main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Series: Elementary
Watson and Holmes doing a synchronized Sherlock Scan.

"I know, Watson, you share my love of all that is bizarre and outside the humdrum routine of ordinary life."
Sherlock Holmes

Elementary is an American television series that premiered on CBS on September 27, 2012. It presents a contemporary update of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes detective stories set in New York City. It stars Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Joan Watson.

Sherlock Holmes was a consultant for Scotland Yard, before "hitting bottom" and ending up in rehabilitation. Joan Watson has been hired by Holmes' father to be his sober companion, to help him adjust from rehab back to everyday life.

Holmes has come up with an interesting post-rehab regimen to keep himself busy — he's going to resume his role as a consultant, this time for the New York police. Watson finds herself coming along for the ride.

Please practice the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement, and only add tropes as the show airs, with the obvious exceptions.

Warning: Unmarked spoilers.


    open/close all folders 

  • 555:
    • The phone number dialed to a pager that detonates a bomb in "The Long Fuse".
    • Pops up on another phone in "The Leviathan".
  • Absentee Actor: Gregson isn't in "Paint It Black". It's the first episode in which one of the four major characters doesn't appear.
  • Abusive Parents: Titus Delancey from "Poison Pen". His older son Graham kills him because Titus had been sexually abusing him. His nanny Abigail Spencer, who killed her father for the same reason, can relate all too well.
  • Adaptation Expansion: In the original books, Sherlock uses drugs on a recreational basis and this is never relevant to the plot. Here, his drug addiction makes him move to New York, brings Joan to his life and causes him serious trouble for the whole first season. Also, Joan's role is way bigger and she is no longer a Sidekick, but one of the protagonists and crucial for the story arc.
  • Adult Fear:
    • In "Child Predator", children are mysteriously kidnapped and their bodies are later found. The latest victim was taken from her very bedroom.
    • In "Heroine", a criminal mastermind being able to track down your family and use their cellphones to contact you.
    • In "We Are Everyone", having all your accounts and social networks hacked.
    • In "Tremors", getting yourself and your partner/best friend fired (and one of your other friends seriously injured) thanks to your ego.
  • Aerith and Bob: Sherlock and Joan. Joan mentioned the strangeness of the name Sherlock in "Déjà Vu All Over Again" and Jennifer did the same in "Ancient History".
  • After Action Patch Up: Joan takes care of Sherlock's bullet wound in "Heroine" and in "On the Line" she takes a look at his broken finger.
  • All Asians Know Martial Arts: Used by Holmes in "Snow Angels", when he and Watson had to get into a locked office in a middle of a blizzard. Holmes threatened the security guard by telling him that Watson has several black belts. Watson in turn gives him a startled look.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Holmes sometimes goes out of his way to be alone with someone who he knows is the psycho, such as in "Child Predator", "The Deductionist", and "On the Line".
    • And in "Heroine" Watson goes to a very fancy restaurant for a lunch with Moriarty.
  • Always Identical Twins: Averted in "While You Were Sleeping". A suspect drawing matches a woman who just happens to be in a coma. After finding out the woman has a twin, Holmes seizes on the twin sister as the killer—until they go to meet her and find out the two women are fraternal, not identical twins.
  • Ambiguous Disorder:
  • Amnesiac Lover: Irene Adler in "The Woman". And then subverted.
  • Animal Motifs:
    • Bees. They work as a metaphor for Sherlock's connections with people and Watson, somehow, is usually associated with them through her beeswax smelling hands, the honey dripping through her room's ceiling and the scene in the first season finale when Holmes names a new species of them after her.
    • Clyde can also be interpreted as a metaphor for Holmes and Watson friendship. In "The Red Team" Sherlock divagues about the longevity of tortoises and their endurance, which is a very accurate description of one of the oldest and famous friendships in literature.
  • Arch-Enemy: Moriarty. Even Holmes calls Moriarty a nemesis in "Heroine".
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • From "Pilot": "Now I know it was a woman."
    • From "Flight Risk":
      • "Are you afraid of flying?"
      • "I know about Irene." Doubles as a Wham Line.
    • From "The Leviathan": "Will the next client make you happy?"
    • From "Heroine": "You are afraid of him."
    • From "The Diabolical Kind": "That bothers you, doesn't it?"
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Sebastian Moran is a sadist, a monster, a murderer... and an Arsenal fan.
  • Artistic License - Animal Care: Crops up from time to time.
    • Clyde: tortoises/turtles should not be put on their backs because (among other things) the shift in position interferes with breathing and heart function - the waving legs are distress, not dancing.
    • In "The One Percent Solution" Holmes describes the gamecocks as being manipulated into fighting by their handlers. While this has some (but not total) validity re: dog fighting, it is far less applicable to fighting lines of chickens. They're chickens. They barely have enough functioning intelligence to come in out of the rain, much less be conditioned into anything 'abnormal'. Fighting birds are bred for aggression, and while the process Holmes uses (positive re-enforcement/desensitization via food) makes sense, it would take a great deal longer than the few days shown.
      • As a metaphor for Holmes & Lestrade, though, it's awesome.
    • Averted in the episode when the "interesting thing" the guard dog did was "nothing"—both canon and realistic.
  • Artistic License - Law: A pretty severe one, given the premise of the show. Sherlock and Joan are often shown questioning witnesses/suspects without police presence or permission, entering and searching private property on their own, and sometimes Sherlock collects evidence from crime scenes for his own personal use. It's difficult to understate what a huge no-no this is in criminal investigations. In the real world the defense attorneys for the criminals Sherlock captures would have a field day with this, and Sherlock himself would be under arrest.
  • As You Know: In "Pilot", Holmes uses these exact words to Joan while explaining why surgeons use beeswax in their hands and why he was able to deduce she was one.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • In "Child Predator" The first kidnapped kid is the one who is torturing and killing other children for sadistic pleasure.
    • In "You Do It To Yourself", the victim of the week used to abuse his wife on a daily basis for years.
    • In "Dead Man's Switch," a serial blackmailer currently threatening a rape victim's father with releasing a video of the rape on the Internet.
    • Subverted in "Internal Audit." The victim was a Corrupt Corporate Executive, yes, but he was a guilt-ridden Anti-Villain who would have been Driven to Suicide if he wasn't murdered first, and he helped a charity for Holocaust victims in his free time. It turns out his murder had nothing to do with his Ponzi scheme either-he had discovered that the charity was a front for money launderers and wanted to blow the whistle.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Holmes and Watson's relationship in the series grows into a close friendship and it's evident that they care for each other. Holmes even panics at one moment when he thinks Watson's been shot.
    • When Joan is kidnapped and held hostage due to Mycroft's actions in Paint it Black, Sherlock is notably distraught and even states that if Joan were to be killed, he would murder Mycroft. By this point in the series, Joan and Sherlock's friendship is very important to both of them.
    Sherlock: Is that all you think she is? A counterbalance?
    Mycroft: I think she's the person you love most in the world.
    Paint it Black
  • Batman Gambit:
    • "Heroine":
      • The main plan of Moriarty, where she manipulates an ex-Greek smuggler turned businessman Christos Theophilus by kidnapping his daughter to goad him into assassinating a New York-based Macedonian surgeon named Andrej Bacara and his wife. With the help of the doctor's bodyguard/mole, the assassination is done so that initial reports suggested that it was done in the name of Greek ultra-nationalism, which would lead to far more bitter diplomatic relations between Greece and Macedonia in the latter's bid to join the European Union, since Bacara was the son of Macedonia's prime minister.
      • The plan Joan uses to capture Moriarty. Joan knows that Moriarty will go after Sherlock if anything happens to him and crafts the overdose story, deducing all of Moriarty's moves without her noticing. It works.
    • In "Blood Is Thicker" Mycroft attempts one on Sherlock to induce him to return to London by saying that their father has threatened to cut him off. He knows that Sherlock will never directly contact their father and so will never discover the deception.
    • Mycroft pulls a much better one on everyone in "The Man with the Twisted Lip" and "Paint it Black": cultivating an Upper-Class Twit persona and allowing Le Milieu to use Diogenes as a base in the States, utilizing Joan as a hostage and Sherlock's deductive powers to find a highly-sought after list of Swiss bank customers, double-crossing Sherlock before he can bring the NYPD in and going alone to make the exchange for Joan, and finally, when Le Milieu is ready to kill him and Joan, calling in an MI6 sniper team to take out Le Milieu.
  • Berserk Button:
    • To Sherlock: Anything relating to Irene Adler and her death. Another button was in "A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs" when Rhys tempted Sherlock to take cocaine to help with the case, he threw and nearly strangled the latter while shouting at him for even suggesting such a thing. And in "Paint It Black", we find out he will seriously threaten to murder his own brother if Joan comes to harm.
    • To Joan: Don't even try to even mention her past as a surgeon and her dead patient. Underestimating her job as a sober companion or novice detective is not a good idea either.
  • Big Applesauce: While Sherlock did originally work with Scotland Yard, he moved across the pond to NYC.
  • Big Bad: As of "M.", we learn that Moriarty is definitely Holmes' nemesis.
  • Big Blackout: A severe winter storm takes out the power in New York City in "Snow Angels".
  • Big Brother Instinct: Graham Delancey from "Poison Pen" killed his sexually abusive father in part because his little brother was getting to the age where their dad would start to be interested in him.
    • We find in the Season 2 finale Mycroft has a major case of this, so much so that he was willing to be drawn back into the espionage game to keep Sherlock from being charged with treason.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: In "Blood is Thicker" we have confirmation that the Holmes' family fits this trope. Sherlock is the rejected addict, Papa Holmes is "the one who shall not be named or seen" and known for his dirty work and Mycroft turns out to be working with someone to bring his brother back to England.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Viewers not speaking Polish will miss the translation gags in the laundry scenes of "Possibility Two".
  • Bland-Name Product: In episode 3, The Investor's Post with its 'distinctive salmon-colored paper stock' is a stand-in for The Financial Times, another business-oriented newspaper known for being printed on pink paper.
    • The show seems very fond of this trope, especially in the second season. Examples include a hacktivist group called Everyone clearly standing in for Anonymous and Lestrade mentioning his having done a Doug Chat which is standing in for TED Talks.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: In "Snow Angels", Sherlock suspected that the emergency response administrator was in on the robbery but had no solid evidence. So the police staged a fake riot to see if the suspects would use this opportunity to help get one of the imprisoned thieves out. They did.
  • Blunder Correcting Impulse: In the episode "A Landmark Story" Sherlock forces Joan to break into a funeral home with him to perform an autopsy on the murder victim. Joan refuses, so Sherlock attempts to perform the autopsy himself. After getting frustrated with Sherlock's evident lack of medical training, she grudgingly performs the autopsy herself.
  • Book Ends: At the start of "Pilot", Holmes and Watson are on the brownstone rooftop at night, and Holmes tells Watson to take a six-week holiday because he doesn't need her and because she obviously hates her job. In the last scene of the season one finale "Heroine", after Joan defeated Moriarty by herself, Sherlock and Joan are witnessing the birth of a new species of bee, which Sherlock names Euglassia Watsonia.
  • Bound and Gagged: A kidnapping victim in "A Giant Gun, Filled with Drugs".
  • Brains and Bondage: Sherlock. Very much so.
  • Brainy Brunette: Joan Watson.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: From "Step Nine":
    Sherlock: (to Joan) Without you, the airline might seat me next to a morbidly obese person. Or a child. Or a morbidly obese child.
  • Break Them by Talking: Sherlock tries to pull this on Joan earlier in the pilot... but she beautifully fires back after that.
  • The Butler Did It:
    • In "The Rat Race", the killer turns out to have been the secretary, who was seen earlier in the episode.
    • In "Lesser Evils", it was the Almighty Janitor.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Captain Gregson and Detective Bell.
  • Call Back:
    • The scene where Joan lands in jail and Sherlock comes to bail her out in "Déjà Vu All Over Again" is a shot-by-shot remake of the scene in "Pilot", where it was the other way round.
    • The titular cyber-activist group that give Holmes and Watson so much trouble in "We Are Everyone" end up being very helpful later on when a British Intelligence mole who's after Mycroft visits the apartment. Watson sets up a video-chat with fifteen members of Everyone before letting the man in as a safety precaution, which ensures he can't do anything without witnesses and thus saves her from certain doom.
  • Calling Card:
    • The Balloon Man from "Child Predator" leaves behind balloons after abducting a child.
    • In "M.", Moran leaves behind pools of bloods after killing someone.
  • Can't Live with Them, Can't Live without Them: Watson and Holmes in the first half of Season 01, so much.
  • Captain Obvious/Critical Research Failure: In "Details", Captain Gregson states that Detective Bell was attacked with an MP5. Holmes, during his Sherlock Scan, states that the rounds were "fired from a rifled barrel as opposed to a smoothbore." Well duh, any semi- or fully-automatic firearm that isn't a shotgun is going to have a rifled barrel. It's been the standard for over 100 years! Rifling is not a "high-level firearm augmentation".
    • Also, Gregson says the shots were fired from a "semi-automatic" MP5, but during the actual shooting scene the gun was clearly firing on full auto. Almost like the writers don't know what semi-automatic means...
  • The Caretaker:
    • Joan Watson, by profession and by nature. Lampshaded by her friends in "Déjà Vu All Over Again".
    • Sherlock for Irene in "The Woman", leaving Joan to do the main deducting the episode.
  • Carry the One: When approaching a math professor scribbling away in "Solve for X", Holmes makes this joke.
  • Character Development: The main point of the show is the development of Holmes and Watson friendship and their development as individuals.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The bag of rice in "Pilot".
    • In the opening to "The Rat Race" Watson complains to Holmes that she can't read his texts because he uses too many abbreviations. Holmes is exuberant over texting slang, calling it English evolving for greater efficiency. After the Killer of the Week kidnaps Sherlock, she sends a text from his phone so Watson won't worry. Watson realizes it's not from Sherlock because it didn't read "like a teenager on a sugar high."
    • In "The Deductionist", Holmes gives Watson a brief rundown of the continuity errors in the porno her sub-letter made. Watson later uses one of those errors to prove that her landlord was in on it.
    • Angus, in "A Giant Gun, Filled with Drugs".
    • The Osmia avosetta introduced in "Possibility Two" and used in "Heroine".
    • Not exactly an object, but Irene's birthmarks in "The Woman".
    • The bottle of milk in "Step Nine".
    • The dog in "An Unnatural Arrangement".
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • The doctor of the woman in coma in "While You Were Sleeping".
    • The Almighty Janitor in "Lesser Evils".
  • Chekhov's Hobby: From "The Deductionist", Sherlock's single stick practice.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • In "A Giant Gun Filled With Drugs" when Sherlock notes that a gangster is actually a undercover cop, one of the things he points out is the way he uses the bowl on the table as a mirror to see behind him. Later in "The Woman" Sherlock uses a lamp this way to avoid being shot In the Back.
    • The pickpocketing in "We Are Everyone".
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: In "Pilot", we're introduced to Javier Abreu, Gregson's left-hand man. The next episode we get to meet Bell, and Abreu is never mentioned again.
  • Cloudcuckoolanders Minder: Although it's mostly Joan's job as Sherlock's companion, Gregson and Bell have all taken the role when Joan's not there. They're all too pleased to pass him back, though.
  • Collateral Angst: Played with and, just like Stuffed In The Fridge below, ultimately averted. Sherlock takes a very damaged and PTSD-laden Irene into the Brownstone after finding her alive, and Irene mentions how hard it must be for Sherlock to cope with seeing her like this. Of course, this was just another ruse of Moriarty's.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: When Sherlock and Joan first meet Mycroft in "Step Nine," Mycroft is dressed in contrasting black and white. Sherlock is dressed in blues and grays, more neutral to the stark dress of his brother.
  • Companion Cube: Sherlock's phrenology bust is apparently named Angus. When Joan and Rhys are held hostage at gunpoint, she smashes Angus against the gunman's head, incapacitating him until the police arrive. At the end of the episode, Holmes is seen carefully putting Angus back together.
  • Composite Character: Jamie Moriarty combines Irene Adler, the Ensemble Darkhorse of the original stories and supervillain Big Bad Professor Moriarty.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: In "The Red Team" we learn that one of Holmes' hobbies is to troll conspiracy theory websites and submit absurd theories that he makes up on the spot just to see what everyone else on the sites will believe.
  • Conspiracy Theory: "The Red Team" centered on one surrounding a US anti-terrorism exercise whose results had been classified super-black.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In "The Rat Race" we meet Emily, Joan's best friend. She talks about Ty (Joan's ex-boyfriend, introduced in "While You Were Sleeping"). Then, in "Déjà Vu All Over Again" we see Emily again. In Season 02, she makes a briefly appearance in "We Are Everyone".
    • "The Leviathan" has references to Liam (another ex-boyfriend of Joan, introduced in "You Do It to Yourself") and the events of "The Rat Race".
    • In "Details", Sherlock mentions the events of "A Giant Gun, Filled with Drugs" in the first scene.
    • In "Déjà Vu All Over Again" we see Joan in jail as we saw Sherlock in the "Pilot". Both characters are aware of the similarities and talk about it. Sherlock even says that he has "the strongest sensation of déjà vu". Doubles as a Call Back.
    • In the final scene of "Heroine" Holmes mentions the exotic and lonely bee he received as a gift in "Possibility Two" and tells Watson that the bee was able to reproduce in his beehive.
    • In "Step Nine", Sherlock mentions the self-defense classes he suggested to Joan in "Details".
    • In "Poison Pen", Joan mentions a conversation she had with Sherlock about his childhood in "Child Predator".
    • In "The Marchioness", Sherlock mentions the events of "Step Nine".
    • In "Internal Audit", Joan mentions one of her first conversations with Sherlock in "Pilot".
    • In "The Many Mouths of Andrew Colville" and "No Lack of Void", Sherlock uses the help of Everyone, the hacker group from "We Are Everyone"
  • Convenient Coma: Invoked In-Universe in "While You Were Sleeping". The killer was slipping in and out of a medically-induced coma with the help of her doctor boyfriend, in order to have the perfect alibi.
  • Cool Pet: Clyde, especially after Holmes takes him in after his owner is murdered.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive:
    • Pretty much everyone at the investment firm in "The Rat Race". Even lampshaded by one of the suits:
    Jim Fowkes: There's a sociopath working for us? Let me let you in on a little secret, Mr. Holmes. We're all sociopaths.
    • "The Long Fuse" has a couple of examples. A web designer for a corporate PR firm blackmails his boss when he realized he'd slept with her (and filmed it!) while she was a prostitute. Said boss responds with two attempts to kill the employee; one is successful, one winds up killing two innocent people four years later.
    • Implied by Holmes in "Déjà Vu All Over Again" about his father's lawyer.
    • Also see the "Poison Pen" example in Framing the Guilty Party.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: In "Details", Bell's brother uses his own blood to write that Bell didn't shoot him to protect him from the frame-up. He didn't see who had shot him but trusted that Bell wouldn't do such a thing despite their rocky relationship. Other characters point out that given that he took the time to write in his blood, the message is genuine.
  • Courtroom Episode: "Tremors" has Holmes and Watson under review, their role in the NYPD at risk when his methods get Bell shot.
  • Cyber Punk: Of a low grade nature. The series revels in the collision of hacker culture, the surveillance state, and cutting edge technology. People have been murdered with hacked pacemakers, drone-mounted shotguns, and tiny robotic mosquitoes.
  • Daddy Issues: Sherlock has a boatload with his father.
  • Dark Action Girl: Jamie Moriarty in "The Woman" and "Heroine".
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • "One Way To Get Off" put Captain Gregson in a larger role, exploring his past as a detective.
    • "Details" focuses on Marcus Bell's family and backstory.
    • "An Unnatural Arrangement" delves more into Gregson's personal life and how much it's affected by his job.
  • Dead All Along: Silver Blaze, from "The Marchioness".
  • Deadpan Snarker/World of Snark:
    • Joan, and boy howdy is she good at it.
    • Sherlock, of course, is not one to be outdone on this front.
    • Mycroft, being more of a Gentleman Snarker, but still counts.
    • Bell and Gregson, when they're not being annoyed by Sherlock's lack of tact, can snark with the best of them.
  • Death Glare: Watson employs this so often when Holmes says or does something that she thinks is outlandish, that it might as well be her default expression whenever she's talking to him.
    • In "Flight Risk," when Watson asks Holmes about Irene, it was surprising that she didn't drop dead from the death glare she received.
    • In "We Are Everyone", after being interrogated by the Secret Service for three hours, Watson gives a big one to Holmes.
  • Designated Girl Fight: "Heroine" Moriarty vs Watson.
  • Deep Cover Agent:
    • Sherlock unearths a Russian SVR spy ring in "Dirty Laundry". The victim and her husband have been long time Deep Cover Agents from Russia with their own American-born daughter, and they're not the only ones.
    • Ezra Kleinfelter, an expy of Edward Snowden, threatens to reveal several deep cover US assets' names if he is arrested.
  • Destructive Romance: Sherlock and Moriarty's relationship.
  • Did You Actually Believe?: In "The Rat Race", Gregson asks Holmes whether he honestly thought Gregson didn't know about Holmes' past as a drug addict. Gregson knew all along; he was waiting for Holmes to open up.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • In "A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs", the DEA agent is the bad guy.
    • In "Details", Bell had blown the whistle on one such Dirty Cop who had been planting evidence and committed other transgressions while working on a major drug case together.
    • In "All in the Family" The Deputy Commissioner in charge of the Counter-terrorism unit was revealed to be a mob plant put onto the force years ago.
  • Distress Call: Played with by Gaspar in "The Diabolical Kind" in order to ambush two uniformed NYPD officers and see if the force has been able to identify him and his cohorts.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind:
    • In "Child Predator" while Adam Kemper was abducted, he used his greater intelligence to manipulate his abductor into a submissive relationship and then had him continue abducting children just to see the parents squirm at press conferences.
    • In "One Way To Get Off", the copycat is the son of the original serial killer and spends most of the episode completely off Sherlock's radar. The only reason Sherlock is able to identify him at all is because he happens to run into him while pursuing a completely different lead.
    • In "The Woman", the fragile and traumatized Irene Adler was actually the Big Bad Moriarty.
  • Dominatrix: In "Poison Pen" it is revealed Sherlock is an acquaintance with one such woman. He and she developed this relationship over the topic of torture devices in the Middle Ages. In this episode, she found Titus Delancey's deceased body in a full bondage suit. When she did, she immediately called Sherlock, at which point he told her to call 911 and request Captain Gregson be the one to come. She gives Sherlock a nice whip as a thank you for helping her out of the situation.
  • Double Meaning Title:
    • "Child Predator". Holmes was after a serial killer who targeted children. The killer is a child who IS a predator.
    • "M." neatly sums up all the different forces intruding on Holmes and Watson's lives: M. Holmes, Sherlock's father; the serial killer "M", whose real name is Sebastian Moran; and Moran's boss, Moriarty.
    • The Season One finale, "Heroine". At first glance it appears to imply Sherlock's addiction and the chance he will fall back into it. It really refers to Joan, not Sherlock, who comes up with the plot to capture Moriarty. Joan, who was dismissed as the "mascot" by Moriarty, was the reason the criminal mastermind was caught.
  • Dramedy: While the crimes of the week, the general story arc premise and the past of both lead characters are pretty heavy and dramatic, the show pulls off genuinely funny and sarcastic situations all the time.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Samuel Abbott in "Child Predator."
    • Sebastian Moran in "A Landmark Story".
  • Elite Mook: Sebastian Moran. Although if you take this person's statements at face value, it appears that his/her boss is a great believer in serving up You Have Outlived Your Usefulness with a side order of Chessmaster.
  • Enemy Mine: Sherlock briefly gets help from Moran in tracking down Moriarty. Moran doesn't survive the episode.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • In "The Deductionist", an imprisoned serial killer breaks loose to wreak havoc and get revenge against The Profiler, Katherine Drummond, because her book destroyed his family. She falsely alleged that he was a sexually abused by his father, who later hanged himself and his mother died shortly after; his sister helps him break out of jail by deliberately inducing kidney disease .
    • In "A Landmark Story" Sebastian Moran tries to kill himself under Moriarty's orders to protect his sister.
    • In "Heroine", Moriarty is obsessed with Sherlock and can't let him go. Joan realizes that and is able to create a plan to put her in jail.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The hedge-fund manager in "Internal Audit". He has no problem with stealing from his clients. But stealing millions from Holocaust survivors under the guise of a charity goes too far.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Used against Moriarty in "Heroine".
  • Everybody Lives: "A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs" is a kidnapping case with surprisingly no casualties.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The second victim in "M." has a little white one — but then he gets distracted by a hot dog left by M. so he can subdue the woman and prepare to exsanguinate her.
  • Evil Twin: Subverted in "While You Were Sleeping". There is an evil twin, but she's fraternal, not identical, so there's no impersonation of the good twin. Some aspects of this trope are played with, namely framing/trying to kill the good twin.

  • Fake American: In-Universe examples.
    • Sherlock occasionally does this while trying to obtain certain details, like the locations of persons of interest. Jonny Lee Miller's accent is surprisingly flawless... but then, anyone who saw Eli Stone or watched the fifth season of Dexter would already know this. Or Hackers, showing he's been faking the accent since mid-90s.
    • Irene Adler put on an American accent so well that she fooled Sherlock.
  • Fakin' MacGuffin: "M" has a mysterious serial killer, who Holmes has a history and obsession with but who has never been caught, known only by that initial. Any viewer who knows anything about Sherlock Holmes would naturally assume that the "M" stands for "Moriarty". It's actually for Moran The Dragon of Moriarty. And then subverted because Moran's murders were contracted kills on Moriarty's orders, while Moriarty himself is apparently the one who killed Irene Adler, meaning that, in a sense, Moriarty really is M. And then comes The Reveal in "Heroine" when we learn that Irene Adler is alive and is Moriarty.
  • Faking the Dead: Irene Adler faked her own murder...among a few other things.
    • Mycroft is forced to do so due to not only the high risk of his real career as a British Intelligence agent, but to also protect Sherlock and Joan from his enemies.
  • Fat Bastard: Abraham Zelner/Stuart Bloom, the blackmailing partner of Charles Augustus Milverton in "Dead Man's Switch". Sherlock describes him as being able to "pull small moons out of orbit".
  • Feet-First Introduction: Used for surprise introductions in two episodes so far.
    • In "Risk Management", our first glimpse of Irene Adler is a closeup of her bare foot with red paint on it.
    • In "Corpse Du Ballet", we see another woman's bare feet padding out of Sherlock's bedroom following a night of lovemaking. The woman turns out to be Iris Lanzer, the prime suspect in the murder Sherlock and Joan are currently investigating.
  • Fiction 500: Senior Holmes is on this. His wealth is so known in the banking and higher finance world Mycroft and Sherlock don't need to craft a false identity to meet some hedge fund managers for an investigation. They just claim they want to invest some of their father's money and the people rolled out the red carpet, complete with a huge table of a variety of delicacies just for the two Holmes brothers.
  • Finger in the Mail: This trope is played completely straight when Sherlock receives the finger of a kidnap victim in "A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs".
    • In "Ears to You", the husband of a woman who disappeared four years earlier receives a pair of ears in the mail.
  • Flaw Exploitation:
    • Moriarty uses it against Sherlock when she faked her own death, knowing that Sherlock would be devastated.
    • Then, in "Heroine", Joan uses Moriarty's obsession with Sherlock against her. It works.
  • Flipping Helpless: Sherlock brings home Clyde, the pet tortoise which used to be owned by the Victim of the Week, claiming he is going to make turtle soup out of it (after fattening it up first). At one point he uses it as a paperweight by putting it shellsidedown on a stack of papers. Joan is not pleased.
  • Fluffy Tamer: Sherlock brings home 2 fighting roosters, and manages to tame them to the point where they make calm pets and even get along.
  • Foil: Watson is one to Sherlock.
    • Mycroft as well for Sherlock.
  • Football Hooligans: M's alibi for the murder of Irene Adler is that he was doing six months in prison for a brawl over the relative virtues of Arsenal versus Manchester United at the time the murder was committed.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In "Pilot", Joan deduces that Sherlock hit bottom because of a woman. We discover that Irene Adler's murder (through Moriarty's orders) led him to addiction. Then, in "The Woman" we discover that Irene is Moriarty and, literally, she was the woman responsible for everything that happened to him.
    • In "The Leviathan", the mysterious and omniscient Le Chevalier stole one of the most expensive paintings in the world and used it in his living room. In "The Woman", Irene Adler does the same with several paintings. This works as a Mythology Gag for fans who realized that she was Moriarty 40 minutes before the reveal and to foreshadow her true nature as a mysterious criminal who lives in the shadows.
    • In "M.", Sebastian Moran tells Holmes that Moriarty killed Irene Adler with the sentence "Your Girl. That was him. That was Moriarty.". In "The Woman" this sentence comes to life in the most literal sense possible.
    • In "The Red Team", Joan's shrink asks her if she is aware that she can be the catalyst for a Sherlock's relapse. In "Heroine", guess what happens. At first the audience think the relapse and the overdose is real due to Holmes and Watson's fight earlier in the episode, but turns out that Joan is the one who suggested the fake overdose to Sherlock. In both cases, she was the catalyst of a relapse — even though it was a fake one.
    • Throughout the series, we see that Moriarty has ample opportunity to let the assassins kill Holmes, but they never do. In "Risk Management", its flat-out stated and recognized in universe that Moriarty wants Holmes alive. It hints on how Moriarty is obsessed with Holmes, and can't bear to kill him.
    • In "The Woman", Joan takes over the investigation so Sherlock can look after Irene. In "Heroine", Joan is the one who figures out that Moriarty is in love with Sherlock and launches the plan to capture her.
    • In "Risk Management," Gregson warns Joan about Sherlock, telling her that he "walks between the raindrops." Meaning that while he manages to safely maneuver through a dangerous world, the people around him aren't always so lucky. Sooner or later, someone in Sherlock's circle is going to get seriously hurt, or worse. In "Tremors," it finally happens—but to Bell, not Joan.
  • Forged Message: In "The Rat Race." The Killer of the Week kidnaps Sherlock and sends Watson a text from his phone so she won't worry. It has the exact opposite result, given that the text didn't read "like a teenager on a sugar high." (This in reference to an incident in The Teaser where Watson complains she can't read his texts because he uses too much texting slang.)
  • Framing the Guilty Party:
    • Detective D'Amico did this to Wade Crewes prior to "One Way To Get Off", sending him to prison for 13 years.
    • In "Step Nine", Mycroft explains the beginning of his and Sherlock's falling out: Sherlock believed that Mycroft's fiancé was having an affair. After he was unsuccessful in gaining evidence on the man she was cheating with, he decided to sleep with her and prove her disloyalty that way.
    • In "Poison Pen", a banker dresses his recently deceased boss in a bondage suit and calls a dominatrix to the house to spank him so that the bank can claim that he violated the morals clause of his contract and thus not have to pay a $120 million pension to his widow. At the end of the episode it's revealed that he was already violating the morals clause by sexually abusing his children - one of whom poisoned him.
    • In "On the Line", Samantha Wabash fakes her own murder to frame her sister's killer. Later, Sherlock considers planting evidence, but has a Eureka Moment that leads to an arrest before going through with it.
  • Friendly Local Chinatown: Features in "You Do It To Yourself".
  • Friendship Moment:
    • Subverted, at first, in "A Landmark Story". Sherlock brings Joan to a morgue in the middle of the night, gets her to do an autopsy and compliments her skills.
    Joan: No. I am dissecting a body in the middle of the night. We are not having a moment.
    • Played much more straight later in the episode, when Sherlock mentions that this time, he will not go haywire after finding Moriarty.
    Sherlock: The thing that's different about me, empirically you.
    Joan: That is the one of the nicest things anyone's ever said to me.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In "Déjà Vu All Over Again", Joan looks at Sherlock's rehab report from Hemdale and the audience can see for the first time his complete medical diagnostic. Sherlock was mainly addicted to heroin, but also took other drugs. He's also clinically depressed and refused medication.
  • Fresh Clue: In "Snow Angels" a Federal Reserve cash processing facility is robbed during a blizzard. When they find the tracks left by the robbers' vehicle, Sherlock is not only able to determine how long ago they were there from the fact that they can still see the tracks when it's snowing two inches an hour, but what kind of vehicle they were driving. See Quotes.Fresh Clue for the full exchange.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • In "While You Were Sleeping", while Joan is talking to her ex-boyfriend on the phone, Sherlock places his violin in a metal garbage can, and sets it on fire with a giant whoomp.
    Holmes: You were right, Watson, I felt like Jimi Hendrix there for a moment.
    • In "The Rat Race", Sherlock orders an expensive bottle of wine at a restaurant and has it sent to a couple at another table where the man is about to propose. If you keep watching over his shoulder, you can see the proposal before we refocus on them when she shouts "Yes!"
    • Funny foreground event in "The Long Fuse": Detective Bell has been questioning the Earth Liberation Militia guy they think planted the four-year-old bomb, when without warning Holmes bursts in and begins lecturing them both about why this guy couldn't be the bomber. Bell sits in the foreground to Holmes' right, staring straight off into space with a look of "oh for @*$#'s sake" on his face, for fifteen whole seconds.
    • In "Snow Angels", Sherlock bursts into Joan's room and demands that she get changed. Since this is Sherlock however, Joan is forced to change her clothes under her blankets and sheets while Sherlock is ranting in the foreground.
    • In "Details", Holmes was asking Bell how many times he and an officer to whom he was just talking had sex. Cue Joan rolling her eyes and moaning in the background.
    • In "A Landmark Story", Watson is taking care of the laundry in her room, we see an old air conditioner falling off the roof through her window. She stops for a moment and then discovers that Holmes was doing experiments.
  • Fun T-Shirt: Sherlock has several.
  • Gaslighting: Used in "Déjà Vu All Over Again" and referenced by name.
  • Gender Flip/Race Lift:
    • The very white, very English John Watson is now Joan Watson and played by Lucy Liu.
    • She's not the only one. Mary Watson née Morstan's role is taken by the very male Ty Morstan, as well as Joan's mother who is Asian.
    • Mrs. Hudson (Ms. Hudson) was assigned male at birth but ultimately subverts it.
    • The British man Professor James Moriarty is now a "she". Irene Adler's true identity is Moriarty. "We Are Everyone" reveals her true name to be Jamie Moriarty.
  • Googling the New Acquaintance: Sherlock Googles Joan before meeting her for the first time.
  • Hamster Wheel Power: Part of the Rube Goldberg Device in the Title Sequence is powered by a white mouse in a wire wheel.
  • Hanlon's Razor: Rephrased by Sherlock in "We Are Everyone," venting about an internet argument:
    "Are governments capable of evil? Yes, of course they are, all institutions are. But they're more capable of incompetence."
  • Hassle-Free Hotwire:
    • Subverted in "A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs"; Holmes has a little trouble starting a van this way. Then again, he is escaping from an ambush while simultaneously talking on the phone with Watson, who's under attack at the same moment.
    • Watson learns how to do it in "Déjà Vu All Over Again".
  • Heh Heh, You Said X: Sherlock's side plot of trying to rehabilitate a pair of fighting cocks in "The One Percent Solution" is a combination of Pet the Dog and a childish attempt to invoke this trope with Watson. She resists for most of the episode, but ends up with the line:
    "I don't care which cock I'm holding. I just want to know how it got there." (beat) "Okay, great, you got me to say 'cock'."
  • He Knows Too Much: In "Ancient History", the suspect admits to killing Leo Banin since he discovered that she used to be a porn star in Eastern Europe who used her earnings to pay for her fees prior to immigrating to America.
  • Hero Insurance: Holmes and Watson break into multiple people's homes, hack or steal their phones, etc. to gain evidence. Not only are these felonies for which they could face time in prison, but since they consult with the police, all that evidence could be suppressed against defendants if this were revealed. However, aside from in one episode this never becomes a problem.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Sherlock's father, M. Holmes.
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: This trope was discussed and averted in "A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs". In this adaptation, Holmes was once hooked on drugs, but is currently sober. A former friend and practicing drug dealer comes for Holmes' help when his daughter is kidnapped and being held for ransom. The drug-dealer spends a good deal of the episode trying to convince Sherlock to use cocaine again, because he believes the detective works better and can close cases quicker when his mind is under the influence. Sherlock refuses and eventually loses his temper and nearly strangles him, then proceeds to solve the case sober. An inversion is also suggested in the series, in that Sherlock used drugs in hopes of dulling his ever-active deductive senses.
  • Hired to Hunt Yourself: In "The Hound of the Cancer Cells", an executive at a pharmaceutical company relates how she was tasked with finding an anonymous whistleblower who was casting doubt on the company's research. It turns out that she was the whistleblower (half of a whistleblower team, actually).
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: In "The Diabolical Kind" the villains kidnap a girl named Kayden Fuller for $50 million. In truth, they wanted a information from the girl's mother, Moriarty, on the location of a treasure vault.
  • How We Got Here: "The Rat Race" begins with Joan arriving at the police station alone because Holmes has gone missing and she cannot get a hold of him. The episode then tracks back to two days prior and the events that lead to Joan going to the police.
  • Hyper Awareness: Sherlock, who considers this both a blessing and a curse. Joan shows symptoms of it earlier in the "Pilot" as well.
  • I Choose to Stay: Not that we didn't see this coming already, but Joan at the end of "M". Her six weeks contract with Sherlock is over. She decides to stay on anyway, going directly against Sherlock's father's orders.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: In "A Landmark Story", after Sherlock has captured this week's murderer and has him tied up in their house to interrogate him about his connection to Moriarty, he asks a frantic Joan if she wants tea. She responds with this. The teetotaling addict in recovery gives her the face.
  • If I Can't Have You: In "Possibility Two" a geneticist is murdered by her fiancé in a jealous rage after he suspects that she might be leaving him.
  • Ignore the Fanservice: Invoked with Moriarty's personal warden. As she is known for being a keen seductress and very good at playing to a man's fantasies, Department of Justice and Scotland Yard selected a homosexual male agent to nullify this aspect.
  • Innocent Cohabitation: Sherlock and Joan live together and Word of God says there won't be any romance between them.
  • Inspector Lestrade:
    • His name is Gregson this time, but still. (For those unaware of the reason for the pothole: Gregson is the name of a colleague of Lestrade in the original stories-he appears in the first Holmes story, "A Study In Scarlet". Lestrade appeared far more often than Gregson in the original works, but both serve identical roles-as is now the case for Elementary and Sherlock.)
    • In "Step Nine" we are introduced to Gareth Lestrade, who actually works as a Deconstruction of this trope.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Rosalie Nunez from "Internal Audit" least, based on the little we learn about her before she's murdered.
  • Ironic Echo: Watson enjoys doing this:
    • First, in "While You Were Sleeping": Holmes attempts to test whether a coma patient is really asleep by jabbing a needle into her thigh, proclaiming that there are "lots of nerve endings there." Later, Watson threatens that if he falls asleep during his NA group session, she'll do the same to him.
    Watson: "Lots of nerve endings there."
    • Second, in "Details": Holmes is trying to get Watson to take up self-defense out of concern for her safety. He goes about trying to prove the need for this in his own unique way: He beans her in the back of the head with a tennis ball and points out that it "could have been a knife." At the end of the episode, Watson retaliates by beaning him in the face with a basketball.
    Watson: "Could have been a knife."
    • Third, in "Déjà Vu All Over Again": She outlines her theory of the murder and the suspect calls her "a woman with a crazy story." Gregson counters by pointing out they have proof that supports what Watson is saying, prompting this line:
    Watson: "But don't take my word for it. I'm just a woman with a crazy story."
    • In "Risk Management", Sherlock says that the easiest way to track someone is through their phone. At the end of the episode, Sherlock goes to an address Moriarty sent him, while lying to Joan about his intents. He gets out of the taxi and finds her waiting for him.
    Watson: In this day and age, the simplest way to track someone is via their cell phone.
    • A non-Watson example occurs at the beginning of "Solve For X." A mugger punches out his victim when he says, "Please, I don't want any trouble." Said mugger stumbles onto a murder while running away, then says the same thing to the murderer before getting two in the chest for his trouble.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: A variation: Moran calmly sings an Arsenal FC anthem right before he's about to commit suicide in his cell. The resulting Soundtrack Dissonance makes it extremely disturbing, as it replaces the usual quiet indie music that plays during the end-of-the-episode Joan/Sherlock Friendship Moment.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: In "Heroine", Joan suggests this to Sherlock as a part of her Batman Gambit to capture Moriarty.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Laura Benanti, who used to appear on Eli Stone with Jonny Lee Miller, appears in "Poison Pen" as Anne Barker/Abigail Spencer.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sherlock is an Insufferable Genius who is often utterly oblivious to other people's feelings but is far from heartless and can be genuinely kind on occasion. He simply attaches no value to their feelings in personal relations.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk:
    • Moriarty. After seducing Sherlock, faking her own death, destroying his life and sanity, leading him to drug addiction, going back to his life pretending to be mentally ill and filling his heart with guilt, she tried to set him apart from Watson, made threats to his emotional health, and in the end, after thinking he had overdosed tried to manipulate him into her again.
    • Gareth Lestrade. Took credit for Sherlock's work for years, then ignored all Sherlock's attempts to help him and in the end of "Step Nine" took advantage of Sherlock's wit again.
    • Detective Gerry Coventry from "On the Line". He resents Holmes' Brutal Honesty when they're publicly arguing about Lucas Bundsch's guilt (although Holmes was right to criticize him)—so much so that he gives Holmes and Watson's address to Bundsch, who promptly tries to intimidate them. (Hey, Bundsch was exonerated—even though Holmes and Watson think he's a Serial Killer—so no harm done, right?) Later, Gregson finds Coventry Drowning His Sorrows and gives him a What the Hell, Hero? speech.
  • Just Between You and Me: Holmes pulls this on his kidnapper in "The Rat Race" to buy himself some time.

  • Last Breath Bullet: In "Snow Angels" a security guard is shot square in the chest and dragged behind his guardpost, but he still manages to roll over and get off one shot at the bad guys.
  • Last Name Basis: Sherlock with everyone, but not the other way around.
  • Lawman Gone Bad:
    • In "One Way to Get Off", we learn that Gregson's former partner D'Amico planted evidence on Wade Crewes because the police couldn't prove his guilt legitimately. When By-the-Book Cop Gregson calls her out on this, she's more concerned with the potential impact on her career than the miscarriage of justice.
    • The villain in "A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs" is an undercover DEA agent who tries to make some money on the side by kidnapping the daughter of Holmes' old drug dealer.
    • The culprit of "Details" is an ex-girlfriend of Detective Bell's, who was also a beat cop. She had been trying to get promoted into Vice, but after learning that Bell went to Internal Affairs with evidence that her late superior was a Dirty Cop on a major drug case they were all working on, her chances were next to nothing so she took it out on Bell.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In "Details" Joan says "I'd like to be paid on Thursdays" to indicate that she's staying on. It is, of course, on Thursdays that the series airs.
  • Leave No Witnesses: "The Red Team": During a government-sponsored war game, members of the red team (who play the enemy) discovered an unspecified fatal flaw in US defense. Later one member of the team started killing his teammates, fearing they could sell this information to hostile countries.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Guess who.
    • This trope is explored in "An Unnatural Arrangement". Watson is unhappy with the unbalance of her partnership with Sherlock and they discreetly fight with each other. Sherlock muses about the intricacies of their relationship, and even making a comparison with marriage.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Watson is light, Moriarty is dark.
  • Living in a Furniture Store: Generally averted in Sherlock's house. There is usually a mess in the kitchen and things like books and pizza boxes are scattered around the floor and tables.
  • Loophole Abuse: Holmes is a consultant, not a cop, which means he can do things the NYPD can't-such as search people's homes without a warrant.
    • While this might be Holmes' self-justification, it would be Hollywood Law if played straight. In reality, persons acting on behalf of police agencies are bound by the same rules of evidence as sworn police, to prevent exactly this kind of loophole. Additionally, even if the evidence were admissible, it would still be a felony to break in the way he does.
  • The Mafia: The victim in the episode "All in The Family" was the son of a Mafia don.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident:
    • In "The Rat Race", Donna Kaplan the secretary arranged four accidents and other inconspicuous deaths to climb the corporate ladder.
    • In "Flight Risk" Sherlock deduces that one of the the plane crash victims was dead before the plane crashed. It turns out that he stumbled upon the plane being sabotaged, was killed, and stowed away on the it.
    • In "A Landmark Story" Sherlock tangles with a contract killer, named Daniel Gottlieb, who specializes in this. He kills one guy by tracking his daily routine and then making it look like a window air conditioner broke loose and fell on his head, and is about to provoke a swarm of Africanized honey bees to attack a jogger when Sherlock catches him refilling their food supply.
  • Mama Bear: Moriarty. She had a child early in her career and knew she couldn't raise her and be a criminal. So she gave her up for adoption. One of her lieutenants discovered her and kidnapped her. Moriarty escaped jail and killed him painfully.
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Sherlock is shown as a quite sexually active man. Interestingly, Sherlock never shows romantic interest in Joan but instead prefers random, one-off encounters.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • In "M.", the I'm going to miss this... speech.
    • In the "Pilot', Watson bails Holmes out of jail when she is working as his sobriety counselor. In "Déjà Vu All Over Again":, Holmes was the one bailing Watson out of jail when he is working as her mentor and professor.
  • Men Can't Keep House:
    • Sherlock certainly can't. In "Dirty Laundry," he claims that it's part of an experiment to see if a lack of cleanliness correlates to drug relapses.
    • Averted with Detective Bell, as shown in "Details." As Joan describes it, his apartment is immaculate.
    • Averted with Mycroft as well.
  • Men Don't Cry: Averted with Sherlock, hoo boy. He nearly cries by the end of "While You Were Sleeping", then again in "M." and falls apart in "Risk Management" when he discovers that Irene Adler is actually alive.
  • Mercy Kill: "Lesser Evils" features a serial killer who was euthanizing terminally ill patients in a hospital. One patient actually wasn't terminally ill, but her surgeon tricked the killer into believing she was in order to cover up a post-operative mistake that could have ended his career.
  • MI6: The arc that ends Season 2 involves them. "Art in the Blood" reveals that Mycroft is an MI6 operative. MI6 then asks for Sherlock's help investigating a case. The season ends with Holmes going to work for the agency
  • Motive Rant: Often averted, but the killer in "Ancient History" gets one.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Sherlock is often seen shirtless, including his Establishing Character Moment.
  • Mundane Solution: From "Pilot", when Watson asks Holmes how he knew her father had had an affair:
    Holmes: Google. (beat) Well, not everything is deducible.
  • Mutual Kill: In the beginning of "Possibility Two" Sherlock deduces that the apparent double homicide of two security guards was actually this between a real security guard and an imposer.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: "On the Line" starts with Samantha Wabash faking her own murder in an attempt to frame her sister's killer.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Sherlock goes through this when he realized he helped the true mastermind in "Child Predator" walk out of the police station with a full immunity agreement. Sherlock makes up for this by using the agreement's Exact Words to make sure the killer is punished anyway.
    • The killer in "Lesser Evils" when he finds out that a woman he killed because he thought she was terminally ill and was facing a slow and agonizing death, had actually just had surgery and was recovering.
    • Again, in "A Landmark Story", Sherlock himself once he realized that the coded message that he showed to Sebastian Moran to decipher is actually a death order.
    • In "On the Line", Sherlock proves that Samantha Wabash made her suicide look like a murder to frame Lucas Bundsch, whom she believed killed her sister. Eventually, Sherlock realizes that Bundsch is a Serial Killer who has claimed many victims, including Wabash's sister. Fortunately, once again Holmes and Watson prove their case.
  • Mythology Gag: There are many, many references to the original canon as written by Arthur Conan Doyle.
    • Holmes as a former addict is a reference to Holmes' cocaine use in the original stories, though the reasons for his drug usage is inverted-the original Holmes took stimulants to keep his brain active between cases, while this Holmes first took stimulants with the same objective and then lost control and started using opiates to shut his brain down.
    • The multiple references to beekeeping refer to Holmes' career after being a detective. "Possibility Two" alludes to his fascination with bees again with Sherlock being offered a rare bee as a gift. And in "Heroine" we have Holmes naming an entirely new species of bees after Watson.
    • In "While You Were Sleeping" Sherlock tells Joan that his brain is "like an attic, with a finite amount of space" that he must save only for the necessary, which is an exact copy of the analogy Holmes gave to Watson in the original stories-but with more tossing around complete strangers' glasses of water.
    • Also from "While You Were Sleeping", Watson finds an old violin that Holmes owned and tries to get him back into it, saying that playing an instrument will help him stay sober. The original Sherlock Holmes was notorious for playing the violin while thinking.
    • Sherlock's assessment of Gregson as being smart for a policeman echoes that of his literary counterpart, who described Gregson as "the smartest of the Scotland Yarders" in a somewhat backhanded fashion. Here, though, it comes off as more sincere.
    • Holmes owns a phrenology bust. In the original stories, Holmes was said to have studied phrenology.
    • Chief Detective Gregson is Inspector Gregson, "The finest of the Scotland Yard detectives."
      • While Detective Bell is probably a reference to Dr. Joseph Bell, the University of Edinburgh lecturer who inspired Conan Doyle to create Holmes.
    • In "Flight Risk", when Joan goes to meet Alistair in the book shop, a copy of Anthony Horowitz's Sherlock Holmes pastiche novel "The House of Silk" can be seen, slightly out of focus, in the background a couple of times.
    • In "Leviathan", Holmes responds to Watson's objections to his current theory by saying "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be true." This is one of the most famous lines from Sherlock Holmes. When Joan mentions the quote back to him, he responds with "Sounds like a windbag."
    • In "You Do It To Yourself", Holmes apparently spent a car journey with Bell recording his thoughts about the effect the tides have on crime, later saying he was thinking of writing a monograph on the subject. In the books Holmes was always writing monographs on obscure aspects of criminology (Bell just thinks the flu's made him delirious. The idea of a sick Holmes becoming a Talkative Loon could be a reference to "The Adventure of the Dying Detective").
    • In "M", Teddy and the alluded-to network of similar street kids that Sherlock uses for surveillance around New York are an obvious nod to the Baker Street Irregulars.
    • Also in "M," Sherlock's speech about statisticians and individuals comes from the classic Doyle story "The Sign of Four."
    • In "The Red Team" Sherlock's wall of crazy for Moriarty includes a picture of Napoleon Bonaparte. Sherlock admits that one is probably a result of a lack of sleep, but it's a reference to Moriarty being called "the Napoleon of crime." In fact, the picture says just that.
    • Holmes is a single-stick fighter, which Watson listed with his skills in the first novel.
    • In "A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs", Sherlock tells his addiction support group the story of one of his pre-Watson cases, which was clearly derived from "The Adventure of the Crooked Man". While musing what he could relate in the next meeting, Holmes explicitly refers to "The Case of the Blue Carbuncle" by name. And in that same episode, Sherlock mentions his monograph on cigar and cigarette ashes, a bit taken almost word-for-word from Conan Doyle.
    • Mention is made of a former associate of Holmes named Mr. Musgrave. This is clearly a reference to Reginald Musgrave, a college classmate of the original Holmes featured in "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual".
    • Sebastian Moran refers to being an ex-Royal Marine; the original version was a colonel in Kipling's Finest.
    • The plot of the thieves in "Snow Angels" is similar to the classic Holmes story the "Red-Headed League."
    • Ms. Hudson is an autodidact and helped Sherlock with cases involving Ancient Greek. She's....a Greek interpreter.
    • "Dead Man's Switch" is basically a rewrite of "Charles Augustus Milverton" with the blackmailer dying in the first ten minutes and Holmes needing to track down the blackmail material before the blackmailer's partner can release it to the public rather than Holmes being able to destroy it all immediately after the blackmailer's death as in the original novel. They didn't even change the blackmailer's name.
    • In "A Landmark Story", when Holmes and Watson are discussing whether Holmes has ever needed to break into a funeral home before, Holmes remarks that there was "The Problem of Thor Bridge".
      • Also, Samantha's method of suicide at the beginning of "On the Line" (staged to look like a murder, on a bridge, with a weighted gun) is taken directly from that story.
    • In "Risk Management", Holmes refers to Irene Adler as "The Woman" and uses the exact quote used in "A Scandal in Bohemia", saying that she 'eclipsed the whole of her gender'.
    • The song that plays in "Risk Management" when Holmes finds Irene is from the opera "Don Giovanni." In the novels, Irene Adler was an opera singer who was in that show.
    • In "Risk Management" as well, Moriarty's entire "spider at the center of his web" speech is, word-by-word, Holmes' description of him in "The Final Problem", only in first person.
    • In "The Woman", Irene Adler mentions that she was watched over in her captivity by a man named Stapleton, a reference to "The Hound of the Baskervilles."
      • Bonus Mythology Gag: like the character in the original, this Stapleton was a false identity. For bonus points, Stapleton was the caretaker for a "monster," like Moriarty is for this one.
    • Daniel Gotlieb is a killer on Moriarty's payroll who stages crimes with a Make It Look Like an Accident edge, which is probably a reference to "The Final Problem", in which an unnamed Moriarty assassin tries to kill Sherlock by "accidentally" dropping a vase from the fifth floor of a building and "accidentally" almost running him over with a "out of control" carriage, among other Make It Look Like an Accident crimes.
    • In "Heroine" after an apparent overdose, Sherlock is in the hospital when Moriarty arrives at Sherlock's bedside. This is nearly identical to "The Dying Detective" up to and including , Sherlock has Joan nearby as Sherlock gets Moriarty to confess, and Sherlock was faking the illness.
    • In the original stories, Irene Adler was the only woman ever to outsmart Holmes. So, too, here.
    • In The Valley Of Fear, it is observed that Moriarty keeps a painting worth considerably more than his annual legal income displayed for anyone to see. Holmes identifies it upon sight. Fans who realized this knew Irene Adler was Moriarty a good 45 minutes before the ultimate reveal.
    • In "Heroine" Moriarty and Watson were in a crowded restaurant. Watson said that she wasn't too scared since they were there in front of people. Moriarty bragged about how that she had planned several murders that took place in crowded restaurants. In the Guy Ritchie films, Moriarty had killed Irene Adler in a crowded restaurant. Bonus fridge brilliance since in Elementary, Moriarty and Irene Adler are the same person.
    • In the original Holmes stories, Lestrade and Gregson always took public credit for Holmes' work up until Watson started publishing his stories. In Lestrade's first appearance, Holmes says that he had allowed them to do this in England in this continuity as well, and eventually came to the conclusion that the media attention that Lestrade got from 'solving' these high profile cases caused him to be addicted to the publicity. As a recovering addict, Holmes is understandably upset about the realization that he'd been enabling someone else's addiction.
    • "Step Nine" has Holmes mention working on a case involving a Norwood Builder with Lestrade.
    • In "We Are Everyone," Watson starts a text file called "The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes."
    • In "An Unnatural Arrangement" Holmes and Watson figure out who a suspect's male partner is because her dog-which barks like crazy at any male she doesn't know-didn't bark. This is a reference to "The curious incident of the dog in the night time" from "Silver Blaze."
    • In "The Marchioness," Mycroft's former fiancee owns a horse named "Silver Blaze". The same episode opens with Holmes commenting he'd rather be born in another age, before technology became so distracting. Mycroft asks him "Like two hundred years ago?" Two hundred years ago would roughly place him in the 19th century, Original Holmes' time period.
    • Mycroft's restaurant in New York is named Diogenes, the same name as the club he frequents in the novels.
    • While season one only contained a few references, season two has been heavy in showcasing Holmes' self-defense skills. In the books, Holmes is skilled in singlestick, Bartitsu, boxing, and has prodigious strength. Elementary's adapted his singlestick skills and notes that Holmes fights dirty.
    • One of the kidnappers in "The Diabolical Kind" is named John Clay, the same name as the criminal in "The Red-Headed League." The idea of John Clay having once worked for Moriarty is a reference to the 1984 Sherlock Holmes TV series starring Jeremy Brett. In that version of "The Red-Headed League", Clay's robbery was orchestrated by Moriarty, whereas in the original story, Clay and his partner were independent agents.
      • The title of that episode is a reference to Original Holmes' description of Moriarty from "The Final Problem":
    Holmes: The man had hereditary tendencies of the most diabolical kind. A criminal strain ran in his blood.
    • In "Step Nine", Sherlock says that Mycroft could not have lost weight through exercise since it "requires both energy and ambition" and Mycroft has never had much of either. This mirrors Original Holmes' explanation to Watson about why Mycroft, despite possessing deductive skills that were superior to Holmes' own, did not become a detective in "The Greek Interpreter."
    • "Art in the Blood" centers around one Arthur Cadogan West, an MI6 agent and murder victim. In Doyle's "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans", West was a government clerk and murder victim, whose corpse was found along with some stolen secret documents.
    • "Art in the Blood" finally reveals that Mycroft isn't merely a chef and restauranteur, but works for British Intelligence and his mental skill set turns out to be highly invaluable for them, much as the original version of the character was. Mycroft's description of himself as a clearing house of information echoes Sherlock's description of Mycroft's unique position at Whitehall in "The Bruce Partington Plans".
    • The Smoky Gentlemen's Club full of misanthropes where British agents in New York meet reflects the original version of the Diogenes.
    • The title "Art in the Blood" itself is a quote from "The Greek Interpreter", where Sherlock uses it in saying his detective gifts must be a family trait, since Mycroft shares them.
    • Mycroft's apartment number is 21B.
    • In "The Grand Experiment", Mycroft says that he once overhead Sherlock say of him "He has no ambition and no energy. He will not even go out of his way to verify his own solutions. He would rather be considered wrong than take the trouble to prove himself right." This is lifted word-for-word from Sherlock's description of Mycroft in "The Greek Interpreter." Prior to this, Sherlock also tells an MI-6 agent that he "cannot make bricks without clay" in response to the agent refusing to give him the files he requested. This is a line from "The Red-Headed League".
  • Name's the Same: In-Universe, one of the characters in "An Unnatural Arrangement" is named James Monroe, "like the fifth President".
  • Never Found the Body: Irene Adler. Sure enough, she turns up alive at the end of "Risk Management".
  • Never One Murder: "One Way to Get Off" has two people murdered in a similar way to imprisoned Serial Killer Wade Crewes. Sherlock is ready to believe that one of the original suspects Victor Nardan committed the murders, until another pair come up along with a third victim who Nardan could not have shot with his blind eye.
  • New York City Cops: Variation. Holmes works as a consultant with NYPD homicide detectives. He was a consultant for Scotland Yard, but something happened (likely the drugs and forceful move to NYC for rehab) to make him leave.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The set-up of "On the Line": Samantha Wabash kills herself to frame the Lucas Bundsch, whom she believes killed her sister. Sherlock proves that it was indeed a suicide, but during the polygraph test realizes that Samantha was right in suspecting Lucas of killing her sister. He spends the rest of the episode trying to finish Samantha's work.
  • Nice Hat: Alfredo has a collection of them.
  • No, Mister Bond, I Expect You To Dine: Happens to Joan in "Heroine", when Moriarty lures her away from Sherlock in order to... invite her to lunch in a fancy restaurant and talk things over.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • In "The Deductionist" after some amateur porn actors used Joan's spatula in their production, Sherlock gives her a new one ... and a toothbrush to replace her old one. Joan notes she didn't see them touch this in the final film. Sherlock notes they didn't. He is quiet on the rest.
    • From the same episode, Sherlock explaining an earlier case at the rehab group. A Noodle Incident for the casual viewer, Mythology Gag for the keen fans.
    • In "You Do It To Yourself", Holmes makes a comment on the duration of a pig's orgasm. Given his known preference to only learning things that would be relevant to his work in the belief that a human's memory capacity is finite, one has to wonder what kind of case required him to learn this.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Neither Sherlock nor Joan is attracted to the other at all. Not that people don't keep mistaking them for it. In fact, this is actually a subplot of "Déjà Vu All Over Again", when Joan's friends think she's being emotionally manipulated by Sherlock and stage a misinformed intervention.
  • Not So Different:
    • In "While You Were Sleeping" Joan sees similarities between her and Sherlock's emotions regarding themselves and their pasts.
    • In "The Woman" Irene Adler says exactly this to Sherlock about Moriarty and him. In the end, when we see that she was Moriarty, her theory is proved real, since both of them felt in love for each other.
    • In "Step Nine", Joan comes to this conclusion about Mycroft and Sherlock after Sherlock tells her that Mycroft exploded what was left of Sherlock's possessions and considers it a clean slate.
    • In "Art in the Blood", it's revealed that while Holmes is a brilliant detective who uses his formidable mental skills consulting for law enforcement, Mycroft turns out to be a brilliant intelligence asset who uses his formidable mental skills consulting for MI6.
  • No True Scotsman: In “We Are Everyone” Holmes says the man that hires them is faking because "No Belgian is that bad at backgammon".
  • Now You Tell Me: Done a couple of times in "Details". The first time when Holmes while masked attacked Joan to see if she will fight back but only fought back after she realized who he is. The second time was after Bell was attacked and crashed his car. Holmes told him that he shouldn't have jerked the wheel and he would have gone off without a scratch. Bell muttered, "Now you tell me."
  • Obfuscating Insanity:
    • Adam Kemper plays the role of a victim with severe PTSD and Stockholm Syndrome, only to be revealed as the real mastermind.
    • Irene Adler was faking her amnesia and her PSTD symptoms. Amongst other things.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Sherlock will on occasion lie about what he deduces, such as when he initially claims that Joan left being a surgeon when a friend died, only to admit later that he knew she was forced out because she killed a patient.
    • Mycroft's career for the previous decade: chef, restauranteur, long-suffering victim of his brother's insults, highly valued MI6 asset...
  • Out-of-Character Alert: In "The Rat Race", Joan figures out Sherlock is in trouble when the text the secretary sends doesn't contain indecipherable abbreviations.
  • Out of Focus: Joan Watson is introduced as the main character along with Sherlock and one of the faces to promote the show. However, in season 2, Joan is mostly out of focus as the story becomes more about Sherlock and his personal problems.
  • Orgy of Evidence: Left behind to frame Detective Bell in "Details". Holmes refuses to believe the evidence on the grounds that if Bell had done it, he wouldn't have been so stupid as to hide the evidence so sloppily.
  • Perp Sweating: Averted in "A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs". Gregson and Bell don't even raise their voices when they're interrogating the kidnapper; they just calmly point out that things will go a lot better for him if he reveals where he's hiding the victim.
  • Perspective Reversal: In "Snow Angels", after Sherlock, looking at some tire tracks, announces the thieves have made their escape in an ambulance without explaining how he knows, Joan, who he's supposed to be training as an investigator, irritably lists off other things about them (which she made up on the spot). Sherlock stares at her in confusion.
    Watson: Now you know what it feels like. Show me.
  • Phantom Thief: Played with in "The Leviathan". A criminal who Holmes and Watson question about the break-in of a unbeatable safe clue them in of a legendary thief who's pulled impossible heists. Turns out to be a fluke, and the crime in question was done by a Similar Squad of the jury who banded together.
  • Platonic Life Partners: Holmes and Watson, following the long tradition, somewhat codependently so.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted, and very, very much parodied.
    Sherlock: Have you always been this observant? I'm asking sincerely, I'm wondering if exposure to my methods has helped you in any way.
    Bell [sarcastically]: Actually, before you came along, I've never closed a case. Neither had the rest of the department. Most of us were thinking of packing up, leaving. Letting the city fend for itself!
  • Posthumous Character: Irene Adler was treated as one for most of the season, her death having caused Sherlock's spiral into drugs. Turns out, she was Faking the Dead.
  • Power of Trust: By Season 2, Sherlock has come to see the deep value in genuine partnerships. To have someone he can trust to have his back and be with him in the dark. While he sees marriage as a foolish idea, he notes there is a difference between a partnership and marriage. For this, he talks to Gregson to reconcile with his wife as he has a worthy partner in her.
  • Precision Crash: Subverted in "A Landmark Story", when a man is killed by a falling air conditioner window unit. The police chalk it up as a freak accident but something about it irks Sherlock. It was a hit, done by a Professional Killer specializing in Making It Look Like an Accident.
  • The Profiler: One appears in the "The Deductionist", as a former partner (in more ways than one) of Holmes. It's also something of a Discussed Trope, as the episode analyzes whether a profiler can be a legitimate detective or if they're just "snake oil science". It ends on a ambiguous note about their effectiveness.
    • Truth in Television: Real-life studies have indicated that trained profilers have no better statistical averages than amateurs making educated guesses.
  • Properly Paranoid: British Intelligence had an analyst investigate Sherlock back in London when he began consulting with the police as they were concerned someone with his skill set could be a threat. They're proven right. Just before he went into rehab, he unwittingly acted as a courier for a terrorist group. Later, he's responsible for nearly blowing the cover of Mycroft's operation.
  • Pun-Based Title: Episode 2x15, "Corpse de Ballet".note 
  • Psycho Strings: Sherlock sets this as Joan's ringtone on his phone in "One Way To Get Off".

  • Reality Ensues:
    • The updated premise itself: Sherlock isn't a cool recreational drug user, he's a recovering addict.
    • The episode "Tremors" illustrates the consequences of Sherlock's antics finally catching up to him: A suspect pushed too far by Sherlock's antagonism tries to kill him. Bell suffers a career-threatening injury as a result and [temporarily] ends his friendship with Sherlock, and Holmes are Watson are dragged before a committee to answer for their less-than-legal methods that led to said injury.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Sherlock seems to get a lot of these from several people.
    • Watson gives a brief one to him in the pilot episode that leaves him speechless.
    • Captain Gregson in "The Red Team". He finalizes it by punching Sherlock in the stomach.
    • Alfredo in "Dead Man's Switch".
    • Moriarty also delivers one in the "The Woman/Heroine" and concludes by saying that she is superior to Sherlock and he is a game she will win everytime. And then she loses.
    • Sherlock gives one to Bell in "All In The Family" for allowing himself to give up on his own physical recovery and his career as a police detective. It's meant motivationally and it works.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Captain Gregson.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Sherlock is Red, Joan is Blue.
  • Reformed Criminal: Alfredo Llamosa, who first appears in "The Long Fuse". He's a former car thief who now works as a security consultant for car companies and is Sherlock's sobriety sponsor.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • Le Chevalier, from "The Leviathan".
    • In "The Woman", we are introduced to Irene Adler and her private collection of art masterpieces stolen from several museums and exposed beautifully in her living room.
  • Retcon: A minor one, but Gregson's first name was originally given as Tobias, or "Toby." He's now solidly referred to as Thomas, or "Tommy."
  • The Reveal: From the Season 1 Finale: Irene Adler wasn't murdered by Moriarty; she is Moriarty. From the Season 2 final episodes: Mycroft's mysterious employer is British Intelligence.
  • Rich Bitch: Yvette Ellison from "While You Were Sleeping", who not only murdered her newly discovered half-siblings, but also faked a coma and plotted to kill her own twin sister, solely because she did not want to share the family inheritance.
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • "Lesser Evils" is inspired by the Kristen Gilbert murders, a nurse who killed four patients (and was suspected of killing eighty others) with epinephrine at the Veteran's Administration hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts in the early 1990s. There's even a drug-addict coworker as a Red Herring.
    • "Step Nine" has a killer commit murder with a plastic gun made from a 3D printer and then destroy the gun to hide the evidence. The technology to make such a gun was less than a year old at the time of airing.
    • "We Are Everyone" was obviously inspired by the Edward Snowden scandal. Like Mr. Snowden, he is helped by a Julian Assange-type character (sans the rape allegations). It should be noted that the Snowden expy is portrayed totally unsympathetically, being willing to kill and endanger lives rather than face the legal repercussions of his leaking national security secrets (And it is implied that he did it just to get attention).
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • Sherlock goes on one against (who he believes to be) Irene Adler's killer in "M."
    • This is also Serial Killer Howard Ennis' motivation in "The Deductionist". Ennis wants revenge on FBI profiler Kathryn Drummond because she falsely accused Ennis' father of sexually abusing him, which led to the death of both Ennis' parents. His sister is in on it too.
    • Moriarty goes on one near the end of "The Diabolical Kind" when one of her former henchmen kidnaps her long-lost biological daughter in an attempt to extort information from her. She escapes from jail and methodically slaughters the henchman and his cohorts.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Sherlock's giant wall of Moriarty-related stuff. Joan calls it his 'wall of crazy' at some point.
  • Rube Goldberg Machine: Featured in the Title Sequence.
  • Running Gag:
    • Sherlock and his fondness for prostitutes.
    • Sherlock's habit of introducing Joan as various titles. So far we've had: "personal valet", "bodyguard", "consultant slash housekeep", "she keeps me from doing heroin", and "America's foremost expert on home security".
    • Holmes waking Watson up in several ways and times of the day to share his thoughts on the latest case.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Moriarty is a woman.
  • Scully Box: Joan wears a lot of Combat Stilettos due to the height difference between Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller (5'3 and 5'10 respectively).
  • Second Episode Substitute: In the pilot Captain Gregson has a Hispanic partner named Detective Javier Abreu who was skeptical of Holmes' deductive skills and questioned the necessity for his consultation. From the second episode on, Captain Gregson has an African American partner named Detective Marcus Bell who is skeptical of Holmes' deductive skills and questions the necessity for his consultation.
  • Self-Serving Memory: The promo for "The One Percent Solution" shows Sherlock and Joan having this, when they realize they have to work with Lestrade, again. Yes Lestrade took credit for Sherlock's cases because Sherlock allowed him too (except for the one in "Step Nine").
  • Separated by a Common Language: In "Internal Audit", Sherlock meets someone new.
    Randy: You're Sherlock, right?
    Sherlock: And you are?
    Randy: Randy.
    Sherlock: Name or adjective?
    Randy: What?
    Sherlock: Short for "Randall" or state of sexual arousal?
    Randy: Are you asking me if I'm horny?
  • Serial Killer: New York is swarming with them to the point of rivaling Dexter.
    • "Child Predator" has Samuel Abbott AKA "The Balloon Man" who kidnapped children, leaving a batch of balloon on the site of the disappearance, who would turn up dead or never be seen again. It turns out his first victim Adam Kemper, had mentally overpowered Samuel and was the one doing the killings.
    • In "The Rat Race", Donna Kaplan the secretary arranged four accidents and other inconspicuous deaths to climb the corporate ladder, and tries to kill Sherlock to frame her boss Jim Fowkes.
    • "Lesser Evils" has the janitor who was euthanizing terminally ill patients in a hospital. One patient actually wasn't terminally ill, but her surgeon tricked the killer into believing she was in order to cover up a post-operative mistake that could have ended his career.
    • In "One Way To Get Off" thirteen years before the story, a killer murdered three couples by taping them to pillows, executing them, and taking a high heel as a trophy. Wade Crewes was convicted of the murders but insists that he was framed. In the present, two more couples, and a bystander who happened to be present, were killed using the same M.O, even the same gun. While the evidence against Crewes was planted, it turns out that he was guilty, and he had convinced his illegitimate son, Sean Figueroa, to commit murders to make himself look innocent.
    • "M." has the eponymous killer who had killed dozens of people, including Sherlock's love interest Irene Adler, by suspending them from a tripod, slashing there throats, and letting them bleed out. He turns out to be an assassin named Sebastian Moran, and he claims Irene was killed by his employer Moriarty. Later we find out Irene was Moriarty who faked her death.
    • "The Deductionist" has Martinnote  Ennis who had killed blonde women by skinning them. He then breaks out of the hospital when donating a kidney and shoots up a convenience store, deliberately sparing a woman that fits his typical victim profile.
  • Serious Business: When M. reveals that he's an Arsenal fan, Sherlock considers killing him simply for that reason.
  • Setting Update: Modern-day New York City as opposed to late 1800s London.
  • Sex Slave: Sherlock liberates one in "One Way to Get Off".
  • Sherlock Scan: It's hard to tell when Holmes is actually analyzing but it's definitely there. It's sporadic at most. Soon after meeting him, Joan has picked this habit up as well and sometimes uses it to notice things about Sherlock. What is unique in that the show's Sherlock Scan filter pops up not only when Sherlock or Joan are deducing.
  • Ship Tease: ...Not as much as some installments, but this is still Holmes and Watson we're talking about. The first line he says to her is "Do you believe in love at first sight?". He was actually reciting lines from the soap opera on TV.
  • Shirtless Scene: Sherlock has a lot of these.
    • In "Pilot", Sherlock is shirtless when he is introduced and Joan meets him.
    • In "Child Predator" we first see Sherlock sitting with no shirt on and looking through some boxes. The funny part is he remembers having it on when he started his search the previous night and has no idea how or why he took it off.
    • In "Solve For X" he is shirtless and doing exercises in the middle of the night in the brownstone.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Word of God confirms that Angus the phrenology bust is a prop from House, another show that took a twist on the Sherlock Holmes mythos. The bust may also be a shout out to the skull Sherlock keeps on his mantel. In the original novels, Holmes was said to follow phrenology.
    • The Rube Goldberg Machine in the Title Sequence is a live-action version of Ratigan's trap from The Great Mouse Detective.
    • In "One Way to Get Off", the perp's name is Crewes, and we spend a good deal of the episode thinking he spent 13 years in prison wrongfully because of planted evidence. Sound familiar, Life fans?
    • Marcus Bell is the only main character without a counterpoint from Doyle's original stories. But Dr. Joseph Bell was a mentor for Arthur Conan Doyle and an inspiration for Sherlock Holmes.
    • In "The Leviathan" Holmes is hired by Casterly Rock Security to solve a robbery of one of their bank vaults.
    • Joan Watson's brother's name is Oren, a nod to Lucy Liu's character in Kill Bill. Doubles as Actor Allusion.
    • In "The Leviathan" Holmes loudly plays Beethoven's Ninth Symphony ("Ode to Joy") when he figures out the perpetrators of the vault heist. This is the same music played when the criminals succeed in Die Hard, which also featured a multiple-level "impenetrable" vault.
    • In "The Red Team" Holmes has to find the identities of the people who participated in a classified government operation, one of which is a mathematician named Harold Dresden. One of the suspects has the code name of "Yossarian".
    • The phrase "I believe in Sherlock Holmes" seems to be one to their Transatlantic Equivalent show.
      • "Solve For X" revolves around an equation that can be used to crack any known type of digital security, much like Moriarty's "skeleton key" in "The Reichenbach Fall". Unlike Sherlock's version, this one is not only real, but it already exists, though it still has to be custom-programmed for specific targets.
      • The conversation in "Dead Clade Walking" reverse the conversation between Watson and Irene from Sherlock's "A Scandal in Belgravia":
      Gay: I'm Gay.
      Holmes: I'm not.
    • In the first season finale, "Heroine", in the house of the husband of a victim, Holmes searches the cupboards for evidence and pulls out a pill bottle for Vicodin.
    • Also in "Heroine," Holmes makes an offhand reference to "the Dam Busters raid." The episode aired the night before the anniversary of the raid.
    • The Running Gag of Holmes introducing Watson in amusing ways may be a Shout-Out to the comedic version of Holmes seen in Psych which is more like Holmes than the premise might seem.
    • The fighting cocks from "The One Percent Solution" are named Romulus and Remus, after the two brothers who founded Rome in Roman mythology. In the myth, Romulus kills Remus, but by the end of the episode Sherlock teaches his cocks to get along.
    • Mycroft, a British spy produces a Walther PPK when startled in bed with a lover.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Malbolge, which appears in the episode "The Leviathan", is a real esoteric program language, and the code depicted in the episode is actual code (although it doesn't do what the episode says it does). The writers got help from a PhD mathematician for the episode.
    • P versus NP, which is depicted in the episode "Solve for X", is also a real problem in the field of computer science and is pretty much as major as the episode shows it to be.
    • Dead Clade Walking is a real theory in palaeontology and it is indeed Serious Business.
    • More generally, the portrayal of addiction in this show has been highly praised by recovering addicts as being among the most realistic depictions on television.
    • Just look at the Mythology Gag entry: This might be a different presentation of Holmes than most fans are used to, but let no one say the writers haven't read up on their Sherlock Holmes.
  • Siblings in Crime:
    • In "The Deductionist" Patricia Ennis was in on her brother Martin's plan to get back at Kathryn Drummond. She poisoned her liver so Martin could escape when donating his, and then tried to kill Drummond with a pair of scissors.
    • In "Dead Man's Switch" Anthony Pistone killed Charles Augustus Milverton, so he and his brother could take over the blackmail business.
  • Sibling Triangle: In "The Marchioness", we see two. One from the past, involving Sherlock, Mycroft and Nigella (Mycroft's former fiancée). The other one, involving of all people Watson, Sherlock and Mycroft. Sherlock finds out that Watson slept with Mycroft in London and is not happy at all about it.
  • Skewed Priorities: In "The Deductionist", Joan finds out that her sub letter directed a porno in her apartment while she was away. Sherlock watches it and is appalled... by the continuity errors.
    Sherlock: If I were you, I wouldn't be upset that a dirty film was produced in your home. I would be upset that it was produced so poorly.
  • Sliding Scale of Plot Versus Characters: Falls middle of the scale, but leans more on the character side. General consensus is that the Mystery of the Week isn't amazing, but Sherlock and Joan character arcs are built incredibly well. Even supporting characters, like Gregson, Bell and Alfredo are relatively well fleshed out.
  • Snipe Hunt: In "The Leviathan", when questioning a convicted perp of a previous crime leads them to the Phantom Thief, Holmes and Watson quickly conclude that the guy doesn't exist, and that they're being sent on one of these. The trope is even name dropped.
  • Snowed-In: "Snow Angels" plays with this trope. When New York is paralyzed by a massive blizzard, the police are overwhelmed. A murderous gang of thieves takes advantage of the storm to rob a Federal Reserve facility in New Jersey, and Holmes and Watson go after them, bribing a snow plow driver to drive them around.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Sherlock is definitely this. See "The Deductionist", where he describes serial killers as "onanists" (which is a really roundabout way to say jerkoffs or wankers), and in "Déjà Vu All Over Again" when he tells Watson that "opinions are like ani" (plural of anus, or asshole).
  • Staging an Intervention: After Sherlock takes Joan on as an apprentice her friends do this to her in "Deja Vu All Over Again," thinking that she's looking for a purpose after quitting medicine. They try to pretend it isn't an intervention, but Joan sees right through them after having been a sobriety companion in her second career and helping set up several.
  • Stealth Pun: in one chapter, someone sends a mosquito-like drone to spy on Sherlock and Watson. They got bugged.
  • Stuffed In The Fridge: Invoked and deconstructed with Irene Adler. Moriarty-as-Irene fakes her death and counts on Sherlock's guilt to incapacitate him, and thus distract him from her actual plans. It works better than she expected.
  • The Summation: Given by Sherlock every episode so far.
  • Surgeons Can Do Autopsies If They Want: Watson performs one in "A Landmark Story".
  • Suspect Existence Failure: In "Solve For X," Holmes calls Bell to tell him who he thinks the killer is, and before he has a chance to say so, Bell informs him about another victim, naturally the same man.

  • Take That:
    • In "The Deductionist," Sherlock reveals that he loathes behavioral profilers. While she was right to a certain degree, her insistence that Martin Ennis was abused as a child drove his father to suicide.
    • In "We Are Everyone" Watson notes that a man has a lot of Ayn Rand quotes on his site Holmes calls her "Philosopher-in-chief for the intellectually bankrupt".
  • Tantrum Throwing: Sherlock throws a lot of stuff around in "Paint it Black", on more than one occasion. He is about as pissed as he's ever been before, going so far as to grab Mycroft about the collar for his role in the situation. However, Mycroft is quick to notice that some tantrums were just Sherlock obfuscating something he discovered and didn't want others to notice. He implied Sherlock did this as a child.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Sherlock strongly implies this with Joan and her old chemistry teacher in "Possibility Two".
  • Teens Are Monsters:
    • The episode "Child Predator" has Adam Kemper the so called victim of kidnapper Samuel Abbot. He actually abused his kidnapper and forced him to kidnap and kill children, then pretends to be a guilt ridden victim of Stockholm Syndrome to get an immunity deal for his crimes. Thankfully Sherlock pulls a Rules Lawyer and get him convicted.
    • Episode "One Way To Get Off" has Sean Figueroa, illegitimate son of Serial Killer Wade Crewes, who's father convinced him to commit murders to make himself look innocent. He killed two couples, and a bystander who happened to be present.
  • Tempting Fate: In the pilot, Joan tells Sherlock that he can introduce her however he wants. So he introduces her as his personal valet and she immediately loathes it. It's become a Running Gag for him to introduce her in various ways.
    • It's interesting to watch the progression of these as the show goes on. As Holmes starts to trust and respect Watson more, he introduces her as more polite things, like "my associate." Unless he's angry with her, in which case he'll introduce her as something demeaning or embarrassing. By season 2 he's introducing her as "the foremost expert in home security in the United States".
  • Thanatos Gambit:
    • Turns out to be the cause of the plot in "You Do It To Yourself".
    • Subverted with Moriarty and the death of Irene Adler. See Faking the Dead.
  • Themed Aliases: In "Dead Man's Switch", Stuart Bloom uses a series of aliases when pursuing his nuisance law suits. The first one is Abraham Zelner. Holmes realises that there is a pattern in the initials of the aliases: A.Z., B.Y., C.X., etc. When he discovers the one name that does not fit that pattern, he deduces it must be Bloom's real name.
  • Thicker Than Water: In "Blood is Thicker", this trope is played with. Sherlock needs to decide if he stays with Watson in New York (even though without money) or if he goes back to London to please his father. He decides to stay. Then, the trope turns around 180º and assumes its original meaning when we learn that Mycroft was actually trying to separate Sherlock from Watson with the help of someone.
  • Thieving Magpie: In "Dead Clade Walking", Sherlock and Joan are trying to find a smuggler who deals in valuable but illegal artifacts. Said smuggler is called "the Magpie".
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: In "Ears to You", Lestrade becomes this to Sherlock and Joan.
  • This Is the Part Where...
    • In "The Rat Race", an annoyed Joan asks "This is the part where I'm supposed to ask you how you knew that, right?" to Sherlock after he deduces she was on a date.
    • Holmes and Bell have a similar exchange in "You Do It To Yourself", when Bell reveals he knows the secret entry tickets for a Chinese mahjong ring and expects Holmes to ask how he knew that.
  • Title Drop:
    • About five minutes into "A Giant Gun, Filled with Drugs". The episode centers Sherlock's old dealer turning up again, and Sherlock referring to him as a trigger. Joan gives us the Title Drop.
    • In "Possibility Two" Holmes gives us the Title Drop mentioning the two leads of the crime. Possibility one is actually invalid, and possibility two doesn't even exist yet.
    • In "Déjà Vu All Over Again", when seeing Watson in jail, Holmes says he is having "the strongest sensation of déjà vu".
    • In "Step Nine", Joan suggests to Sherlock that it's a good time for him to work on his "step nine" (N.A. recovery).
    • In "An Unnatural Arrangement", Sherlock uses these words to describe to Watson his opinion about marriage.
    • In "Dead Clade Walking", Sherlock uses the term "dead clade walking", and explains the term to Watson.
    • "Paint it black." The command phrase for MI6 to open fire on the Millieu agents about to kill Joan and Mycroft.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Joan's been growing steadily as a investigator over the course of the season, but it comes to a high point in "The Woman", when she takes over the investigation single-handedly when Sherlock's taking care of Irene. She traces a rare colour of paint to a handful of shops, giving the cops a lead.
    • And better: In "Heroine", she is the one who alone deduces Moriarty and creates the plan to her capture.
    • By the time "Step Nine" rolls around, she's taken the level in physical badassery as well, effortlessly taking down a fleeing crook with a collapsible baton.
    • In "We Are Everyone", she learns pickpocketing by herself, impressing Sherlock and collecting evidence to capture the killer of the week.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Sherlock himself. Really, the sign of excellence in the series. While Sherlock is teaching Watson how to be a detective, she is teaching him how to be a bit more humane. And they are both actually learning.
  • Toplessness from the Back:
    • Sebastian Moran's hooker, in "M."
    • Irene Adler in "The Woman", leading Sherlock to deduce that she's not all she says she is because a few birthmarks are missing.
  • Torture Technician: Moran, although he's just doing exactly what his boss tells him.
  • Transsexual: Ms. Hudson, although little has been made of it so far. Which may be the point.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Sherlock goes through a huge one before the "Pilot", which brings him to New York and sets up the whole Season 1 arc. It only gets worse in the Season 1 Finale, courtesy of Jamie Moriarty.
  • Troll: Sherlock frequents an online forum for conspiracy theorists and has been known to make up conspiracies out of whole cloth.
  • Tropaholics Anonymous: Probably inevitable given that this iteration of Sherlock Holmes is a recovering drug addict. Watson takes him to meetings in several episodes.
  • True Companions: Sherlock and Joan worked their way through the whole first season and finally became best friends to each other.
  • Turtle Power: Clyde the tortoise is taken in by Sherlock after his owner is murdered. Sherlock thinks he makes a good paperweight and alarm clock. (The show alternately uses "turtle" and "tortoise" to describe him.)
  • Twin Threesome Fantasy: In "The Leviathan" it seems that Holmes has pulled this off.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Several episodes have Sherlock dealing with one case, while Watson, Gregson, Bell or some combination of them investigate a second one.
  • Unique Pilot Title Sequence: Or lack thereof, actually. Every other episode has a Rube Goldberg Device to drop a small cage on a figurine. The pilot throws up the title as a splash-screen with a few bars of the theme.
  • Unreliable Narrator: In "Tremors", as Holmes is on the witness stand, his recounts of his case is from his perspective. Some details are very...exaggerated.
  • The Unreveal
    • We never get to hear what the security-shattering plan was in "The Red Team".
    • Or the solution to P versus NP in "Solve for X" (although since it hasn't actually been solved in real life, that was pretty much a Foregone Conclusion).
    • Did Andrew Colville receive substandard medical care due to his infamy?
  • Visual Pun:
    • On Sherlock's giant Moriarty wall of crazy there's picture of Napoleon Bonaparte pinned to it, referencing the name Holmes gave Moriarty in the original books — The Napoleon of Crime. Doubles as a Freeze-Frame Bonus.
    • Pointed out in "Snow Angels", when Sherlock has a mock-up of the city with Clyde representing the ambulance and padlocks being used to represent landmarks and checkpoints. When Joan points it out the unintentional pun of using locks to show the city in lockdown, Sherlock is indignant.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Following the great tradition, Holmes and Watson, especially early-middle of the season. Their conversations can go from Friendship Moment to snarkery in one breath.
  • Waistcoat of Style: One of Sherlock's standbys for attire.
  • Walk and Talk: Once an Episode
  • The Watson: Watson! As an audience surrogate of course, from a female point of view, the show works as a deconstruction of this trope, bringing Watson as a Deuteragonist and not a Sidekick. Watson also gets to deduce things for herself from time to time, which a typical Watson didn't. (Conan Doyle's original certainly never did.)
  • Was It All a Lie?: Sherlock to Irene Adler in "The Woman/Heroine". It wasn't.
  • We Are Everywhere: Moriarty has "eyes and ears everywhere", including inside prisons and police stations.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Kathryn believes that the father of Martin Ennis has sexually abused him, but she didn't have concrete evidence to show that he did it, so she paid off Ennis' neighbor to make up a lie.
  • We Used to Be Friends:
    • In "A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs", this is Holmes' reaction when his former drug dealer Rhys offers him some cocaine, believing that it'll help Holmes find Rhys' kidnapped daughter.
    • As of the end of "Tremors", this is Bell's attitude toward Holmes after Holmes accidentally gets him shot. They eventually reconcile, though.
  • Well Done Daughter Girl: Joan has hints of this in "The Leviathan". When going to brunch with her mother, Sherlock mentions that she's dressing for a job interview, not meeting a loved one.
    • Slightly subverted in that it turns out that her mother isn't criticizing her current career because it's not as respectable as a surgeon but because it doesn't make Joan happy. Joan's mother is actually glad she's working with Holmes because this does make her happy.
  • We Will Meet Again: Sherlock warns a suspect that "You haven't seen the last of me!" in "While You Were Sleeping". (Note that he was invoking this trope as part of a setup.)
  • Wham Episode:
    • "M.": Sebastian Moran shows up as a psycho serial killer. Sherlock catches him, tortures him and nearly kills him for murdering Irene... only to discover that Moran is not psycho, works as a hitman and did not kill Irene Adler, revealing his boss name: Moriarty.
    • "Risk Management": The ending reveals that Irene Adler is still alive, apparently being kept in a Gilded Cage by Moriarty.
    • "The Woman/Heroine": Irene Adler is in fact an identity assumed by Moriarty. Moriarty is revealed to be have become careless, since she has also fallen in love with Holmes. Joan becomes the heroine of the show being the only one who was able to deduce Moriarty and capture her.
    • "We Are Everyone": Joan Watson starts writing the Sherlock Holmes chronicles and Sherlock reads a love letter from Moriarty.
    • "Blood is Thicker": We discover that Mycroft is working with someone to separate Sherlock from Watson.
    • "The Man With the Twisted Lip": Sherlock has a packet of stolen heroin in his possession and Mycroft may or may not have arranged for Joan to be drugged and kidnapped.
    • "Paint it Black" Mycroft didn't arrange Joan's abduction, but he is in fact, as an MI6 agent.
    • "The Grand Experiment": In case of his death, the victim was going to burn Mycroft. Mycroft is forced to fake his death, sever his ties to Joan and Sherlock, and goes into hiding. Joan decides to move out of the brownstone and Sherlock takes a job offer from MI6 with Lord Walter.
  • Wham Line:
    • From "Flight Risk": I know about Irene.
    • From "M.": Your girl. That was him. That was Moriarty.
    • From "The Woman": Then a few hours ago, she tried to have me killed.
    • From "The Diabolical Kind": Kayden Fuller is Moriarty's daughter.
    • From "Art In The Blood":
    Mycroft: "British intelligence is not here to arrest me, I am British intelligence."
  • Wham Shot:
    • "We Are Everyone" has two:
      • Watson starts writing the chronicles of Sherlock Holmes and the camera is focused on her computer screen.
      • Sherlock reading a letter from Jamie Moriarty. She apparently still writes him letters from prison.
    • From "The Man With the Twisted Lip":
      • Sherlock hides a pack of stolen heroin in a hollowed-out book. Joan is drugged at Diogenes and kidnapped.
  • "What Now?" Ending: "The Marchioness" ends with Sherlock and Mycroft just beginning to discuss where their relationship goes from here.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: After giving Holmes the cold shoulder throughout "The Red Team" for his actions in "M.", Gregson finally sits down with him and rips into him, calling him out on the fact that he acts like a child half the time, is completely self-centered, and doesn't seem to have any regret for trying to murder a suspect on Gregson's watch. Gregson ends the speech by saying he'll let Holmes keep consulting, but that he'll never fully trust him again. And then he punches Holmes in the gut for good measure before leaving.
    • Joan also doesn't hesitate to call out Sherlock's occasional misogyny.
    • In "On the Line" and "Tremors", Watson and Gregson frequently talk to Sherlock about his bad behavior and his ego. In "Tremors", his attitude is catastrophic, probably causing permanent damage in Bell's arm thanks to a bullet and getting himself and Watson fired from the NYPD until Bell himself decides to make an intervention. However, Holmes' relationship with Bell also took a hit...
  • Working the Same Case: "Déjà Vu All Other Again", a man's wife disappearance (Joan's) and a woman getting pushed into the subway (Sherlock's) turns out to be linked.
  • Working with the Ex:
    • In "The Deductionist", Sherlock has to work with his ex-lover FBI profiler Katherine Drummond when an escaped serial killer is on the loose. He isn't happy at all with this arrangement, though.
    • "Details" reveals that Detective Bell and another police officer in the same department were together for some time.
    • "The Marchioness" has Sherlock working for an ex-lover, who also happens to be Mycroft's ex-fiance.
  • World's Smallest Violin: Holmes mouths off to Watson about the story being told by one of his fellow addicts like this:
    Holmes: I'm playing the violin again. The world's smallest.
  • Worthless Foreign Degree: In "Lesser Evils" Sherlock discovers that a hospital janitor was not only a surgeon back in Ukraine, but that he'd also graduated from one of the top medical schools in the country, which is no small feat anywhere. His accent is also very faint, and he's fluent in English. It's a little strange that he can't get a medical job in the States. On the other hand, it's implied that he was doing the same thing over in the Ukraine and was interrogated by the police there before coming to the States. Perhaps he chose not to pursue a medical career in the States so that they wouldn't see that.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • Le Chevalier, in "The Leviathan". Watson even mentions that "he has style".
    • The villains of "Snow Angels." Sherlock is so impressed with their plan to steal millions of dollars with no one ever knowing that he says he would be tempted to let them get away with it, if only they hadn't accidentally killed a man during step one.
    • Moriarty qualifies as one. Even Holmes calls her a nemesis.
    • Lucas, the serial killer from "On the Line". He manages to fool Holmes and Watson on several occasions and is so disgusting and dangerous that Holmes loses his control when confronting him.
  • Yandere:
    • "Possibility Two" features a geneticist discovering the "warrior gene" in people, causing sociopathy and violence. She is later murdered by her fiancé, who possesses this gene and stabs her because she was becoming distant and he suspected she was about to leave him.
    • In "Heroine" we see that Moriarty is definitely one for Sherlock.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Happens in quite a few cases. It became a plot point in "While You Were Sleeping" since the father was revealed to have two illegitimate children who were killed by one of his daughters who didn't want to share his money. In "Child Predator", while the father left the house to see his former mistress, his daughter was kidnapped.
  • You Have 48 Hours: In "Paint It Black" this is how long that French criminal group Le Millieu, which has kidnapped Watson, gives Sherlock and Mycroft to find fugitive banker Pierce Norman.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In "Paint It Black" after Joan tried her best, under her condition of being kidnapped and working in a backroom, to save a man in her kidnapper's employ (and the man's cousin no less). But because he was bleeding internally and this wasn't caught in the first surgery or some other complication developed, Joan pleads with her kidnapper to take him to a hospital. The man just shoots his cousin on the table. Later in the episode, Mycroft is trying to convince the Bigger Bad that he still of great utility for Le Millieu and that it would be a mistake to kill him and his friends but the mob boss orders all the witnesses killed anyway. This then turns into a inversion when it is revealed that Mycroft was actually working for British Intelligence and was asking the mob boss to reconsider because did not want to have to have to kill his very useful Le Millieu contacts in self-defense.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Sherlock advises Joan in "While You Were Sleeping" that she should take up her date's invitation to a second meeting because it would help her mood. He repeats it later on in "Step Nine" when he's convinced his brother has asked her out on a romantic evening. He hasn't, but she ends up sleeping with him anyway which only pisses Sherlock off.

GracelandBuddy Cop ShowHawaii Five-0
Basil of Baker StreetFranchise/Sherlock HolmesEnola Holmes
Eight Is EnoughDramedyEli Stone
The Edge of NightCreator/CBSThe Equalizer
Duck DynastySeries of the 2010sEmily Owens, M.D.
The Doctor Blake MysteriesCrimeAndPunishmentSeries/Detective DramaThe Eligible Bachelor
The Electric CompanyAmerican SeriesEli Stone

alternative title(s): Elementary
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