Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

How did Sherlock survive the fall?

One of my close literary friends has asked me to account for my theory that Sherlock, in the recent BBC adaptation, survived the fall from the building at the end of episode 2/3.  This arose from a conversation on Facebook, in which I used the phrase “some mechanical means” to describe Sherlock’s descent. 

The main reason why I said, “some mechanical means” is because I used to work at an engineering establishment, where any given problem would usually prompt more than one solution.  Hence, I perceive this not as the answer to the question, “How could he have done it?” but rather, “How could he best have done it?” 

These are the possibilities as I see them.

  1. String or wire.  He jumped off, but his descent was slowed by friction with a piece of string or wire.  Why didn’t we see the wire?  Because it was thin.  How did he manage the jolt of kinetic energy at the end of such a descent?  A piece of metal folded into a concertina, which unfolded and absorbed the energy at the bottom of the descent. 
  2. Induction.  Sherlock had previously arranged for an electric circuit carrying a large current (possibly including low-temperature super-conductors) to be set up in the building.  Before he jumped off, he made sure he was wearing a jacket lined with coils of copper wire.  The comparatively large eddy currents resulting from this arrangement set up a magnetic interaction which slowed Sherlock’s descent considerably.
  3. He jumped onto the top of the passing double-decker bus.
  4. He jumped into the back of the passing dump truck. 
  5. Free fall, with impact buffer.  He jumped, but landed on top of cardboard boxes or something.  Whatever it was must have been taken away immediately after by some pre-arranged agent, because it was not evident after the apparent death.
  6. Parachute.  This would have had to open very high up for no-one to have noticed it.  Something creating drag or upward force above Sherlock’s body is physically equivalent to item 1 in this list. 
  7. Updraught.  Sherlock had previously hired somebody to drive past with a set of equipment which blew air upwards with considerable force.  (The dump truck, perhaps?) 
  8. Gravity.  As the egregious Mr Dickens, my ‘A’ level Applied Maths teacher once said, “if you had a Cox’s Orange Pippin of tremendous   density…”  Sherlock had obtained a sample of neutron matter which exerted such a strong gravitational field in opposition to the Earth’s field that he could fall unharmed. 
  9. Moral superiority.   He internalised the teachings of Nietzsche, and came to the conclusion: “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, even if it does kill me”. 

Whichever way you slice it, Molly Hooper comes into it somehow.


26 responses to “How did Sherlock survive the fall?

  1. Mari January 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Enjoying the blog. My suggestion is: He chucked Moriarty’s body off. Moriarty already had dreadful head trauma. Watson was concussion and expected the body to be Sherlock’s.

  2. Joe McKeogh January 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    1) Moriarty wears a mask when abducting the little girl, this mask is of sherlock and as a result she is scared when she sees the real Sherlock.
    2) Sherlock places this mask on Moriarty’s dead body and flings him off the building. John cannot see this as he gets knocked over by the bike, thus he doesnt see a body land, all he sees is Sherlock jump: into a nearby truck, if you reewind you will see this.
    3) Finally Molly covers this all up as her coroner job and also Sherlock says “i need you” which insinutes she does help.

    • wthirskgaskill January 20, 2012 at 5:46 pm

      “The body was Moriarty in a mask” is probably the most popular theory so far. I don’t subscribe to this, for two reasons. First, I don’t think the blood that apparently seeped out of the back of Moriarty’s head is consistent with being shot at that range with an automatic pistol. I think the shot would have blown the back of his head out, spreading fragments of bone and brain as well as blood. Second, it seems to me as a writer that far too much has been invested in Moriarty for the character to be cast aside so wantonly. I believe that Moriarty will also be back.

  3. emma johnson January 20, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    How did Sherlock survive the fall? He didn’t fall.
    Although just how he orchestrated the illusion, is another matter.

  4. wthirskgaskill January 20, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Are you siding with the “falling body was Moriarty” theory, or another theory?

  5. Amy January 20, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Great post. My decidedly unscientific brain is trying to comprehend it.

  6. jonathanflowers January 20, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    It is clear that the person falling is both (a) Sherlock and (b) moving.

    As Watson runs around the corner (and gets knocked over (deliberately) to stop him getting too close) we see a lorry with a green and white cover on it. This lorry has a crash mat on it which Sherlock jumps onto. He then jumps from this onto the pavement and uses a blood bag (possibly provided by Molly) to make his injury seem bad. He is taken into the hospital and Molly arranges a replacement body which is buried.

    It is notable that Sherlock commands Watson to “go back” and “stay where he is” which means that Watson is behind a lower building that conceals the actual point of impact.

    It is also noteworthy that Moriarty talks about Sherlock heading for a fall, but that Sherlock chooses the venue for the denoument as being as specific high place, which gives him the opportunity to arrange the lorry with the crash mat.


    • Mar February 19, 2012 at 2:31 am

      Doesn’t answer how Watson was fooled when he check Sherlock’s pulse.

      • wthirskgaskill February 19, 2012 at 2:35 am

        Possibly not. We may get further data about Watson’s state of mind.

      • Trey March 21, 2012 at 4:12 am

        The answer to that is the ball. If one takes a ball and jams it into their arm pit it will work the same as a tourniquet stopping the flow of blood and a pulse. It used to be technique used to trick polygraphs.

      • jimmij132 March 31, 2012 at 7:32 am

        The thing is, Watson never checked Sherlock’s pulse. Watson was holding Sherlock’s wrist, but only for a short moment–a woman pulled him away. During that short moment, Watson was checking the middle of Sherlock’s wrist, but not where the vein is. Even so, it wouldn’t explain how the paramedics didn’t realize that Sherlock was not dead. It’s easier to fool the people passing by, who jump to conclusions, than to fool trained doctors, who have heart and breathing monitors.

      • Ashley Gabriel July 19, 2012 at 12:43 am

        The bouncy ball. There’s an old magician’s trick that if you squeeze a rubber ball in your armpit it will stop your pulse.

  7. wthirskgaskill January 21, 2012 at 12:16 am

    That sounds plausible and well-reasoned.

    I would like to make this blog an insurance advertising-free zone, if possible.

  8. mike January 23, 2012 at 12:22 am

    wasn’t that the 3/3 episode? 1/3 naked girl, 2/3 big dog, 3/3 the fall

    is there a 4th?

    • wthirskgaskill January 23, 2012 at 12:32 am

      Not quite. That was the 2/3 episode, where 2 is the number of the series, and 3 is the number of the episode within that series.

      The “naked girl” wasn’t 1/3: it was 2/1, and it wasn’t a girl: it was a woman. The “big dog” wasn’t 2/3: it was 2/2, but you were nearly right. The fall wasn’t 3/3: it was 2/3.

      Is there a 4th? No. We have to wait for the next series, by which point everything will begin with “3”.

  9. #ibelieveinsherlock January 23, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    okay so the big clue…rhododendron ponticum makes your eyes water and nose sniffly so that may answer the big clue conundrum, as it isn’t in sherlock’s character to cry. BUT HOW DID HE SURVIVE THE FALL?!?!?!?! perhaps it was the way he fell, you know arms flailing etc……….poor john 😦

  10. mheesing February 4, 2012 at 6:41 am

    I personally think that Sherlock fell into a padded truck safely, rolled off the truck (seen clearly in the scene!) onto the ground, and broke a blood bag from Molly. Watson- shocked, dazed, and confused- took Sherlock’s pulse, but after seeing him fall was too uptight to properly read it. Once in the morgue, Molly helped Sherlock swap his body etc.
    To have dressed Moriarty in all of Sherlock’s clothing- not to mention the difference in blood wound, and obvious size and body difference- is an impossible opinion according to me.

  11. mheesing February 4, 2012 at 6:42 am

    ….just as Jonathanflowers writes above!

  12. Mih0 February 26, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    Ok, I remember there was a dummy hanging in the beginning of the episode. For awhile, I thought maybe John was looking at the dummy on the phone, and that John wasn’t looking at the correct side of the hospital roof, since we never see Sherlock move from John’s perspective and it would explain the importance of where he stood. But we do see Sherlock standing on the roof, falling and flailing to his chalk outline. John touched the body, so it was a real body. He did pick the building (I’m positive the hospital was important) I am eager to see how the Sherlock-phobic girl comes into play.
    We already know he’s an expert at faking deaths. I don’t remember if there was any fog – is it possible he or the biker Baskervilled-John? The moment of privacy was definitely to ensure everything/one was in place. What changed between the first look and the private look? More importantly, it would have been risky to involve too many people in the scheme – so personnel would have to be kept to a minimum… third time’s a charm yeah? I know it’s solvable I’m hoping I can Sherlock some new clues out!

  13. Waelsch March 3, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    The body switch theory doesn’t work. There was a sniper watching the scene, who was supposed to shoot Watson if Sherlock didn’t die. This guy is a professional. He would see Sherlock manipulating the corpse etc, there’s no way he’d be fooled.

    Also as Sherlock fell from the roof, his arms and legs were moving. Corpses can’t do that.

  14. Marko March 18, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    The clue everyone is missing is the shots of Sherlock on the phone showing St Paul’s Cathedral almost 90 degrees to his left shoulder and the tall office building directly behind him. A bit of Google Earth magic shows that Sherlock cannot possibly be standing on the roof in question while talking to Watson. That’s why he needed Watson far enough away he couldn’t recognise the man on the roof posing as him. A bit of stunt magic and diversion follows and Watson believes it is Sherlock who jumps.

    You can work out which roof Sherlock was actually standing on to be able to react appropriately to Watson (e.g. Seeing him start to come closer and making him step back) again by just playing with the landmark position relative to Sherlock in Google Earth.

  15. jimmij132 March 31, 2012 at 7:25 am

    Thus far I agree with Marko.
    The problem with the idea that Sherlock jumped into the truck is that, when he fell, he simply leaned forward. To actually get into the padded truck, Sherlock would need to make a leap of some sort. Also, how in the world would paramedics not realize that their patient wasn’t bleeding, which he wouldn’t be if he used a blood bag?
    My addition to Marko’s theory is that Sherlock would have had to jump as well, and fake his death twice: once to convince Watson and a second time to convince the hitmen. Either that or Sherlock figured out the code to call them off.
    A few things that must be true to go with the double-fake-out idea: first, there must have been somebody watching Sherlock to be sure that the suicide happened, and Sherlock therefore must have fallen, though he could have fallen behind something (in the perspective of the witness), and did the whole “soft landing-blood bag” ordeal. Second, Watson was too traumatized to read the reports (in full detail, at the least) and realize that he watched another man fall, that he was in the wrong place. I am still unsure how he had the double that Watson saw die without dying, or convinced to die for him, or anything like that.
    One problem with Marko’s theory (and my addition) is with the paramedics. When they took Sherlock, or his doppelganger, or whoever, they went right around the corner into the alley, not into an ambulance. Last I checked, Sherlock and Moriarty met atop a hospital.
    Something else to note: Watson was out cold after the biker hit him for a minute, during which anything could have happened.

  16. jimmij132 March 31, 2012 at 7:37 am

    One thing I forgot to mention: since when is the police head guy (sorry forgot his name) Sherlock’s friend?

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