Sunday, April 29, 2012

Theories on how Sherlock Survived the Fall

FYI, this contains spoilers for those who have not seen Sherlock Season 2 Episode 3.

In Sherlock Season 2 Episode 03 "The Reichenbach Fall" Sherlock appears to fall to his death off of what appears to be a 4-5 story building.  Later in the episode, Sherlock is seen, alive and well.  The question is, how did Sherlock survive the fall?

Before I delve into this, I will present this caveat.  Film and TV makers are free to make decisions in their story lines that do not hold with reality, or at least stretch it to the outer limits.  The viewer is forced to make a logical assumption based on the facts presented in the show.  To date, however, Sherlock has done a reasonable job of sticking within those limits.  I was extremely happy when Moriarty's computer code was not real... that would have been a distressing separation from reality, and it shows that the writers are doing their best to stick to reality.

Now, on to the fall.

There are several concrete clues as to what happened, and several possible hints, although we are forced to speculate on what they mean.

The Final Problem

Let's start at the beginning.  Throughout the show, Moriarty constantly refers to "The Final Problem".  "What's the final problem?  I did tell you, but did you listen?" Moriarty tells Sherlock after he walks out of jail. "I want to solve the problem.  Our problem.  The final problem."  Cursory speculation would lead to the conclusion that Moriarty was talking about getting rid of Sherlock.  Especially since Moriarty mentions "The Fall" directly after the problem.  I believe that most people, myself included thought that Moriarty was mentioning a metaphorical fall, a fall from grace.

The Fairy Tale

Throughout the show, there are numerous references to Grimm Fairy Tales, most notable Hansel and Gretel, which was the motif in the case that Sherlock solves (almost an afterthought in this episode!).  As well, Sherlock receives a burnt gingerbread man, which he appears to interpret as Moriarty wanting to "burn him".

However, there is another very interesting reference. When on the rooftop, Moriarty says to Sherlock "I love newspapers.  They're like fairy tales, and pretty grim ones too."  Why did Moriarty feel the need to make this reference?  Another throwback to the gingerbread man?  Does Moriarty fancy himself as the fox that caught and killed Sherlock? Or another fairy tale entirely?

Sherlock's Ignorance?

Once on the rooftop Sherlock appears confused when Moriarty says "Glad you chose a tall building, nice way to do it."  This appears to be an act, to confuse Moriarty, as Sherlock told Molly that he was afraid that he was going to die.  He surely knew that Moriarty wanted him to die, and was acting to cover it up to Moriarty.  I am however, confused as to why Moriarty bought this act.  Sherlock had chosen the location of the building, surely he must suspect that Sherlock had a plan, especially when Sherlock met him on a rooftop.  He should have surmised that Sherlock had realized he had meant a literal fall, not only a fall from grace, and would have had time to create a plan.  Perhaps it was merely arrogance?  He could not imagine a way out, so Sherlock could not imagine a way out?

In fact, I think Sherlock is many steps ahead of this from early on.  He forces John Watson to take another taxi when leaving the police station... an odd choice.  The reason Sherlock gives is that John Watson might talk and disturb him, but the taxi contains Moriarty... did Sherlock know this in advance?  It doesn't appear so, but an interesting tidbit.  As well, when Mrs. Hudson is "shot", Sherlock immediately acts unconcerned, and refuses to go see her. I believe Sherlock immediately knows this isn't true, most likely because he set this up to separate John from himself long enough to get things done.

Molly is the key here.  Moriarty had everyone one of Sherlock's friends watched.  Except Molly, which is ironic, since he "dated" Molly to meet Sherlock for the first time.  Sherlock had always treated Molly poorly, which allowed him to use her to complete his faked death.

Moriarty's Role

As for Moriarty, I firmly believe he is dead, and will stay that way.  There are several reasons for this.  One: Moriarty did not pull any punches for this entire setup.  He exposed himself to the media, the world, and then claimed to every single rouge nation and intelligence agency that he had a key to unlock anything.  As smart as he might be, I think Moriarty knew his life span would be limited once they realized he was lying.  Two:  Moriarty was, simply, a psychopath.  When Sherlock speculated about what Moriarty wanted, I think the answer was simple: a nemesis.  He wanted to know that Sherlock was not ordinary, was a worthy opponent. He wanted to go out on the top.

When Sherlock was talking to Moriarty on the roof, the final confrontation before Moriarty shot himself, Moriarty accuses Sherlock of being ordinary. Sherlock replies that "You want me to shake hands with you in hell, I shall not disappoint you."  Moriarty once again accuses Sherlock of being on the side of angels, but after staring at Sherlock for some time, says "No, you're not. I see. You're not ordinary, no, you're me. You're me. Thank you! Sherlock Holmes.  Thank you.  Bless you."  What changed his mind?  After viewing the scene multiple times, I cannot determine what changed his mind.  He is looking at Sherlock, he cannot have seen something in the background that betrayed Sherlock had a plan for surviving.  What did Moriarty mean by "You're me"?  Did that mean Sherlock was as smart as him?  That he realized Sherlock had outsmarted him?  Did he mean Sherlock could be as unscrupulous as him?  If he had realized that Sherlock had outsmarted him, why kill himself?  I don't think that fits his MO.  Or was Moriarty truly afraid that Sherlock would guess the "kill code" that would call off the snipers?  Did Moriarty look into Sherlock's eyes and fear that Sherlock could outguess him and decide the only way to make certain was to shoot himself?  I doubt the last one... I don't think the shooting was spur of the moment at all.  It was very planned, and I think that Moriarty had planned on both of them dying there on the roof, or the sidewalk below.

People have been saying that if Moriarty had truly been killed his head would have been blown up from the bullet, which is not true.  A small handgun like a glock or 9 mill would not leave a massive exit wound, and would not necessarily have bled excessively.

The Jump

Now, onto the scene.  Here is a rough drawing of the scene where Sherlock fakes his death.  To see it in google maps, see here.

A few notes.  First, as far as I can tell, the sniper is directly behind Watson in the building across the street.  Due to the timing, he must have been there before Watson arrived so he might have been the sniper that was ordered to watch Sherlock fall, or he may have been the sniper on Watson.

If you take a look at the picture below, you can see an open window which might contain the sniper (although there are white blinds in the window, which does not show up later, when we see the sniper.)

Either way, it appears the vantage point of the sniper is approx. the same vantage point as John Watson's, although slightly elevated.  This means the small building (and trash truck) could have been obscuring his view of Sherlock's body as well as Watson's view.

Now on to why most of the current theories are wrong.  (Logically speaking.. as I mentioned TV shows tend to break this).

The Theories

Sherlock threw Moriarty's dead body off the roof/or a dummy

When Sherlock meets the little girl that was kidnapped she appears to recognize him, prompting Sherlock to think there was either someone wearing a Sherlock mask, or a look-alike.  The theory is that Sherlock either found a mask on the body, or just threw the body off the roof without a mask.  John was fooled because the biker knocked him over and drugged him with the hallucinogenic drug from "The Hound of the Baskervilles".  And Molly fakes the autopsy.  

Here is why that is wrong:  The camera would have to lie to us.  We see a body flinging their arms around as it falls.  Not a dead man.  I don't think the writers would do that to us, and I would hate them.  Too much of that is such a stretch, and requires us to not believe our eyes.  The dummy hypothesis is bad because John did feel the wrist, he should have been able to tell the difference between a dummy and a human being, even confused as he was. 

As well, every single onlooker would have to be a paid actor... although at least some may have been, since they appear to hold John back from seeing Sherlock.

Sherlock threw Moriarty's body down, then jumped down into the back of a truck and swapped bodies when John was knocked down.

As you can see in the photo, there is a garbage truck of some kind waiting at the curb, and it pulls out after the body is on the ground, which seems to be a very odd thing to do, unless the truck had to be there for Sherlock to jump.  However, I don't like this theory.  In that case, two bodies have to fall off the roof, one before Sherlock unless someone else throws the other body... which means a body would have been on the street before John shows up.  Not easy to do without drawing attention.

Sherlock survived the fall and had John knocked down to disorient him enough to miss a pulse.

This one is interesting, it just posits that Sherlock used wind resistance and some sort of airbag to break his fall enough to survive and then added blood while John was knocked down. This seems unlikely, as one would usually have some sort of massive damage, broken bones, punctured lung from a fall, and may not be well enough to add the blood.  It is the easiest explanation as it (if done right) would fool some of the onlookers (not the close ones), John, and the sniper very handily, although the paramedics would have to be silenced.  I don't like this one either... too risky that Sherlock would die from the attempt.

Sherlock jumps into the back of the truck, then gets out and onto the sidewalk before John sees him.

Not a huge fan of this one.  There is a time lapse of approx. 8 seconds when Sherlock's body appears to hit the ground and when John Watson rounds the corner and sees the body THEN is hit by the biker.  Seems hard to do in that time lapse, but I suppose it is possible.  (In the screen below, notice the truck is now gone.)

Its one massive conspiracy

Moriarty tells Sherlock, "I knew you'd fall for it.  That's your weakness, you always want everything to be clever." 

 So I must admit that this isn't a clever solution by any means, but perhaps Moriarty said that for a reason... to make us realize that the cleverest solution isn't always the best one.

This obviously sounds the best, as a massive conspiracy is required to make this seem believable.  Everyone on the street is an actor (or a homeless person), when Sherlock jumps, he lands in the back of the garbage truck (hard to do, appears to be a 10 foot distance from the building to the truck).  A body is placed on the ground at the same time, or thrown from a second story window where John cannot see.  If you take a look at the picture above (with the garbage truck) you can see from John's point of view that a body is on the sidewalk, and this is before John is knocked down by the biker. However, the body is far enough away that John cannot tell who it is.  Once John is knocked down, Sherlock gets out of the truck and swaps places with the body, and the truck carries the fake body away.  John is disoriented and cannot read the pulse or Sherlock is using a variety of tricks to slow his pulse down significantly (Sherlock is seen with a rubber ball).  Molly fakes the autopsy, and bang, alive Sherlock.

Either way, I have enjoyed Sherlock immensely, and cannot wait for 2013.