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What I Watched Last Night: Sherlock, “The Reichenbach Fall”

Spoiler Alert: If you are not yet caught up on the second series of Sherlock, do not click through. Go watch – you won’t regret it – then come back and theorize with us. (It’s on Netflix Instant! ~ed.)

Sherlock and Moriarty in The Reichenbach FallWith Series 3 of Sherlock expected to begin production in early 2013, I thought I should re-watch the second collection of episodes. More importantly, I needed to watch “The Reichenbach Fall” because Ho-lee Shit. I’m still unsure of how Sherlock pulls off faking his own suicide.

A brief refresher on the plot: Sherlock Holmes, having become somewhat of a minor celebrity due to solving several high profile cases, once again attracts the attention of James Moriarty. Through a series of misdirections and new cases, Moriarty manages to discredit Sherlock as a fraud. They meet on the roof of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, where Moriarty says that unless Sherlock kills himself, hired assassins will kill John Watson, D.I. Lestrade, and Mrs. Hudson. As John pleads with him over the phone from the ground below, Sherlock appears to fall to his death.

At Sherlock’s grave, John cannot believe that this is what their relationship has come to. He asks for one more miracle from his best friend. “Please, please don’t be dead. Can you do that for me?”

Lurking nearby, Sherlock watches him leave the cemetery.

Like most people, I was yelling, “What?! WHAT?!” at the screen when I first watched this episode. How did he manage it? This isn’t like surviving jumping into a waterfall, as the original Arthur Conan Doyle story goes. There’s blood on the sidewalk in a public location. The number of details one would have to consider in order to pull off a fake death in this manner boggle my mind.

I watched again last night, on high alert for any sort of clues. I have a handful of half-formed ideas that I can’t really articulate yet, but the only thing I know for certain is that Sherlock knew what Moriarty wanted him to do well before he ever met him on that rooftop, and somehow, Molly the pathologist helped him. He also has some experience in faking a death, as he assisted Irene Adler at the end of “A Scandal in Belgravia.”

Sherlock 2x03 The Reichenbach Fall - John Watson and Mrs. Hudson
Martin Freeman’s face here kills me.

When Moriarty says, “All you need are some willing participants,” that is the key. Sherlock needed willing participants to pull this off, but how many he had to involve remains to be seen. And poor John. How wrecked he is by all this. He’s going to be torn between punching Sherlock and hugging him tighter than he’s ever hugged anyone, I think.

So let me hear your theories, friends. Perhaps together we can cobble together some sort of idea as to where this show is headed. If nothing else, we can virtually high-five the writers for making such an outstanding moment in television.

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

5 replies on “What I Watched Last Night: Sherlock, “The Reichenbach Fall””

The hanged doll in the apartment has something to do with it. The guy on the bicycle slamming John into the street was planned, so things could be (re)arranged/John was injected with a hallucinary drug. Sherlock threw Moriarty's body (some of these get more and more outrageous as you go on, but it's quite addictive to read).

I LOVE this episode so hard.


So, theories. There are an incredible number of smart, probable solutions to this mystery all over the web but I feel like they are all missing something.


But, pay special attention to:

the rubber ball (old magician's trick of putting the ball in the armpit to disguise a pulse)

Sherlock's crying/sniffles (apparently caused by toxins from a plant which causes a coma-like state)

"willing participants" – cyclist who knocks over John, truck with flatbed which Sherlock could have fallen onto, various people on the street who conveniently blocked Sherlock from John

Sherlock's deduction mistakes (too obvious)


And of course then there's Molly. Cannot wait to see what part she played!


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