Tag Archives: Reichenbach

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sherlock

The Reichenbach Fall Wrap Up

If you’re arrogant and nasty for long enough, the world will turn on you. That’s a theme of “The Reichenbach Fall,” the final episode of the second season of Sherlock, and it’s a theme addressed more realistically here than in the short stories. In those, the police come to rely on Holmes more and more, trusting him implicitly. Even Holmes’ comments that anyone with an ounce of brains and imagination shouldn’t be taken in doesn’t stop the police from coming to Holmes each time. But in Sherlock, all his rude, dismissive comments come back to haunt him.

This episode, like many other mysteries, hinges on the fact that a lie is often easier to believe than the truth. And a lie with a little truth coating it—well, that’s easiest of all. What’s more likely, that Holmes can honestly read people in an instant, find missing children from brick dust in a footprint, outsmart the well-funded police each time? Or that he’s been going behind their backs, searching on the internet, hiring actors, and fooling them all? People don’t like feeling stupid and they don’t like someone like Sherlock, who ignores so many of society’s rules.

However, in the end, Sherlock proves he truly is a part of society. Putting aside his new connection with Molly (some of us likely suspect the favor he asked of her), Sherlock offers his life to protect Watson and his other loved ones, proving that he isn’t nearly so isolated as he wants others to believe. It’s Moriarty who has no one, who knows his life is worth nothing, money is worth nothing, nothing  matters except (like Sherlock) finding a relief from his boredom. The only other thing I can say about him is that he’s definitely wholeheartedly bonkers. Still, in this episode, he’s so classicly, unabashedly Moriarty as he tries on the Crown Jewels and boredly undergoes the trial of the century.  This epiosde is fun and silly, dark and distrubing, emotional and honest. In short, all the things that make a show truly great.

The producers promise a third season at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-16573066. As fans wonder about Sherlock’s “fall,” producer and writer Steven Moffet teasingly tells that “There is a clue everybody’s missed.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2012/jan/20/steven-moffat-sherlock-doctor-who?newsfeed=true). What could it be? That Moriarty likes Grimms fairytales? Or has been hanging out with actors? (I’m wagering on the latter). Of course, all Moffet’s comment does is build the suspense…

Leave a comment

Filed under Pop Culture, Sherlock