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Canon References/Easter Eggs in Sherlock: “The Six Thatchers”

The BBC show Sherlock has such fun with easter eggs and direct (or muddled) quotes from the original Sherlock Holmes stories, as well as other TV adaptations and films. Here are the latest from Series Four, episode one, “The Six Thatchers”:

  • Sherlock is certain Moriarty has a posthumous plan to torment him. In the short story “The Adventure of the Empty House,” this is many confederates who come hunting him. This certainly may be the case this time. Of course, the running gag this episode is that it isn’t Moriarty no matter how much Sherlock anticipates him.
  • “I’m going to monitor the underworld, every quiver of the web will tell me when the spider makes his move,” Sherlock decides. He adds later, “The world is woven from billions of lives, every strand crossing every other. What we call premonition is just movement of the web. If you could attenuate to every strand of quivering data, the future would be entirely calculable.” In “The Final Problem,” he describes Moriarty with the words “He sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them.” He also spends the story predicting his on death at Moriarty’s hands.
  • “He drowned, Mr. Holmes. That’s what we thought. But when they opened up his lungs…sand.” This is a new one. However, the text for “The Dusty Death” reads “I won’t name the client out of respect…” a concept in many original cases.
  • The case with “the wrong thumb” likely references “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb.” The text reads, Mr Hatherley came straight to Baker Street in a dreadful state. He was white as a sheet and bleeding from an awful wound in his hand…” This references the same case.
  • “It’s never twins,” Sherlock tells John in “The Duplicate Man.” This may nod to the 2004 TV film The Case Of The Silk Stocking, in which Rupert Everett and Ian Hart played Holmes and Watson and the solution here was This line is also used in “The Abominable Bride.”
  • “So he’s the killer, the Canary Trainer? Didn’t see that coming.” The Canary trainer is one of Holmes’s lost cases, though many authors have adapted this one.
  • “Dimmock, look in the lymph nodes…Yes, you may have nothing but a limbless torso, but there’ll be traces of ink in the lymph nodes under the armpits. If your mystery corpse had tattoos, the signs will be there.” Tattoos and severed body parts feature in several cases, but not a torso. However, the fact that this is “The Circus Torso” links it with “The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger,” a tale of violence and death.
  • Working on two cases at once is also a classic Sherlock concept, emphasizing how easily he solves them.
  • “The fingerprints on your brother’s neck are your own.” Unclear which this is referencing, but he apparently had amnesia and was the murderer himself. Several murderers engage Holmes to throw off the scent, especially “The Adventure of the Retired Colourman.” Mentally debilitating drugs are the culprits in “The Adventure of the Creeping Man” and “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot.”
  • “Fresh paint to disguise another smell” Sherlock texts. This is “The Adventure of the Retired Colourman,” in which the villain has gassed his enemies.
  • “You can’t arrest a jellyfish,” Watson complains. “We did try.” Something like a jellyfish is the murderer in “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane.”
  • Old lady dead in a sauna of hypothermia is another new one.
  • The solution to the boy’s death is an accident. “The trick was meant to be a surprise…A costume,” Sherlock notes. Several of his cases involve mischance rather than crime. One person who dies of natural causes but whose death is hidden for a time is the victim of “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place.” There’s a concealed death in “The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax.”
  • Adding up all these, including the bait and switch of the AGRA disk appearing in the bust instead of the Borgia Pearl, and bait and switch – thinking it’s one thing but it’s really another – covers the entire plotline. First Sherlock dismisses the boy’s murder as an accident he solves in moments and gets distracted by the shattered busts over the city. Then he spends the entire episode thinking this is a Moriarty story but it’s actually about Mary. Her final teasing “Miss Me?” letter emphasizes this too.
  • In A Study in Scarlet, Holmes instructs Watson, “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.” He plays with this to address a new Watson this time around in a humorous moment, parodying himself as he teaches each Watson his methods.

“As ever Watson, you see but do not observe. To you the world remains an impenetrable mystery whereas to me it is an open book. Hard logic versus romantic whimsy, that is your choice. You fail to connect actions to their consequences. Now, for the last time, if you want to keep the rattle, you do not throw the rattle.”

  • When Lestrade brings Sherlock a case, Sherlock offers him the credit. Lestrade retorts, “Yeah, you say that, but then John blogs about it, and you get all the credit anyway….Which makes me look like some kind of prima donna who insists on getting credit for something he didn’t do! … Like I’m some kind of credit junkie.” Of course, in the short stories, he always demands the credit and thus the short stories do undercut his pomposity. This Lestrade, however, is a nicer guy.
  • Sherlock and John squabble about the snappy title they’ll give this story like “The Ghost Driver.” In the second book, Holmes complains that A Study in Scarlet was too lurid a title for what should have been an intellectual exercise.
  • Sherlock not knowing who Margaret Thatcher is reflects his startling lack of knowledge that the earth circles the sun in A Study in Scarlet…though he soon reveals he’s just messing around this time.
  • Six identical busts being tracked down, stolen, and smashed under a light because a small object is hidden in one is the plot of “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons.” Inside is the black pearl of the Borgias. This time, the pearl is a red herring Mycroft wants Sherlock to find. Instead, he discovers the AGRA disk. In both stories there’s a murder at one of the smashings and Sherlock is the one to discover the treasure. “Thatcher’s like, I dunno, Napoleon now,” says Sherlock’s hacker friend in an extra spoof.
  • Craig the hacker is just one more of Sherlock’s small London resources…actually, on Elementary, that Sherlock has many hacker friends.
  • Sherlock’s flippant “It’s a pearl – get another one” echoes his musings in “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” that jewels just entice thefts and murders.
  • In “His Last Vow,” Mary keeps her background on a drive labeled A.G.R.A. – in the book The Sign of Four she meets John because she’s seeking the great Agra treasure. The treasure is lost forever, and thus John feels able to court Mary, who’s no longer an heiress. By burning the A.G.R.A. disk, without reading it, this John feels he can have her back.
  • This time, G.R.A. is revealed as the acronym of her four friends and the disk contains all their personal information in a compact of trust. This links further with The Sign of Four – the title references a map the four all sign and all keep a copy of in a sacred trust. They swear to never betray each other, and, as in this episode, they don’t.
  • Woven throughout the episode is the fable “Appointment at Samarra,” emphasizing that one can’t cheat fate. “The Final Problem” echoes this theme, which presumably will stretch through the season. Mycroft reveals that as a boy Sherlock wrote his own version, called Appointment at Sumatra. This references the lost case that “the world is not yet ready for,” that of the Giant Rat of Sumatra. In series three, there was another quick nod with “Sumatra Road.”
  • Sherlock’s rewrite of the tale also involved a pirate. More quick flashbacks of himself as a child and the dog Redbeard stress this mystery subplot.
  • “Ammo,” which can mean bullets in English and love in Latin reflects “Rache” – revenge in German and a name in English – from A Study in Scarlet.
  • Sherlock notes of a client, “You started out in manual labour. Don’t bother being astonished. Your right hand’s almost an entire size bigger than your left – hard manual work does that….You’re trying to give up smoking – unsuccessfully – and you once had a Japanese girlfriend that meant a lot to you but now you feel indifferent about.” In “The Adventure of the Red Headed League,” Holmes shocks his client, Mr Jabez Wilson, when the detective deduces from a quick glance “that he has at some time done manual labour, that he takes snuff, that he is a Freemason, that he has been in China, and that he has done a considerable amount of writing lately.” The reference to a girlfriend’s name he wants to excise from his arm is from “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott.”
  • When Holmes explains the lightning quick chain of observations and deductions that have led him to his conclusions, “Well, I never!” says Wilson. “I thought at first that you had done something clever, but I see that there was nothing in it, after all.” Likewise, this time, the client says, “I… I thought you’d done something clever. Ah, now, but now you’ve explained it, it’s dead simple, innit?” Holmes retaliates with a complex plot of murder and espionage, then admits he’s kidding. There’s a similar scene in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes when Sherlock constructs a massive fanciful scenario that little people who escaped from a circus will disguise themselves as little girls and assassinate the queen, then admits that it’s more likely they fled because their employer was a miser.
  • At his next grandiose deduction, John calls him on it: “Are you just making this up?” “Possibly.” This of course spoofs Holmes’s favorite trick.
  • Stubborn bloodhound Toby sits on a pavement refusing to move. (As Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat revealed during the Q & A following a screening of the episode, they added this scene when the dog wasn’t cooperative). In The Sign of Four, Holmes uses the bloodhound Toby to track an intruder who stepped in creosote. Toby is not a bloodhound but an “ugly long haired, lop-eared creature, half spaniel and half lurcher, brown and white in colour, with a very clumsy waddling gait” but Holmes calls him more helpful than “the whole detective force in London.” Unlike Toby the bloodhound.
  • Mary’s trying to leave John with the baby is an amusing flip on the gender dynamics of “The Abominable Bride” and emphasizes that she’s more capable than her husband.
  • References to Sherlock’s vow and his determination to slay dragons nod back to “His Last Vow.” In this, Mary shot him. This time, after another slow-motion bullet, she saves him and insists this makes them even.
  • Sherlock notes, “I myself know of at least 58 techniques to refine a seemingly infinite array of randomly generated possibilities down to the smallest number of feasible variables. But they’re really difficult, so instead I just stuck a tracer on the inside of the memory stick.” In The Sign of Four, he does something similar, insisting he could have used research instead of a tracking dog but might as well take the easy route.
  • In “The Adventure of the Yellow Face,” a generous man proves he can accept his wife’s past and says “I may not be a very good man… but I think I am a bit better than you give me credit for.” John says the same about accepting Mary’s past.
  • A man betrayed and tortured who waits years to take his revenge on the fellow soldier who sold him out appears in “The Adventure of the Crooked Man.”
  • Mycroft mentions “Code names Antarctica, Langdale, Porlock and Love.” In the stories, Langdale Pike is Sherlock’s society gossip resource (only mentioned in “The Adventure of the Three Gables,” but a regular in computer games and other spin-off works). Porlock is Moriarty’s associate, who slips Holmes a tip in The Valley of Fear.
  • Confronting the villain in a shark tank seems more James Bond than Sherlock Holmes, though Holmes says, “Do you feel a creeping, shrinking sensation, Watson, when you stand before the serpents in the Zoo, and see the slithery, gliding, venomous creatures, with their deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces? Well, that’s how Milverton impresses me” in “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.” The following dialogue is a bit reflective of this. Sherlock’s last line here is from “The Adventure of the Naval Treaty” among other places, and Holmes also nods to their place in a story with his reference to the “final act.”

Vivian Norbury: This was always my favourite spot for agents to meet. We’re like them. Ghostly, living in the shadows.

Sherlock: Predatory?

Vivian Norbury: Well, it depends which side you’re on. Also, we have to keep moving or we die.

Sherlock: Nice location for the final act, couldn’t have chosen it better myself. But then I never could resist a touch of the dramatic.

  • “Work is the best antidote to sorrow, Mrs Hudson,” Sherlock notes. Fittingly, he says this line about Watson’s bereavement in “The Adventure of the Empty House.”
  • In Conan Doyle story “The Adventure of the Yellow Face,” Holmes leaps to judgement and stakes out a cottage in the town of Norbury, south-west London. He is completely wrong in his deductions. Afterwards, he tells Dr Watson, “If it should ever strike you that I am getting a little overconfident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper ‘Norbury’ in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you.” In “The Six Thatchers,” the cost of Sherlock’s failure is much higher. It becomes clear why antagonist Vivian Norbury is so named, when Sherlock gets to ask Mrs Hudson “if you ever think I’m becoming a bit full of myself, cocky or overconfident, just say the word ‘Norbury’ to me would you. Just that. I’d be very grateful.”
  • Reigate Square is the name of a Chinese restaurant seen on a take-away menu pinned to Mycroft’s fridge just before he makes a call to the mysterious Sherrinford. This is a few letters off from the short story “The Reigate Squire.”
  • As for Sherrinford, whom Mycroft phones, this was the name Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had originally been considering for his great detective. When Holmes mentioned, “My ancestors were country squires, who appear to have led much the same life, as is natural to their class” in “The Case of the Greek Interpreter,” many wondered that neither brother had inherited the ancestral home and thus concluded there must be a third older brother. Noted Sherlock Holmes scholar William S Baring-Gould proposed Sherrinford as his name. When Mycroft (played by Gatiss) told the detective at the end of series three of Sherlock “I’m not given to outbursts of brotherly compassion. You know what happened to the other one…” fans latched on to it. This, like the Moriarty hints, appears to tease the rest of Series Four.

If you enjoyed this, I recommend Sherlock: Every Canon Reference You May Have Missed in BBC’s Series 1-3 now in Kindle and Paperback.

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His Last Vow

The Title

The title plays with “His Last Bow,” Holmes’s final case in the short stories (though fans have been assured series four will happen). This also nods to his “last vow” in the previous episode – that he will protect John, Mary and their baby, no matter the cost.

Symbolism: Inner Life

Jungian psychology involves facing one’s dream imagery – the “little voices” of praise and criticism one finds deep within. Sherlock of course, encounters all these within his mind palace. There he is a small child again, and Mycroft is larger than life, censuring him about all the ways he’s wrong. Molly is Sherlock’s desperate, emotional need to live. Anderson pokes holes and criticizes. Encouraged to find a happy memory, he is young and carefree with his dog. He faces his fear – himself dead in a morgue – and the pain and shock of being shot.

At last Sherlock sinks into the basement of his palace, the place that reflects the subconscious. There, his greatest enemy Moriarty is chained. He represents the shadow – the raging, suppressed dark side of the personality. While many heroes avoid this facet of their deepest selves and refuse to face it, the shadow offers surprising strengths. Moriarty taunts Sherlock with his forthcoming death, and then finally reminds him that if he dies, John will be in terrible danger. At these words, Sherlock is galvanized. He drags himself up through his mind, stair by painful stair, back into the world of life.

This confrontation generally occurs in fiction in context of the hero’s journey – the hero dies or has a near-death experience and crosses over to a world of thought and imagination: Harry Potter at King’s Cross, Gandalf and the Balrog. Each time, the hero refuses to give up his destiny and returns to the world stronger, with new purpose. Thus Sherlock returns, and finally confronts the vile blackmailer.

Sherlock has more Jungian shadows than ever in this episode – people who observe in the same manner he does. Magnussen is the obvious one, with his mental dossiers much as Sherlock has. But Wiggins, Sherlock’s new assistant, is seen doing the same. Mary too has a similar skillset. Even Janine is using Sherlock the way he used her. With all these geniuses, each using Sherlock’s powers to commit immoral acts, Sherlock must become a hero – a knight who slays dragons, the champion of England … for a great threat is coming with the eastern wind.

The Story

In the original story, “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton,” Holmes negotiates with a seedy blackmailer to save a titled lady, Lady Eva Brackwell, in danger of having her marriage ruined by some imprudent letters. As Holmes describes him:

He is the king of all the blackmailers. Heaven help the man, and still more the woman, whose secret and reputation come into the power of Milverton. With a smiling face and a heart of marble he will squeeze and squeeze until he has drained them dry. The fellow is a genius in his way, and would have made his mark in some more savoury trade. His method is as follows: He allows it to be known that he is prepared to pay very high sums for letters which compromise people of wealth or position. He receives these wares not only from treacherous valets or maids, but frequently from genteel ruffians who have gained the confidence and affection of trusting women.

When Milverton won’t lower his price, Holmes resolves to break into his home and steal the letters, and Watson is determined to go along. They succeed in cracking the safe, but are interrupted when a different highborn lady slips in and murders Milverton for his crimes against her. Holmes and Watson burn all the letters, make a daring escape, and express to Lestrade over breakfast the next morning that Milverton’s murder won’t be solved by them.

In both stories, Watson is truly appalled when he discovers Sherlock has only been pretending to date a young woman and has even proposed, just to gain access to her boss. “Did you just get engaged just to get into an office,” John demands on the show. Sherlock blithely replies that he plans to confess and be dumped, thus everything will work out.

In the short story, the young woman is never seen, but on the show, Janine returns for a delightful revenge. Using the young lady, Sherlock breaks into Magnussen’s stronghold. As in the short story, he discovers he’s planned his burglary the same night the blackmailer’s victim has planned his murder. However, Mary doesn’t shoot Magnussen, but Sherlock. From there, Sherlock must work out a way to free his friends from the blackmailer’s slimy grip. He offers to betray his country to save them, selling state secrets as he does in “The Last Bow.” Both stories, of course, allow him to use this excuse to get close to the villain and end the threat to England in spectacular fashion.

Canon References

  • Sherlock says, “I’ve dealt with murderers, psychopaths. None of them can turn my stomach like Charles Augustus Magnussen.” In the original, Holmes calls Milverton “The worst man in London,” and adds that “he is as cunning as the Evil One.”
  • Milverton lives at Appledore Towers in the original, like the security vault’s name. His files and papers, neat little bundles of letters tied with ribbons, have been updated to a more elaborate system of storage.
  • The Jeremy Brett adaptation shows Milverton living in a “fortress” with an iron gate, much like Magnussen’s stronghold. The round glasses appear here, as well as in the original tale, but in Brett’s and the short story, he’s a pleasanter person.
  •  In the Brett version, Watson suggests getting involved in a scandal to drawn the blackmailer out. In the opium den, Sherlock seems to have a similar plan.
  • In the books, he signs his notes C.A.M., like the wedding telegram he sends in “The Sign of Three.”
  • Sherlock calls him the “Napoleon of blackmail,” just as Moriarty is the “Napoleon of crime.” This may also foreshadow the episode’s end.
  • Sherlock adds in the short story that “He will hold a card back for years in order to play it at the moment when the stake is best worth winning.” Certainly, C.A.M. is seen toying with Mary as he sends her a wedding telegram.
  • Magnussen sizes up people, not for their habits, but for their pressure points. Sherlock suggests at one point that the text the audience sees is actual text from the man’s spectacles, not the man’s thoughts as they are Sherlock’s. Both men have mind palaces, and seem to have similar skillsets, just ones they use quite differently.
  • The highborn lady in the original authorizes Holmes to act as her agent and buy back the imprudent letters she wrote to a man. This time, she wants the letters her husband wrote to a woman. These letters are described varyingly as “lively” and “sprightly” in the two versions.
  • John’s flashback war dreams parallel the very first moments of “A Study in Pink.” He also has a flashback to Sherlock’s lines from the first episode asking if he wants to see more action.
  • In the books, Mr. and Mrs. Watson sit happily at home, when there’s a ring at the door.

“Our own door flew open, and a lady, clad in some dark-coloured stuff, with a black veil, entered the room.
“You will excuse my calling so late,” she began, and then, suddenly losing her self-control, she ran forward, threw her arms about my wife’s neck, and sobbed upon her shoulder. “Oh, I’m in such trouble!” she cried; “I do so want a little help.”
“Why,” said my wife, pulling up her veil, “it is Kate Whitney. How you startled me, Kate! I had not an idea who you were when you came in.”
“I didn’t know what to do, so I came straight to you.” That was always the way. Folk who were in grief came to my wife like birds to a light-house.

  • Her husband, Isa Whitney, is at an opium den. Watson goes to retrieve the man, and finds Sherlock prowling there, on a case (“The Man with the Twisted Lip”). This episode contains the same scene, followed by an extensive drug test for Sherlock. This time it’s “early” not late, and John guesses it’s her husband, but it’s her son “Isaac.”
  • Mycroft complains that their parents want to watch Oklahoma (or possibly visit there) and not join Sherlock for an intervention.
  • “It won’t be the first time your habit has interfered with their line dancing.” The parents and the drugs have both been introduced in previous episodes.
  • The Christmas celebration nods back to the one of “A Scandal in Belgravia.” Both times, Mycroft shows a loathing for the holiday.
  • “You were gone. I saw an opportunity,” Sherlock says of moving John’s chair. Both Sherlock and various criminals say this line or a similar one in the stories.
  • Later, Sherlock moves the chair back, possibly hinting that John is welcome to leave his wife and move back in. In the time between Sherlock’s collapse and the Christmas party (it’s unclear how much time has elapsed), Watson may do just that.
  • Sherlock met Janine at the wedding of the previous episode. She mentions she knows him better than anyone, and indeed, he was being very much his true self at the reception.
  • Sherlock notes that John’s gained seven pounds.

“It’s actually four pounds”
“No, I think seven.”

“Wedlock suits you,” he remarked. “I think, Watson, that you have put on seven and a half pounds since I saw you.”
“Seven!” I answered.
“Indeed, I should have thought a little more. Just a trifle more, I fancy, Watson. (“A Scandal in Bohemia”)

  • One of Watson’s pressure points is listed as the alcoholic sister (mentioned in several episodes), the other as his wife.
  • Sherlock’s porn preference is stated as “normal” (that seems uncharacteristic). His finances are “unknown” – this is constant with the stories. Though he appears to be an impoverished near-student in need of a roommate for a small three-room apartment in “A Study in Scarlet,” he uses bribery constantly as a tool and takes cabs throughout London. In fact, he shows very little instances of poverty outside of his introduction to Watson. After his fame increases, he mentions he’s become enormously well off and need never work again.
  • Sherlock’s pressure points appear a near-endless list – Irene Adler, Jim Moriarty, Redbeard, Hounds of the Baskerville, Opium, John Watson. Oddly, Mycroft is not listed – perhaps this villain only harms the most vulnerable.
  • Irene Adler does appear to be a pressure point for Sherlock, either because Magnussen knows she’s alive or because he knows Sherlock unwittingly helped her. Moriarty is less clear, unless he is in fact alive as well. Redbeard appears to be a dog and appears to be deceased, based on Mycroft’s previous remarks … could Redbeard be involved in some dark incident, like criminal charges or the mysterious story of the third Holmes sibling? Hounds of the Baskerville is also a puzzle – is this about Sherlock breaking in with government ID? Or keeping the project secret after the case? Or the far deeper secret that Sherlock fears losing his emotional distance more than anything? Sherlock has not been described as taking opium on the show, and in the books he assures Watson he’s not adding the drug to his other vices. This may be the drug he once used to take, and this episode also has a nod to the opium den case, “The Man with the Twisted Lip.” Watson as pressure point will become important by episode end.
  • Sherlock is visibly shaken at the reference to Redbeard. This story will probably emerge in series four.
  • Mycroft enlists Sherlock’s fan club to search for drugs, then threatens them with the British Secret Service … his political power is emphasized here. He appears to be in M.I.6. He does not have this role in the books, but has one like it in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Magnussen may reference the movie briefly when he refuses to offer Sherlock and John an expensive beverage. In the movie, Mycroft pours the two men a very expensive drink, as they so rarely visit. There’s also a very rare wine served in “His Last Bow” – Holmes and Watson share it after tying up their host.
  • Bill Wiggins goes from manager of a drug den to a homeless man who’s actually working for Holmes and calls himself Sherlock’s “protégé.” In the books, Wiggins is the head of the Baker Street Irregulars – a gang of street children, and Billy is Holmes’s pageboy. He may provide a new amusing character in the episodes to come.
  • In the story, Holmes says, “Do you feel a creeping, shrinking sensation, Watson, when you stand before the serpents in the Zoo and see the slithery, gliding, venomous creatures, with their deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces? Well, that’s how Milverton impresses me. I’ve had to do with fifty murderers in my career, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion which I have for this fellow.” Sherlock uses many of these words when comparing the updated villain to a shark in a tank.
  • Mrs. Hudson gets the door for their client, something she does constantly in the books and rarely so far on the show.
  • In the short story, Sherlock shops for burglary tools; on the show, he shops for a diamond ring.

JOHN:  We should call the police!
SHERLOCK:  During our own burglary? You’re really not a natural at this, are you?

  • In the short story, instead, Holmes says, “I can see that you have a strong natural turn for this sort of thing.”
  • Sherlock recognizes clare de lune perfume (and misses crucial foreshadowing when John mentions that Mary wears it). His perfume knowledge appears earlier and is referenced in the books: “There are seventy-five perfumes, which it is very necessary that a criminal expert should be able to distinguish from each other, and cases have more than once within my own experience depended upon their prompt recognition,” he says in “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”
  • The white supremacist guard may be a nod to “The Five Orange Pips.”
  • The evil white lights seen in “The Hounds of Baskerville” appear in Sherlock’s mind palace as he goes into shock. He also thinks briefly of Irene Adler and is taunted by Moriarty. There’s a childhood scene with his dog, who appears to be a pleasant memory. Mycroft as his judge returns from the previous episode.
  • Janine gets rid of the beehives in her new cottage, nodding to Sherlock’s retirement hobby.
  •  Mary keeps her background on a drive labeled A.G.R.A. – in the book she meets John because she’s seeking the great Agra treasure. The treasure is lost forever, and thus John feels able to court Mary, who’s no longer an heiress. By burning the A.G.R.A. disk, without reading it, this John feels he can have her back.
  • Sherlock tells John not to bring a gun on a dangerous adventure, then to bring a gun to his parents’ Christmas party. Bringing the gun is Watson’s job in the books.
  • John notes, “Try finding Sherlock in London.” In the books, he has boltholes and hiding places, with an amazing talent for disguises and friends in high and low places.
  • Their mother mentions if she finds the man who “put a bullet” in her boy, she’ll turn “absolutely monstrous.” She’s written the book The Dynamics of Combustion, which suggests explosives. Mr. Holmes mentions her genius directly after this, but Sherlock and Mycroft clearly get more than brains from the woman, who has a well-developed dark side. In the book series, Sherlock will eventually become an author as well.
  • Sherlock relies on Mary being clever. He’s done this with Irene and Moriarty on the show, and with several characters in the books.
  • There are flashbacks to Mary’s cleverness in the previous two episodes, as well as Magnussen’s bonfire trick.
  • “Sorry, I never could resist a touch of drama,” Sherlock tells Mary after posting her face on the side of a building. “My old friend here will tell you that I have an impish habit of practical joking. Also that I can never resist a dramatic situation,” he says in “The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone.”
  • Sherlock stresses the abandoned buildings (seen in “The Empty House,” and appears to use the same strategy he uses in the short story, distracting his assailant with a bust of himself. In fact, the audience have been fooled, and John is the one hidden there.
  • In the books, Holmes burgles Milverton’s house and destroys his files. As he tells Watson, “Since it is morally justifiable I have only to consider the question of personal risk. Surely a gentleman should not lay much stress upon this when a lady is in most desperate need of his help?” This episode emphasizes Sherlock’s chivalry, as a “slayer of dragons” who loathes the bully who preys on the weak. In the original, he was prepared to brave jail for a titled lady who’s a near-stranger – How else then could he act this time with John, Mycroft, and a pregnant Mary is even worse danger?
  • Sherlock’s status as a high-functioning sociopath and the violence he’ll do when someone threatens his friends appear (remember the thugs who roughed up Mrs. Hudson).
  • In the previous episode, Sherlock made, as he calls it, “My first, and last, vow. Mary and John – whatever it takes, whatever happens, from now on, I swear I will always be there. Always.” In the episode, Sherlock is surprisingly kind to Mary, offering his help repeatedly. He makes sure John learns the truth, but counsels him to hear her out fairly, and points out John is less innocent than he had thought. Sherlock also appears to invite John over without telling him Mary’s coming to make them work out their problems. Sherlock appears to understand Mary – a brilliant, amoral person who nonetheless loves John and wants to protect him. As a final step in his vow, Sherlock actually chooses not to be there ever again…in return for saving Mary and John from the blackmailer.
  • “Give my love to Mary,” Sherlock says. “Tell her she’s safe now.” In his goodbye letter of “The Final Problem,” Sherlock writes, “My best to Mrs. Watson.”
  • In both stories, C.A.M. is convinced he’s foolproof and that no one will shoot him. He’s proven wrong.
  • JOHN: The Game is over. SHERLOCK: The game is never over, John. But there may be some new players now. This of course references their constant references to “the game is on.” Mary has the potential to be a fascinating player, as does this newer, harder John Watson.
  • Sherlock’s joke that he’s always wanted to tell John something echoes John’s words by Sherlock’s grave.
  • The spying in Eastern Europe Sherlock is to go on is straight from His Last Bow. Holmes notes in the story, “The Foreign Minister alone I could have withstood, but when the Premier also deigned to visit my humble roof – !” In the episode, the heads of the government send him off as well.
  • Mycroft actually references another brother, noting, “Look how the other one turned out.” The book Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street by Baring-Gould creates a third brother, who became the family’s country squire. He’s named Sherrinford after one of Doyle’s rejected names for his hero. The film Sherlock Holmes’s Smarter Brother (1975) is a farce about Siegerson, who blunders about and only thinks he’s a great detective. If there is a third brother, one presumes he will have a more serious story on Sherlock. It would be unsurprising to find he’s a criminal mastermind or died tragically.
  • Mycroft mentions a colleague who uses people as “blunt instruments” – this is M in Casino Royale.
  • Sherlock mentions he’s “William Sherlock Scott Holmes” if John needs a baby name. John says something similar in “A Scandal in Belgravia.” This may nod to Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch.
  • “William Sherlock Scott Holmes” is Sherlock’s name in the Wold Newton family, an experiment that connects fictional characters’ family trees. One of his descendants, for instance, is said to be Spock, on his human mother’s side. It’s also notable that the Holmes parents called their children “Mike” and “William” – only the boys create more complex identities.
  • Sherlock says he has a girl’s name. In fact, The Adventures of Shirley Holmes was a television show in Canada.
  • The line of the scary east wind, repeated several times, is from “His Last Bow,” a story that takes place on the eve of World War I: “There’s an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it’s God’s own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.” This metaphor of trouble from the east means the war, but the promise of a better time to follow is reassuring for fans of Sherlock’s world.
  • Sherlock’s becoming a murderer was actually foreshadowed in the first episode.
  • Targeting lasers brush over Sherlock, as they did at the end of the first series. This time, however, they belong to his brother.
  • The question over last season’s break was “How did Sherlock survive St. Bart’s.” This time it’s “How did Moriarty survive St. Bart’s.”
  • Of course, there’s no evidence Moriarty is alive – this hoax could be put on by any number of villains (like the yet unseen Moran) or allies – Sherlock, Mycroft, Irene, Mary, or Sherlock’s fan club could have perpetuated a hoax to keep Sherlock in the country. The timing seems significant.

Actor Allusions

Young Sherlock in “His Last Vow” is Moffat’s younger son Louis.

British Culture

The Danish criminal seems to be attacking England itself – not just its ministers, but also its manners and rules of decent behavior. “You’re so domesticated. All standing around and apologizing. Keeping your little heads down,” he mocks. Holmes has an answer to this in “His Last Bow” when he tells a German agent, “The Englishman is a patient creature, but at present his temper is a little inflamed, and it would be as well not to try him too far.” In this episode he has an answer as well, as he confronts the bully at last.

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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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