I've recently started watching the BBC's rather good New Tricks, in which a bunch of retired policemen solve old, unclosed cases. I've decided to do something rather similar - solve an old (by internet standards), unclosed BBC case. Namely, how did Sherlock survive the fall from the roof of St. Bartholomew's Hospital? In doing so, I'm either fashionably late to the discussion, or perhaps just an avant-garde of the inevitable renewal that will come ahead of Series 3 being released at some point in the relatively near future.
Before I begin speculating wildly, though, we probably ought to work out just what happened. I'm starting my description at what on my DVD is about 1:18:07, when Moriarty has just topped himself and Sherlock is spinning around in circles chasing his sleeve. Or something.
1:18:11: Sherlock spins around. Shot of Moriarty with blood surrounding his head. LENS FLARE.
1:18:15: Music reaches climax and goes quiet. We see a foot (Sherlock's shoe) stepping onto the edge of the parapet.
1:18:24: Sherlock's face comes into view and he looks down. Change camera to see him from below the building, swaying on the edge with his arms by his sides.
1:18:29: Cut to Watson arriving in a cab, having completed a half-hour round trip in about half that time.
1:18:32: Another foot shot with the cab pulling up below. Beep of a mobile phone and a call starts to Watson. Watson gets out of cab and starts walking away from hospital.
1:18:46: 'John, turn around and come back the way you came. [...] Ok look up I'm on the rooftop'.
1:18:57: Shot of Sherlock on the roof, hand to head, presumably holding phone. Watson is in frame looking up.
1:19:05: Shot of Sherlock's face and torso; he's actually on the phone and talking. He starts his 'apology'.
1:19:15: Sherlock starts his confession. Presumably it's fake, unless the BBC is planning on the biggest plot twist of all time. No new camera angles during this; just close-ups of Watson, Sherlock's head and Moriarty's corpse. One shot from below as we saw at 1:18:57. It looks as thought Sherlock is looking down at Watson and he's looking back.
1:20:28: 'No, stay exactly where you are. Don't move!'. Watson does as he's told.
1:20:34: Side close shot of Sherlock holding out his left arm and crying. Right hand is still holding iPhone to his head. 'Keep your eyes fixed on me', he says.
1:20:52: Another shot from below showing him on the edge. His left arm is by his side but he's had a lot of time to lower it. He's definitely looking straight ahead.
1:20:58: 'Good bye, John'.
1:21:01: Face shot of Cumberbatch doing turtle impression. Eyes are down but head is forward.
1:21:05: Shot from between Sherlock's legs (hello ladies) of John. Camera blurs constantly; they probably ought to fix that.
1:21:06: LOUD MUSIC. Shot of Sherlock on ledge from behind lowering his arm.
1:21:09: He tosses phone away. Hope he hung up first or his next of kin is going to have a massive phone bill.
1:21:10: Side shot of turtlebatch again.
1:21:14: Here we go. Arms out, SWAN DIVE INTO THE BEST NIGHT OF YOUR LIFE.
1:21:15: Shot of him falling, arms out, feel flailing.
1:21:16: Cut to John staring up.
1:21:18: Back to him falling, arms flailing again. Hard to tell if he's moving them deliberately.
1:21:19: New angle of him falling from directly below. Definitely seems to be spinning his arms.
1:21:21: He falls out of frame.
1:21:21: Side shot of body hitting pavement. Rolls slightly.
1:21:23: Immediate cut to Watson looking shocked. He starts running. Cyclist behind him.
1:21:32: We see what is presumably meant to be John's view, of Sherlock lying on his side behind a bin collection truck.
1:21:33: Cyclist knocks over John, apparently deliberately because not even London cyclists are that bad. Don't recognise cyclist's face.
1:21:38: John lies around like the lemon he is.
1:21:39: Sherlock lying still on his side, shot from above this time. Crowd is beginning to gather. Bin bag lorry pulls away. Two female brunette nurses/doctors in the blue tops. Can't see their faces.
1:21:51: Constant cuts between John lying face down on the road and Sherlock lying face down on the pavement. They're so connected. Sherlock's winning on the blood count, though. We get a brief glimpse of one of the doctors - I don't think it's Molly.
1:22:10: Back of Sherlock's head, from John's perspective. Lots of blood. Clear shots of both doctors. Neither are Molly. Sad music.
1:22:20: Someone's taking Sherlock's pulse on the right wrist, but another hand with a silver watch and gold ring keeps interfering.
1:22:29: Oh, it was John taking the pulse.
1:22:35: Stretcher arrives; they're rolling him over. Lots and lots of blood. Oddly enough he seems to have been injured on the left ear - not the side he landed on.
1:22:45: Dead upside down Sherlock face. Eyes are still open.
1:22:54: Aerial shot of Sherlock being lifted onto the stretcher. Arms hanging over the edge.
1:23:08: Sherlock being wheeled into the hospital.
Nothing but sad John face from then on.
1:23:25: Oh wait, sniper vision on John's head. Moves up and away. Hitman is removing gun. Shows that he was opposite the hospital and presumably had a perfect view of the fall. Obviously he's taken in by it or John would be dead.
1:23:34: But now we can see out of the sniper's window and it's obvious that he wasn't facing John at all because he's looking out onto a flat brick wall with trees behind it, not the grey/white stone of the hospital. I think this is a mistake rather than a clue - presumably they couldn't actually shoot in the building opposite for whatever reason so just did it somewhere else and hoped nobody would notice. WELL I DID. Honestly, what do we pay the licensing fee for?
1:23:44: Cut to Sun headline. World definitely believes he's dead.
Ok, that was pretty exhausting.. But I think it was necessary, for reasons we'll come to later.
Taking what we have seen as being true (it may not be), there are really only three possibilities of solution:
1) He didn't fall.
Moffat is pretty fond of the whole 'I'm actually a duplicate' gag, as is demonstrated by every goddam episode of Doctor Who. Seriously, give it a rest. Here it's more-or-less convincing. He's had a whole night in a hospital with the help of Molly to prepare, and we know he has access to the morgue from the very first time we see him. So, possibilities:
1a) A corpse (mocked up to look like Sherlock) fell and was collected and carried away
1b) A dummy fell and was carried away (unlikely)
1c) A dummy fell and was replaced at the bottom somehow by Sherlock or a corpse, who was carried away (unnecessarily convoluted)
The 'somehow' in 1c would of course the be bin truck, which will feature more prominently later on.
The main objection to this set of theories is that we do, apparently, see him jump. I stress 'apparently', because it's quite possible that the jump we see is actually off a different bit of roof and he falls two feet and lands on a balcony or something, while Molly pushes the dummy/corpse off where John can see it. Supporting this is the fact that we never actually see the Sherlock on the rooftop - that is, the Sherlock that John sees - move when it's from John's perspective. He transitions briefly from both arms down to one arm on the phone but John's not actually looking at him when that happens, and we can't see his jaw moving either when he's talking (one can't really tell at that distance - that's the point). It's quite possible that the whole thing is being held there by Molly/Sherlock and is then dropped. But what about identification, you ask. Well, we saw in A Scandal in Belgravia that Sherlock is quite practised at faking corpses - he certainly manages to fool Mycroft, who would presumably be the highest hurdle.
|It's raining men|
The other objection is that Sherlock's arms do seem to move of his own volition in the air, which implies that he's alive when he jumps and not a duplicate corpse. It's very briefly shown and it's possible that corpses do just fall like that if they're given the right push, but it opens up one last possibility in this chunk:
1d) Sherlock's child-snatching doppelgänger fell and died on impact
We know from the girl's reaction that the person who kidnapped her looked like Sherlock - that's the whole point of Moriarty's plan. It could well be they just got a tall, dark haired person in that coat and scarf to do it, and that's a perfectly plausible explanation, but there could be a more accurate duplicate out there somewhere, and it's possible that Sherlock somehow gets him onto the roof and pushes him (DNA/tooth record tampering would accompany this, of course). This would be an extremely dark solution but definitely a logical one, and one which has the advantage of not introducing any new elements. Of course, it could also be that the duplicate is already dead on Moriarty's orders and is used as the corpse in (1a). This is probably my preferred solution as it's clever and self-referential without being needlessly dark and vicious.
2) He fell, and survived.
If we take the movement of the arms as signs of life, and we don't want to turn Sherlock into a murderer (I know he's killed people before, but not in quite such a cold-blooded way), then this is the other option. It is, I think, the current preferred solution of the internet hivemind and has been hinted to by Moffat in an interview (look it up, I can't be bothered to find the link). There's only one way we can really explain it, and that's the rubbish lorry.
2a) Sherlock lands on the bin bags and rolls off (through a six-foot high fence).
It's not seen at all before the jump, and it pulls away immediately afterwards, so it's possible that Sherlock landed in it (presumably by arrangement) and then hopped out and played possum. The blood is either prepared or genuine (that's still a long fall, no matter what on to) and Watson was either prevented from taking the pulse properly by the bystanders or Sherlock used the old rubber-ball-in-the-armpit trick to cut off circulation. How he got out of the hospital is unclear but it doesn't really matter, I suppose. It wouldn't exactly be difficult, especially if you had Molly to help.
Now, the problem with this is that there is no way that John or the sniper (it's not just John that Sherlock has to fool, remember) could have missed this. People point out that cyclist knocked him over, but look at the timeline above - that didn't happen until well after the impact. And presumably there wasn't anything distracting the sniper. However...
2b) The lorry blocks the trampoline/thing that really breaks Sherlock's fall.
However, it is possible that while the lorry itself didn't break the fall, it acted as a convenient cover for what did. A large mattress or one of those fireman trampolines - the lorry pulled up, people got the thing out, Sherlock landed on it, they rolled him off, they put it away and drove off. Unlikely that they could have done that without the sniper or John seeing, especially as it's hardly a full lorry (look at it), but it's certainly possible. And the lorry definitely blocks John's view, as that screenshot above is part of a shot which swings around the back of the lorry to show the 'corpse'. Yes, Sherlock probably wouldn't have survived unscathed, but that's not the point - he just has to live. While this is something of an inelegant solution, it's not a terribly far-fetched one and requires Sherlock to do much less legwork than he would have to otherwise. I rank it just as likely as the doppelgänger. This would also explain Sherlock's insistence on Watson's exact position (where he won't be able to see), and also why the cyclist (employed by Sherlock of course) had to knock him over - so that he couldn't run up and see the trampoline. Presumably no one else was watching, and it's a fair assumption. Also explains why the bin lorry pulls off so fast - I think most people in that situation would get out and try and help. It's still a massive risk, though - I don't think Sherlock could have known where the sniper was and so what his line-of-sight would be, and if one person happened to be looking the wrong way then the whole game is up.
Oh, I suppose it's worth mentioning:
2c) There was no trickery, Sherlock just survived by virtue of amazing luck/physical resilience. People have survived falls from higher. But I think that's a pretty rubbish solution and if that's what they've picked I'll be very disappointed.
Now, those are the two 'fair' solutions - that is, solutions that match with the evidence presented. But there is another possibility.
3) The camera lied.
Now, obviously the camera has lied by omission, because if the sequence above represents the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, then Sherlock is dead. What I mean is that the camera has deliberately shown something that didn't happen. To some degree this is necessary for solution (1), because we see Sherlock jump off something, but that's not too much of a stretch. Again, there are two options.
3a) John's point-of-view shots were what he thought he saw, not what he actually saw.
There are a handful of camera angles in the clip that are definitely meant to be what John is seeing (the screenshot above being one of them). It could be that John is just getting confused, or the H.O.U.N.D. toxin from the previous episode is playing up in his system, or the cyclist's knock to the head has muddled his memory. This might allow some trickery with small aspects of the shot, but remember that Sherlock still has to fool both the sniper and the rest of the world.
3b) There was some other lie in the shot.
Well if that's the case then there's no point speculating. Can't make bricks without clay.
Well, there we have it. The most likely solutions are an emergency fireman's trampoline, hidden by the bin lorry, or a duplicate, possibly the child snatcher, being dropped in Sherlock's place. Once Series 3 comes out I suppose we'll know which.
If you have any other ideas or holes in my logic, drop them below.