Wiki Headlines
We've switched servers and will be updating the old code over the next couple months, meaning that several things might break. Please report issues here.

main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Headscratchers: Sherlock Holmes
    open/close all folders 

    Original stories 

Why does Watson write this stuff for publication?

  • The example that springs most immediately to mind is in "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton", but also applies to any other story in which Holmes undertakes illegal behavior. It amounts to a public confession. "And then we broke into the guy's house, hid behind the curtain while some lady came in and shot him, burned all his papers, and then kept the entire escapade a secret- hey, wait a second..."
    • Plus the numerous occasions when they let criminals go free. I realise that in many cases (as with the above) all the principals are dead, but surely you can still be found culpable for an offence years after? Another niggle- all the unflattering descriptions of people's habits and/or appearances. You'd expect a good many of the clients to sue for the rude way they're described. And do people really want the Great British Public to know about their drug problems? Jacking up in the living room is one thing, but one character (can't remember the story now) is explicitly portrayed as an opium addict, seen as a real social evil of the time. This attitude would be understandable if he was a villain- but this guy is one of Watson's friends!
      • Well, Watson just needs to say "That was an embellishment" and what does the prosecution do? Sherlock Holmes is a legend and more than that he counts most of the governments of Europe as "people who owe him a favour" as well as His Holiness the Pope as a character witness. Plus can you imagine being the man who "imprisons the greatest foe of crime of all time"?
      • "Surely you can still be found culpable for an offence years after"... yes, but there is a limit. Statute of limitations. I don't know what it was in 19th Century England, but in 21st Century US it's often 5 years or so for burglary or stuff like that.
      • In European civil law countries, prescription limits the time in which a lawsuit can be filed to a number of years equal to the longest punishment for the said crime. The only crimes which are never prescribed are murder and crimes against humanity.
      • Indeed, many of the stories are stated to have been withheld until they became less sensitive (usually in the case of misbehaving Nobility and Royalty.)
      • We're talking about a man who is owed favors by the Queen of England and at least two Prime Ministers, not to mention has personally and repeatedly saved the careers of every single one of Scotland Yard's top inspectors. Short of committing regicide on the Palace lawn at high noon during a parade, the mind boggles at anything Holmes could do to get himself put in jail.
      • Watson says as much at the end of the story The Illustrious Client:
      Sherlock Holmes was threatened with a prosecution for burglary, but when an object is good and a client is sufficiently illustrious, even the rigid British law becomes human and elastic.
      • They not only overlook the burglary charge, but also the fact that Holmes was accessory to a rather nasty assault in which vitriol (sulphuric acid) is thrown in somebody's face - "I didn't know she was going to do it" being a fairly shaky legal defence under the circumstances, which would be aggravated burglary. And the "good object"? To prevent an unsuitable marriage...
      • For the "Illustrious Client" case, the marriage by itself was not the problem, but the fact that all the girls that the Baron intangles with tends to get ruined or die in odd circumstances (while somehow leaving the Baron all their money). The vitrol throwing was done in revenge by a ruined ex-lover, which everyone thought was justified. And to cap it all off, the titular client was implied to be King Edward VII, so I would think that it would be rather easy for Holmes to avoid jail time.
    • Some of the stories end with Holmes and Watson promising to keep the facts secret, so the murderer's innocent young daughter (or whoever) will never know the awful truth. Except, hang on, Watson's now published the facts in a book. If the innocent young daughter isn't going to learn the truth from that, it can only mean that she's died between the events of the story and Watson going public.
      • In one case, this is exactly what happened; Watson opens with an explanation that, due to the untimely death of the last innocent person connected with the case, he is no longer bound to secrecy.
      • He openly admits to changing names and locations in at least one of the later stories.
    • There is a moment in the fantastic Holmes movie The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes which addresses this concern; in it, Holmes all but accuses Watson of embellishing "The Red-Headed League" in order to make the story more exciting for the readers. Watson's an Unreliable Narrator — there's no guarantee that Watson doesn't fictionalize his cases, mixing and matching details and changing names just in order to keep an exciting narrative without getting him and Holmes sued from here to doomsday and losing business for being indiscreet about clients. Those scenes where someone asks them to keep it quiet or Holmes intones that the world is not ready for this story are just Watson's little nods to his reader that the whole thing is Ripped from the Headlines.
    • Maybe Watson only publishes accounts that bad-mouth the client, or relatives or friends of same, if the client in question refuses to pay Holmes his consulting fee....
      • Holmes actually confronts Watson about his style of writing several times. Watson's concerned with writing a good story, and while Sherlockians/Holmesians prefer to believe what he recorded was accurate there's no reason why he wouldn't have embellished. The accounts Holmes crafts himself are much more scientific and instructional.
      • Are we ever told when his accounts are released? He could give it to the publisher with strict instructions not to release it until a certain date/until a client is dead/until he and/or Holmes is dead/etc. He could also, as someone suggested, change the names in order to make sure no descendants face the embarrassment of their ancestor's issues.
      • One or two clients mentions having read Watson's accounts, so at least some of them were published during Holmes' career.
    • Aside from airing the clients' dirty laundry, which is excusable if he changes names, Watson's also given away spoilers for several of Holmes' methods of deceiving criminals. You'd think every crook in London would know better than to answer a cryptic agony-column message, without verifying it's not one of his Batman Gambit set-ups, by now!
      • But he can also put in as much misinformation as he wants, and exaggerate Holmes' deductive capabilities and make the criminal underworld even more terrified of him.
      • In fact, in "Memoirs..." Sherlock tells Watson that in his writtings he appears to be infallible, when in practice he is much more prone to error, as holes in the evidence can mislead him as much as anyone. Only when in possession of all the facts he can achieve an accurate deduction, otherwise he has to rely on inference.

    • Permit this Troper to resolve this mystery once and for all, by submitting the following likely solutions to the central question - "Why does Watson publish these stories?"
Let us take them item by item.
  • 'A Study In Scarlet' took place in 1881, and was published in December, 1887. Watson marries in early 1888. It is not inconceivable that a when man (unemployed, living on benefits for the last six years) faces the prospect of paying for a wedding, ring, house, and new career, he can use some income. It's not inconceivable that Holmes permitted this as a sort of wedding gift.
  • Er, A Study in Scarlet was published before the events of the Sign of Four. Study is discussed by Holmes and Watson before meeting Mary Morstan.
  • 'The Sign of the Four' - It's the love story of how Watson met his wife. What an anniversary gift.
  • 'The Adventures/Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes' and 'Hound of the Baskervilles' were published in July 1891 - mere months after Holmes supposedly died at Reichenbach. Clearly, these were intended, by Watson, as a posthumous memorial.
  • 'The Return of Sherlock Holmes' was published in late 1903 and early 1904. We later learn this was just when Holmes was wrapping up his career for retirement (and Watson getting re-married.)

In other words, the overwhelming majority of the series were written during periods where it was assumed that Holmes was no longer practicing. Viola. (I'll leave all the other posts here, untouched, out of respect, though).

  • One question that has not been raised above is the troubles that would ensue when Watson reveals(through his stories) the many instances where police officers have taken credit for Holmes' work. Wouldn't this ruin their reputations and result in many a demotion or dismissal?
    • This can also be explained through Unreliable Narrator / Ripped from the Headlines; to take one example, presumably there's no real Inspector Lestrade, but Watson has based him on a real detective (or a composite of real detectives) he and Watson worked with during the cases and uses him as a little nod to the reader that Holmes had more to do with solving the case than the official authorities were willing to concede.
    • Alternatively: To be fair to Lestrade and Gregson it was only the papers that exaggerated their contribution to the solving of the cases (perhaps out of a Victorian respect for authority and their refusal to believe that a talented amateur could outperform the professional police). Gregson & Lestrade were scrupulous in telling their superiors exactly what happened. It's clear from The Six Napoleons that the official police eventually come to respect Holmes.

What happens to Watson's wife?

  • In The Final Problem Watson is married and in active practice. In the stories compiled as "The return of Sherlock Holmes" he gives up private practice and goes back to live with Sherlock. So, um, where is his wife now that he is living his old bachelor life again?
    • She died.
    • Yep, there's very little song and dance about it but he does mention his bereavement in passing. And later (if you don't believe they're all cover stories and the detective and the doctor were romantically involved), he marries someone else. Which Holmes describes as the one selfish thing he ever did.
    • This troper prefers to think everything after The Final Problem were just stories set before it and written after. Forget those niggling details...
      • Even The Adventure of the Empty House? Anyway, I've seen versions of Holmes continuity where Watson has three wives, who all die. He does mention the death of one wife in The Empty House (The return of Holmes), which apparently happened while Holmes was missing and gives Watson an excuse to move back in with Holmes.
    • This is what has been agreed upon by several BS Is and editors: Watson had three wives. The first was a woman from America (possibly named Constance) who was with Watson during several of the earliest Adventures. She died, leaving Watson a widower. When he married Mary Morstan at the end of The Sign of Four, it's postulated he edited the stories he'd already written so that she would see her name in print when he published them. She died shortly before Holmes's return. Watson married again, but this woman was not fond of Sherlock and tried to keep them apart. (Mary in the books had no trouble with Holmes - he helped her solve the mystery of her father)
  • This troper read an essay that came to the conclusion that Doyle killed Mary off because he hated his mother for being Irish.
    • Balderdash and piffle. Doyle loved his mother. It's firmly supported in his biographies. There's a special place in Hell for essayists who try to guess and hint at the secret thoughts and private hangups of dead famous people.

Why did Holmes have to fake his death?

  • Technically speaking, Holmes faking his death is a side effect of what he's really doing, as the people he's running from already knew he was still alive. What Holmes was doing was living off the grid and under a succession of aliases to keep Moran from killing him, knowing that after months or years of fruitless pursuit Moran would run out of funds and have to go back to England and resume his criminal career to pay the bills. Holmes could then, after Moran has abandoned the offensive (and thus yielded the tactical initiative to Holmes), set a trap for Moran by reappearing in London and baiting Moran to try and kill him at his house. As to why Holmes feared Moran so much: the man was one of the best rifle shots in the world, a master of stealth, absolutely obsessed, and while no Moriarty-level genius, he wasn't stupid either. (We're talking about a guy who crawled down a sewer drain after a wounded man-eating tiger and won, after all.) Holmes simply could not try to go about a normal life knowing that Moran only needed to get somewhere within rifle range of him once to splatter him. For God's sake, in The Adventure of the Empty House Moran killed a guy using an air rifle, firing a revolver bullet, with a perfect headshot through a barely-opened window. If a man like that was on my ass like the Terminator, I'd spend months hiding out under another identity too.
  • Its specifically mentioned in the story that Holmes suddenly reappearing in London immediately after Moran had committed another murder (with the obvious intent of investigating it, and thus getting Moran sent to jail) is the only thing that made Moran desperate enough to rush and try and kill Holmes at Holmes' own house. Under less pressing circumstances, Moran was patient enough to have waited for an opportunity to kill Holmes somewhere he was more vulnerable and less able to rig traps ahead of time.
    • Okay but why couldn't he let Watson know that? Why not head straight back to London and set up the wax dummy, instead of waiting three years?
    • Reread the above example. It took three years for Moran to give up on chasing Holmes across Europe, return to London, and then finally commit another crime that Holmes could pin on him (thus rendering Moran vulnerable enough to be desperate). Without any of the above factors, Moran would never have risked attacking Holmes on his home ground, but would instead have simply patiently waited until he could rig a foolproof trap. As for not telling Watson, this is because while Watson has many valuable talents, being able to lie convincingly is not one of them. The only way his reactions would be genuine enough to fool Moran is if he didn't know what was going on. (Note also that leaving any sign that Watson was 'in the know' and helping Holmes would almost certainly have resulted in a rifle bullet through Watson's head.) Note that Holmes did let someone in London know he was still alive and secretly kept in touch with him — Mycroft. But Mycroft was someone Moriarty's organization knew much less about, and given his position in the British government, had access to much better protection if he needed it.
    • He explicitly tells Watson this - Watson's hurt that Holmes didn't trust him, and Holmes had to reassure him it wasn't a trust issue.
  • Also, Watson was Holmes's chronicler. It was absolutely essential everyone else believe Sherlock died, if only to ensure that Moran would have trouble convincing people otherwise. If people believed Holmes dead, they wouldn't be looking for him. And it's not hard to imagine he may have had other enemies who would be more than willing to take a pot shot at him when Moran's back was turned.
  • Possibly I'm being incredibly stupid, but here goes: Watson's not in hiding, so why didn't Moran just grab him and send out some sort of message to Holmes, saying, "Come back to London and face me directly or I'll shoot him, and don't you dare bring along Scotland Yard"? Is it Honour Before Reason? Even Evil Has Standards? Would Mycroft's agents interfere?
    • Possibly a little of All Of The Above; among other things, Holmes would no doubt ask Mycroft to keep an eye on Watson to make sure all was well in his absence, and this was the Victorian era, age of gentlemanly conduct, and if you had a disagreement with another gentlemen you settled it between yourselves. Furthermore, the whole point of Holmes faking his death was to keep Watson out of the loop and convince the world at large that he was dead; there's no point in holding Watson to ransom or to find out what he knows because he doesn't know anything, and Holmes is in deep cover so Moran has to find him first before he can send him threatening messages.
      • I somehow doubt Moriarty's most ruthless associates would take such great pains upon themselves for moral reasons, and as for getting the message to Holmes, they would just have to put an ad in any public news source that he'd be likely to be following. It's mostly something readers have to accept for the sake of Sherlock Holmes returning from death and continuing his adventures.
      • Fair point about the ruthless associates (although it's worth noting that in "The Empty House", it's revealed that Moriarty's second-in-command Moran has pretensions towards high-society acceptability, so might have adopted a veneer of 'gentleman's conduct' as part of this) but unfortunately, the whole 'deep cover' thing isn't so easily solved; the whole point of sending someone a ransom note is that you know for certain the other person will receive and act on it. Holmes was traveling around the world incognito, remember, so if they're resorting to putting ransom ads in the news agencies then they presumably have no clue where he actually is — and if they don't even know where the guy is, how are they supposed to know what newspapers he's following or where to send a telegram? For all they know Holmes is Deep in Darkest Africa (metaphorically speaking at least), away from any kind of news source — and remember, this is the Victorian era, and news did not travel around the world as quickly as it does today. He could even be dead for all they know. Meaning it could be months or even years before he manages to get their message, if he even gets it at all — which thus renders the whole thing pointless from the start, since they're hardly going to keep Watson hidden as a hostage for all that time, and if they do kill him before Holmes gets their message they've lost their only bargaining chip. Presumably they were keeping an eye on him to see if Holmes did get in touch, but once it's clear he doesn't know anything there's no point in doing anything more until they have something more concrete on where Holmes is, and if they have that then they might as well deal with Holmes directly.

Wait, so Moriarty and his brother are both named James?

  • Unless the brother's given name is actually Colonel, that is? Did this actually happen in Victorian England?
    • I don't know about men, but the first name "Mary" was very common for multiple daughters, mostly among Catholic families. In the Chalet School books from around fifty years later, one mother names her triplet daughters Mary Helena, Mary Constance and Mary Margaret and this isn't considered wildly unusual.
      • Mary Saintsname O'Something is quite a common name choice for daughters in Catholic families. And James Thurber once had a maid whose mother had named all her daughters with variations on Juanita. (Juanemma, etc.)
    • This Troper has two Great-great-great-uncles who had the Christian names Richard Johnathan and Augustus Richard. But the letters we know that from mentuon that Augustus hated the names and everyone called him Richard. A similar thing maybe happening here.
  • In John Gardner's alternate continuity novels about Moriarty, He gives a possible explaination both Moriarty's changing appearance and his first name being the same as his brother's: There were three Moriarty brothers, all named James by their insane father. He gave them the middle names Edgar, Edmund, and Edward. The oldest became a professor, the middle one was a train conductor, and the youngest became a criminal. The youngest learned the art of makeup and acting, Killed both of his brothers, and impersonated his eldest brother, Leading to Moriarty being thought of as an older professor when he was actually a young gangster.
    • Which one entered the military in this scenario?
    • Except Colonel James Moriarty was still alive after the Reichenbach incident, specifically said as publicly defending his dead brother the Professor's reputation. So if Moriarty was impersonating his murdered brother the Colonel, he'd have to have survived the fall and made it back to England to resume his double life. He can't be in two places at once and Holmes is certain Moriarty didn't survive his tumble down Reichenbach. I buy the "all named James by their insane dad" idea, but not the "Moriarty murdered and impersonated his brothers" one.
  • Or "James Moriarty" could be a compound surname.
    • Like everyone assumes "Conan Doyle" is, you mean?

Jefferson Hope lets himself get caught

  • Holmes tries to bate Hope with the wedding ring at Baker's Street through an ad. Hope sees through it and sends a confederate posing as an old lady to recover the ring [actually a fake]. After he kills two people, some kid shows up at the cab company where he works and ask for him by name and wants him to go to the very same room from the ad, 221b Baker's steet. Why he tries to throw himself out a closed window once he is there? I don't know, for drama? The alternative is a massive plot hole. Holmes must have deduced the man who's life mission is over would not fight to preserve that life which is coming to an end.
    • Jefferson Hope is described as a man of average intelligence, fanatical persistence, and extremely quick reflexes, but never as a guy who was unusually swift on the uptake mentally. And once before, he was almost at the close of his quest when he was arrested by the police, and had to start over again after years of delay. So his immediate reflex upon having handcuffs suddenly snapped upon him is to fight; it isn't until after he's subdued and his adrenaline's worn off that he remembers, 'Hey, I don't need to fight anymore; I've already killed the men I'm after. Hah, silly me!'
      • Also note that Hope is well aware that he's living on borrowed time, since he deliberately shows Watson that he has a serious heart problem. He willingly makes a full confession because he doesn't want to be remembered as a cold-blooded killer, and wants to make sure that the world knows just why he killed Drebber and Stangerson. Surrendering to the police gives him the opportunity to do just that.
    • Plus, he probably fights because while he might have completed his quest, he doesn't necessarily want to go to the gallows for murder; it's instinct, but it wears off once he realizes that the game's well and truly up. As for why he went, he probably didn't expect to be arrested immediately upon arresting and thought he'd be able to bluff his way out of it; over-confidence, in other words.
    • Jefferson Hope average? That seems a tad harsh. Pursuing two desperate men across the globe for years, on a shoestring income, and then devising his unique method of assassination show a man of considerable ability and resourcefulness. However, as to why he didn't make the connection about the addresses?

The simple deduction is that, sending his confederate to retrieve the ring did not require him to commit the address to memory. He might quite simply have handed his friend the newspaper and said "Hey, mate. Sounds like some chap found a ring I lost, but I'm too busy to go get it. Be a pal, stop by and get it from them, won't you?" When nothing happened to his confederate (and the ring turned out to be fake), he probably gave the place and people no further thought.

Why is Irene Adler considered Holmes' equal?

  • She didn't win on the basis of being abnormally clever. The only reason she escaped was because Holmes' massive intellect inexplicably decided to take the night off. If had sent for the king immediately, or at the very least had his irregulars watch her, he would have gotten the picture just fine.
    • It's not that she's his intellectual equal, it's more that Holmes' misogynistic attitude caused him to underestimate her, and she just changed his perception of women.
    • Tut, tut, you are underestimating The Woman; while is true that fans overrate her as a Holmes equal, is truth that she a)Recognized the maneuver of distraction and her error, b)Devised and executed instantly a perfect counterplan and c) Closed the execution with a little tease/mock of her own, the letter and the costumed salute (not far that Holmes himself would have done). All that when Holmes had previously assumed that women were sentimental, not intellectual beings. Is not surprising then that this is the closest he comes to romantic infatuation...


  • At the end of The Sign of the Four, Holmes states that Jonathan Small's inside man must have been the Indian butler. Why did he rule out the former prize-fighter, McMurdo?
    • You never really know someone until you fight them?
      • The inside man would have had to have been there the whole time, but Mc Murdo was only hired at some point in the last year or two. The butler is the only member of the staff who's been continuously there since the beginning.

Why doesn't Col. Moriarty go after Holmes for his brother's murder after the Great Hiatus?

  • The case against Moran is flimsy at best (especially since Holmes refuses to let him be arrested for the one thing anyone at Scotland Yard knows beyond a shadow of a doubt he did—attempt to murder Sherlock Holmes), and it's made clear from a reference in one of the later stories that Moran was never hanged for his crimes, possibly even released at some point. Since he saw the fight at Reichenbach, couldn't he and Col. Moriarty work together on a case against Holmes? Especially since it becomes clear after the fact that up until Watson wrote up FINA Professor Moriarty was considered so upstanding that even a Scotland Yard inspector who had met him thought that Holmes was slandering an innocent man?
    • Possibly the Colonel had privately known his brother was involved with shady business, but kept quiet about it for the sake of the family name. He wouldn't personally take action to expose or stop his criminal brother's activities, but he wouldn't necessarily go after the man who did figure out what the Professor was up to and end his reign of crime, either.
    • Considering also that Moran and the Colonel's brother actually were knee-deep in all kinds of dodgy dealings, much as they might have an axe to pick with Holmes they're probably safest just keeping a low-profile and letting bygones be bygones. It's fairly safe to presume that neither one of them is even half the criminal genius Moriarty was, and given that Holmes has by this point brought down Moriarty's criminal empire, foiled Moran's numerous attempts at murdering him and in turn exposed him as a murderer (even if the case was weak) and basically came up on top each time his paths have crossed with Moran and Moriarty, they've probably decided that it's not worth risking it.
  • On a related note, why don't we hear anything about Moriarty's former colleagues or students after VALL? If he was so "learned" and "fatherly," (to paraphrase Inspector MacDonald), one would think they'd be concerned about his disgrace and death?
    • Because the stories aren't about Moriarty, they're about Sherlock Holmes. Several of them probably were concerned / shocked, but unless they were criminals themselves or got involved with a mystery that Holmes was called upon to solve why would they get involved with Holmes about it? To take a metaphorical example, if you learn that your favourite teacher has been arrested for murdering his / her spouse, you might be pretty shocked to learn it, but that doesn't mean you're going to start hounding the detective who arrested him for it.

Why was there no wedding in The Hound of Baskervilles?

  • At the end of the novel, Beryl Stapleton is free to marry sir Henry Baskerville, who is in love with her and believes she returns his feelings. Now, we do not know for sure if she really did or was she just forced to display interest, but this is never taken into consideration: instead, we are told that sir Henry "has been let down by the woman he loved" or something like that. Why is that? She tried to protect him, even at the expense of her own health and (potentially) life, and she did what she could to keep him out of harm's way. It would be understandable if she didn't love sir Henry back, but to find her guilty of anything is ridiculous.
    • Who's to say that there wasn't a wedding? As a matter of fact, it's implied that Beryl did in fact return Sir Henry's feelings. The catch is that, at the end of the novel, Sir Henry has suffered a nervous breakdown from nearly being killed by the Hound, and needed to travel around the world before his nerves recovered. He clearly wasn't in any shape to marry anyone at the time, but once he'd recovered there's no reason to believe that he wouldn't have done so. It's just that it probably wasn't recorded by Watson, since it had nothing to do with the actual investigation.
    • Beryl was also, by choice or not, involved with the man who tried to kill Sir Henry and an active (albeit clearly reluctant) participant in his plot. That's quite a lot to take in, and it's frankly not entirely surprising that Sir Henry might have some mixed feelings about marrying her, at least when the wounds are still open.
    • How long would it take for her husband to be declared dead, in the absence of a body or witnesses to his actual death? I think it's seven years for normal disappearances, but the circumstances might make it possible to push it through sooner. At least it'll take months to sort out, and probably years given his previous disappearences and false identities.

What does Lestrade think of Watson's publications?

  • The claims that he takes all the credit for most of Holmes's work aside, how does Lestrade feel about Watson repeatedly comparing him to a ferret?
    • Ferrets are great hunters! It's a compliment. Sort of.

In The Copper Beeches, were these things ever explained?

  • When Violet Hunter is explaining all the odd goings on to Holmes and Watson, she says that at one point he told Violet a series of jokes that left her exhausted from laughing, all without smiling. She also mentions that his son is often cruel to small animals. Were either of these things relevant to the plot? I might be forgetting something...
    • You are, both were clearly explained in the story. As Violet was hired to impersonate Rucastle's daughter to put off her suitor, it was important that she was seen to be perfectly happy - hence the constant jokes so that she would be seen laughing. The son being cruel to animals implied that Rucastle had bought his son up to be cruel for cruelty's sake, which indicated to Holmes that Rucastle would be cruel enough to lock his daughter up.

    Robert Downey Jr films 

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

  • Why doesn't Holmes Sherlock Scan Dredger?
  • Okay. So Lord Blackwood fakes his own death. He rigs the tomb ahead of time to make it look like he burst out of it from the inside. He used all kinds of Victorian tech to pull off his "spooky magical powers", most of the tech invented or perfected by the "ginger midget," who Blackwood offs afterwards, probably to cover his tracks. All so far, so good. So. Why in the hell did Blackwood put the body of the ginger midget in his coffin? If you're going to fake your own resurrection, have an empty coffin. If you're going to kill a subordinate, chuck him in the Thames. Why put someone unusual in the coffin that would a.> attract attention, b.> not add to the spooky vibe and c.> beg to be followed up? Especially as he must know Holmes would follow up in the first place, as Holmes was the one who arrested him. So why throw such a huge bone to Holmes?
    • It did add to the spooky vibe—recall the gravekeeper, who took it as a sign—he said something about 'The dead will rise, and the living will fill these coffins.' And it was part of the ritual Holmes outlines, as well.
    • If you recall, the only reason the midget stood out to Holmes and Watson was because Irene was looking for him, otherwise he would have just been an anonymous victim.
  • If everything that was supposed to be magical in the movie was really phony "industrial revoloution tech" (radios phooey!) then what was the point of showing Holmes going into a trance and contacting Blackwood when he does so? Was that sequence all in his head?
    • I suspect it was all part of getting into Blackwood's mindset; for all his cynical 'conjuring tricks', Blackwood clearly believes in his own bullshit, so Holmes is endeavouring to see the world through Blackwood's eyes as part of 'widening his gaze'.
      • Plus he's "self-medicating."
    • He also needed to consider how the other members of Blackwood's secret society would view his "magic". If they weren't caught up in their own mythology, they too could have deduced that it was all trickery and derailed the guy's agenda. Holmes couldn't be sure what sort of Batman Gambit Blackwood was pulling on his own brethren unless he explored their mystical mode of thought, confirming they would be that gulible.
    • Finally, is a common trick for misguiding the audience into thinking that something supernatural is happening at last, and Holmes need to explore it.
    • Not to mention the fact that, by superimposing the ritual diagram with the map Holmes found out where is the actual terrorist attack supposed to happen...?
  • Similarly, why hatch a plan in which at least two things depend on it raining on the correct night? Even with the jokes we've all heard about English weather, all it would take would be one dry night at the wrong time and he'd be in real trouble.
    • Blackwood's plan hinges on him getting arrested and cheating the gallows, and Holmes notes that the crime he was arrested for was 'a fingerpainting' in comparison to his earlier efforts. Presumably Blackwood made a point of getting arrested during a season where it was likely to be raining frequently. Note how pretty much every shot of sky in the movie is gloomy and overcast.
      • on a side note: We learn that Blackwood already killed 5 girls, in the pattern of a pentagram. Holmes catches him before he can kill the sixth. but killing six girls would have broken his carefully planned pattern, so Blackwood was obviously very sure that Holmes would catch him and set his scheme in motion.
    • Of course every shot of the sky is gloomy and overcast. It takes place in England. I spent a semester there, and we saw the sun maybe four times; even when it wasn't raining, it was nearly always overcast and slightly damp. There's a reason for all the jokes: England really does have weather like that.
    • "Is it November?" Holmes asks at one point. Even given the above point about Britain's usual rainy weather, October / November — when Blackwood was arrested, tried and executed — is a season in which it is particularly likely to rain.
    • Worst case scenario: He bribes someone to pour water on his grave if it fails to rain.
      • Ooh, Fridge Brilliance — with this back-up in place, a dry night would make it even more difficult to figure out how the trick was done, because there'd be no apparent reason for the glue binding the rock together to dissolve. Thus strengthening Blackwood's apparent Dark Messiah mystique.
    • Also, the offing of Standish benefited from the rain, but it quite likely wasn't slavishly dependent on it. The American Ambassador was pretty clearly fixated on other matters, and even without the water the spray could've been taken as some draining or plumbing system, or something else more mundane rather than rain. Probably unusual that you'd be sprayed by it and something that Standish would've noted... for all of two or three minutes before he learns about the Coup in the group and Blackwood starts egging him on by planning to levy war on his homeland. Even in the unlikely even it wasn't raining that night, Standish would've needed to notice the water hitting him and care enough about it to get rid of it in the five or so minutes before he went in to face Blackwood (which led to him burning himself to death). Or alternatively would have required Standish to not fall for the Berserk Button bait that Blackwood laid for him and that he fell for. All of which are spectacularly unlikely even factoring in that liquid being the only stuff pouring from the sky at the time.
  • How did Watson - an experienced medical doctor - certify as dead a 'corpse' that, after supposedly being hanged, displayed no rope-marks or burns on the neck, whose neck was not broken and who would still have had a pulse? I can accept the rest of the setup of the 'fake' hanging as described, just not an independant and unbribed doctor certifying as dead a body which plainly had not suffered death by hanging...
    • I believe the drug he took explicitly slowed the heartbeat such that it wouldn't register as a pulse. Watson's examination, if I remember correctly, amounted to checking his heartbeat and breathing and as far as he was concerned, someone whose heart wasn't beating (noticeably) and who didn't seem to be breathing was dead.
    • Blackwood was wearing an outfit that had a high collar which covered his neck. Since he couldn't find a pulse, and never really took Blackwood's declaration that he would come back from the dead seriously, Watson didn't bother to roll Blackwood's collar down all the way to do a further investigation. He didn't think it was possible for someone to survive being hanged, so in his mind there was no reason to look for further evidence of someone's death once he had confirmed that there was no pulse.
    • Never mind how Watson could've missed the signs. Why didn't his apparent corpse get dissected rather than buried? Handing convicts over to the medical schools after hanging was standard practice for executions at the time, and his body would've been especially prized because he'd been healthier than your average street thug.
    • Blackwood still had contacts in the government who were in on the plot, like Coward- presumably, one of them pulled strings to make sure he was buried.
    • Plus, he's Lord Blackwood. Britain is at this point still a society dominated by hereditary aristocrats and the like; it probably wouldn't be too hard to make sure that he got buried instead of cut up by impressing his aristocratic origins, despite his crimes. The respect for aristocracy was enough to grant him a honorable burial in the family crypt, unlike ordinary convicts of the Victorian Age which were buried in lime on the prison grounds.
      • Actually, Blackwood's title is a Headscratchers in itself, as he's an illegitimate son and shouldn't have had any actual claim to a title.
      • You could earn peerage by your own merits even in the 19th century - or in Blackwood's case, probably by having a few friendly people in the House of Lords telling Queen Vicky what a nice chap he is, and how he should have a title despite of the misfortune of his illegitimate birth.
      • I assumed that, though he was actually the illegitimate son of, er, whatever his name was, his mother was the wife of - and, to the world at large, his father actually was - the late elder Lord Blackwood. (There is a British aristocratic clan of Scottish origin with the surname Blackwood, but in the 19th century they were part of the Irish Peerage.)
      • In any case, he couldn't have shared the title with his biological father; he would only have become Lord after the previous holder of the title died or passed it forward. Under normal circumstances there's only one Peer in a family at a time.
      • It's implied that the previous Lord Blackwood is no longer with us and that Blackwood had something to do with it ("If the rest of his family's dead, how long do you expect to survive? Food for thought!"), which probably explains why he got his title.
    • In any event, Lord Blackwood's burial at consecrated grounds is incredibly suspect. The details as to when and how he broke out and switched bodies aside, Blackwood would have never been given a proper burial. He was a convicted murderer and warlock, after all.
      • As noted above, though, he was also a wealthy aristocrat who was more than willing to throw around a lot of cash to ensure what he wanted to happen happened. Money's gotten worse people better deals.
  • Holmes, being who he is, is able to uncover the mystery surrounding Blackwood's mysterious power. Okay. But how does he even know the circumstances of Ambassador Standish's (the American guy's) death? Who would have informed him that Standish had pulled the trigger on Blackwood and then burst into flames? (His finding out would have to take place before he was arrested, as during Holmes' manufactured ritual he ponders the death of Standish.)
    • Wasn't there a newspaper with the headline "Ambassador Standish Killed by Hellfire"?
      • Even if we didn't see it (I can't remember), the death of the American Ambassador would probably make the papers, and Blackwood would certainly see to it that people were made aware that he did it with his funky awesome supernatural powers.
    • It's likely Lestrade handled that case and told Holmes about it. Holmes being Holmes, he would have asked for all the details. That the man's gun was missing one bullet would have jumped out to him.
      • Yet Holmes somehow knows that the compound that caused Standish's death was "the same as [the one used in the port], burned with an unusual, pinkish hue." I don't see that reaching the public. His deductions on Standish are a bit of a stretch.
      • Everyone is screaming about how Blackwood is using his devil-powers to seize control of the land; you think the reports of his death are going to omit the fact that the 'hellfire' that struck down the American Ambassador of all people burned an unusual colour? If nothing else, it's in Blackwood's interest to make sure that details like that are circulated; the more that the more unusual facts of the case are disseminated, the more it looks like Blackwood is an all-powerful sorcerer rather than just some guy who's good at planning and has a chemist on his payroll.
  • Did we ever find out how Lord Blackwood seemingly mind-controlled the girl at the beginning of the movie into nearly stabbing herself?
    • Drugs, presumably.
      • Opium derivates were widespread in Victorian Britain and used for most real or imaginary illnesses. At some point, even Bram Stoker used (rather ironically) the appetite of patients and doctors for Laudanum as a plot device that left the victims sleeping and vulnerable.
    • Possibly some form of suggestion or hypnosis while we're at it.
    • Or she was being payed off too. Make a few quid, become a media darling for a few days, not bad for a nights work.
      • Although Watson does note that she 'needs a hospital' when they're rescuing her; presumably even if she was a stooge she was in for more than she bargained for.
    • Maybe Blackwood put out an ad. "Need five young, capable women for religious rite. Must not be averse to tasteful nudity or death by cardiac trauma. Consumption voids applicancy. Applications will be accepted at 223A Baker Street, guest password is 'Swordfish'. Fifteen pounds sterling to be paid to the family of all fully-completed roles."
      • Figures Sherlock Holmes would have a hand in creating Craigs List.
  • Just how does one traverse through the sewers of Parliament and reach the top of Tower Bridge in just a few minutes? Don't answer that. It wasn't really a question.
  • If the Home Secretary is a high ranking member of Blackwood's order, and head of the British police, wouldn't that Lestrade isn't actually part of his organisation? I suppose it's fair enough for a secret society, though.
    • I assume that it's a Masonic thing; I seem to recall that being a Freemason was all but essential for career advancement in the British police during the Victorian era.
    • Alternatively; Lestrade's faking it as part of the con they're running on the Home Secretary.
      • Or maybe on the whole group, just in case.
      • I thought that was the question. If Lestrade's faking, shouldn't the Home Secretary know about it? He was in charge of the Police and would presumably have met Lestrade in person on official business at least once. He should know that he either was or was not a member of the secret society at night.
      • The Home Secretary wouldn't meet every single police inspector face-to-face, and for all we know there's an extensive hierarchy to the order which would prevent Lestrade and the Home Secretary encountering each other in person. Like the Freemasons in real life, the society here is probably quite extensive.
      • Good ole' human nature - Lestrade had known Holmes for years and always got his help (it's revealed in A Study In Scarlet, set in 1886), so he owed him enough favor and also trusted him blindly. If your old friend Holmes said your boss is part of a murderous plot, you'd rather believe him and help him bring things to a reasonable end.
  • If it's November 1891, shouldn't Sherlock be in hiding? Clearly the new films use some canon from the stories, since he knows Irene Adler, so is there any way to know what's canon for the films and what isn't, or where the timeline breaks off?
    • Since Holmes is only just introduced to the existence of Moriarty at the end of the movie, it's fair to assume that the timeline in this movie is a little behind the original canon.
    • Or maybe it's actually November 1890?
    • It says 1890 on the back cover of the DVD ... However, I have no explanation other than laziness as to why the papers in the movie itself say 1891.
    • Or the movie is just in an Alternate Continuity. There's no reason why the movie should fit in with the books. Just as an example, no one demands to know how the Batman films fit in with the comics, do they? Same here.
      • It is an Alternate Continuity, as in this Holmes meets Mary as Watson's fiancée, as opposed to her coming to him as a client in The Sign of Four.
  • The Case of the Disappeared Watson. Condensed: Irene flees the scene, Holmes runs after her, Watson stays behind and knocks out Dredger, Lord Blackwood hurries down (to the sewers?) under Parliament, spots Holmes chasing Irene, and goes after them. When Blackwood catches up with Irene and Holmes on the Tower Bridge, he has Watson's cane. How the heck did he get Watson's cane? Also, when Moriarty nabbed the wireless device from the machine, where was Watson? You could perhaps say he was still stuck under Dredger, but somehow I doubt either of the aforementioned gentlemen would have a problem killing him while he was down. Heck, I can see Blackwood doing it to (unwisely) screw with Holmes.
    • I've heard there's a deleted scene or something where Blackwood nicks Watson's cane, but I don't know the details. As for where he was when Moriarty grabbed the device, well, Blackwood, Holmes, and Adler are both able bodied people who can run and climb stairs quickly. Watson, seeing as he gets around with a cane, isn't.

      Let's presume he got up and tried to stop Blackwood from pursuing Holmes. Blackwood knocks him over, but doesn't have time to finish him so he just grabs the sword cane and runs after Holmes and Adler. While Holmes, Adler, and Blackwood are running through the sewers and up to that scaffolding, Watson has to get up and hobble after them without the help of his cane. Moriarty would've had plenty of opportunity to to grab the device while Adler, Holmes, and Blackwood were occupied on the scaffolding and Watson was busy trying to climb the stairs.
      • Actually, Watson mainly carries his cane as a memento of his army days in Afghanistan, and, aside from a seasonal ache, is pretty able-bodied in both books and film. Also it was a fairly common practice for British gentlemen in of that era to carry a walking stick.
      • Moriarty has no part in this. When Clarky comes to Holmes in the end, he tells of a dead constable, whose body was found in the morning, and the police "believed he was the first man on the scene." There were probably at least a few hours' time between the protagonists leaving the sewers and the police getting there, when Moriarty nicked his bit without meeting anyone else than the unfortunate constable.
  • So, Blackwood killed Standish by soaking him in a flammable liquid, disguised as spraying it all over the courtyard of the Order's headquarters. They better hope nobody lights up for a smoke around there before it's washed off by actual rain.
    • The place just happened to get a washing the next day. Alternately, the stuff isn't volatile while dry.
    • It's raining pretty heavily all around when Standish enters the building, and there's only a comparatively small amount coming from that hose above the door. Presumably the rain washed it all away.
    • Which begs another question: If Standish had happened to bring an umbrella along that evening, to keep himself dry until he got inside and then leave at the entryway, would Blackwood have died of the gunshot with a dumbfounded look on his face, wondering why the guy hadn't burst into flames?
      • No, because part of the plot apparently involved replacing the bullets in Standish's revolver with blanks, explaining why Blackwood doesn't get shot in the first place.
      • So Blackwood would've had to make do with claiming he was magically protected from bullets, instead of making everyone think he can make people burst into flames?
  • So, Watson...kinda got an explosion to the face. Why is he still alive? I like Watson, but he was pretty much at ground zero (so to speak). It should have done more than cause him to need a sling on his arm. I mean we all saw his British ass tossed about like a rag doll, flames everywhere, and if not for the noise probably would have heard him scream like a bitch too (very ungentlemanly I'll say that much) and yet he lived. How is that possible?
    • They're right at the edge of the riverfront when the bomb goes off; it's possible that the explosion by chance hurled him into the water, and he managed to remain conscious long enough to get himself out of it.
    • Alternatively, when we last see him before the explosion obscures him he seems to be leaping for some cover between what appear to be some kind of stones or barrels or such; perhaps they shielded him from the worst of the explosion?
    • That, unfortunately, doesn't explain the multiple shrapnel wounds that Watson (and for that matter,ALL of them) would have being that close to multiple powerful explosions. And let's not forget the hearing loss and traumatic brain injuries that would result from being less than five feet from several explosions. And why wasn't anybody burned?
      • It's explicitly stated that Watson, at least, had to have a lot of shrapnel dug out of him. The hearing loss is presumably represented by the muffling of the sound of the explosion. As for why it's not permanent or why Watson, Holmes and Irene aren't suffering from permanent brain damage, I think we're probably going to have to chalk that up to Acceptable Breaks from Reality and Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
  • A very minor example here. When Holmes, Irene and Watson are all in the small building near the end, Holmes has his shirt on. Then, in a scene taking place a short while later, still in that same building, he has taken the shirt off and is running around in a t-shirt with his suspenders showing. WHERE DID HIS SHIRT GO? WHY DID IT LEAVE? IT MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL.... I mean, if it was because it was hot out you'd expect a removal of a jacket from someone else or something, and Holmes doesn't seem the type to just randomly decide to get shirtless—I mean, less shirted...
    • IIRC Holmes is running around being very wired and hyper-active at that point, he's moving and talking very quickly and animatedly, and is still kind of coming down from what seems to have been a bit of a psychedelic experience; could be that he just overheated and decided to remove his shirt.
  • Okay, Lord Blackwood guessed in advance that Ambassador Standish would try to shoot him once he'd told Standish his plan, so he sprinkled him with flammable liquid. That's fair enough; predicting Standish's reaction in advance wasn't that difficult, and even if Standish had decided not to shoot rather than join the conspiracy, that would've served Blackwood's plan as well. And if Standish would not have shot Blackwood rather than fled the scene, I guess Blackwood had some backup plan how to make him burst into flames anyway. But my question is: how did Blackwood know Standish's bullet wasn't gonna kill him? Even if Standish bursted into flames the second he pulled the trigger, the bullet should've left the gun anyway. So why didn't the bullet hit Blackwood, and how did Blackwood know it wouldn't?
    • It wasn't a real bullet. It was effectively a blank, just a black powder charge designed to set off a spark. There was no solid bullet to come out of the gun. Holmes explains this during the summation.
      • I want to know what Blackwood would have done if Standish had pulled a knife?
      • Impossible. Knives were and are thug weapons. A 19th century man born and educated in the upper class had very slim chances to even know how to use a knife - it was either firearm or sword, no middle ground. Given Blackwood had known Standish for some time and also knew his temper and habits, he could safely predict what would happen.
      • Fair enough, although I admit, I wasn't expecting a serious answer. That still makes a lot sense. So what if Standish had pulled a sword on him?
      • ... A worthy enigma, Pinky. Although a sword would presumably be a lot more conspicuous than a concealed firearm, and I'm pretty sure that even in the nineteenth century the British police didn't exactly look kindly on people walking around with bloody great swords; plus, swords seem a bit more... European than guns. I dunno what the likelihood of the American ambassador owning a sword over a gun would be, but presumably Blackwood worked on that assumption.
      • If Standish had brandished a sword, Blackwood would have unsheathed his own sword and engaged in a spectacular duel, and caused sparks to fly from the clashing blades, instantly setting Standish alight.
      • Blackwood doesn't need to work on assumptions. He controls people that know Standish personally, so he would know that Standish does not, in fact, have a sword.
      • Furthermore, you would expect an American to carry a pistol instead of a sword.
  • A small thing, I guess, but why do Holmes and Watson have a dog? It's not in any way canon, nor in any real sense practical. For those who will argue about Watson mentioning a dog in "A Study in Scarlet", I'm afraid you're incorrect. Watson says he "keep[s] a bull pup." This is period slang for the fact that he has kept his army revolver - a somewhat unusual characteristic in that day and age. So, either [a language failure or just threw it in to try to create wider audience appeal.
    • It's hardly as cut and dried as you make it, Watson first mentions the 'bull pup' as the top of his list of faults that would make him a bad room-mate...and whereas keeping a dog might be seen as undesirable, why would anyone in Victorian England complain about a former army doctor keeping a gun? And also there's no real evidence that the term 'bull-pup' was used for revolvers before 1900. [1]. The other non-canine explanation given for the 'bull-pup' was that it was slang for a quick temper, but there is no sign of Watson ever showing this, he is more noted for his calmness in the face of Holmes' many eccentricities. So it's likely that 'bull-pup' is literally a dog..and Doyle simply forgot about it like he forgot about a lot of things including Watson's first name and the location of his wound. And there is a dog mentioned in Study In Scarlet which Holmes' used to test a poison on.
      • Plus, a literary analysis of Conan Doyle's works shows that every time Doyle used the word 'Bull-pup' in other contexts, he literally meant a dog.
      • And Holmes himself didn't mention that he kept a firearm (which he does) when he listed his own bad-roommate qualities. If keeping a gun was potentially objectionable, you'd think the more thorough and exacting of the two men would've thought to mention it first.
    • In any case, regardless of whether a pet dog at 221b Baker Street is canonical - would it really constitute a head-scratcher that the writer of the film decide to include one? Why wouldn't Holmes (or Watson, or Mrs. Hudson or whoever it belongs to) own a dog? Anyway, the dog gag is presumably inspired by the terrier-poisoning incident in A Study In Scarlet.
  • Blackwood intends for the gas to be released at Big Ben's twelfth chime. So why does he need the first-of-its-kind radio transmitter and receiver to trigger the machine when a simple clock would have done the trick?
    • Because he wanted to be in direct control of it.
      • But why does he want to be in direct control of it? The only thing he does, or indeed ever intends to do, with that direct control is to do something that a much cheaper, easier and more reliable solution would have done just as well.
      • The man wants to control the whole country and the world. Control is his whole thing. His whole plot is his attempt to guide and control everything around him. Him wanting to be the one to push the button on the final stroke is just an extension of his control freak tendencies.
    • He couldn't count on the Parliament members necessarily all being in position at exactly the right moment. He'd like to set off the gas at exactly 12 o' clock for theatricality's sake, but if there's a delay in the proceedings, he needs to be able to delay what he's doing until all the intended targets are in one room.
  • Blackwood's plan to take over Britain can't work. Even if he wipes out all of Parliament except the men loyal to him, it can't work. Queen Victoria would hold the power to appoint the new Prime Minister, and while it would be traditional to pick whoever the majority of Parliament picks for the job, it's not a legal requirement and I doubt very much if she would do so if he only had a majority because he killed everyone who opposed him. Furthermore, if she wanted, she could simply issue a royal writ calling a new election, which would automatically cause Parliament to dissolve (that law wasn't changed until 2011). The police and military forces, meanwhile, are loyal to the monarch as Head of State, and wouldn't answer to the Home Secretary if his orders contradicted theirs. Any way you slice it, killing Parliament wouldn't actually accomplish anything, beyond publicly identifying the survivors as Blackwood's co-conspirators.
    • When you start wholesale murdering half of parliament, you're not really concerned about every bit of legal minutiae involved in actually taking power. Also, did you miss the part where he's trying to make it look like he's an all-powerful sorcerer? The whole plan hinges on people not acting rationally, but on them going, "HOLY SHIT HE JUST KILLED PARLIAMENT WITH MAGIC! DO WHAT HE SAYS OR HE'LL KILL US ALL!"
  • What was the goal of Blackwood's initial wave of murders? (The ones he was hanged for?). His plan hardly hinged on him faking his own death, so getting "killed" isn't much of a motive.
    • Yes, it did hinge on him coming back from the dead. That's the first public thing he does to start freaking people out, and "freaking people out" is the whole backbone of his plan. The initial wave of murders was to paint himself as a powerful sorcerer.
    • Moreover, a sorcerer who comes back if you kill him. The biggest potential hitch in Blackwood's plans, so far as he could anticipate any, would be if somebody — maybe a co-conspirator, maybe a policeman too honest to back off when the Home Secretary said to, maybe a vengeful relative of one of his victims — attacked him when he didn't have any of his tricks set up in advance to deflect them. Letting himself be hanged and then "resurrecting", as well as burning alive a man who had tried to shoot him, served the secondary function of convincing people it'd be both futile and suicidal to assassinate Britain's new sorcerer-tyrant.
    • Don't forget that Blackwood needs his allies in the Order, and their political influence, since he has none of his own. All the faked magic was, at the same time, intended to frighten the masses, and impress the members of the Order so they follow him. Plus, if Blackwood hadn't gotten them on his side, someone might decide to deal with "the sorcerer" using magic, and would likely succeed.
  • If the movie is set in 1891, why is the Civil War still going on? Alternate history?
    • It isn't; the ambassador says America is weakened after its recent Civil War. Calling 25 years "recent" is still pushing it, though.
      • Perhaps, but only in the fact that 25 years is a fair amount of time. The Civil War's shadow loomed long and far for almost a century after it happened and certainly it dominated North-South relations until the early 20th century. "Recent" in this case isn't so much a matter of time rather than a matter of MINDSET, and considering that as late as 1917 (with the revelation of the Zimmerman telegram blowing that plan to hell) Berlin still thought it had a reasonable chance of using the North-South divide to pull apart American unity in a clash against the German Empire in the near future, it's safe to say that in 1891 the Civil War was still very much a weakening influence on the uS.
      • The US (and England for that matter) went through the worst depression prior to the Great Depression following the Civil War. It took quite a while to dig out of the hole of the Civil War.
      • Given that its been over a hundred years since the Civil War and some people, both in the North and South still can't seem to get over it, I can see how this is plausible. (Confederate History Month anyone...)
      • Conan Doyle was writing for a British readership, and the film's creators played along with that viewpoint. By British-historian standards, every event in American history is "recent".
      • Even so the United States was hardly 'weakened' at that point. By 1891 the U.S was well on it's way to becoming a fairly powerful state.
      • Presumably by 'weakened' he means 'still affected by internal divisions' rather than 'militarily or economically weak'; while the Civil War was over and the United States was becoming a powerhouse, the Reconstruction era (which ended in 1877, just over ten years before the events of the movie — which is fairly 'recent') did leave lingering tensions and bitterness between North and South, which may have been what Blackwood was referring to. As for why he referenced the Civil War, Blackwood probably isn't interested in the distinction, while in the meta-sense the filmmakers may have been simplifying.
      • Perhaps most importantly, it should be remembered that Lord Blackwood is arrogant and myopic. A lot of Old World aristocratic types did not take the US seriously until well after they should have.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

  • In "The Game of Shadows", where is Moriarty's sleeve-gun? You'd think he'd pull it at least once...
    • Because he considers Holmes a Worthy Opponent, and wouldn't use such an underhanded method to defeat him. Plus, he has Moran to do all his dirty work now.
  • The assassination in the Hotel de Triomphe makes no sense. Moriarty hires the best marksman in Europe to shoot a man from an almost impossible distance... and then decides to blow up the hotel to hide evidence of the shooting? The bomb was plenty strong enough to be lethal - as we saw, it killed everyone in the room easily. Combining a shooting and a bombing doesn't reduce the amount of evidence, it increases it. Was there any logic to that scene beyond "Give Sherlock more to deduce?"
    • Because the entire reason why Moriarity is such a threatening villain is due to his attention to detail and his need to be absolutely thorough. Moran was essentially a backup plan to guarantee that the target was eliminated. Plus, he probably didn't trust just using explosives, since he would have known that Lord Blackwood tried the same thing on Holmes and failed.
    • There is a possibility that the bombing might fail to kill the target. Moriarty was simply doubling up on his killing to make sure that his target went down.
    • Also keep in mind that for Moriarty, its not just about his criminal empire or starting World War I. For Moriarty, its the game of shadows he and Holmes are playing. He could have easily - very easily - had Moran set up outside the university and just shot Holmes in the face when he showed up to the university to chat. But Moriarty wanted to play his game with Holmes and match wits with him. He deliberately left little clues to draw Holmes on.
    • It's just one more example of Moriarty's Magnificent Bastard tendencies. Not only did he outmaneuver Holmes (by tricking him into going to the opera instead of the hotel), he had a backup plan in case Holmes caught on. Think about it. If Holmes had immediately deduced the truth and gone to the hotel to stop the bomb, Moran would still be on the roof to assassinate Meinhard. Holmes can't be in two places at once, so either way, Moriarty wins.
    • While all the previous are possible motives, the reason is already explained in the movie: he is pinning down the murders as the work of anarchists, and their weapon of choice used to be explosives (if fact, Franz Ferdinand was gunned just after a previous bombing failed to kill him); also, the bomb will dissimulate that the intended target was only one, and thus, that the motives were not political. At last, the "additional evidence" will be all but lost for the nonexistant forensic methods of the era.
    • Also, don't forget that Moriarty wants to both take over Meinhard's company and escalate the tensions in Europe into a World War. So the bomb serves a dual purpose for him: it will cover the assassination, and make the French think the Germans have retaliated the previous bombing in Germany.
  • As an aside, if Moriarty wants to secretly take over the world's companies, it's probably not a smart idea to give the people he kills rings with his monogram engraved on them surely?
    • I thought it was just a family ring that Holmes used to identify the victim, and then simply deduced his relationship to Moriarty.
    • It says clearly in the film, the ring had the victim's (Meinhard's) monogram (rather expected for a Victorian Age industrialist of possible aristocratic background).
  • In the flashback of Colonel Moran shooting Meinhard, his rifle is a steampunkish modification of a Martini-Henry .450/577 rifle. The specific shape of the falling-block breech is shown when he chambers the round, and also the tall and complex rear sight, specific for guns firing black powder, whose bullet trajectory is very arched, rainbow-like. The British Army had already adopted the modern smokeless powder .303 ammo in 1889, and modern shooters can attest the superior accuracy of the round. Why would the best marksman in Britain strive himself with an older and less accurate gun?
    • The war he fought in was about 11 years done by the time of the film, so he likely had used the Martini-Henry during his service and was used to the ballistics of the round and the feel of the weapon. He still required a high-quality sight, a tripod, and a wind gauge to make the shot.
  • How did Dr. Watson load the cannon before firing it at the searchlight tower? 11-12 inch caliber shells weigh many hundreds of pounds. If the writers had intended to make it already loaded, this would make Moriarty more stupid than Forrest Gump himself. Guns are not kept loaded, even if the ammo is stored in the same place as the gun, for safety reasons - people may smoke around, a spark from a chimney or some machinery may land on it...
    • For all we know, there might've been some sort of mechanism specifically to make it easier to load the cannon. In fact, that might've been why it was there in the first place. They also had the earmuffs nearby, along with the bags of what seems to be gunpowder, so clearly it was actively being used. Moriarty is a guy who considers everyone disposable, including having Moran shoot his own guard that very scene. He presumably doesn't care much about workplace safety.
    • Possibly it'd been set up for a test firing scheduled for first thing in the morning, and some lackadaisical employee loaded it?
  • Also, the plan to assassinate Holmes and Watson in the train to Brighton was a waste of resources - dress the Mooks in Army uniforms, smuggle hundreds of pounds of weapons and ammo on board, fire a Maxim machine gun like Rambo while not aiming. A bomb under the carriage would be cheaper and safer.
    • The attempt on Watson's life is largely intended as a diversion for Holmes; it thus needs to be something Holmes can actually fight. That its also loud, noisy, and hilariously over-engineered only plays further into its actual role as a diversion.
    • fire a Maxim machine gun like Rambo while not aiming. He was aiming. However, there's this thing about machine guns: suppressing fire only needs to go in the general area of the target to keep it pinned down, and the other mook had grenades which he was prepping to throw into the train car.
    • Moriarty, having planned so well, likely wanted total assurance that the assassination would work. It started with a simple stabbing in the dark, moved up to gunfire (Holmes was the first to attack the "soldiers", which would make it look like they were defending the car from an assailant and the Watsons were caught in the crossfire), then finally to a machine gun and grenades. Had any of the other passengers become concerned over the ridiculous amount of gunfire going on, all evidence would point to Holmes and Watson having started a gunfight aboard the train.
  • Hunting men running between trees in the morning fog with siege howitzers and mortars will never work. Nobody has invented yet a tack-driver scoped cannon, even less in the early 1890s. You may hit something, but not your intended target.
    • Radios were invented about thirty years early, and Moriarty made it a priority to get one of them for himself. Who's to say they haven't invented scoped cannons early in this setting?
      • Irony, dear Watson. To put it more clearly, a large howitzer firing indirectly is not a tack-driver sniper rifle and can't be accurately aimed to a target so small and so mobile as a running man. Even the huge Gatling machine gun firing in the factory yard (based on a Real Life British Gatling model from the late 1870s) was a volley weapon, unable to hit a man-sized target and made to be fired only at large troop formations.
    • The most important factor in any firefight is rate of fire. The more metal you get downrange, the better your chances of hitting your target.
      • This. It wasn't about efficiency, merely ensuring that they could be killed. Moran had them pull out all the stops and use literally every weapon they had, including an obscenely large cannon, under the impression that eventually something would hit them.
  • Holmes was told that Irene was killed by a rare—and apparently extremely aggressive—form of tuberculosis. Did he forget that when he sentimentally sniffed the handkerchief stained with the fluid that she had coughed up?
    • And the man who told him how she died was Moriarty (who is pretty much walking around with a giant "DON'T TRUST ANYTHING THIS JACKASS SAYS" sign on his head), and there is literally no form of tuberculosis that kills that quickly. Even the worst XDR TB strain in history, detected in South Africa in HIV-positive patients, still took more than 2 weeks from diagnosis to death. It is quite obvious that she was poisoned with a toxin that simulates tuberculosis effects, and Holmes would know this.
    • Moriarty wasn't telling Holmes how she died. He was telling him how it would look to the authorities that she died. He knows that she was poisoned, and Holmes knows that she was poisoned, but as far as the authorities will ever know, she caught TB and died. It's basically an example of Cut Himself Shaving.
  • At the end of the movie, the fake red book that Sherlock used to replace Moriarty's said something along the lines of 'Be careful what you fish for.' written in it, along with a little flip-book animation of a fish eating a fisherman. However, Moriarty made the fish metaphor while Sherlock was being tortured, meaning it would of been impossible for Sherlock to make the animation while tortured and then slip it into Moriarty's pocket that quickly.
    • But the same song was playing earlier when Holmes visited Moriarty in his office, and the two of them briefly discussed it. While it was less overt, the fish metaphor was already implied during that scene.
    • Just watched the scene again, and Holmes actually prompts Moriarty to use the metaphor—Holmes asks if Moriarty is familiar with Schubert; Moriarty replies that his favorite work of his is "The Trout," and proceeds to quote from it. Holmes has done a lot of study on Moriarty, so it's plausible he knew "The Trout" was his favorite and planned his deception accordingly.
  • Paul Anderson gives a fine performance as Sebastian Moran but shouldn't a 19th century British Army (ex-)colonel come across as a bit posher? His version of Moran seems like more an ex-NCO. For that matter he also seems a little on the young side - Dr. Watson and he fought in the same war (the Second Anglo-Afghan War) which had already been over for eleven years by the year the movie is set and Watson implies he was a colonel then.
    • Moran is from an aristocratic background, but he was always a bit of a rough and tumble gent.
    • In The Adventure Of The Empty House, Colonel Moran's birth year is given as 1840, thus making him 51 years old by the time of the film and older than Holmes and Watson (Holmes had been born in 1854). His appearance (as described in the short story) does not fully match the film: he should have looked older, bulkier, devoid of beard, with large, Nietzsche-like, mustache.
  • Holmes and Watson waltzing. Was such a thing acceptable back then? I found it rather odd that no one in the room seemed to bat an eye at the sight of two men dancing together.
    • Well, it is Switzerland, after all. I am not quite sure on the actual protocols governing dancing, but as far as I recall, no one would have given a damn, because they assumed that either, it was some sort of joke, or just that it was none of their business. Also, I would assume that at an event like this, there was no overabundance of women willing (and able) to dance, and since they seem to have some sort of formation, I seems at least somewhat reasonable to fill in the gaps in the formation with whoever's willing to do so.
    • It's often illogical what passed for acceptable public display of affection, especially throughout history. I don't know about dancing, specifically, but consider this example: in Victorian England, two men walking hand in hand in the streets was a perfectly normal sight - in fact, you can see Holmes and Watson doing it in the Granada series - despite the fact that there were still some serious laws against homosexuality.
      • That's assuming handholding equals romantic relationship. We associate handholding with romantic relationships nowadays unless it is obviously not the case. Apparently they didn't see that as homosexual. Not everything is related to sex.
      • For that matter, Holmes and Irene walked down a busy street holding hands when he was in his homeless-old-Chinese-man costume, and nobody booed and hissed about that, despite how it might've outraged both race and class bigots to see a richly-dressed white woman paired up with an Asian street bum.
  • Holmes explicitly says he deduced Moriarty would take the train to Berlin via Heilbronn from Gare du Nord after feeding the pigeons in the Jardin de Tuileries, since it should have been the closest of the seven mainline stations in Paris, 10 minutes away. However, the station is much farther from Jardin de Tuileries, a few good miles to the northeast, and it would take a lot more time to reach it even by modern automobile, while trains to Alsace and further beyond German border would be taken from Gare de l'Est (which is and has been since 1849 the terminus of the Paris-Strasbourg railway and it's near Gare du Nord). The only station which was directly in front of Jardin de Tuileries and reachable by a bridge over the Seine was Gare d'Orsay (nowadays hosting the Musée d'Orsay), which did not open until 1900 and hosted only southbound trains via Orléans.
  • What's the explanation for Holmes' survival at the end? It's not like in the The Adventure Of The Empty House, where it's revealed that only Moriarty went over the waterfall; we explicitly see both of them fall.
    • It's implied that Holmes stole Mycroft's oxygen device. As for surviving the fall, see Soft Water on the main page.
  • Why did the Cossack attach a line to Sherlock Holmes? Was he expecting to be thrown out the window?
    • There are some styles of fighting, usually for sport, that involve the fighters being tied together. Maybe it's just the Cossack's style.
  • Whatever happened to the radio device that Moriarty stole from Blackwood? One would think such a blatant sequel hook would get followed up on in some fashion.
    • I would assume that it was replicated and used for the bombs.
  • When the duo see Renee's drawings, Watson says "What's that, blood?". I know it's nitpicking, but surely a doctor and war veteran knows dried blood when he sees it? Or can it occasionally be pink?
    • Dried blood can be any number of shade, from dingy brown to vivid red to almost purple, depending on a number of things.
      • Really? I've never seen, heard or read of dried blood being so light in colour. Do you know where I could read more about this?
  • During the train battle, why didn't Holmes and Watson just jump out of the train with Mrs. Watson?
    • I suppose they had to ensure that their would-be assassins were neutralized. If they had all left, the soldiers could have stopped the train and searched on foot, complicating matters for both sides. Another reason might be that the timing would only safely allow for one body to go through the door at the right time, as opposed to all three.
    • Besides that, there's the matter that Holmes doesn't want off the train, he wants himself (and Watson) on it to go after Moriarty. But more importantly than that, recall that he says he "timed it perfectly" when he tossed Mary out. Apparently there was a very small window in which it was safe to jump out of the train, which was long, long past by the time Watson was finished screaming "Did you kill my wife?!"
  • Why are the Gypsies speaking French? Shouldn't they be speaking Romani?
    • Believe it or not, people often know how to speak the language of the country they live in. Besides, Simza DOES sing softly in Romani while craddling Holmes on the train.
  • Random question: other than the Naked People Are Funny trope, why in God's name would Mycroft be naked when he has Mary in his house? He made it clear close to the end of that scene that he is a confirmed bachelor (and, more likely than not, gay) but seriously— why would he go around naked, in his own house, in the Victorian era, with a newly married woman staying there as his guest?
    • There are many possibilities. Maybe he was reading in the bath when a thought struck him, and he went to find his secretary and give dictation, and then realised it was time for a spot of breakfast, and then Mrs Watson appeared to of course he couldn't then leave the room, because that would have been impolite, and my but it's drafty in here, I'll have to have the servants look into that...
    • Or, more than likely, Mycroft just doesn't give a damn. He is fully cognizant of the fact that Mary has no interest in him and that he has no interest in her and that there's no one around but servants who aren't going to go tattling. So he went around naked because he felt like it and to him it was perfectly rational.
    • To add, Mycroft like his brother is a wee bit eccentric.
    • Nudists trace the roots of their lifestyle back to Victorian times. Mycroft's old enough that he probably swam naked when he was a kid, as swimsuits weren't invented until the 1860s; if he enjoyed swimming as a lad, he may simply have retained the habit of nudity when convenient.
  • Is Irene officially dead? So far, there's no Word of God or confirmation in the movie.
    • Uh, she falls over, slumps to the floor, and gets left there in the middle of the restaurant, and Moriarty talks about how her death looked to the police. While they could pull some sort of "She was just sleeping" if they really wanted to, you have effectively seen the body.
      • For all we know, though, Moriarty and/or Moran might've simply imprisoned her as a means of contingency for the future.
      • For all we know, Moriarty told Holmes that just to get at him.
      • And for all we know, The Doctor and Harry Dresden showed up and whisked her away to Narnia to rest up a bit. Imprisoning someone like Irene (already a tricky proposition for someone who's essentially Catwoman) on the off chance she might be used for bargaining purposes later (after already telling Holmes she was dead) is illogical, and if Moriarty were going to do it there were plenty of good times for him to drop that bombshell. Again, while it's theoretically possible she's alive and will pop up in a later sequel, it would frankly be a little silly. Until she shows up again alive, it's most logical and reasonable to assume she's dead.
  • How exactly does gaining access to Moriarty's bank accounts let Scotland Yard bankrupt him? Last I checked, Holmes doesn't have any hard evidence of Moriarty's crimes, and Holmes' relationship with Inspector Lestrade is shaky at best. Moriarty, on the other hand, is a professor at a prestigious university, a distinguished author, and a personal friend of the Prime Minister. Even Her Majesty's Secret Service was unwilling to move against him when warned of an assassination plot. Are they really just going to take Holmes' word for it? Holmes himself seems to imply what he's doing is completely illegal: "The most formidable criminal mind in Europe has just had all his money stolen by perhaps the most inept inspector in the history of Scotland Yard."

Shadows of the EmpireHeadscratchers/LiteratureShirley

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy