How did Sherlock survive the fall?

The final fall?

The final fall?

There is a clue everybody’s missed’: Sherlock writer Steven Moffat 

For the time being, we cannot say for sure what the ‘clue’ was, but what we can do is – speculate. 

The first thing to remember is Sherlock was ahead of Moriarty, all the way to the end. It appeared on the roof as if he was a bit dumb, but he was only acting dumb because he knew exactly what was going to happen. He knew he was going to “die”.

The second thing to remember is that Sherlock chose the meeting place. This is important because by choosing the meeting place he has control over the stage.

The third thing to remember is that the call that sent Watson to see Mrs. Hudson because she was shot, turned out to be a fake. That fits in pretty well with the canon. He needed him out of the way while he dealt with Moriarty and staged his death.


When Sherlock leans over the building and we get a shot of the pavement, there’s a chalked out rectangular near the bus station. Rather suspicious. I reckon that’s precisely where the lorry is parked.


Remember, Sherlock sends Watson back? In-fact he sends him back twice!
Watson sees Sherlock jump, but he never sees him land because his vision of the pavement is blocked by a single-storey building standing between him and the pavement in-front of Barts.



Molly: What do you need?
Sherlock: You..

As soon as the latter stages of Moriarty’s game dawn on Sherlock, it’s off to Molly he runs, to tell her not only that she counts, but that he needs her help. Her access to dead bodies (she worked in a morgue), pathology reports and medical personnel make her a sure thing for some kind of involvement. But which was it? A corpse-swap? A false report? Both?


Remember how Irene faked her body? I’m assuming Sherlock used the same method. Also, another key point of evidence is that, if Sherlock were to have died, he would have landed spread-eagle on the pavement. However, it looks like he was rolled from a certain laundry truck.

The trash truck


If you look closely, you will notice that the lorry was parked exactly where the rectangle was chalked out on the pavement.

Filled with rubbish bags (but is that all it’s filled with?), the open-backed vehicle was parked next to the spot on the pavement spot where the body landed, and pulled away just as the crowd rushed to the scene.

The truck was a prepared and cushioned landing spot, parked precisely to block Watson’s view (and presumably that of the sniper Holmes was also trying to fool) giving Sherlock time to break a blood capsule or two and move relatively unharmed to the pavement where he played dead.

If not that, then the truck could still have been there to obscure a switch of some kind, and to carry off the non-Sherlock body, whoever that may be.

The mysterious cyclist


A cyclist “accidentally” knocks John to the ground, giving Sherlock and the ground crew time to dispose of the fake body. Could he be someone from Sherlock’s homeless network? Maybe.

On his way to the body, Watson was knocked down by a timely cyclist. This was no accident. Again, this was part of the plan. Either John was concussed or maybe he is injected with a small amount of sedative because when he gets up, his vision is blurred and his speech is slurred. This is important because if he was fully compos mentis, he would realized that the body lying on the pavement was not Sherlock, it is another body in a prosthetic.



Vision – blurred. Speech – slurred. Fit enough to make medical judgements?

After returning from the wild goose chase, Watson arrives at the scene and is made to fix his eyes on Holmes. Witnessing the fall, he’s then knocked down by the cyclist, and blocked by the crowd (of Sherlock employees?), before he eventually reaches the body.

If the body was indeed Holmes feigning death on the pavement after landing safely in the rubbish truck, his heart would be racing. How then, could a medical doctor be fooled into thinking he had no pulse?

A tricky one, this, with possible explanations being that either the body was indeed dead and made up to look like Holmes, or the more prosaic solution that Watson was in no fit state to make medical judgements.



Is that grief and regret we see flash across Mycroft in the Diogenes Club, or could it be the careful poker face of someone in on the plan?

Mycroft, remember, practically is the British government. He’d have the resources at hand to stage any number of fake public suicides one would imagine, and he’s not squeamish around corpses as the flight of the dead proved. But Mycroft’s involvement rests on this: Would Holmes have gone to him for help? Seems highly improbable to me, but it is a possibility.

Lastly, is Moriarty dead? If Sherlock can fake a deadly plunge, why can’t Moriarty fake a suicide?

Thank you for reading.

Like what you read? Agree/disagree? Leave a comment below.


30 comments on “How did Sherlock survive the fall?

  1. Kait says:

    Remember that ball Sherlock was playing with before Watson arrived? I could be wrong, but by squeezing it under his armpit, he could have temporarily blocked his pulse by causing a buildup in cirrculation. Just a thought though.

  2. Jennifer says:

    The idea is good, but the only thing is, Sherlock didn’t exactly jump away from the building. He basically walked off so he would have landed close to the building, right? Wouldn’t the truck was too far away for Sherlock to land in? Other than that I agree with everything you’ve listed. 🙂

  3. Amanda says:

    Maybe he gave John the drug from the hounds episode.

  4. Connie says:

    A comment about being injected made me think about the Hounds episode. What if Watson had been injected with that drug? Sherlock is feeding him, telling him what to expect to see. It’s what they said about the drug. It “fed” your imagination.

  5. Vishal says:

    Ok,heads up,1:14:04-1:1:28:20………sherlock’s nodding……the question is ,at whom………..

    The rectangular patch was absolutely dry when sherlock looked down…….once he was on the ground,it was wet all arnd…….continuity error?possibly not.

    A blind man comes and taps the bus parked in front of the truck with his cane…was he part of the plan?… any case the truck did have a role to play………….

    Sherlock tells Watson about a note……while ,quite presumably,its his suicide note he’s talkin abt,.smthng else nags me……at 1:21:16 he moves past a window(hol that thought).A sheet of paper,a note,probably,leans on the glass……….was it a note to watson telling that he had survived?

    Ok,back to 1:21:16…………sherlock is seen crossing the sam window at 1:21:18…….i honestly hav no idea what that cld mean….ther was a shot of watson at 1:21:17,so it jus myt b the sam thng shown again…..

    Notice the rope hanging from the light on the building,on sherlock’s left(1:21:20)

    and why does he seem to flaying about as he mad the fall, …..a guy intent to tak a nic splat would do it head on ryt?then again,sherlock isn’t jus any guy ,is he?

    Cheers guys!

  6. Subham says:

    U guys are missing something .Remember that the kids got scared looking at Holmes.may be its that the same duplicate is used here, which was used by Moriarty . Longshot ,but still

  7. I agree with much of which you said. But may I take the liberty of drawing your attention to “A Scandal in Belgravia” (S02E01), specifically 37:41, look at the newspaper. I refuse to believe that what is on the front page is JUST a coincidence.

    • candaceshaw says:

      Yes! I noticed it recently and it must have some significance – renovations to the hospital!
      However, that would mean that Sherlock was playing a reeeeaaaally long game. Or that the renos were ongoing.
      You’re the first person that I’ve seen comment about it. Any theotires?

  8. Ty says:

    I had thought that perhaps Molly gave Sherlock some drug that would simulate death, but I think that would take too long to work. The bicyclist drugging Watson, and Sherlcok perhaps using a tourniquet to stop his pulse, along with Watson’s impaired vision/judgement, would do the trick.

    Don’t forget Lestrade and his associates. Lestrade never believed Sherlock was guilty. Perhaps the others were finally convinced, and helped him stage his suicide.

    Another point: Was Moriarty that obsessed with beating Holmes that he would even kill himself to do it? Still not convinced, but Holmes appeared to buy it, but he could have been going along just to convince Moriarty.

    Bottom line, Moriarty’s ego is his weakness. Sherlock played to it, and brilliantly. I’m guessing he needs to stay “dead” long enough for him to catch Moriarty’s assassins and keep Watson, Lestrade, and Mrs. Hudson dead.

    God, I love this series!

  9. Anna says:

    At the very end of the episode, if you look at Sherlock’s neck there’s something that seems to be like a small cut or something. That’s probably how he faked the DNA test for his death, I’m guessing. A bit of his blood.

  10. lou says:

    I think its extremeley relevant here how moriarty mentions THREE friends and THREE snipers, when there is another two people Sherlock has close connections with, one being molly the other mycroft… also sherlock went to see molly before sending john of on a wild goose chase back to his flat as a diversion while he contacted my guess mycroft and molly who helped him stage his death, molly with her acess to all her dead body etc etc and mycroft? Well he is living in the queens palace.. doesn’t that say enough about how much power he has and what he could do with it? Also, we see him reading the paper about sherlocks death, and he doesnt look upset, and if you remember before his death when john visits him and
    confronts him about what he told moriarty.. he seems hesitant when hes telling john all this information like hes trying to watch what hes saying so he doesnt say to much… and he leaves it untill the end to say “tell sherlock im sorry” its last minute because he needs to make it believable to John that mycroft isnt involved… ontop of all this theres the usual speculations that are defientely to be considered, such as the ball which stops the pulse the chalked pavement and the truck and bus, and also the biker… however before all this on the roof when sherlock asks for a moment of privacy THATS when he contacts or signals of some sort for molly or mahbe mycroft or both to get into position.. also the ambulance arrived a little too quick… I think that was also preplanned..

  11. Emerson says:

    niper Scope Sequence!

    If the scope we saw through (aimed at John Watson’s head when John was standing right where Sherlock fell and presumably landed) could see John plain and clearly, then the sniper would have seen any fishy business with the Garbage truck/Sherlock landing not authentically.
    Plus, look at how the sniper sets up, and the position he is in when he is packing up: it is as if he didn’t have to move. If he was focused on John Watson then he would have tracked him all the way from where John got out the cab and where John ran to Sherlock’s body .

    Therefore, the “sniper scope” we saw through was definitely not one of Jim’s assassins. The “sniper” may have or may have not been. I think he was with in on it with Sherlock.

    On the roof Sherlock may have been sending him signals: when he laughs in his “moment of privacy” from Jim and turns around and jumps down onto roof, he CLICKS his heels. The camera emphasizes this (also, that may be the “uncharacteristic” Sherlock moment). Also, he sticks his left arm out as if to signal to John not to move, but what if that was another signal to his sniper assistant? Sherlock examines his surroundings, the angles and viewpoints, as soon as he gets on the roof while Jim is ranting…

    Besides, how do the other assassins get the word not to shoot Ms. Hudson and Lestraude?
    Here’s my explanation: Jim Moriarty was bluffing. He didn’t actually tell them kill Watson/Hudson/Lestraude unless he signaled them not to; he told them to kill them if Sherlock didn’t commit suicide and come out as a fraud (perhaps much time later).

    Sherlock laughed because he called Jim’s bluff and figured it out. He was planning on faking his fall but realized he didn’t need to. Jim then upped the bluff by killing himself. Sherlock was surprised and thought if Jim is going to blow his brains out then “I can’t take chances with Hudson/Lestraude/Watson” So he goes forward with his plan–fake his death.

    Also, why would John have a sniper on him when it would be just as easy to have a guy following him (like Hudson and Lestraude) ready to shoot him close range.

    Other things to consider:
    -Phone Sherlock calls John on at end has camera, Sherlock’s doesn’t. It’s Jim’s phone( Sherlock calls of the assassins?) and throws it back on roof with Jim.
    -Ball that Sherlock is playing with is seen in his hand a few times on the roof–both the ball in armpit and ball as a way to squeeze Baskerville drug on Jim’s collar are plausible–I don’t know…
    -IOU not sure about this. We see it all over the episode. I’m gonna make a wild guess and suggest it was the passcode to Jim’s phone that Sherlock needed to call of the assassins. Sherlock somehow picked it off of Jim on the roof at some point

    -Chalked out pavement to me looks like permanent city markings. (maybe where busses back door pulls up) Sherlock uses as a way to tell garbage truck driver to park there. I like the idea that the side of the truck folds down and provides a cushion for Sherlock then folds back up. This makes the “thud” sound we see (no mattress on the ground) believable. Sherlock hyperventilates and perhaps uses the Rhododendron drug (seen in picture above / lab sequence of him squeezing out liquid from small tube) to slow pulse (again I like the ball under armpit idea here too).

    -Some say that the shirt on the “rooftop Sherlock” is different from the shirt on the “ground Sherlock” dunno!!!??

  12. Cat-astrophical-stuff says:

    I might be quoting john here but… Amazing

  13. blacknosugarh says:

    I think the blue hands on the body are relevant. His hands are clean on the rooftop but the body has blue marks on the hands. Also, remember the poisoned candy wrappers that were painted with mercury? And the girls reaction to seeing Sherlock at the interrogation? Coincidence? I think not.

  14. Chris Spirou says:

    he did foresee moriarty’s death(if it is true) because otherwise he would have jumped without convincing him that they are the same.Maybe he understood what moriarty really wanted.

  15. Ivan says:

    That… That was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read…

  16. gem15 says:

    Anyone else think that maybe sherlock gave watson the idea of him committing suicide but really, he had just given him the weird gas from the last episode? He could have gotten molly to somehow spread some of the gas around the area and then throw off or replace himself with a someone elses dead body. That way, everyone would have seen what they believed to be a dead body (because jumping off a building gave them the idea) and therefore believed there was no pulse.

  17. Chris says:

    I may be mistaken but wasn’t Watson prevented from taking the pulse from the “body”? Whether or not the body was or wasn’t actually Sherlock , and whether it was or wasn’t actually alive would be made irrelevant.

  18. Bruce says:

    I’m amazed at how elaborate most of the theories about Sherlock’s fake suicide are – and unnecessarily so, too. Some folks think it was a dummy that fell (which is impossible in view of the flailing arms and legs), or that Sherlock had a bungee cord tied to his ankle to stop him at the last moment (which is ridiculous, since we see Sherlock step onto the ledge and tell John to watch him every second – and then we clearly see Sherlock falling with nothing tied to him).

    And then there’s the matter of the “body”. Some say it was a dummy – which is possible, but then where’s Sherlock? Others say it was a dead body wearing a Sherlock mask. Okay again, but where’s Sherlock and how did he land safely?

    Actually, none of that is necessary. Sherlock planned the ruse using a method which was brilliantly simple in some ways – and brilliantly complex in others.


    As Sherlock talked to John while standing on the ledge, his ground crew of “by standers” quickly rigged up a clever landing pad for him – which I’ll describe in a moment. (It’s a new idea, and you’re going to love it.) Then Sherlock jumped off the building. No dummy, no cadaver – just Sherlock, alive and flailing away like crazy.

    Sherlock hit the magically appearing pad, rolled off, and laid on the sidewalk while the ground crew splashed blood all around him. Then they hid the pad right in plan sight. (Wait for it . . . ) Sherlock just played dead while John was prevented from getting a good grip on Sherlock’s wrist to feel his pulse. Still playing dead, Sherlock was whisked away by paramedics (real or pretend), and John was fooled.

    No need for dummies. No need for cadavers. Just Sherlock, playing dead. If dogs can do it, so can the world’s greatest detective.

    Now, about that magical pad. No, Sherlock did NOT jump twenty feet out from the edge of the building, land inside the laundry truck with the high metal frame sides, and then scramble out to hide while a body or a dummy dressed like him was placed on the sidewalk. The truck was too far from the building for Sherlock to land in it, and the truck bed just had one layer of cloth laundry bags that may-or-may-not have made a suitably soft landing place for Sherlock.

    But the truck actually DID provide the landing pad. Picture this.

    While Sherlock stalled John on the phone, the ground crew folded down the high metal frame on the side of the truck, which was hinged at the truck’s bed. Two free-swinging metal “legs” attached at the upper corners simply lowered down by themselves as the frame dropped into horizontal position. You’ve seen these things dangling from those long railroad barriers to support the wooden arms while the train goes by. The legs held the outer edge of the truck’s frame up so it was level with the other edge, the one still attached to the truck’s bed.

    In seconds flat, they had a sturdy horizontal framework on which a large pad could be placed. And where was this pad hidden? Right in plane site: the ground crew tossed some of the laundry bags onto the horizontally positioned metal frame to provide Sherlock’s landing pad. Or perhaps a false truck bed was pulled sideways, bags and all, until it was on top of the frame.

    Actually, the idea I like best is this: the truck bed (with the laundry bags firmly attached to it) was also hinged at the curbside edge of truck. The rigged truck bed was flipped up and over until it drops down onto the horizontal metal frame that stuck out from the side of the truck. A thick pad was part of the rigged truck bed’s UNDERSIDE, and this pad now faced upward, ready for Sherlock to land on it. The layer of attached laundry bags that was formerly on top was now under the hinged truck bed, sandwiched between the supporting frame and the inverted truck bed, adding a little more cushioning to Sherlock’s padded landing platform.

    Total elapsed time to deploy the padded platform (either way): 30 seconds – less time than Sherlock spends talking to John while standing on the ledge.

    So, Sherlock jumps and lands safely on the pad. Notice that when Sherlock landed, the camera was aimed high enough not to show what Sherlock landed on, be it a pad or a sidewalk. Sherlock then rolled off and laid on the sidewalk just outside of that rectangular chalk outline we saw from the roof – which was probably there to show the ground crew where to set up the landing pad.

    The ground crew quickly splashed Sherlock with blood, tossed the laundry bags back onto the truck bed, and raised the hinged side back into place. Or – if you like the idea of the hinged, reversible truck bed with a big pad on the bottom – they flipped the hinged truck bed back into place and then locked the curbside metal frame into its upright position.

    Total elapsed time to restore the sidewalk to normal (again, either way): 30 seconds – less time than John spent on the ground after the biker hit him (on purpose, of course).

    Viola! Sherlock pulled a David Copperfield and faked his suicide.

  19. Joe says:

    Sherlock knew he would have to commit suicide. We all know that. I think Sherlock lands on some sort of safety net e.g. the Browder life net that fire men used to use (Im not saying exactly this but some piece of equipment to that effect). This safety net is set up by his homeless network (he reminds us of their existence earlier in the episode) after he moves Moriarty away from the edge of St. Bart’s. The truck/ lorry many people notice may house this equipment but also obstructs John’s and probably the snipers view of him hitting the ground. He ensures John cannot see where he will land or his landing by making him stay behind the building on front of St. Barts. Presumably John staying here also keeps the sniper focused on John rather than Holmes and his landing. He also orders John to keep his eyes on Holmes.Once he jumps and lands he is surrounded by it seems the confederates who assisted in his scheme (who cover and dress him in the blood we see pooling around him). (The landing on the pavement we see, presumably is Holmes rolling from the safety device {he cannot stand as he must ensure any of moriarty’s men do not see him}. I believe the ball is placed in his underarm to feign the abscence of a pulse, and the confederates prevent John examining holmes properly (John is also dazed by the cyclist “accidently” hitting him. Molly’s part is providing Holmes with the blood at the scene and forging his death certificate. I think most people have noticed most of this before but I think a safety net (placed in the chalk box) is more plausible than Sherlock jumping and landing in the truck as some people have mentioned. Sherlock falls rather than jumps anyway, so to land in the truck he would have needed some sort of wings to glide with. Something like the Browder life net seems more plausible and is known to have saved people from heights such as this (Im well aware though that such nets were not always successful so its likely Sherlock used an improved design given that he’s not a betting man and Browder nets were known to only be effective around half of the time). Though Sherlock’s main priority was his friends’ safety so perhaps he was willing top take the risk of dying.

    Also do people think Sherlock might have been banking on Moriarty killing himself. If he doesn’t kill himself cant he just watch Sherlock jump from the roof top. He would surely be suspicious if Sherlock kept insisting he kept away from the ledge and there is also the chance he wanders over to look down to the pavement again and sees what is going on below. Then again Sherlock seems surprised and shaken when Moriarty does shoot himself.

  20. […] dos años dando vueltas al misterio de la desaparición de Sherlock. Fans que han hecho esquemas y construido teorías, que han llenado foros en la red y analizado cada pequeño detalle de la secuencia de la caída. […]

  21. Guessing Rude says:

    On rewatch it is clear that isn’t a chalk outline but a line of old bricks in the pavement (old foundation?). Amazing how prescient some of the guesses were…

  22. jArty says:

    In the final episode of the last series, Molly taught Holmes how to give himself the best chance of survival after being shot. Could she have also done the same by teaching him how to react after such a fall, especially if he has immediate medical assistance. ie. He really did jump and hit the pavement and Molly (who told him how to land) , was in the ambulance and treated him ……

  23. jArty says:

    …. Or was there any significance in Sherlock telling Watson that Mary had ”saved my life” ? He then blustered on about phoning an ambulance.

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