate regard for me should tempt you to some indiscretion which would betray my secret.”
  • Mrs. Hudson seems quite emotional at getting both men back in her life…in the Jeremy Brett adaptation of “The Empty House,” she bursts into tears, and Holmes unbends enough to give her a hug.
  • Mary reads aloud from an old blog entry: “His movements were so silent. So furtive, he reminded me of a trained bloodhound picking out a scent…I couldn’t help thinking what an amazing criminal he’d make if he turned his talents against the law. This is a scene from  “The Sign of Four.” Holmes mentions in several cases that he would have been a highly effective criminal.
  • Sherlock says in voiceover: “London. It’s like a great cesspool into which all kinds of criminals, agents and drifters are irresistibly drained.” Watson describes London thus in “A Study in Scarlet.”
  • Sherlock notes: “I’ll find the answer. It’ll be in an odd phrase in an online blog, or an unexpected trip to the countryside, or a misplaced Lonely Hearts ad.” In the books, Holmes uses the Agony Column (basically the personals) to track London’s criminal pulse.
  • Sherlock tells Mycroft, “I’m just passing the time. Let’s do deductions” and picks up an abandoned bobble hat. Holmes does this with a client’s abandoned stick in “Hound of the Baskervilles” and an abandoned hat in “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” just as an intellectual exercise. He plays against Mycroft in “The Greek Interpreter”:

 

“To anyone who wishes to study mankind this is the spot,” said Mycroft. “Look at the magnificent types! Look at these two men who are coming towards us, for example.”
“The billiard-marker and the other?”
“Precisely. What do you make of the other?”
The two men had stopped opposite the window. Some chalk marks over the waistcoat pocket were the only signs of billiards which I could see in one of them. The other was a very small, dark fellow, with his hat pushed back and several packages under his arm.
“An old soldier, I perceive,” said Sherlock.
“And very recently discharged,” remarked the brother.
“Served in India, I see.”
“And a non-commissioned officer.”
“Royal Artillery, I fancy,” said Sherlock.
“And a widower.”
“But with a child.”
“Children, my dear boy, children.” (“The Greek Interpreter”)

  • Sherlock reveals (possibly) how he faked his death. Sherlock was actually playing with a bouncy ball in a scene in “The Reichenbach Fall.”
  • The monographs written on strange subjects are a running joke through the books. Also, Mrs. Hudson offers the same line in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

 

SHERLOCK: I’ve written a blog on the varying tensile strengths of different natural fibres.
MRS HUDSON: I’m sure there’s a crying need for that.

  • The quote “Elementary, my dear Watson” was made popular by the film The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939). It was never featured in a canonical Arthur Conan Doyle story. Perhaps this is why the phrase hasn’t been featured in Sherlock.

SHERLOCK (sarcastically): Brilliant!
MYCROFT: Elementary.

  •  This exchange is adapted from “The Crooked Man”:

 

“Excellent!” I cried [Watson].
“Elementary,” said he [Holmes].

  •  MYCROFT: I’m not lonely, Sherlock. SHERLOCK: How would you know? This nods back to a conversation they have in “A Scandal in Belgravia.”
  • The monkey glands case is a nod to “The Adventure of the Creeping Man.”
  • Spouses keeping secrets from each other appear in “The Adventure of the Dancing Men” “The Yellow Face” and “The Valley of Fear.” Each time, an affair is suspected, but the answer is something else. This episode reverses the trope:

SHERLOCK: Why didn’t you assume it was your wife?
MR. HARCOURT: Because I’ve always had total faith in her.
SHERLOCK: No – it’s because you emptied it. (He points at the three areas on the man at which he had just looked and speaks quick-fire.) Weight loss, hair dye, Botox, affair. (Whipping out a business card, he holds it out to Mrs Harcourt.) Lawyer. Next!

  • This case, in all its details but the online part, is a retelling of “A Case of Identity.”

SHERLOCK (softly): And you really thought he was the one, didn’t you? The love of your life?
(As the woman takes off her glasses and cries harder, Sherlock turns and looks at Molly for a moment, then stands and walks across to her. Keeping his back to the clients, he speaks quietly.)
SHERLOCK: Stepfather posing as online boyfriend.
MOLLY (shocked): What?!
SHERLOCK: Breaks it off, breaks her heart. She swears off relationships, stays at home – he still has her wage coming in.
(He turns to the man and addresses him sternly.)
SHERLOCK: Mr. Windibank, you have been a complete and utter…

  •  “Doctor Verner is your usual GP, yes?” John asks. Following “The Empty House,” a young doctor named Verner buys Watson’s practice and Watson moves back in with Holmes: “A young doctor, named Verner, had … given with astonishingly little demur the highest price that I ventured to ask – an incident which only explained itself some years later when I found that Verner was a distant relation of Holmes’s, and that it was my friend who had really found the money” (“The Adventure of the Norwood Builder”).
  • Mr. Szikora with a German accent, long white hair and a white beard, is wearing a black knitted hat and very dark glasses. He comes for a medical appointment and tries to sell John DVDs. John thinks it’s Sherlock in disguise. In “The Empty House,” this is the costume worn by Holmes when he surprises Watson with his reappearance. Holmes is also disguised as a German bookseller in Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943). After this, Watson tries to pull off a man’s beard in The Spider Woman (1944), assuming it’s Holmes again.
  • Mr. Szikora offers John porn titled “British Birds” and “The Holy War.” Holmes as the bookseller tells Watson, “Maybe you collect yourself, sir; here’s British Birds, and Catullus, and The Holy War – a bargain every one of them. With five volumes you could just fill that gap on that second shelf. It looks untidy, does it not, sir?” thus getting him to turn his head.
  • Sherlock is called in by Lestrade to deal with a fake Jack the Ripper skeleton. Holmes doesn’t battle the Ripper in canon, but he’s involved with the Ripper in many stories and films by later authors including The Woman in Green (1945), A Study in Terror (1965), Murder by Decree (1979) and Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Lyndsay Faye.

SHERLOCK: I know a fantastic fish shop just off the Marylebone Road. The owner always gives me extra portions.
MOLLY (following him): Did you get him off a murder charge?
SHERLOCK: No – I helped him put up some shelves.

  • Mrs. Hudson and Angelo, by contrast, do owe Sherlock for his detective work.
  • Mary comes to Sherlock and tells him: “Someone sent me this. At first I thought it was just a Bible thing, you know, spam, but it’s not. It’s a skip-code.” A third-word skip code features in “The ‘Gloria Scott’.”
  • The code contains the phrase “John or James Watson.” This nods to the fact that in the canon, Mary Morstan once called her husband John Watson “James.”
  • A bomb and an international plot appear in various films. In Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1991) in 1910, Mycroft asks Holmes and Watson to travel to Vienna and track down the stolen plans & prototype for an electro-magnetic bomb detonator.
  • The train station stop is given as “Sumatra Road.” Sherlock calls Moran “A Rat,” both leading to the untold story (and fan favorite) of the “Giant Rat of Sumatra”.

SHERLOCK: Lord Moran, peer of the realm, Minister for Overseas Development. Pillar of the establishment.
JOHN: Yes!
SHERLOCK: He’s been working for North Korea since 1996.
JOHN: What?
SHERLOCK: He’s the Big Rat. Rat Number One. And he’s just done something very suspicious indeed.

  • In the book, the villain Colonel Sebastian Moran is Moriarty’s number one lieutenant.
  • The plot alludes to “The Lost Special,” a Doyle story that appears to feature an unnamed Holmes as detective investigating a lost train car.

SHERLOCK: They’ll get in the way. They always do. This is cleaner, more efficient.
(Stopping at a locked maintenance entrance, he reaches into his coat, takes out a crowbar and starts to force the gate open.)
JOHN: And illegal.
SHERLOCK: A bit.

  • In the books, Holmes is always picking locks and breaking into places. Occasionally, the police point out that they can’t use these methods.
  • The Houses of Parliament are to be blown up – in Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes, the men inside those Houses are to be poisoned.
  • John forgives Sherlock and tells him, “You were the best and the wisest man that I have ever known,” in a direct quote from Watson’s last homage to him in “The Final Problem.”
  • Sherlock notes, “The criminal network Moriarty headed was vast. Its roots were everywhere like a cancer, so we came up with a plan.” He says in the books: “The central power which uses the agent is never caught – never so much as suspected. This was the organization which I deduced, Watson, and which I devoted my whole energy to exposing and breaking up” (The Final Problem). In both scenes he mentions a spider in the web.

SYMBOLISM: TRAINS

Trains often represent a journey in fiction. Towards the episode’s beginning John rides the tube to Baker Street juxtaposed with Sherlock heading to Mycroft’s office in the Diogenes Club. John is going to tell Mrs Hudson he’s getting married while Sherlock has just returned to London and plans to take up his old life again.

While Molly and Sherlock are investigating together, dust falls from the ceiling and Molly asks “trains?” At the same time as Sherlock is trying a new partner, he keeps hearing Watson’s voice in his head, emphasizing how much trouble he’s having with changing.

Finally, Sherlock and Watson face a bomb in a train at the episode’s climax. Trapped together, Sherlock acknowledged how he hurt Watson and honestly begs his forgiveness. Several times, John suspects a trick, but Sherlock convinces him they are going to die. John forgives him, and Sherlock reveals he actually was up to his “old tricks” – with the balance between them restored, everything has actually gone back to normal. They reunite with their friends at Baker Street, emphasizing that all their journeys have taken them straight back to the beginning. At the same time, the Moriarty era has ended at last, and Sherlock has become kinder (as shown by his not commenting on Molly’s boyfriend). With Watson’s fiancée present as well, the story is ready to move to new adventures and a new dynamic.

Actor Allusions

  • Amanda Abbington (Mary Morstan) is Martin Freeman’s real-life partner.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch’s parents (both actors themselves) appear as Sherlock’s parents.
  • “Sauron1976” comments on John’s blog around this time (Watson’s Blog, “A Few Pictures”). Benedict Cumberbatch plays the Necromancer (the future Sauron) in The Hobbit and was born in 1976.
  • Sherlock fakes his death with the plan “Lazarus,” with the aid of Mycroft, played by Mark Gatiss. Gatiss also starred in an episode of Doctor Who called “The Lazarus Experiment,” in which he played Professor Richard Lazarus.

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