Series / Sherlock

"There is a last refuge for the desperate, the unloved, the persecuted. There is a final court of appeal for everyone. When life gets too strange, too impossible, too frightening, there is always one last hope. When all else fails, there are two men sitting arguing in a scruffy flat like they've always been there, and they always will. The best and wisest men I have ever known. My Baker Street boys: Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson."
Mary Watson

A modern-day version of Sherlock Holmes (2010-present), produced in ninety-minute format for BBC TV for three episodes a season. Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) solves crimes through sheer intellect and his Sherlock Scan, but is a (self-proclaimed) "high-functioning sociopath" barely kept in check by his friend Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) as he's called upon for the more baffling cases. The series incorporates 21st-century forensics technology, computers, smartphones, and Google searches; at the same time, it's very faithful to the original tales in style and content.

A special episode aired in Britain on New Year's Day 2016, taking the characters back to the original Sherlock Holmes setting of the Victorian era. Though initially presented as an "alternative" to the modern version, things soon get stranger.

A similar concept to Jekyll, another Steven Moffat-produced television series based around setting a classic Victorian story in the 21st century. Not to be confused with Elementary, the American Sherlock Holmes show also set in modern times but otherwise completely different in premise and episodic structure. Has an official manga adaptation, of all things.

For tropes used in specific episodes, see the episode recaps. For tropes relating to specific characters, see the character page.

This series contains recurring examples of:

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     A - E 
  • Accidental Misnaming: A Running Gag from series 2 onwards is Sherlock always getting Lestrade's first name (Greg) wrong. It's not until "The Final Problem" that he finally gets it right.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • In the books, Holmes is a tall scarecrow of a man with a beak of a nose. Doyle often complained that most illustrations of Holmes at the time made him too handsome. In the show, he's played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who has something of a female following (and indeed something of a male following). John expresses irritation that Sherlock cuts such a striking figure, what with his collar and cheekbones.
      • In the books, he's also described as having a high-pitched voice, while Benedict Cumberbatch possesses the Badass Baritone mentioned below.
    • Also, John's played by Martin Freeman.
    • James Moriarty, an elderly, imposing, bookish math professor in the books, is re-imagined as a young, suave, snappy-dressing career criminal, who's about as Tall, Dark and Handsome as Cumberbatch. And also Ambiguously Gay.
    • Mycroft isn't exactly handsome, but is far less slovenly than generally depicted. Because Society Marches On, he's shed most of the extra weight he carries in other adaptations.
      • And yet his "needing to go on a diet" is still a Running Gag. Sherlock even mocks his attempts to exercise in "The Sign of Three", despite the fact Mycroft isn't in dire need of it anyway.
      • In The Abominable Bride, Victorian-era Mycroft is morbidly obese to the point of having a few years to live.
  • Adaptational Badass: Irene Adler originally only wanted to be left alone with her new husband. Here, with a little help from Moriarty, she almost brings the British government and Royal Family to their knees.
    • Mary Morstan. In the books a mere governess. Here a former CIA assassin.
  • Adaptational Nationality: The British Charles Augustus Milverton in the books becomes the Danish Charles Augustus Magnussen in the third season.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Moriarty strapped one of his bombs onto a little boy and forced him to count down from ten to his own demise.
    • And again in "The Reichenbach Fall", where two children are kidnapped and locked in a dark factory where they will starve to death unless they eat the mercury-laced chocolates he left them.
  • Aerith and Bob: Sherlock and John.
    • And, as revealed at the end of s3, the Holmes boys: Mycroft and William.
  • Alliterative Name: Mary Morstan. Bonus points for her actress, Amanda Abbington, also having one.
  • Almighty Janitor: Mycroft claims to only occupy a minor position in the British Government, but more than one character has claimed he is the most powerful man in London.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Sherlock and the serial killer in "A Study in Pink," but he does this deliberately in order to find out how the person killed their victims.
    • John with Eurus in "The Lying Detective." As Sherlock finds the clue on the note left in his flat by "Faith," John realizes with a shock that his therapist is actually an impostor, too late for him to do anything but sit and watch as she locks the doors on him.
  • Alphabet News Network: CAM Global News, owned by season three antagonist Charles Augustus Magnussen.
  • Always Someone Better: Mycroft to Sherlock. Fully shown in "The Empty Hearse" when they compete at a game of deductive reasoning and not only does Mycroft keep up, he corrects Sherlock on some specifics, which annoyed him to no end. Sherlock apparently only has the edge when it comes to more forensic deduction, as he better understands how criminals think.
    • And Eurus to both of them, as she is able to outwit both of them despite their intelligence and connections.
  • Ambiguous Disorder:
    • Most notable with Sherlock himself, who self-diagnoses as a "high-functioning sociopath", which he may or may not be. His symptoms closely resemble Asperger's or another autism disorder, which was explicitly mentioned as a possibility in "Hounds of Baskerville".
    • Jim Moriarty has some hints of this as well. He's obviously batshit insane, but doesn't have any symptoms that point towards any specific mental illness.
  • Anachronistic Clue: The episode "The Great Game" features a forged painting of a night scene, where one of the stars in the sky is a star that only became visible to the naked eye when it went nova, after the painting was supposedly finished.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The end of "The Final Problem." John and Sherlock rebuild 221B Baker Street, and the last shot is of them running towards yet another mystery.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Twice in "The Empty Hearse". When John looks up Mrs Hudson after 2 years, she doesn't look very happy to see him and proceeds to slam cookies, cups, and a teapot onto the table, until she reveals that she was worried about John, who dropped completely out of contact. Later, when Sherlock searches out John, John takes it rather badly and proceeds to first strangle, then punch, and finally headbutt Sherlock as they get successively kicked out of a restaurant, a cafe, and a diner. Granted, Sherlock was being his usual self, but John's lack of restraint suggests great provocation (since he's only physically attacked Sherlock, who punched him first, and the Chief Superintendent, who dissed them both).
    • Occurs again with John and Molly in "His Last Vow" after Sherlock tests positive for drugs and think he's relapsed.
  • Answer Cut: In yet another situation where John ends up being the butt of a joke.
    Sherlock: I'm putting my best man on to it, right now.
    John: Right. Good. ...Who is that?
  • Anti-Hero: Sherlock; lampshaded several times. Apparently Sherlock likes to use season finales to remind people of this.
    • In "The Great Game":
    Sherlock: Don't make people into heroes, John. Heroes don't exist, and if they did, I wouldn't be one of them.
    • In "The Reichenbach Fall":
    Sherlock: I may be on the side of the angels, but don't think for one second that I am one of them.
    • In "His Last Vow":
    Sherlock: Oh, do your research! I'm not a hero, I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Merry Christmas! *shoots Magnussen*
  • Arc Symbol: Deep water, from the pool in series 1 to the Reichenbach Falls in the Christmas special to the well in "The Final Problem".
  • Arc Words: A few times, both for individual episodes and for certain seasons:
    • "I am —— Locked" (Irene's password screen on her phone) for "A Scandal in Belgravia".
    • "Liberty In" and "Hound" for "The Hounds of Baskerville".
    • "I.O.U./I owe you" and "the final problem" for "The Reichenbach Fall".
    • "Stayin' Alive" (Moriarty's ringtone) serves as this for Series 2 in general.
    • "Redbeard" (Sherlock's old dog) for Series 3.
    • "AMMO" for "The Six Thatchers".
    • One that spans across multiple seasons, starting from the end of "His Last Vow" in Series 3 and continuing through the Special and throughout Series 4: "Miss me?"
  • Artistic License – Astronomy: The Van Buren Supernova is completely fictional. There is no supernova whose light reached the Earth in 1858 and was visible to the naked eye (at least not in this universe).
    • Also, in the same episode, Sherlock and John look up at a sky that one would only see in the very best viewing conditions (like in a park on a clear night out in the middle of nowhere)—certainly not in the downtown area of modern, light-polluted London.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Every scene where Sherlock holds a gun during the "Great Game" episode. Though that could just be Sherlock not really giving a damn, or rattled after his meeting with Moriarty.
    • He displays similar traits in "A Scandal in Belgravia". Irene, by contrast, displays scrupulously-correct gun safety, keeping her finger off the trigger even while she's pointing the gun at someone.
    • Sherlock fires a handgun into his apartment wall with no hearing protection. Doing that in the real world would easily lead to a ruptured eardrum, especially after repeat shots - not to mention the risks this brings to whatever's on the other side of the wall.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: In the pilot, Sherlock smacks a morgue cadaver with a riding crop to test the bruise patterns, claiming "a man's alibi may depend on it". As a detective who primarily investigates homicides, Sherlock should know that bruises don't form after death note .
    • Bruises form from tiny blood vessels bursting and being trapped under the skin. Post-mortem bruising is entirely possible, especially recently following death; the bruises just wouldn't look quite like bruises on living people.
  • Artistic License – Law: Sherlock and Watson would be in serious, serious trouble for keeping and carrying loaded handguns on them like that. Watson retains his Army-issued L106 pistol, which is very, very illegal for civilians and ex-military to own. This was likely overlooked simply due to how the characters carried guns in the original stories, which pre-date modern British firearms restrictions.
    • In 'The Lying Detective' the recording Sherlock made of Culverton Smith attempting to murder him is called 'inadmissible' and 'entrapment.' That is not how entrapment works! Entrapment is specifically when a law enforcement officer induces another person into committing a crime when they would have been unlikely to do so. Sherlock is not a police officer, and the conversation with Smith is not enough to count as provocation. Smith made the conscious choice to attempt to murder Sherlock, and the tape proves it.
  • Ascended Extra: Molly goes from That Girl at the Morgue (not a promising start for a character) in the first episode, to being invited to Sherlock's Christmas party in the next series, to having some involvement in faking his death in "The Reichenbach Fall". In season 3, as thanks for her help in "The Reichenbach Fall", Sherlock even asks her to be his assistant for a day, a role previously fulfilled by John.
  • As Himself: Derren Brown, the famous British magician and hypnotist, shows up at the beginning of season 3 to convince Watson that Holmes is really dead using his famous techniques. Or, at least, this is how Anderson imagines it.
  • Awesome by Analysis: C'mon, it's Sherlock Holmes. It's practically a given.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname:
    • Obviously, Sherlock Holmes, but also his actor, Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch. Just say it out loud.
    • Then there's his brother, Mycroft Holmes, and, possibly, Mycroft's PA, "Anthea", although in "A Study In Pink" she flat-out admits that this is not her name.
    • Carl Powers.
  • Badass Adorkable: John Watson as played by Martin Freeman with his Cuddly Jumpers.
  • Badass Baritone: Sherlock is a badass character with a deep voice courtesy of Benedict Cumberbatch.
  • Badass Bookworm: Sherlock, naturally. Dr. John Watson also qualifies, being a war veteran and crack shot. Mary too, as she was an assassin from the CIA.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: Mycroft Holmes is primarily a suit-wearing government agent, but he certainly is badass with his seemingly endless connections and a deductive ability on par with Sherlock's, being capable of going undercover in a foreign nation and learning a new language in a matter of hours.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Moriarty, which helps draw a sharp visual distinction between his scrubs-wearing false identity and the real Moriarty.
  • Badass Longcoat: See the photo up there? You know.
  • Bait and Switch: In "Sign of Three", Sherlock describes the most perfect Locked Room Mystery he is aware of and challenges the wedding guests to find the key detail of the story. The answer: John was more concerned with the condition of the victim (saving his life when everyone else nearby wrote him off as already dead) than with solving the mystery.
  • Bat Deduction: Reconstructed. Sherlock makes ridiculous and implausible leaps in logic, but only to the view of those around him — his mind just works so quickly that what seems a leap to everyone else is actually a precise series of steps undertaken with deductive reasoning. In "The Great Game," he's examining a corpse and suddenly cries "the painting is a fake!" He then explains that the state of the corpse's clothes suggests a uniform, which lead him to conclude the man was a security guard in a museum, and since a local museum is negotiating the sale of a very old painting, Holmes realizes the man must have known something that would jeopardize the sale and was killed to keep it quiet.
  • Batman Gambit: Several minor ones, but the big ones take place in "Reichenbach Fall". Moriarty's whole plan depended on Sherlock's tendency to always look for the most complicated, interesting solution. Sherlock's plan depended on Moriarty's need to win no matter what.
  • Battle of Wits: Well, when one's a psychopath and one's a "high-functioning sociopath"...
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Sherlock is prone to these to get himself into places he isn't supposed to be. The absolute apex has to be "The Hounds of Baskerville". Sherlock gets himself and John into a top secret military base using Mycroft's government ID, but it's John who pulls rank on the Corporal and uses his military background to deflect the soldier's suspicion.
  • Beneath Suspicion:
    • In one case, the murderer is a taxi driver. Sherlock even mentions that the killer has to be someone the victims trusted and who was in plain sight.
    Sherlock: All of his victims disappeared from busy streets, crowded places, but nobody saw them go. Think! Who do we trust, even though we don't know them? Who passes, unnoticed, wherever they go? Who hunts in the middle of a crowd?
    John: I dunno, who?
    Sherlock: ...I haven't the faintest. Hungry?
    • Averted in the pilot episode (which was reshot as "A Study in Pink"), where Sherlock instantly works out the killer's profession.
    • Sherlock, himself, in "The Empty Hearse" when he disguises himself as a waiter to reveal to John that he's not dead. He even lampshades it afterwards, commenting on tuxedos bringing distinction to friends and anonymity to waiters.
    • The photographer in "The Sign Of Three".
  • Berserk Button:
    • Sherlock claims to be a sociopath, but threatening his few friends will set him off spectacularly.
    • Although it doesn't quite reach Berserk levels, John really dislikes people questioning his sexuality.
    • Never, ever, be rude to, or lay a hand on, Mrs Hudson.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: John. He has killed people, and may well do the same to you if you threaten someone he cares about. See Good Is Not Soft.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Sherlock and John, though the former combines this with Beware the Silly Ones and the latter combines it with Beware the Nice Ones. Also: Mycroft. He may seem like a sedentary government agent type, but if you threaten his family or his country, he'll pull some strings to fuck you up. In making decisions, he appears even colder than Sherlock .
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Sherlock and Moriarty. Sherlock threw a captured CIA agent out of a window after beating him up for attacking Mrs Hudson. Moriarty straps bombs to people for a laugh.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Sherlock and Mycroft have this. Threaten one of them and you're screwed.
  • Big Bad
    • Series 1 and 2: James Moriarty He's the main one overall since he has posthumous plans too. Also a drug-fuelled hallucination of him is the main antagonist in the special The Abominable Bride.
    • Series 3: Charles Augustus Magnussen, a master blackmailer who watches the trio, Sherlock, Watson and Mary and in the finale uses information about one of their pasts to black mail them.
    • Series 4: Sherlock's secret sister, Eurus. After escaping from Sherrinford Asylum, she uses disguises and creates mind games for the duo. She once met Moriarty briefly, cooperating for his posthumous revenge.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • John in the climax of "A Study in Pink".
    • Sherlock in "The Blind Banker".
    • Sherlock again in "A Scandal in Belgravia", although this one is in an entirely mental/deductive way rather than the usual "swoop in and save you" way.
    • Lestrade in "The Hounds of Baskerville".
    • Sherlock and Mary in "The Empty Hearse".
  • Big Fancy House: Appledore, Magnussen's home in "His Last Vow".
    • Actually David McMurtry's Swinhay House, which is so flashy that the owner himself can't bear to live in it, instead renting it out year-round with the proceeds going to various charities.
  • Big "SHUT UP!":
    • Sherlock does this twice in "A Study In Pink" while trying to think.
    • John does this to Sherlock in "His Last Vow" after John asks if everyone he's known is a psychopath. Sherlock cuts in with a Blunt "Yes" and is about to go on. Cue this trope from a very angry John.
  • Bilingual Bonus: For "The Reichenbach Fall:" In German, "der Fall" can mean "the case", "the fall" as in "the downfall of a person" or "the fall" as in "falling down from the rooftop of a hospital". Also: "Rich Brook" is a literal English translation of "Reichenbach".
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • standing in for Apple's MobileMe service and as a pun on the iPhone.
    • The search engine of choice is "Quest Search", and the news website used is the even less imaginative "Online News".
    • Surprisingly averted in "The Hound of Baskerville" — the bartender tells the pub owner that they're out of "WKD", which is the actual brand-name of an alcoholic beverage.
  • Bookends:
    • Season 2 begins and ends with a confrontation between Sherlock and Moriarty where the Bee Gees plays.
    • Season 1 opens with John speaking to his therapist just before Sherlock enters his life, and Season 2 ends with John visiting her again, eighteen months after his last appointment, after Sherlock has apparently left his life.
    • The first episode of Season 1 and the last episode of Season 2 both deal with a man driving his victim to suicide after merely talking to them. Except that, in the second case, we learn that he's not quite dead, and talking to Sherlock wasn't enough—Moriarty also had to eat a bullet! Or at least, seemingly.
    • Sherlock's first case involves apparent suicides with no note. His last line in Season 2 is "This call is my note. That's what people do, right?"
    • The last lines of the first episode and last episode are “Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson”, where it is said by Mycroft and Mary Watson (albeit posthumously in a video message). It is immediately accompanied by a slow motion shot of the duo, where the former episode depicts them walking away from a solved mystery, while the latter has the two running towards a new one, and many more to come.
  • Boom, Headshot: In the climax of "His Last Vow", Sherlock kills Magnussen with a bullet to the head.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: One of Sherlock's minor specialties:
    • Sherlock does a dead-on impersonation of a metrosexual yuppie to fool a woman into thinking that he lived at a posh apartment complex and let him in.
    • And then again in the third episode, he abandons his usual upper-crust tones for a more cockney accent, pretending to be a grief-stricken friend of the departed, but intentionally getting things wrong. He knows that people will automatically contradict any mistakes made by a stranger pretending to be a friend or relative, which means that she'll expose things that she wouldn't if he was actually an old friend of her husband.
    • In "A Scandal in Belgravia," he changes his accent briefly again, taking leave of his brother and other government functionaries in a more common accent and slang ("Laters!") and later pretending to be a priest who has just been mugged.
    • Toward the end of "A Scandal in Belgravia," Sherlock briefly adopts an American drawl to mock a CIA agent.
    • Moriarty seems to be putting on a generic English accent in the scene in "The Great Game" where he meets Sherlock while pretending to be "Jim from I.T.", but then reverts back to the actor's natural Dublin for when he reveals himself.
    • He does it again in the "The Reichenbach Fall," switching from his Irish accent to an American one here and there, without much reason.
    • "Doncaster" in Baskerville.
    • Sherlock spoofs a generic French/Italian accent while attempting his big reveal with John in the restaurant scene in "The Empty Hearse."
  • British Brevity:
    • Three 90-minute episodes equals one season. The original plan was six 60-minute stories, of which "A Study in Pink" was filmed as the first episode. This turned into a 60-minute pilot instead, with the 90-minute version being substantially different. The unusual length of each episode makes their production more like a film than a TV series, so the production time is longer even though the total running time is shorter.
    • Each 3-episode season has a two-year gap before the next one. The increasing fame of the two lead actors means that this is not going to change in the near future.
    • Upon the announcement that Cumberbatch and Freeman had signed contracts to keep the show going for ten more years, the common joke among the fans was "Great, six more episodes!"
  • Buffy Speak: About as close as you are ever going to get, since this is Sherlock. But upon being given a cigarette: "Smoking indoors... isn't there one of those... law things?"
    • After John tries to sacrifice his life to save Sherlock's in their confrontation with Moriarty (even though it didn't work), Sherlock is so flustered that he's reduced to this after the confrontation ends.
    • When Sherlock gets drunk and performs his scan of the area all the items appear to him like this, including "Egg? Chair? Sitty thing?" and "Speaker high tech thing".
  • Bullet Time: Used in several episodes to show just how quickly Sherlock's brain works - in comparison to him, everybody else thinks in slow motion. Notably in "A Study In Pink," when he explains to John how he knew about Afghanistan or Harry, and in "A Scandal In Belgravia," when he decrypts the code. The starkest use occurs in the final episode of the third season, when Sherlock is shot, and three seconds is dragged out to fifteen minutes as Sherlock analyses the attack and his injuries to improve his survival odds.
  • Bullying a Dragon:
    • All Sherlock has to do is sniff Anderson and he is able to deduce Anderson is having an affair (which people will get divorced over) with a co-worker (which many places will fire employees over). He probably has similar ammo against most of the people he knows, and yet, he's still the freak.
    • It works both ways, however, since he arrogantly and blithely antagonises and embarrasses them despite the fact that they are police officers with, as shown in the first episode, the authority to raid his flat looking for drugs, among other things which could probably get him sent to prison for a good long while if they investigated him for it. This comes back to bite him in a big way in "The Reichenbach Fall", when Moriarty finds it very easy to convince the police Sherlock is a fraud and a criminal simply because, with the exception of Lestrade, they all hate him for how he's treated them.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Sherlock's behavior is very odd by most people's standards, but he's so good at what he does that most people put up with it.
  • Call Back:
    • John's psychosomatic limp returns for a few seconds at the end of "The Great Game" when the same leg buckles at the swimming pool.
    • And again, very slightly, affecting his stiff military bearing as he walks away from Sherlock's grave in "The Reichenbach Fall."
    • In "A Study In Pink," the murderer says he's able to get away with his crimes because no one ever pays attention to their cab driver. This comes back to bite Sherlock in "The Reichenbach Fall," when he gets in a cab and doesn't realize his driver is Moriarty.
    • A more generic case occurs with the theme of never looking at people past their occupation; John fails to recognise Sherlock when the latter disguises himself as a waiter while meeting John again after 2 years. Upon dropping the disguise Sherlock even lampshades the effect a tuxedo has in an establishment full of tuxedo-wearing waiters. Eurus Holmes also takes advantage of this in "The Lying Detective".
    • In "Scandal in Belgravia," Sherlock proclaims that "sex doesn't alarm [him]." Mycroft with "how would you know?" Later in "The Empty Hearse," Mycroft claims not to be lonely only for Sherlock to ask him how would he know that.
    • In "Scandal in Belgravia", Mycroft, after Sherlock has been taken in by Irene, refers to her as a "damsel in distress" and asks Sherlock if he's really that obvious. In "His Last Vow", Magnussen points out just how far Sherlock will go to protect John and calls him Sherlock's "damsel in distress."
    • Sherlock figures out where Irene keeps the incriminating photos in "Scandal" when John sets off the fire alarm and notes, "Amazing how fire exposes our priorities." Then in "The Empty Hearse" he immediately runs to save John from a bonfire and pulls him out of the fire with his bare hands. This is used by Magnusson to determine that John is one of Sherlock's pressure points.
    • Also in "Scandal," the Bolivian Army Ending from "The Great Game" is shown to end when Moriarty gets, as Sherlock puts it, "a better offer" for his and John's lives. Three episodes later, Sherlock reveals the sniper aiming at John during his rooftop confrontation with Moriarty also got a better offer, this time from Mycroft's people.
    • In "A Study in Pink", Sherlock gets John's sister's gender wrong. In "The Lying Detective", Eurus Holmes says the following to John:
    Eurus: Did it ever occur to you - even once - that Sherlock's secret brother might just be Sherlock's secret sister?
  • Canon Character All Along: Molly's colleague Jim at first seems like an ineffectual Straight Gay background character, until it's revealed that his last name is Moriarty.
  • Canon Foreigner: Anderson, Donovan, and Molly Hooper.
  • Carnival of Killers: Used a few times:
    • In "The Reichenbach Fall," a group of international assassins appear around Sherlock, although initially they appear to be keeping him alive. Ultimately, it is revealed they have been hired by Moriarty to kill Sherlock's friends if Sherlock refuses to kill himself.
    • The Chinese assassins in "The Blind Banker".
  • Cassandra Truth: In "The Empty Hearse", Sherlock reveals to Anderson the details of how he faked his death. Anderson, who has been obsessing with this for two years and has even formed a fan club and a number of his own theories (involving such things as Latex Perfection, bungee jumping, and Derren Brown), refuses to believe him. Then again, Sherlock could have made it up just for fun.
  • Cast Incest: In-Universe and Mentioned in John's blog post, The Aluminium Crutch, where Sherlock attends a play in which one actor was in love with his supporting actress, who played his sister, although she was dating someone else.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue:
    • Everybody involved in the last scene in "The Great Game". Most notably, of course, Sherlock and Moriarty, who have quite the civilised conversation and for a while almost forget about the bomb and the gun. Though, to be fair, John is the one who has enough gumption to crack an actual joke once he's free to use his own words. Even parroting Moriarty's, however, he does wind up with a slightly sarcastic tone of voice with "stop his heart".
    • Picked back up again at the beginning of "A Scandal in Belgravia." Played for Laughs with Moriarty mouthing "Sorry!" to Sherlock while on the phone; Sherlock, wrinkling his nose, mouths back "It's fine!"
  • Catch Phrase:
    • Sherlock:
      • "Obviously."
      • "Problem?"
      • "Dull."
      • Cases usually get one of two words: "Fun" or "Boring". He only takes the fun ones, if he can help it.
      • "Yep" or "Nope," with a distinct popping noise while enunciating the P.
      • "The game is on/ The game's afoot." Usually in joyous/boisterous tone when they're on their way to a new case.
    • John:
      • "It's fine. It's all fine."
      • John also has a tendency to say some variation of "I'm not gay", "I'm not his date", or "we're not together".
    • John and Sherlock have their own exchange that varies around Sherlock saying "Not good?", with John's reply being "Bit not good, yeah." Later on this develops into John simply saying Sherlock's name disapprovingly.
    • Irene Adler has two: "I know [someone with an important job]... or at least I know what he likes" and "Let's have dinner."
    • Mrs Hudson: "I'm your landlady, dear, not your housekeeper."
    • Although we only hear it once or twice, we are given the impression that "freak" is a typical nickname for Sherlock from Donovan/Anderson.
  • Celebrity Paradox: The series is set in a 21st century where the Sherlock Holmes stories were never written and never made their significant impact on popular culture.
    • This was actually something of a roadblock to filming the Baker Street scenes at the actual Baker Street, due to the plethora of Holmesian landmarks on the street today, leading the production to use North Gower Street to fill in instead.
    • A newspaper Easter Egg in "The Reichenbach Fall" reveals that Arthur Conan Doyle exists in the Sherlock universe as a well-known writer. Presumably this means that in-universe, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are hard at work on a modern-day version of George.
    • Mr. Spock from Star Trek is mentioned in the series, but in 2013 Benedict Cumberbatch had a major role in Star Trek Into Darkness. If Star Trek exists in the Sherlock universe, someone should probably notice that the bad guy of that movie looks a lot like the famous detective.
      • Not to mention Spock quotes Sherlock Holmes in one of the movies.
  • Character Blog: See Logging onto the Fourth Wall.
  • Character Development:
    • Sherlock becomes a little more empathetic in the course of Season 1, but his character development doesn't really kick into gear until Season 2, when he becomes more caring and begins to show some real vulnerability. Witness especially his Pet the Dog moment with Molly. Season 3 takes his development Up to Eleven when Sherlock shows real remorse for deceiving John and does his best to ensure his relationship with Mary is happy and stable. The Sherlock of "A Study in Pink" is much less mature than the Sherlock of "The Reichenbach Fall" but the Sherlock of "The Sign of Three" is a completely different person.
    • John becomes much more confident and functional over the course of Season 1 as he recovers from depression. By Season 2 he is capable of both holding down a day job and wrangling Sherlock during investigations, although his dating life remains a mess. In Season 3 he's processing in getting over Sherlock's death and has a girlfriend he's planning to propose to.
    • Mycroft reveals much more complexity in "A Scandal in Belgravia" after little more than a cameo appearance in the first series.
    • Molly gradually proves that her loyalty to Sherlock is more than just doormat adoration, culminating in "The Reichenbach Fall" when she helps Sherlock fake his suicide.
    • Mrs. Hudson demonstrates she's much tougher and more resourceful than she looks in "A Scandal in Belgravia".
  • Chekhov's Army: Sherlock's homeless network. Introduced in "The Great Game" and revealed in "The Empty Hearse" to not only have helped in keeping eyes on the "rats" that would lead him to the underground terrorist cell, but also revealed in the flashback at the end of the episode to have likely been responsible in helping Sherlock fake his death.
  • Chekhov's Gag: During a scene in "Scandal", there is a Cluedo board randomly pinned to the wall with a dagger, which goes completely unacknowledged. In the next episode, John and Sherlock have an argument about Cluedo, with John vehemently refusing to ever play the game with Sherlock again (because according to Sherlock, the only possible solution is for the victim to also be the killer and the rules are clearly wrong). John must have gotten a bit worked up last time they played...
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • John Watson's handgun, particularly in "A Study In Pink".
    • Also in "A Study in Pink", Sergeant Donovan explains why none of the police (except Lestrade) like Sherlock: they figure one day he's going to grow tired of solving murders and start committing them. In "The Reichenbach Fall", this suspicion contributes directly to Sherlock's downfall.
    • Another one from "A Study In Pink", John's cane. He uses it for his psychosomatic limp in this episode, then it comes back much later in "The Lying Detective". John leaves it in Sherlock's room when Culverton Smith confesses to the murders he committed, unaware that the cane has a recording device in it, which results in his arrest after he attempts to strangle Sherlock.
    • "The Hounds of Baskerville": The Grimpen Minefield, which is prominently introduced soon after Sherlock and John arrive on Dartmoor (like the original story's Grimpen Mire), then forgotten about until the climax, when Dr. Frankland runs into it trying to escape... with predictable results. There is a question as to whether he forgot it was there, or decided to take his chances, like the culprit in the original story.
    • "The Great Game" is neatly bookended by an inverted literal Chekov's gun. The episode opens with Sherlock shooting John's gun at the wall out of boredom, but ends with him pointing but not shooting it, which is fully followed through when he fails to ever shoot it during the opening to "A Scandal in Belgravia."
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Lestrade in "The Hounds of Baskerville."
    • Moriarty himself in "The Great Game".
    • Mrs. Hudson's Repairman in "The Reichenbach Fall".
    • Archie in "The Sign Of Three".
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Nearly inverted in "The Great Game": Sherlock's lack of knowledge about the solar system (because he doesn't consider it necessary) nearly causes him to lose the fourth "round" with Moriarty. It's only a convenient slideshow at the planetarium that clues him in on the answer he needs.
    • "A Scandal in Belgravia" makes Sherlock's sociopathy into a Chekhov's Skill — because it's the only advantage he has over Irene Adler when Love Is a Weakness.
  • The Chessmaster: Moriarty. Being Sherlock's greatest fan, he is able to predict his actions and exploit his curiosity.
    • Sherlock's sister, Eurus.
  • Chewing the Scenery: In "The Hounds Of Baskerville", John, unsurprisingly, does this in the lab when Sherlock finds him, with John having thought the hound was trapped in there with him.
    Sherlock: It's all right. It's OK now.
    John: NO, IT'S NOT! IT'S NOT OK! I saw it, I was wrong!
    • John gets a moment of this in "His Last Vow": "Why is everything always... MY FAULT?!" Not only due to Suddenly Shouting, but also because he kicks a table at the same time.
  • Chew Toy: Poor Molly. Sherlock really doesn't know when to stop. Sometimes he doesn't even realize he's started. Thankfully, though this trope is in full play for Series 1 and the beginning of Series 2, after Molly calls Sherlock out on an especially cruel instance in "Scandal", he apologizes and starts treating her better for the rest of the series.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: You know a situation is bad if Mycroft lights up. He gets concerned if Sherlock joins in.
  • Clothes Make the Legend: Sherlock's default attire is: dark suit, white shirt, black shoes, black trench coat, dark blue scarf. Sometimes when sitting around at home he will swap the coat for a dressing gown, and he wore a tux to John's wedding, but otherwise, that's it. Lampshaded in "The Empty Hearse" when Mycroft's assistant gives him these exact items after Mycroft rescues Sherlock from the Serbians. Sherlock asks for the coat specifically, and the dialogue implies that he feels incomplete without it.
    • In-universe, the deerstalker hat. Sherlock originally wears one as a disguise and is annoyed that it catches on; this causes Lestrade to choose this as the gift Scotland Yard gives Sherlock to thank him for solving a case. Of course, Sherlock is annoyed, but he seems to have accepted it by "The Empty Hearse", making a face before putting it on to go outside and greet the press.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: John and Mrs. Hudson for Sherlock.
  • Clue, Evidence, and a Smoking Gun:
    • In "The Great Game", Sherlock deduces that Molly's new boyfriend Jim is gay because of vague traces of make-up, subtle hints in his clothing, and slipping Sherlock his phone number.
    • Played with when Sherlock mentions that a prominent member of the Royal Family smokes. It's implicitly expected that he will go on a long diatribe about how he deduced the secret. Sherlock goes directly to the smoking gun by pointing out he simply noticed the ashtrays.
      • It's implied he wasn't even the one to notice the ashtrays at first, but John; he steals one later in the episode with the quip, "You see, but you do not observe."
    John: I am seriously fighting the impulse to steal an ashtray.
    • Also in "The Blind Banker", when Sherlock deduces that a banker he meets has circumnavigated the globe twice in the last month, an when asked how he knew that he says, "I was taking to your secretary before. She told me." It turns out he really had worked this one out because he saw the date on the banker's watch was two days out, implying that he had crossed the International Date Line twice, and was just screwing around.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • The entire exchange between Sherlock and Molly in "A Study in Pink" revolving around coffee and Sherlock noticing her lipstick (not because she looks nice, but because the lack of it "makes [her] mouth look smaller").
    • In "The Blind Banker", there's this dialogue after John gets caught with Raz's spraypaint bag:
    Sherlock Holmes: You've been a while.
    John Watson: Yeah, well, you know how it is — custody sergeants don't really like to be hurried, do they? Just... formalities: fingerprints, charge sheet... and I've got to be in Magistrates' Court on Tuesday.
    Sherlock Holmes: What?
    John Watson: Me, Sherlock, in court on Tuesday! They're giving me an ASBO!
    Sherlock Holmes: Good, fine.
  • Companion Cube:
    • Sherlock's skull, so much so that he apparently needs a replacement for it when Mrs Hudson takes it from him. It's John.
    • Mycroft is very rarely without his umbrella. It's got both a hidden blade and gun.
    • Irene's phone is her life.
  • Contrast Montage: Used in "A Scandal in Belgravia" to compare Sherlock and Irene. Thoroughly. First they see each other's pictures, then they prepare to meet each other, and when they finally end up in the same room one is dressed as a vicar, and the other is not dressed at all.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In "The Great Game", Sherlock rips John's clothes off in a darkened swimming poolnote , to which he responds, "I'm glad no one saw that. People might talk." In "The Reichenbach Fall", Sherlock asks John to take his hand while they're on the run.
      John: Now people will definitely talk.
    • In "A Study in Pink," Mycroft offers John a great deal of money to spy on Sherlock, yet he refuses. In "A Scandal in Belgravia," John asks whether Mycroft trusts his own Secret Service: "Naturally not. They all spy on people for money."
    • In "The Reichenbach Fall," John gets a call that Mrs. Hudson has been shot. Sherlock seems unconcerned to hear this and insists he'll stay where they are to work on the case. John, baffled, notes that Sherlock "once half-killed a man for laying a finger on her." (The event in question occurs in "A Scandal in Belgravia.")
  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs Hudson, full stop. She has to be one just to tolerate Sherlock, but getting one over on the CIA via Victoria's Secret Compartment? Sherlock puts it best: "Mrs Hudson, leave Baker Street? England would fall!"
  • Covert Distress Code: "Vatican cameos." John explains to Mary that it means "battle stations, someone's going to die."
  • Curse Cut Short:
    • John. Frequently. He gets in an epic one in "The Great Game":
    John: [Opens fridge innocently, sees human head, slams fridge door shut] Oh FFFFF—!
    • John also, in 'The Great Game', never quite finishes his reaction of "Aw sh-" when he realises he hasn't got his gun on him, when he and Sherlock go after the Golem.
    • In "The Hound of Baskerville," John cuts himself off before he can say "fuck" when things get weird in the lab.
    • In "The Empty Hearse," in response to Mrs. Hudson's question about how John responded to Sherlock, Sherlock says, "F—" before the shot cuts to John in the surgery asking a patient to, "Cough." (Possibly a subversion, in that we hear "F-ck off" through "F-Cough" — so, via clever clip cutting, he is actually swearing.)
  • Cypher Language:
    • The code from "The Blind Banker" is a simplified Ottendorf cipher using 2 numbers per word (page and line, first word) instead of 3 per letter (Page, Word, and letter).
    • The hidden messages on Sherlock's website, although the second — while being a grid cipher — can also be treated as an anagram. The third is a pigpen cipher. It spells out: "Sherlock I have found you".
    • A plot point in "The Reichenbach Fall". Nothing Moriarty could steal could ever be worth more than the key that lets him steal it. That is, if it existed.
  • Dating Catwoman: The entire point of Sherlock's tension with Irene Adler and vice-versa. He claims he's not interested in her because he's not interested in dating anyone; she claims she's not interested in him because she's gay. Their mutual fascination despite those facts becomes a massive plot point.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: Invoked by Sherlock when asked "why didn't they kill me?": "Dead men get listened to. They needed to completely discredit you."
  • Deadpan Snarker: All over the place.
    • Sherlock snarks often for someone who claims to be largely without emotions.
    • John, given the actor who plays him, is also a candidate, especially in his first meeting with Mycroft. See Hypocritical Humor.
    • Lestrade, Mycroft and some of the criminal fraternity also get in on the act. You might say the series is rife with Deadpan Snark.
    • While Sherlock probably snarks more often, John is certainly much more deadpan about it. It's sometimes hard to work out whether he's being deliberately snarky or not. A good example can be found in this exchange in his blog:
      Ooh! A new case!! So when do I get to come and visit?!?!
      Harry Watson 28 March 15:02
      Bit busy right now but I'm sure we'll do drinks soon.
      John Watson 28 March 15:05
    This is a perfectly civil, normal thing to say—except for the bit where Harry is his sister, by his own admission he's never gotten along with her, and she's a freaking alcoholic. Damn, John.
    • Also, this exchange:
      Sherlock: Punch me in the face.
      Watson: Sorry?
      Sherlock: Punch me in the face, didn't you hear me?
      Watson: I always hear "punch me in the face" when you speak, but it's usually subtext.
    • Mary Morstan, John's fiancee as of "The Empty Hearse."
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: It doesn't happen all at once, and he still has Jerk Ass moments, but over the first two seasons Sherlock's friendship with John helps him slowly learn to open up to the other people in his life. His priorities at the end of the second season are wildly different from those in the pilot, or even the end of the first season. Hiding out for two years, separated from all of his friends, seems to have softened him up even more; in the third season, Sherlock is willing to sacrifice his own happiness so John can be a decent husband and father. .
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host: One of these turns up in series 2. Jim Moriarty's cover identity as 'The Storyteller' includes kidnapping children and slowly poisoning them.
  • Destination Defenestration: Sherlock captures a CIA Mook who had attempted to beat Mrs. Hudson for information. He then calls Lestrade about having a break-in, and tells him to bring an ambulance because the man fell out of the window — and promptly throws the man out the window. Repeatedly.
    Lestrade: And exactly how many times did he fall out of a window?
    Sherlock Holmes: Oh, it's all a bit of a blur, detective inspector...I lost count.
  • Diagonal Billing: for Cumberbatch and Freeman.
  • Did You Actually Believe...?: Irene tries this speech on Sherlock when her plans with him are revealed, but Sherlock proves her interest was geniuine.
  • Discretion Shot: Every now and again, somebody will rile John enough for him to punch them, and hard. But this is invariably employed so that we never actually see him in the act.
  • Distracted by the Sexy:
    • What Sherlock lacks or hides, John makes up for in spades. Most clearly seen in "A Scandal In Belgravia".
    • Also in "The Hounds of Baskerville", John is reluctant to interview their client's therapist until Sherlock sends him a photo of her.
    John: (with characteristic deadpan snark) Oh, you're a bad man.
    • Irene Adler continuously with Sherlock, to the point where her phone password is revealed to be "I Am SHER Locked".
    • Sherlock seems to avert this during his first meeting with Irene Adler. It seems he's not even paying attention to it but then his normally flawless diction breaks down momentarily and he mumbles his next line when Irene says "brainy's the new sexy" (John's reaction emphasises how out of character this is). Also seems like he fumbles his sentence once Irene shows interest in John.
  • Dogged Nice Girl: Poor, poor Molly Hooper can't get over her attraction to Sherlock no matter how poorly he treats her. To be fair, even though Sherlock's not interested, he does start treating her better as the series goes on.
    • Dogged Nice Guy: Molly puts down Tom quite a lot in Season 3, though that may only be when Sherlock's around.
  • Dramatic Drop: Done as a Rule of Threes in "The Reichenbach Fall" when Moriarty breaks into the cabinet holding the Crown Jewels. First he takes out the CCTV cameras. The security guard monitoring them is holding a couple of coffee cups, which slop visibly as he quickly puts them down so as to call someone. Then Moriarty remotely opens the vault of the Bank of England; as the bank manager gapes at this impossibility, the cup he's holding tilts in his hand until it pours coffee into this lap. Finally someone bursts in on the Governor of Pentonville Prison to tell him that all the cells are unlocking. Cue the Governor knocking the coffee mug off his table as he leaps to his feet.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The one-hour pilot is very different from the full 90-minute first episode. Some examples:
    • 221B is an entirely different apartment.
    • Ms. Hudson acts and dresses more like a grandmother than a middle-aged woman
    • Lestrade is much more impatient and petulant
    • Donovan is a Police Constable in uniform, not a detective, and more concerned for John than snarky
    • Anderson has a goofy beard
    • Mycroft doesn't even show up.
    • Sherlock is a little less refined - he speaks much slower during his deductions, and it seems Cumberbatch hadn't quite got hold of exactly how friendly he wanted Sherlock to be. Sometimes he comes across as more human than usual, sometimes a lot less so.
    • John seems to be a bit more open with his emotions in the pilot compared to the aired series. He smiles more, and also has a more open snarky attitude (His "Because we are idiots" comment in the restaurant, for instance). In the aired episode, John comes across as more subdued, passive and depressed.
    • The pilot doesn't have the super creative, lightning-fast montage style of cinematography the later episodes would adopt. It also lacks the superimposed text messages.
    • In the pilot, Sherlock has his iconic scarf and Badass Longcoat, but lacks the elegantly simple suits of the proper episodes.
  • Embarrassing Ringtone: In "A Scandal in Belgravia", Irene Adler replaces Sherlock's ringtone with the sound of her orgasmic groaning.
    • Moriarty's Staying Alive ringtone also qualifies. It's hard to be menacing with The Bee Gees providing a bouncy little riff.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: Sherlock's lack of emotion (and also that of his brother, Mycroft) is often shown in comparison the the more emotional John. Whilst Sherlock's lack of emotion helps him to solve crimes, it doesn't always endear him to people.
  • Engineered Public Confession: In "His Last Vow", Sherlock's meeting with Mary at Leinster Gardens is revealed to be one. Sherlock tricks Mary into revealing details about her past as an assassin in front of John, with Mary saying she doesn't want John to find out. As you might expect, she gets an Oh, Crap! when Sherlock reveals the ruse and that John heard the whole thing.
    • In "The Final Problem", Eurus forces Sherlock to get Molly to say 'I love you' to him, otherwise she will bomb Molly's flat in three minutes - and he can't imply that anything is out of the ordinary. Molly thinks that he's making fun of her, but eventually says it after she gets Sherlock to say it first.
  • Epic Hail: In "Scandal", Sherlock considers firing a gun into the air a perfectly reasonable method of summoning police.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Done to present each character in a way suitable to his or her personality.
    • John is shown to wake up from a rather violent dream about the war, before starting to cry. Everything about his introduction — the barren apartment, his cane, the empty blog — just screams loneliness. There's also the fact that John keeps a gun in his drawer, meaning either he's paranoid or (as it turns out) he misses the action.
      • John's suffering from major depression. The most likely explanation for the gun is that gives him the option of a quick & certain death.
    • Sherlock is first seen peering into a body bag at the morgue. He then proceeds to beat the body with a riding crop, rather... passionately.
      Sherlock: How fresh?
    • Mycroft gets a bait-and-switch moment when he kidnaps John and meets with him in a shady-looking warehouse, then refers to himself as Sherlock's "archenemy". The knowledgeable viewer assumes he's Moriarty, before finding out he's Sherlock's brother.
    • Molly Hooper's first appearance consisted of her awkwardly attempting to ask Sherlock on a date, only to be completely misunderstood and dismissed.
    • Lestrade walks into Sherlock's flat asking for his help on a case and admitting he doesn't want to ask, but he needs Sherlock.
    • Irene Adler. The very first shot is of the infamous phone in her hand; she has blood-red, claw-like fingernails and is wearing a sheer black lace body-suit and thong. With a whip in her hand, she goes into a bedroom where a young woman is apparently tied up on the bed and asks "Well then, have you been wicked, your highness?" It's the most concise introduction to a character in the whole series. (Yet.)
    • Moriarty's introduction.
      Sherlock: People have died!
    • Mary Morstan's line to John in the cab after leaving Sherlock at the curb the day he reveals he's alive, notable because of the contrast it provides to John's previous girlfriends:
      Mary: (grinning smugly) I like him.
      • Even before that, she actually cracks a smile when Sherlock jokes about John keeping his mustache at dinner... right after revealing he's been alive for the past 2 years.
  • Even Evil Can Be Loved: Sherlock and Mycroft's sister, Eurus Holmes. Despite being the Big Bad of series 4 and a Psychopathic Manchild, Sherlock, Mycroft and their parents still love her.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Jeff Hope in "A Study In Pink", who has his son and daughter he is trying to provide more money for after his death.
    • In "The Sign Of Three", Jonathan Small has, or did have, his brother, Peter, who was a soldier killed in the excursion Sholto led. Peter's death was the reason Jonathan's plot to kill Sholto went ahead in the first place.
    • In "The Lying Detective", Culverton Smith has his daughter, Faith, who comes to Sherlock at the start of the episode for help. Except she doesn't.
    • In "The Final Problem", Eurus Holmes has, of course, Mycroft, Sherlock and their parents. In this case, Even Evil Can Be Loved applies, too.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Sherlock, of course. And also the lesbians.
    John Watson: For the record, if anyone out there still cares, I'm not actually gay.
    Irene Adler: Well, I am. And yet, look at us both.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: Justified in case of John, as he could have been trained in it in the Army. However, it turns out to be a Red Herring, as the flashes were cause by a guy's belt being caught on the switch in his car, as he's having sex with a girl.
    • Although it's not really pointed at all, when John appears beside the swimming pool in an explosive vest he was forced to wear by Moriarty, he seems to be blinking SOS.
  • Everything Is Online:
    • Subverted in "The Reichenbach Fall", in which Moriarty's big bluff is that his crimes involve hacking and cracking, exploiting this trope. In fact they simply rely on accomplices with inside access.
    • Sherlock also doesn't catch on that Moriarty is lying when the latter starts going on about having access to nukes all over the world thanks to his code. Probably his lack of knowledge about non-crime things.
    • Played straight in "His Last Vow"; Magnussen keeps everything in hard copy as computers can always be hacked... except, no, they cannot be hacked if they're offline (granted, the computers could crash).
      • Then taken Up to Eleven in that hard copies and offline computers can be taken or destroyed, he actually keeps all his files in his mind.
  • Evil Gloating: Culverton Smith does this to Sherlock in "The Lying Detective", confessing to his murders before attempting to kill him, thinking no one will ever know because he checked for recording devices in the room first. He gave up after three, not knowing until Sherlock told him afterwards that John's cane also had a recording device in it.
  • Evil Plan: The entirety of "The Great Game". Every case Sherlock has to solve ends up having been orchestrated by Moriarty, looking for a fun challenge. It's implied that he, as a consulting criminal, has been arranging a vast array of crimes all over the place. Subverted in that the whole thing was to distract Sherlock from the plans. Revealed that the plans were a MacGuffin, and double-subverted, when Moriarty tosses them away.
  • Evolving Credits: The opening titles will always open with the aerial shot of London featuring Piccadilly Circus and the London Eye, followed by a shuffling of scenes you can expect to see that season, ending with a microscopic view of a dropper spilling solution on a blood-stain, then zooming into it.
    • The credits for the 2016 New Year Special plays with this further by featuring vintage film of 19th century London (showing the same sites above, only period-appropriate), flashing silhouettes of Holmes and Watson (like you would normally see in leather-bound editions of the Conan Doyle stories), closing in on the header of The Strand Magazine, as well as rendering the opening theme tune entirely in acoustic strings and woodwinds.
  • Extreme Melee Revenge: In "A Scandal In Belgravia" after Neilson leads CIA agents to intterogate Mrs Hudson to find out where Irene's phone is, Sherlock exerts this, throwing the man out of a window so many times he lost count.

    F - L 
  • Face Palm:
    • John in Episode 3, after finding a head inside the fridge.
    • John again, during the intensely awkward meeting between Molly, Sherlock and Jim at the beginning of "The Great Game." Molly is trying to provoke Sherlock to jealousy, Jim is unashamedly fawning over Sherlock while tripping over his own feet, Sherlock is being outrageously rude to both of them, and everyone is ignoring John. Good times.
    • Lestrade gives us a classic double facepalm in "The Reichenbach Fall", when Sherlock and John go on the lam.
  • Fake Guest Star: Rupert Graves (Lestrade), Una Stubbs (Mrs. Hudson) and Mark Gatiss (Mycroft) each appear in every episode of the second and third series, but only Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are allowed to have their names in the opening titles.
  • Faking the Dead:
    • Irene Adler. Even subverts the usual tropes by providing a body. And then she does it again at the end of the episode, with Sherlock's help, and is so convincing that even Mycroft buys it.
    • "The Reichenbach Fall" Sherlock himself manages to do it by throwing himself off a building yet turning up alive at the end of the episode. In the next episode, "The Empty Hearse," Anderson suggests that Sherlock used a bungee cord to slow his descent, and had Moriarty's body fitted with a mask to look like him; a fangirl suggests that Sherlock threw a dummy off the roof to fake their deaths and be with each other; and Sherlock himself states that he landed on an air cushion, had Mycroft block off the streets except to Sherlock's informants, and left behind the body of the kidnapper who resembled him that he had Molly find from the morgue. Word of God here says Sherlock's explanation was the correct one.
  • Failed a Spot Check: In the last scene of "The Reichenbach Fall" Sherlock is standing right in the open, in his trademark outfit, with clear lines of sight when his friends are visiting "his" grave.
  • Famed In-Story: Sherlock eventually becomes this. John lampshades it.
  • Famous-Named Foreigner: Czech Miss Wenceslas, presumably named for Wenceslaus of Bohemia. Unfortunately, this also violates Czech naming conventions, as that name would be Václav in Czech, would be exclusively male, and would only be used as a first name.
  • Fanservice:
    • "A Scandal in Belgravia" might as well be called "Fanservice: The Episode" as it includes Sherlock naked, Irene naked, and some Absolute Cleavage thrown in to boot.
    • A lot of fans have noted that Sherlock's shirts are always very tight.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Moriarty.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Sherlock and John. They spend most of "A Study in Pink" being pretty standoffish, but once the case has been solved they're chatting and joking like old friends.
  • First-Name Basis: As part of the setting update, the men who would have been almost exclusively called Holmes and Watson in their original incarnations are now called Sherlock and John. Oh, and Jim.
  • Five-Man Band: The True Companions of the show (and Mycroft) actually fit this quite well:
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Zig-zagged. Aloof Big Brother Mycroft has a stable career in politics, maintains reasonable social skills (read: knows how to influence and manipulate people), remains calm and more or less rational in the face of argument, and insists that he merely wants to help and protect his brother while Sherlock is perpetuating a 'childish feud' between them. Sherlock has a much more unstable career as a consulting detective, displays almost No Social Skills at times, flares up in anger more often than Mycroft, not infrequently acts in a rash and reckless manner, and indulges in various types of childlike behaviour, such as using his powers of observation to embarrass police officers and insult John's girlfriends. However, Sherlock also manages to create and maintain several more or less good relationships with people (John, Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade, Molly) and learns to value them, keeps his career successful enough to pay the rent (although John's blog and Mrs. Hudson's leniency probably help), and is clear-headed enough to keep his cool in dangerous and difficult situations and therefore get himself and others out of them. Mycroft, on the other hand, is less energetic, seems to have zero personal life, and is practically an Overprotective Dad to Sherlock by trying to monitor him with security people, while at the same time managing to put his brother in danger by making a couple of massive screw-ups. So while it's clear that Mycroft thinks he's the Responsible Sibling of the two, they end up on more or less even footing, with Sherlock at perhaps only a slight disadvantage due to his risky behaviour and all the people he gleefully pisses off.
  • Footnote Fever / Fun with Subtitles: The visible text messages and emails. The creators have noted this is a handy way to avoid clogging the show up with shots of peoples' phones.
  • Foregone Conclusion: As anyone remotely familiar with Holmes canon is well aware, John and Sherlock will be reunited after the events of "The Reichenbach Fall".
  • Foreign Money Is Proof of Guilt: Justified. Sherlock suspects a car dealer of having lied about travelling overseas. He sneaks a peek in the man's wallet and sees a Colombian banknote, the final clue he needs to solve the case.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In "A Scandal in Belgravia", Mycroft comments that it would take nothing less than Sherlock's expertise to convince him that Irene Adler is not Faking the Dead. This provides an allusion towards the ending, in which they think she really is dead this time, yet The Stinger shows Sherlock rescuing her from her executioners.
    • "The Hounds of Baskerville" has heaps of it for "The Reichenbach Fall". This line in particular becomes exceptionally chilling on a rewatch:
    Henry (to Dr. Frankland: Why didn't you just kill me?!
    Sherlock: Because dead men get listened to! He needed to do more than kill you! He had to discredit every word you ever said...
    • These two lines:
    The cabbie: "I'm not going to kill you, Mr. Holmes. I'm going to talk to you, and you're going to kill yourself."
    Sally: "One day we're going to stand around a body and Sherlock Holmes is the one who put it there."
    • Also from "A Study In Pink", Sherlock talking about how no one ever pays attention to the cab driver. It takes on a whole new meaning in "The Reichenbach Fall", when Moriarty drives Sherlock around in a cab for several minutes without Sherlock realizing. And in a similar flat cap as well.
    • In "The Sign of Three": a rather sad one. Mrs. Hudson tells Sherlock of how marriage led to the decline in her friendship with her best friend — she comments particularly on how that friend spent the whole evening in tears and left early. Sherlock doesn't do tears...but he spends most of the episode torn up over how his relationship with John looks set to weaken, if not disappear entirely. And he does leave John's wedding early. Alone.
    • In the opening for Season 2, you can see Sherlock on the roof of St. Bart's.
    • Another from "A Study in Pink": Sherlock gets Watson's sister's gender wrong, as he fails to consider that his sibling may be female. In Series 4, John doesn't suspect that Sherlock's other sibling is be a sister.
  • Friendly Enemy: Moriarty and Sherlock. Each has the other in their line of sight, ready to kill each other, when Moriarty asks to answer his phone. While he's talking, we get this gem:
    Moriarty: (mouths) Sorry!
    Sherlock: (mouths) It's fine!
  • Friend to All Children: Averted in "A Scandal In Belgravia" when Sherlock tells two girls that people are "taken to a special room and burned" when they die. Played straight in "The Sign Of Three", when Sherlock persuades Archie to become a pageboy by promising him pictures of beheadings if he does the job well. Archie even hugs Sherlock at the reception.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: For a few seconds, you can see Sherlock standing on the roof of St. Bart's hospital, a small tease for the shocking finale of Season 2.
    • In the very final moments of The Blind Banker, Connie Prince note  can be glimpsed on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph that Sherlock is reading.
    • There are several newspapers shown throughout the series, each with relevant articles in them. The most hilarious are the article revealing why Sherlock was kicked out of the courtroom in Reichenbach Fall and the various newspapers Janine brings to the hospital in His Last Vow.
    • As Sherlock is first making his escape from the police in "The Reichenbach Fall", a stylized "IOU" can be glimpsed spray-painted on the wall behind him.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Mrs Hudson is apparently letting Sherlock and John rent 221B at a discount as a favour to Sherlock. Since Mrs Hudson lives alone in 221A and cannot rent out 221C because of the damp, one wonders how she can afford to pay the dues on what is clearly expensive prime London real-estate when her only tenants are strongly suggested to be getting an audaciously cheap ride of it. It's worth noting that Sherlock's bedroom is roughly the size of an Olympic stadium.note  As of s3 we have a much better idea of how she affords this. note 
  • Gas Leak Cover Up: Played with, as the explosion that tore through Baker Street in "The Great Game" is initially thought to be a gas leak, but was later discovered to be a bombing made to look like one.
  • Gambit Roulette
    • An interesting justified version happened in the first episode, where the murder victim used Gambit Roulette to lay out a trail of clues to help the police identify her killer. Yes, it was a roulette, but considering that she had to concoct and execute this plan within the last hour or so of her life while under the watchful eyes of her killer, it makes sense that it wasn't planned out better.
    • A lot of Moriarty's plans depend on this. The second series finale is the best example, with many elements apparently coming down to luck, and absolutely hinging on the police being incredibly stupid.
    • Sherlock manages this in "The Lying Detective", which relies on an old drug addiction coming back and a whole array of Batman Gambits in which everyone had to react as he anticipated within a span of two weeks, all to catch a serial killer with good publicity. If that's not improbable, even Sherlock doesn't know what is.
    • This trope is taken to absurd levels in "The Final Problem" as we learn about the master plan of Eurus.
      • Her plan to destroy Sherlock is critically dependent on help from Moriarty. In order to meet Jim, Eurus needs to convince Mycroft to arrange a meeting for the two evil geniuses. This part of the plan requires Mycroft, who is phenomenally smart and is deeply caring about Sherlock, to act very dumb for no good reason and to allow an unsupervised meeting between two extremely dangerously psychotic and intelligent criminals, who are not hiding their intentions to harm his brother. If Mycroft refused, she would've lost her only chance to do anything outside her prison cell for the rest of her life. This highly improbable scenario works in the actual episode because plot needs to move.
      • Ironically, one of the largest gambles and risks for her plan was highly unpredictable and unreliable Moriarty himself. In "The Reichenbach Fall" Moriarty went full force against Sherlock and was willing to see his nemesis die, which, for obvious reasons, could cancel out plan of Eurus entirely. She also needed Moriarty to die himself and get out of the picture with absolutely no guarantees that any of these events would happen as predicted. In fact, Moriarty seemed content with continuing his games with "ordinary" people. Her whole plan hinged on highly specific outcomes, typical of any Gambit Roulette plans, while for Moriarty postmortem game was just an entertaining alternative option in his grandiose Xanatos Gambit.
      • Eurus had to be able to somehow discretely and completely brainwash all the prison staff without Mycroft or any other top government agent noticing; hope that Sherlock survives dismantling Moriarty’s network; hope that he survives a terror attack plot; hope that his confrontation with extremely dangerous Magnussen would not end with Sherlock being destroyed; hack the telecommunication system of Great Britain to distribute Moriarty’s message at the perfectly calculated time without anyone noticing; leave prison; reconstruct Musgrave estate without Mycroft noticing; seduce John “the Family Man” Watson and hope again that Sherlock would not see through her disguise as Culverton Smith’s daughter. In each instance chance of failure was as high as it gets with her plan critically requiring British authorities, as well as her supergenius brothers, to be extremely incompetent for no reason whatsoever.
      • In "The Final Problem" itself her plan required Sherlock, John and Mycroft to survive a grenade explosion at close range and infiltrate the highest security island prison with a very high chance of someone being killed or arrested in the process. In the prison, her whole plan hinges entirely on Sherlock, master of Sherlock Scan, not noticing the lack of glass. Later trials absolutely required her brothers to suddenly get dumbed down and play by her rules without any improvisations or creative solutions or even recognizing Eurus as little girl impersonator. Of course her initial plan does fall apart the moment Sherlock just ignores her rules.
  • Geek Physique: Sherlock.
    • In the pilot, John discovers during the dinner stakeout that Sherlock does not eat when he's on the job and the pilot ends with him getting Sherlock to eat an actual meal.
    • In "The Blind Banker", Sherlock tells Molly he doesn't eat when he's working, as digestion only slows him down.
    • Cumberbatch appears to have put on those same few pounds he lost for the role between seasons to represent the fact that Sherlock now has a live-in physician. It also seems to track with the character becoming a bit warmer and more human-like, so the trope is currently being employed in reverse.
    • Then in series 3, Sherlock seems to have gone back to more of a Geek Physique again after his two years away - contrast the shirtless scene in "A Scandal in Belgravia" with the hospital scenes in "His Last Vow".
  • Genius Thriller: It's an adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, one of the Ur Examples.
  • Genre Savvy: Moriarty is able to get one over on Sherlock largely by being more Genre Savvy than him.
    • Culverton Smith has a moment of this in "The Lying Detective", where he goes through Sherlock's room for recording devices before confessing to the murders he committed. Too bad he didn't think to try John's cane as well, as that had a recording device in it that recorded the whole thing.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Mycroft. Sherlock's more of the Tall, Dark and Snarky type.
    Might we expect a happy announcement by the end of the week?
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: A staple of Steven Moffat.
    • One of Irene's texts to Sherlock in "A Scandal In Belgravia": "I'm not hungry. Let's have dinner."
    • John is pissed off at Sherlock. Mrs. Hudson tells Sherlock to call John, but Sherlock says he already tried.
    Mrs. Hudson: What did he say?
    Sherlock: F—
    [Cut to John giving a prostate exam]
    John: Cough.
  • Gibberish of Love: Sherlock does this when Irene says brainy is the new sexy. John's face after Sherlock's verbal keyboardsmash is priceless.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    • From "The Blind Banker":
    Sherlock: Where are you taking her?
    John: Uh, cinema.
    Sherlock: Dull, boring, predictable. Why don't you try this [the circus that pertains to the case]? In London for one night only.
    John: Thanks, but I don't come to you for dating advice.
    Sarah: It's years since anyone took me to the circus.
    • Also, from "The Reichenbach Fall":
    Judge: You've been called here to answer [the lawyer's] questions, not to give us a display of your intellectual prowess! Keep your answers brief and to the point. Anything else will be treated as contempt! Do you think you can survive just a few minutes without showing off?!
    Sherlock: [Opens his mouth, prepares to speak]
    [Cut to Sherlock being led into a holding cell]
    • Also from "Reichenbach Fall":
    [Sherlock has just been arrested. The Chief Superintendent is wandering around the flat]
    Chief Superintendent: Looks a bit of a weirdo if you ask me. They usually are, these vigilante types. [John stares at him] What are you looking at?
    [Cuts to the Chief Superintendent nursing a bloody nose. John is slammed up against a police car next to Sherlock]
    Sherlock Holmes: Joining me?
    John Watson: Yeah, well, apparently it's against the law to chin the Chief Superintendent.
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot "John, you might want to put that cup back in its saucer now."
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Brotherly rivalry, in this case. Between Mycroft's constant meddling in Sherlock's life and Sherlock's constant needling about Mycroft's weight, they come off as children.
    • Escalated to 11 in "A Scandal in Belgravia" with their tug-of-war over Sherlock's Modesty Bedsheet.
      Mycroft: This is a matter of national importance. Grow up!
      Sherlock: Get off my sheet!
      Mycroft: Or what?
      Sherlock: Or I'll just walk away!
      Mycroft: I'll let you.
      John: Boys, please. Not here.
    • Shortly after:
      Mycroft: [before pouring the tea] Shall I be Mother?
      Sherlock: Oh, and there's our whole childhood in a nutshell.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Sherlock. "I may be on the side of the angels, but don't think for one second that I am one of them." A Moffat staple, as both the tenth and eleventh Doctor have practically said this verbatim.
  • Good Is Not Soft: John is very much a Nice Guy, but don't think that means he'll go easy on you if you threaten people he cares about.
  • Guys Are Slobs: Co-creator Steven Moffat has remarked that beyond being a crime show, a great deal of what Sherlock is about is two bachelors living together, behaving badly, being slobs, and "putting horrible things in the fridge". Sherlock, of course, is the main culprit, especially when his depredations extend to leaving human body parts around the homestead. By Season 2, John has largely stopped bitching about the mess, though since a good 99% of the main living area items are Sherlock's, it's not clear whether John's contributing to the state of the place or just tolerating it. Seeing as John has a military background and his reaction of "it'll look good once we clean out the mess" in episode 1, it's most likely that John has simply given up hope of things getting better.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Subverted in "A Study in Pink". Played Straight in "The Great Game".
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: John to Irene in "A Scandal in Belgravia." Although he finally gives up that ghost an episode later. See He Is Not My Boyfriend and Mistaken for Gay below.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: A Running Gag with John and Sherlock:
    Billy: [of Gary] He's a snorer.
    Gary: Wheesht!
    Billy: Is yours a snorer?
    John: ... Got any crisps?
    • In "The Reichenbach Fall", Sherlock walks out on an investigative reporter badgering him for an interview. As he heads for the door she shouts "So, you and John Watson, just platonic? Shall I put you down for a no on that too—" and that's when Sherlock rounds on her.
    • Comes up again in "The Empty Hearse". Mrs. Hudson is apparently a big Sherlock/John shipper.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Sherlock commandeers a random stranger's motorbike on the premise of it being the fastest means of transport to save John in The Empty Hearse.
  • He Who Fights Monsters:
    • Donovan worries that Sherlock will become this; one day he'll get bored with solving crimes and start committing his own.
    • Becomes a Chekhov's Gun in "The Reichenbach Fall": Moriarty uses Donovan's suspicion of Sherlock to change everyone's perception of him from genius detective to sociopathic murderer and fraud.
  • Held Gaze:
    • Sherlock and Irene Adler share intense, passionate gazes with each other at least twice in under five seconds, causing John Watson to snark out, as a reminder of his presence:
    John: Hamish. John Hamish Watson. In case you were looking for baby names.
    • Sherlock and John share one in "A Study in Pink" when John is disbelieving of the notion that Sherlock uses drugs, and Sherlock is trying to shut him up.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Sherlock and John. It's a Sherlock Holmes adaptation, after all.
  • Harsher in Hindsight/Hilarious in Hindsight: An in-universe example. In "The Great Game", Moriarty mockingly feigns an expression of shock, after commenting that if Sherlock did decide to shoot him in the face, all he'd get to enjoy is his look of genuine surprise. In "The Reichenbach Fall", Moriarty adopts the same expression when he decides to spite Sherlock, by turning his gun on himself.
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: The series riffed on the Sherlock's "three-pipe problem" (see the entry in the original series) with him wearing three nicotine patches because the case was "a three-patch problem".
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In the climax of "The Hounds Of Baskerville", Frankland attempts to escape through the Grimpen Minefield and steps on a mine, which blows him to bits.
  • Hollywood Density: Averted in the open of "The Rule of Three", where members of the Waters family struggle to carry three gold bricks at once.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Subverted in "The Reichenbach Fall". Moriarty appears to have written a small string of computer code (ridiculously small, if he can give it to Sherlock by tapping his fingers) that can hack any system on the planet. He demonstrates this at the beginning of the episode by breaking into the three most secure spots in London simultaneously, using a few smartphone apps. However, it is revealed at the end that Moriarty was making it all up: the mobile apps merely alerted his men on the inside, and there is no code. Which is good, because if this had been played straight, it would have been one of the most egregious examples out there.
  • Hollywood Law: In "Many Happy Returns", a scene takes place in a Hamburg jury room regarding a murder case. However, there is no jury system in Germany (not as it exists in the UK and America); verdicts are decided by professional judges.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Ooohhhhh boy. Sherlock and John are constantly Mistaken for Gay, and when they deny it (John isn't gay, Sherlock is Married to the Job and doesn't discuss his sexuality) it's absolutely through the roof in every single episode. Everyone involved in creating the show ships John/Sherlock. Moriarty also takes great delight in flirting with Sherlock, despite not being gay either — addressing him as "honey" and "sexy" and getting all up in his personal space.
    • There are also gay couples in every other episode: Harry and her ex-wife, Mrs. Turners married ones, Connie Prince's brother and one of her staff, Irene Adler and her maid (and others) and inn keepers at Baskerville.
  • Hope Spot: Sherlock often seems to have solved the case and beat the criminal, only for everything to suddenly go haywire at the last second. These happen like clockwork at the middle of every episode.
  • Horns of Villainy: The imagery is invoked in Series 3. Mary's true past as an assassin is hinted at when she is positioned in front of an animal head mounted on the wall of Sherlock's apartment, giving her the appearance of being horned.
  • Hypocritical Humour: Mycroft uses a phone booth and CCTV cameras to threaten John into being driven to a non-disclosed location, then says that Sherlock loves to be dramatic. John replies "well, thank God you're above all that."
    • Later in the same episode, Sherlock convinces John to join him on a mission so he can talk to him about his revelations. The next scene, he remarks of the serial killer "that's the frailty of genius, it always needs an audience"; John is quick to agree.
  • Iconic Outfit: Played for laughs. Sherlock picks up the iconic deerstalker completely at random, intending to hide his face from reporters who have gotten wind of his existence. The public assumes it's his usual look; cue an exasperated Sherlock having to fend of compliments from people about his Nice Hat. In "The Reichenbach Fall" he rants at length at a deerstalker he received as a gift about how it's a hat that makes no sense.
    Sherlock: It is NOT my hat!
    • Plus John saying that, because of peoples' association of him with the hat, "this is now no longer a deerstalker; it's a 'Sherlock Holmes hat.'" (Come on, admit it—you called it a Sherlock-Holmes hat long before you knew there was a real name for it)
    • Mythology Gag aside, Sherlock's blue scarf and his black trenchcoat with the upturned collar are shaping up to be this for Cumberbatch's take on the character. For certain people in the fandom, they're just as iconic as the deerstalker and the Inverness cape.
    • It seems now Sherlock is at least willing to go along with wearing a deerstalker to play up to the press as of "The Empty Hearse". Perhaps "The Reichenbach Fall" has taught him a few lessons about the press and fame.
    • In "The Empty Hearse" we see Molly's new boyfriend Tom wearing a very similar outfit, suggesting that Tom is really just a Sherlock replacement.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • The plot of "The Blind Banker" depends on the villains being complete morons throughout the episode: from assassinating the smugglers who could've given them vital information, to assuming John was Sherlock, to using Moriarty to get into the country rather than hire him to steal back the Empress Pin outright.
    • John and Sherlock leaving Soo Lin by herself in a museum with a hired assassin on the loose who only came there to kill her. Naturally, the assassin succeeds in killing her.
    • In "The Reichenbach Fall", when some extremely circumstancial evidence leads Donovan and Lestrade to believe that Sherlock kidnapped and poisoned two children. Anderson even speculates that Sherlock may have committed twenty or thirty crimes that he had helped the police investigate in the past, despite the piles of hard evidence that discount such a theory.
      • Aided by the fact that Lestrade is the only cop in London who even tolerates Sherlock, and only because his skills were useful. With that removed, their universal hatred of him reduces them to Moriarty's puppets.
    • Also in "The Reichenbach Fall", Mycroft tells Moriarty Sherlock's entire life story in attempt to get info on the MacGuffin, and then refuses to tell his brother what he's done, despite now knowing Moriarity has an Evil Plan centering around Sherlock.
      • This one was ultimately averted by "The Empty Hearse", in which it was revealed that Mycroft feeding Moriarty information about Sherlock was done in order to bargain "hints" from Moriarty about the extent of his criminal network, and that Sherlock was completely in on it.
    • In "His Last Vow", Magnussen picks the ball up and carries past the goal posts, out the stadium and to his ignoble demise by revealing to Sherlock and John that there is no physical vault full of the most scandalous information that could spell the doom of the western world. All that information is not stored in computers or papers, but in the memory palace in his head, which means there are no contingencies, like, say, backup copies that could be disseminated should something unfortunate happen to Magnussen. And then the man proceeds to threaten and humiliate John in front of Sherlock, both of whom were not frisked for weapons. Sherlock, with all his Berserk Buttons pressed, with no reason to let Magnussen live and all the incentive to kill him, proceeds to blow the man's brains out. He might have been excused on the basis that an ordinary, decent person probably wouldn't do this, but Magnussen, despite having extensive knowledge of Sherlock, also made the huge mistake of labeling Sherlock a noble, non-lethal hero, when he is in fact a self-described "high-functioning sociopath". Right before killing him, Sherlock actually calls him out on this. There's being Outgambitted, Too Dumb to Live, and Wrong Genre Savvy all at once.
    • Mycroft suffers it in "A Scandal in Belgravia", as he needs Sherlock to interact with a subject of particular interest to the British government but never warns him of what her actual intentions may be or who the stakeholders are in the matter, resulting in Sherlock doing her job for her unintentionally by playing on his Challenge Seeker personality. It ends up ruining a multi-national counter-terrorism operation and tipping their hand to the terrorists whom they had been spying on, undoing countless hours of work and surveillance. Their person of interest even points this out as Mycroft helplessly accedes her demands. It's only with an eleventh-hour deduction by Sherlock that saves face for all the duped parties.
    • In "The Great Game", the Most Secret Bruce-Partington Plans are lost because they were all copied to a thumb drive and left in the hands of a clerk who took them home and still had them in his pocket when he went to a party, got drunk, and told his brother-in-law about them. Even if there was a sensible reason for the plans to be on an easily portable medium rather than kept on a secure server that can't be accessed remotely, said medium should have been kept under lock and key at the base except when there was an explicit need to transport them elsewhere, where it would only be handled by a properly trained courier, possibly using a Handcuffed Briefcase setup.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: "A Scandal in Belgravia" runs on this. Not only are these explicitly the feelings of self-identified lesbian Irene Adler toward Sherlock Holmes, there's also the insinuation that John's feelings toward Sherlock are comparable to Irene's.
  • Ignored Enamored Underling: In the first series, Sherlock was utterly disinterested in Molly, only reciprocating her feelings if he needed something from her. In the later series, he sees her as a valuable friend.
  • I Made Copies: When John lampshades the foolishness of putting some top secret plans on a memory stick that is now lost, Mycroft points out "it's not the only copy."
  • Improvised Weapon / Improvised Armour:
    • In the second episode. Sherlock, while investigating backstage during a circus performance, is attacked by a masked, knife-wielding assassin and defends himself using a can of spray paint.
    • He uses another aerosol can as an impromptu weapon in "A Scandal in Belgravia".
  • Incompatible Orientation: "A Scandal in Belgravia" turns into a weird love triangle because of it. John is heterosexual (insistently so) but is in a long-term something-or-other with Sherlock, despite the fact that Sherlock is otherwise a Celibate Hero. Irene Adler identifies as lesbian but she and Sherlock share a mutual sexual fascination. The improbability of this allows her to see and accept that John and Sherlock are in love but not sexually involved, rather than assuming they're boyfriends like most people.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted in "A Study In Pink" with James Phillimore, as according to the newspaper article detailing his death, he is only eighteen.
    • Played straight and averted in "The Great Game" where Carl Powers had a fit while swimming and drowned thanks to his eczema medication. Moriarty's fourth victim is a boy who has a bomb strapped to him, but luckily Sherlock manages to solve the puzzle in time and saves the boy's life.
    • Played straight in "The Hounds Of Baskerville". Frankland opts not to kill Henry, who had just witnessed Franklin murder Henry's father, as he instead decides to try and drive him mad and ensure that no one would believe what he told them about it. Also counts as Cruel Mercy.
    • Attempted aversion in "The Reichenbach Fall", again with Moriarty behind it. This time, he orders the kidnapping of the children of Rufus Bruhl, the British ambassador to the U.S., and leaves them in a factory with nothing to eat except chocolates with wrappers painted in mercury. The daughter, Claudette, survives as she screams when she sees Sherlock, thinking him responsible and making everyone think Sherlock was behind it.
    • Averted in "The Six Thatchers" with the death of Charlie Welsborough, from what Sherlock suspects was a seizure before he could surprise his father on his 50th birthday.
    • Averted in "The Final Problem", when Sherlock realises that Eurus killed his childhood best friend, Victor Trevor, out of envy because she herself never had a best friend.
  • In Harm's Way: Both the main characters, in their own way. Mycroft tells John as much in their first meeting, noting that while under great stress, he's shown no symptoms consistent with his psychiatrist's diagnosis of PTSD:
    "You're not haunted by the war, Doctor Watson. You miss it."
  • Insane Troll Logic: In "A Study in Pink", the killer claims that he committed no murders and that his victims all committed suicide because he gave them two pills: one poisoned, one not, and forced them at gunpoint to choose one, and every victim chose wrong, which makes the killer innocent of murder. Sherlock defeats him by choosing the gun, deducing that the killer cannot bring himself to commit direct murder since he prided himself on fooling his victims into killing themselves. Naturally the gun turns out to be fake. note 
  • An Insert: Often used during Sherlock's Scans.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    Sherlock: I'm not a psychopath, Anderson, I'm a high-functioning sociopath; do your research.
    • John's insistence that he's Sherlock's "colleague" when referred to as a "friend" in "The Blind Banker". This is a Call Back to "A Study in Pink", where Sherlock introduces John to Sally Donovan as a "colleague".
    • Irene Adler is particular about several words. Among them "protection" (instead of "blackmail")
      • She knows certain people. Well, she knows what they like.
    • Mycroft occupies a minor position in the British government. (Certainly it would be inaccurate to say he is the British government.)
  • Inspector Lestrade: Trope Namer Inspector Lestrade goes to Sherlock Holmes when he has cases that he is unable to solve himself.
  • Insufferable Genius: Sherlock Holmes is one of the greatest examples of this.
  • Irony: In the opening of the third episode, Sherlock expressed his disdain for astronomy because it is useless as a forensic tool, only to find that one of Moriarty's puzzles revolves entirely around historical astronomy.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • From "The Great Game":
      Sherlock: People have died.
      Moriarty: That's what people DO!
    • From "The Reichenbach Fall":
      Sherlock: This call is my note. It's what people do, right?
  • It Always Rains at Funerals: We don't see the funeral itself in "The Reichenbach Fall", but it's pouring down buckets outside the window while John is pouring out his grief to his therapist. The next scene is at the graveside, and the sky is overcast.
  • It Came from the Fridge:
    • "A severed head!"
    • "Well, where else was I supposed to put it?"
    • "Oh, dear! Thumbs!"
    • Sherlock, in John's blog, mentions that he bought him some beer and it's in the fridge, "next to the feet."
    • And every time anyone opens the fridge at 221B, it's implied that even the actual food in it is horrifying.
  • It's a Small Net After All: John's fictional tie-in blog rarely gets more than a handful and never more than a few dozen comments per entry, despite being popular enough to bring new clients, and attracting internet trolls during the time Sherlock's reputation is tarnished.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: The entire third series is an example of this trope. Upon returning from two years of being dead, Sherlock initially thinks he can simply pick up his old life of crime-solving with John, but John has moved on and is now living with his girlfriend Mary. Sherlock throws himself into helping plan John and Mary's wedding to the point he ignores an inbox "bursting" with e-mails from prospective clients. He ends up shooting Magnussen to protect the couple, thus condemning himself to be sent on a suicide mission.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Used by Sherlock in a final desperate attempt to get the name of his antagonist out of the villain in "A Study in Pink".
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sherlock. Though he's undoubtedly an Insufferable Genius who starts out as more of a Jerkass, after he meets John, he begins to warm up to the people in his life. By the later series, he makes sincere efforts to be nicer to others.
    • One great example we see of Sherlock's Hidden Heart of Gold is in his treatment of potential love interests:
      • In "A Study in Pink", Sherlock mistakes John's slightly awkward questions to determine his sexuality as John coming onto him. He is remarkably gentle and polite in trying to let John down easy. Keep in mind that this is the first episode of the whole series, where Sherlock's Hidden Heart of Gold was very hidden, and he still strayed well and frequently into Jerkass territory.
      • While Sherlock seemed to realize that Molly had some kind of fondness/infatuation with him, he didn't seem to realize the depth of her feelings until he accidentally insulted her in "A Scandal in Belgravia". Since discovering these feelings, though he occasionally lapses back into being rude to her (as he does with everyone), he's done many sweet things for her, including apologizing for his rude behavior, kissing her on the cheek on two different occasions, inviting her to be his assistant in case-solving for a day, and saying numerous nice things to her. ("You do count. You've always counted and I've always trusted you." "The one person he thought didn't matter to me was the one who mattered most. I couldn't have done it without you." "I hope you'll be very happy, Molly Hooper. You deserve it.")
      • He was harsher towards Irene (who, to be fair, did manipulate him, trick him into foiling an important government scheme, and have a couple of Kick the Dog moments), and John believes that Sherlock "despised her in the end". Despite all this, he did confirm that her feelings for him were real...and then he rescued her from her would-be executioners.
    • As he takes levels in kindness, he also becomes nicer to his clients, taking a case of a little girl's missing rabbit and showing some sympathy for the traumatized Henry in "Hounds", and sympathizing with a woman whose stepfather is manipulating her in "Empty Hearse".
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: Sherlock fires John's gun at their flat's wall out of boredom and later, uses it to scratch his head after the pool scene in "The Great Game".
  • Jumped at the Call: John, the first time Sherlock invites him to come along on a case:
    Sherlock: You've seen a lot of trouble, too, I expect?
    John: Of course, yeah. Enough for a lifetime. Far too much.
    Sherlock: (Beat) Wanna see some more?
    John: Oh, God, yes.
  • Jury and Witness Tampering: Moriarty blackmails several jury members in a court case by hacking into their hotel television systems to threaten their families.
  • Karma Houdini: It appears that Donovan, Anderson and the Reporter have suffered no punishment for completely destroying Sherlock's life on very little evidence and their own dislike for him. Or perhaps not - Anderson is clearly on the verge of a mental breakdown from his own guilt, and is never shown to be actually working for the police in series 3, suggesting he may no longer be in their employ. Similarly, Donovan makes only a brief appearance in the 2nd episode, possibly implying that she may have seen her career suffer too but still seems to work directly with Lestrade.
    • Kitty has also proceeded to give a massive apology about how wrong she was in a faux news report about Sherlock's Return released after Season 3.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Double-subverted in "The Hounds Of Baskerville". Frankland is ultimately responsible for the death of Henry's father, and seems to have gotten away with it because, even though Henry witnessed it, Henry was drugged by the Project Hound drug and rationalized it into thinking it was the hound to cope with the trauma. When Henry finally learns and accepts the truth about the hound and his father's murder twenty years later, he furiously tries to attack Frankland before being stopped by Lestrade. Frankland then attempts to escape through the Grimpen Minefield and fatally steps on a mine.
  • Kick the Dog: Sherlock does this with Molly a few times. Well, he skirts the line, but what he does at the Christmas party crosses the line. He does have the nous to realize that he's done it - possibly John's influence? - and the basic decency to look a little bit ashamed about it.
    • In "His Last Vow", Magnussen does this to all of his onscreen victims (including Lady Smallwood, Sherlock, John, and Mary).
  • Kid Has a Point: In "The Sign Of Three", Sherlock is frantically trying to work out who the murderer could be, having worked out that Major Sholto is being targeted, and Archie pipes up with his suggestion that it could be the "invisible man with the invisible knife", who tried to kill Bainbridge. He's right, and Sherlock uses this information to help him solve the case.
  • Killed Off for Real:
    • Despite a fair bit of speculation otherwise, this seems to truly be the case for Moriarty after shooting himself in "The Reichenbach Fall", as Sherlock finally seems to conclude for sure in "The Abominable Bride".
    • Mary as of "The Six Thatchers".
  • Kink Meme: Oh, yes. With at least eight new pages of prompts every day, as well.
  • Knighting:
    • In "The Great Game", Sherlock claims to have turned one down. Again.
    • In "A Scandal in Belgravia", however, he seems quite chipper about having "the knighthood in the bag" for apparently successfully retrieving Irene's phone without much of a fuss. It's very likely, however, that he is being sarcastic. Or, possibly, he keeps count of how many knighthoods he's offered (and subsequently turned down) as a way of keeping score, like a more normal person might collect trophies.
  • Kudzu Plot: "The Reichenbach Fall", and entirely deliberate on Moriarty's part to ensure only Sherlock will be smart enough to figure out what's really going on, and to make sure he figures it out too late.
  • Land Mine Goes "Click!": In "The Hounds of Baskerville", the eponymous Baskerville research station is surrounded by land mines of this type. One ends up pureeing Frankland when he steps on it while running away from our heroes.
  • Large Ham:
    • Mark Gatiss as Mycroft.
    • Moriarty. Could be the explanation for his seemingly ever-shifting accent. And decking yourself out in the crown jewels?
    • Sherlock himself. Check out his flouncing and pouting during "The Great Game". Made better by the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch is fairly good at subtlety, as actors go.
    • Henry in "The Hounds Of Baskerville", especially when he sees the hound or thinks he does, or then, when he finally learns the truth, he tries to attack Frankland.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: For killing four people and kidnapping Sherlock and attempting to manipulate him into the challenge that could kill him in "A Study In Pink", John shoots Jeff Hope in the shoulder, through two windows, and he dies from the resulting injury.
    • In "A Scandal In Belgravia", Neilson breaks into 221B and interrogates Mrs Hudson offscreen. When Sherlock returns and deduces this, he sends Neilson's lackeys away before spraying aerosol into Neilson's face and knocking him out with a headbutt, before tying him up and then throwing him out of a window. Numerous times.
    • Downplayed example in "The Hounds Of Baskerville". When Henry learns and accepts the truth about his father's death, and that Frankland did it, he calls Frankland a bastard twice, knocks him to the ground and tries to attack him, screaming in his face in rage before Lestrade stops him.
    • In "The Empty Hearse", Lord Moran attempts to blow up the Houses of Parliament with a tube carriage rigged as a bomb, and after Sherlock foils his attempt, he's held at gunpoint and arrested.
    • In "The Sign Of Three", Jonathan Small attempts to kill Sholto for leading the excursion that got his brother killed, and as a rehearsal also tried to kill Private Steven Bainbridge. He attempts to slip away from John and Mary's wedding but Lestrade, alerted by Sherlock, chases after him and catches him, resulting in his arrest.
    • In "His Last Vow", Magnussen attempts to blackmail Lady Smallwood, Sherlock and the Watsons out of utter pettiness. Given that Sherlock himself hates the man, he's ultimately the one to end Magnussen's blackmail, which he does by shooting Magnussen in the head.
    • In "The Lying Detective", Culverton Smith is an unrepentant murderer who revels in the fact that he can kill anyone for the thrill of it and get away with it due to being a Villain with Good Publicity. He eventually tries to throttle Sherlock, but John rescues him and Smith goes down, as he confessed to his crimes before attempting to kill Sherlock, which a recording device in John's cane picked up.
  • Laser Sight: In "The Great Game," the visible dots are used to intimidate the hostages and later John and then Sherlock himself. These were also foreshadowed in the dénouement of "The Blind Banker". A few of these have angles that are obviously impossible, since the long shots show a wall two feet away in that direction.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler:
    • In the first episode, we are lead to believe that Mycroft is Moriarty. So any subsequent episode or trailer that shows him as Sherlock's brother is a spoiler to those planning to start watching the episodes later.
    • The promos for season 2 show who Moriarty is when The Reveal was part of the cliffhanger at the end of season one.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • Moriarty seems to be able to see the text messages superimposed on the screen in "A Scandal in Belgravia".
    • In "Scandal", John could be addressing the show's fandom itself when he says, "Who the hell knows about Sherlock Holmes, but for the record — if anyone out there still cares — I'm not actually gay."
    • The first series ended on a massive cliffhanger and the fans had to wait forever for the second series to reveal what happened; then this shows up on John's writeup of the incident on his blog: "I held my breath for what seemed like months."
    • This exchange in "A Scandal in Belgravia" seems to reference that particular episode's emphasis on Sherlock's more human, fallible side:
    John: People want to know you're human.
    Sherlock: Why?
    John: 'Cause they're interested.
    Sherlock: No they're not. Why are they?
    • Sherlock composing Irene Adler's leifmotif throughout "Scandal in Belgravia".
    • Sherlock's response to Anderson's criticizing the way he supposedly faked his death in "The Empty Hearse" is to sigh and say "Everyone's a critic."
    • Sherlock's speeches in "Sign of Three" have some leans, such as "our frankly ridiculous adventures".
    • To make a point of Sherlock's increasing notability within the show, John tells him deerstalkers are now most often referred to as "Sherlock Holmes hats," which has been true in real life for a long time.
  • Lighter and Softer: During the first and second seasons, Holmes battles a severe tobacco smoking habit; in the original Conan Doyle stories Holmes battles a cocaine and morphine habit.
  • Lipstick and Load Montage: Irene Adler goes through one as she is waiting for Sherlock to arrive in "A Scandal in Belgravia". Juxtaposed with Sherlock's own, more unorthodox, preparations, which involve getting John to punch him in the face.
  • Literal Metaphor: At John's Wedding, Sherlock mentions a few of his and John's cases. He mentions he should note the "Elephant in the Room". It turns out the case was literally about an Elephant somehow being in a room.
  • Living in a Furniture Store:
    • Averted with 221B Baker Street, which is strewn with so many utterly realistic items — everything from magazines stacked on the floor to grungy coffee cups left on the table to bills piling up near the phone — that you'd swear blind that people actually lived there.
    • Irene's house, on the other hand, invokes this trope, especially when she and Sherlock find themselves in an enormous pristine room, with what seems to be very little other than a posh sofa and a fireplace/mirror. The chances are that it's her workplace instead of (or in addition to) her actual home, so it makes sense that she'd want to present this facade.
  • Logging onto the Fourth Wall:
    • Most notably, Sherlock's website, and John's blog.
    • Molly Hooper has her own blog, and there's a a fansite for a murder victim from "The Great Game".
    • There's some absolute gold on Sherlock's forums.
    • John Watson's blog has some expansions on character that are priceless, and all three — John's blog, Sherlock's website and Molly Hooper's blog — hold some clues as to the outcome of the Mexican Standoff ending of "The Great Game".
  • Love Is a Weakness: One of the running themes in series 2 is that, while learning to care about people might make Sherlock a better person, it also makes him vulnerable.
    Sherlock: (As he and Mycroft watch a grieving family from afar) Look at them. They all care so much. Do you ever wonder if there's something wrong with us?
    Mycroft: All lives end. All hearts are broken. Caring is not an advantage, Sherlock.
    • Continues to be one of the running themes of series 3. As Sherlock becomes more human, he misses things that should have and would have been obvious to him. He misses clues as to Mary's true identity because John likes her, and Sherlock wants to like her as well. He also somehow misses the fact that John is his pressure point that Magnussen is exploiting, and he misses that Magnussen's 'vaults' were only in his head. In the end, Sherlock kills Magnussen to protect John and Mary, essentially sacrificing his life for them.

     M - R 
  • Mad Bomber: The plot of the third episode, although it ends up being less mad and more part of a Evil Plan.
  • The Man Behind the Man: In "A Study In Pink," the killer was "sponsored" by Moriarty, and in "The Blind Banker," it's revealed at the end that he helped the Chinese gangsters that served as the episode's antagonists as well. Finally, in "The Great Game," it's revealed that it goes so far back that Moriarty committed the first murder Sherlock tried to solve, all the way back when they were both teens.
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • Sherlock is a skilled manipulator. He's a very good actor (he can cry on cue) and he knows what parts he needs to play in order to get someone to do what he wants. This includes rather shamelessly exploiting Molly's crush on him in "The Blind Banker" to prove a point to Lestrade's replacement for the the visible dots are used to intimidate the hostages and later John and then Sherlock himself. These were also foreshadowed in the episode.
    • Also the serial killer in the first episode. He first talks Sherlock into his Evil Plan without even using his gun by manipulating Sherlock's arrogance and curiosity. Then, once Sherlock reveals that the gun is a fake in any case and he has no need to take a pill at all, he gets him to take it anyway to prove that he's really the smartest. He's only stopped by a well-placed shot from John.
    • Interestingly, the serial killer in the pilot version of the first story was not this way at all: the cabbie simply drugs Sherlock in public (with everyone around assuming thanks to his acting that he's simply drunk), drags him back to his home, and presents him with the pill game when Sherlock is still too drugged to really fight him off. He even threatens to simply force the pill down his throat if Sherlock refuses. The cabbie only tries manipulating him after the police have arrived outside, thanks to John noticing something was off.
    • Moriarty is also a master manipulator. He's particularly good at playing Sherlock himself — as illustrated to a devastating effect in "The Reichenbach Fall".
  • Meaningful Name: Henry Knight in "The Hounds Of Baskerville". The original character on whom he was based, Sir Henry Baskerville, was a knight, so Henry's surname pays homage to the original character's title.
  • Mexican Standoff: The series 1 finale ends with half a dozen of Jim Moriarty's snipers aiming at Sherlock and John, while Sherlock is himself aiming at an explosive-laden jacket at Jim's feet.
  • Mind Screw: "The Abominable Bride" takes place in the original Victorian Sherlock Holmes setting. Is the Sherlock of 2015 imagining himself in 1895, or vice versa? The ending is worthy of Satoshi Kon himself.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Guess who. It's a Running Gag.
    • In one conversation, Sherlock and John both seem convinced the other is gay. The waiter of the restaurant they go to also thinks this, calling John a date and bringing them a romantic candle. Mycroft and Mrs. Hudson also get in on it, too.
    • Although Mrs Hudson and the waiter seem to genuinely believe John and Sherlock to be dating and are happy for them, Mycroft's comments are probably more to needle John. Apart from the comment "might we expect a happy announcement by the end of the week?" in "A Study in Pink," Mycroft also pauses significantly before using the word 'pals' in "The Great Game." It might imply homosexuality again, or Mycroft, knowing John slept rough on Sarah's sofa the night before, may have deduced that Sherlock was driving John absolutely insane by this time and that their relationship had cooled from "friend" to "flatmate".
    • Also happens to Moriarty by Sherlock, of all people. Granted, Moriarty was trying to trick him, and it's not clear just how much of it was an act to begin with.
    • Played with in the first episode of the second season — as Irene hints, John can be as straight as he likes, he and Sherlock are still a couple.
    • John seems to have given up denying it by "The Hounds of Baskerville." One half of a gay couple running the local pub remarks how his partner snores and asks John, "Is yours a snorer?" John just asks for crisps.
  • Mistaken for Romance: Sherlock John are Heterosexual Life-Partners but their obvious (though prickly) affection for each other is frequently mistaken for being romantic.
  • Monochrome Casting: Besides the Yellow Peril in the second episode, all recurring and major characters are white with the sole exception of Sally Donovan who still remains in the background.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The ending of the third episode does this quite spectacularly, starting with Jim Moriarty leaving in quite an overdramatic fashion as Sherlock points a gun at him. After that, John shares a quip about Sherlock stripping his clothes off in a darkened pool room. A light round of laughter and — oh, crap. Jim's back again. And he has snipers aiming at John and Sherlock.
    • Done again at the beginning of "A Scandal in Belgravia," which picks up where the tense cliffhanger left off. Tense, that is, until Moriarty's phone goes off, playing the chirpy disco tune 'Stayin' Alive' — and he apologetically asks Sherlock if he minds if he takes the call. Sherlock tells him to go ahead. Moriarty answers the phone quite politely and calmly, then goes from genial to roaring down the line in two seconds flat, telling his caller that if they're wrong or lying, he's going to skin them and turn them into shoes.
    • Moriarty, as a character, is prone to this. Even when you know it's coming, his sudden changes in temperament can be genuinely scary.
    • Even done at Sherlock's grave when Mrs. Hudson begins ranting about Sherlock's odd habits, the body parts in the fridge and shooting in the flat at one in the morning. Bonus points for John's plea for Sherlock not to be dead immediately afterwards.
    • During arguably the most tense, depressing part of the entire series we get this:
    Sherlock: You're insane.
    Moriarty: You're just getting this now?
    • Also rather Mood Whiplashy, The Reichenbach Fall starts with John telling his therapist that Sherlock is dead and then immediately cuts to the upbeat title sequence.
    • At the end of "His Last Vow", the end credits appear to be starting to roll as Sherlock is flown off to his suicide mission in Eastern Europe, but it then cuts back in to reveal that every television in London is displaying a picture of Moriarty saying repeatedly "Did you miss me?"
  • Morality Pet: Moriarty calls John this for Sherlock.
    "Oh, he's sweet. I can see why you like having him around. But then, people do get so sentimental about their pets".
    • Molly also appears to be one for Sherlock. After making some scathing comments by deducing Molly's got herself a new paramour because she is dressed to the nines and has one fancily-wrapped gift amongst messy ones, he then discovers that the present is actually for him. Molly calls him on his repeated hurtful comments to her and Sherlock actually offers a genuine apology for his behaviour. In subsequent episodes, he has had several moments of being very sweet to her, and indeed has never relapsed into treating her the way he used to before this incident.
    • Mrs Hudson as well. Sherlock even apparently agreed that he has to be nice to her at Christmas.
  • Motor Mouth: Sherlock has a tendency to do this when he goes into Sherlock Scan mode, spitting out his findings at incredibly high speed. Most notably in the "The Great Game", when Moriarty gives him ten seconds to prove his solution before he kills a child, immediately after solving a puzzle in Bullet Time in in "A Scandal in Belgravia", and in "The Reichenbach Fall" to prove he's fine after encountering the hound.
  • Multitasked Conversation: In "The Six Thatchers", John and Lestrade have a pointed conversation in front of Sherlock about dealing with incredibly difficult, annoying, ungrateful loved ones whose messes they have to clean up constantly (on the surface, they're talking about John's new baby, but are also including Sherlock in this group). Sherlock suspects their conversation has a hidden meaning but claims he doesn't get it.
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • The taxi chase in "A Study in Pink", somewhat.
    • Sherlock can't understand why John's blog is more popular than his website, with its description of 240 types of tobacco ash.
    Sherlock: 243. (Lights blowtorch)
    • Also, Shan's "From the moonlit shores of NW1..." speech can come across as this.
    • The fight in the planetarium, what with the garbled recordings in the background accompanied by Mars from "The Planets" and the flashing colourful lights and all. Then again, the fact that the lights are also flickering when The Golem sneaks up behind Sherlock makes it somewhat Nightmare Fuelish.
    • Sherlock makes a pot of tea.
  • Must Have Nicotine: Sherlock. In Series One he was kept in check by insane amounts of nicotine patches. In "The Hounds of Baskerville" he's going cold turkey, causing him to scream, throw things about, threaten people with antiquated maritime weaponry and perhaps most chillingly of all, abjectly beg John to get him some cigarettes. Please. Once he begins investigating the Baskerville case, though, the symptoms (temporarily) disappear. In "His Last Vow" something similar happens throughout the episode, with morphine instead of nicotine. Quite likely because he's got his fix of crime and mystery, which he'd been complaining about craving at the same time. This is consistent with the original stories where Sherlock's worst bouts of substance abuse came between cases in his attempts to stave off the boredom.
  • My Sensors Indicate You Want to Tap That: In "A Scandal in Belgravia," Sherlock realizes that Irene Adler's feelings for him are genuine because he Sherlock Scanned her biological reactions to him (pulse and pupil dilation) on multiple occasions, which allows him to finally figure out the code on the phone.
    • Also used earlier in the episode, when Sherlock deduces that Molly clearly has a crush on someone. Taken to hilarious / heartbreaking levels when the otherwise perspicacious Sherlock completely fails to realise that the person she's crushing on is him. He apologizes immediately afterward.
  • Mythology Gag: Has its own page.
  • Naked First Impression: Irene Adler does this on purpose. It throws off John, and completely flummoxes Sherlock's scan because he's got nothing to read. Except her measurements. Which wind up coming in handy.
  • The Nameless: Mycroft's Sexy Secretary/PA, who introduces herself as "Anthea" to John, but later, tells him that isn't her name. It's implied she changes it when she gets bored.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: After months investigating some elusive bank robbers, Lestrade is about to make the big arrest. He suddenly receives an urgent text from Sherlock asking him for help. Lestrade leaves the scene and rushes to Baker Street with the cavalry, only to discover that Sherlock needed help... with his best man speech(!).
  • Never Suicide:
    • What look like suicides in "A Study In Pink" turn out to be the work of a Serial Killer, albeit one that makes his victims kill themselves (by telling them they will be shot, unless they take the 50:50 chance on survival by choosing between a poisoned and harmless pill) rather than killing them himself.
    • And in "The Blind Banker," there is the case of the first victim. Shot in the right side of the head, despite the victim being left-handed. Sherlock quickly points this out.
    • Again in "The Great Game", with the presumed train jumper actually killed by accident by his future brother-in-law.
    • John hopes for this at the end of "The Reichenbach Fall." He's right, but doesn't find out until over a year later.
    • As of "His Last Vow", it appears that Moriarty faked his suicide as well.
      • And then in "The Abominable Bride" averted when Sherlock implies someone is just using Moriarty's image.
  • Nerves of Steel: Both John and Sherlock display this. In "A Study in Pink", Sherlock actually uses the phrase 'nerves of steel' to describe the person who shot the cabbie, just as he realises it was John.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The Korean advert. The second one, too.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • The elusive graffiti artist, spraying a black and white stencil of a policeman on a London wall, is in no way Banksy. Because there's a guy who would sue your arse off for illegal use of his image.
    • "A Scandal in Belgravia" drops hints that one of Irene Adler's clients was a young, prominent and married female royal.
    • Aside from her background being posher, Lady Smallwood in "His Last Vow" is clearly inspired by the MP Margaret Hodge, who has become well known of late for similarly interrogating media and corporate people as head of a select committee just as Smallwood does to Magnusson.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Sherlock knows Moriarty is coming to find him, so he makes tea for two and settles in with his violin to wait. The confrontation ends peacefully, albeit creepily.
  • No Smoking: Updated, considering the character in question had a notorious pipe smoking habit. It's lampshaded that "it's impossible to sustain a smoking habit in London these days". This leads both Sherlock and Lestrade to use nicotine patches instead.
    • Both "Belgravia" and "Baskerville" address Sherlock's struggles with his smoking habit; in "Belgravia" he and Mycroft are seen lighting up a cigarette during moments of high stress (Mycroft tells John that his own smoking habit is more or less a secret between the two of them). In "Baskerville," Sherlock is on a major detox downswing and outright begs John for a cigarette.
    • Lampshaded when Mycroft hands Sherlock a cigarette in the morgue corridor:
    Sherlock: Smoking indoors. Isn't there... isn't that one of those... law things?
    Mycroft: We're in a morgue. There's only so much damage you can do.
    • In "His Last Vow", Mycroft and Sherlock are out smoking in their mother's garden, when she comes out to chastise them for doing so. They both turn around, hold their cigs behind their back, and deny it, obviously fearful.
  • Noodle Incident: The series, like Doyle's original stories, are full of these:
    • The Science of Deduction website includes a dummy archive of Sherlock's past cases, which all have intriguing titles (some of them referencing John's untold stories from the canon, such as Isadora Persano and the worm unknown to science, or "the dreadful business of the Abernetty family").
    • What led up to Sherlock being attacked in his flat by a guy with a sword?
    • This was started at the very beginning, when John looked up Sherlock online and said, "You said you could identify a software designer by his tie, and an airline pilot by his left thumb?"
    • Not to mention the real human skull on the mantlepiece at 221B. Sherlock sheepishly explains to John that it belongs to a friend- "... When I say 'friend'..." And that's it.
    • In the beginning of the Hounds of Baskerville, Sherlock enters the apartment covered in blood and carrying a well over 2 meter long harpoon. He had apparently stabbed pigs with it. It has no relevance to the plot whatsoever.note 
      Sherlock: Well that was tedious.
    • The criminal in Belarus is either this, a What Happened to the Mouse?, or maybe a Batman Cold Open.
    • 1972 at The Diogenes Club, wild times. Apparently.note 
    • The whole story about the late Mr Hudson was originally one, although we finally learned most of the details in "The Sign of Three".
    • When asked about Mycroft's reaction to solving the Andrew West sub-case in "The Great Game":
      Sherlock: He was over the moon. Threatened me with a knighthood... again...
    • From John's blog, there's "The Inexplicable Matchbox", which involved Sherlock dressing up as a clown and Mrs. Hudson being pushed out of a helicopter. He's apparently unable to explain what happened due to "Every Official Secrets Act." We get a clue of what's in the matchbox in "The Sign of Three". Though it only makes it a bigger noodle incident.
    • In "His Last Vow", Mycroft alludes briefly to there being a third Holmes brother. Apparently something bad happened to him with the implication that Mycroft was responsible or did not elect to prevent it, which he provides as proof of not having brotherly sentiment.
    • Whatever lead to the elephant in the room. Not a metaphor, a literal elephant.
  • Not a Date: John is not Sherlock's date, thank you. See also Mistaken for Gay.
  • Not His Sled: Occurs a few times, the first instance being "Find out who Rachel is."
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Sherlock to Mrs. Hudson, regarding the taxi.
  • Not So Different:
    • Part of the supervillain-cliche interchange between Mycroft and Sherlock, which leads us to believe he's actually Moriarty until the reveal.
    • The actual Moriarty tries something similar in "The Great Game". Sherlock acknowledges this in the climax of "The Reichenbach Fall".
    • Sherlock and John. Sherlock gets off on the mystery of the crime. John gets off on the danger.
  • Not So Stoic:
    • Sherlock — see Post-Victory Collapse below.
    • Mycroft gets this combined with Break the Haughty in "A Scandal in Belgravia". He's actually shown shaking in fear and despair after realizing the Bond Air mission had been compromised due to his own hubris.
    • Sherlock a few times in the "The Reichenbach Fall". Notably when he death-glares Moriarty during his Wounded Gazelle Gambit and practically screams at him to stop. And then again while giving John his suicide "note". There were tears dripping onto his coat.
    • Mrs. Hudson even lampshades this in "The Lying Detective". She describes how Sherlock is emotional. He shoots the wall when he's bored, and when he can't figure something out? He stabs it on the mantelpiece.
    • Mycroft gets a few in "The Final Problem". In the beginning, Sherlock engineers a scene akin to a horror movie to confirm that he does, in fact, have a sister, and because he's pissed Mycroft never told him. The entire time, Mycroft is very obviously terrified at the possibility that his sister has escaped. Later, Eurus has Sherlock choose either Mycroft and John to shoot the governor of Sherrinford. He refuses to even touch the gun, and when John prepares to shoot him, Mycroft can be seen curling up and turning away. After the governor shoots himself, Mycroft immediately begins retching.
  • Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: After Sherlock declines having a girlfriend, John asks him "Do you have a boyfriend? Which is fine by the way." Sherlock answers simply "I know it's fine." and keeps staring unmovingly at John, needing another repeated prompt to actually answer "No." to the question.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Moriarty, with a side of obfuscating sexuality thrown in. His obfuscating stupid/gay fake persona makes a seemingly pitiful attempt at obfuscating clumsiness. Which may make this a very rare case of ObfuscatingObfuscation.
  • Oblivious to Love: Sherlock is mostly oblivious to Molly's crush on him, to the extent that he's convinced that she's dressed up for the Christmas party and has carefully wrapped a present because she must be off to see a new boyfriend.
  • Of Course I'm Not A Virgin: Sherlock claims "I'm not afraid of sex", somewhat unconvincingly.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • In "A Study in Pink" when John realises that the phone must have been on the taxi driver Sherlock left with.
    • The look on Sherlock's face when John steps out in the swimming pool.
    • In "The Blind Banker" when Sherlock sees the cipher on the windows and realizes that John and Sarah are gone.
    • "Of course. Obvious. He's still here."
    • Sherlock, John and Lestrade in "The Great Game", when the child's voice is first heard over the phone at the art gallery, giving a ten second countdown. Lestrade and John completely freak out, while trying not to distract Sherlock; Lestrade ends up screaming at him to just stop dicking around and solve the puzzle, and John is so relieved after that he's actually gasping for breath.
    • In "A Scandal in Belgravia", the captured CIA agent is glaring angrily at Sherlock while he is calmly calling DI Lestrade about an intrusion. And then he turns pale when he realises that Sherlock is describing really bad injuries on him which have not happened yet.
    • Also in "A Scandal in Belgravia", the general reaction to "On the count of three, shoot Dr. Watson". John blurts out "WHAT?!" and Sherlock starts shouting in a panic that he doesn't know the code.
    • In "The Hounds Of Baskerville", John has a pretty big one when he's trapped in the Baskerville lab in the dark and, as he tries and fails to get out, he hears the hound growling, evidently thinking the hound is trapped in there with him. When Sherlock finds him and gets him out, he's quite hysterical.
    Sherlock: It's all right. It's OK now.
    John: NO, IT'S NOT! IT'S NOT OK! I saw it, I was wrong!
    Sherlock: Well, let's not jump to conclusions.
    • Also in "The Hounds of Baskerville", Sherlock is trying hard to tell the hysterical and suicidal Henry Knight that the hound is actually a figment of their imagination brought on by hallucinogens, so none of it is real. Except a howl is suddenly heard again...
    • Sherlock gets several in "The Reichenbach Fall". To be a little more specific, his reaction when Jim Moriarty commits suicide, unexpectedly and inches away from his face, is an Oh, Crap! of frankly epic proportions. Especially since Sherlock has spent so much of two seasons being almost without emotions like panic or horror.
    • Second only to that, earlier in the episode when Sherlock Holmes and Richard Brook (aka Jim Moriarty) meet unexpectedly. The sense of panic in the room is palpable, and the look on their faces is priceless.
    • Also in "The Reichenbach Fall" when Sherlock catches a taxi, at the end of Moriarty telling the story of Sir Boast-A-Lot and Sherlock realising what it means.
    • In "The Reichenbach Fall", there's also John's very quiet "oh no" when he turns around to see Sherlock standing at the edge of the roof. The look on his face gets worse as the scene goes on, culminating in Sherlock's jump.
    • In "The Empty Hearse", Sherlock has one of these when he suddenly realises how pissed off John is that he never told him he was alive.
    • Also in "The Empty Hearse", Sherlock gets one when he realises what the text messages mean. John is in a bonfire and about to get burned alive.
    • In "His Last Vow", when Sherlock realizes that Magnussen's vaults of information are only in his head. Sherlock is visibly affected by the reveal.
    • Also in "His Last Vow", Mary has one when she realizes the dummy she thought was Sherlock during her meeting with him about her past is actually John, and that he has heard every word they've said.
    • In "The Lying Detective", John has one when his therapist pulls a gun on him.
    • In "The Final Problem", Mycroft has one when John points out to him the tape of Eurus talking someone into helping her is in fact her talking the head of the Sherrinford facility into helping her. Uh-oh...
    • Also in "The Final Problem", Sherlock, John and Mycroft all have one when Molly is revealed as Eurus Holmes's next target.
  • One Head Taller: Sherlock and John. In "A Scandal in Belgravia", Sherlock lampshades this when someone remarks he looks taller in his photographs. He responds that he simply makes good use of "a good coat and a short friend". John seems unimpressed — as if he's only just realised he's 5'7". Or like the thought had suddenly struck him that Sherlock only asked him to hang around in the first place because he would make him look tall and imposing by comparison.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted, on the blogs - the army nurse who treated John's shoulder wound is called Bill Murray. Not that one.
    • In show, followed for the first two seasons, and then HEAVILY averted in season 3:
      • John Watson, Janine, Jonathan Small, John Garvie.
      • James Moriarty and James Sholto.
      • Bill Wiggins and William Holmes.
      • With the introduction of Mycroft's hated nickname "Myc," he and Mike Stamford become another aversion.
    • In series 4, we get another aversion, this time with three characters called Alex (one from season 1, two from season 4): Alex Woodbridge, the Hickman Gallery security guard strangled by the Golem and dumped in the Thames in "The Great Game", Alex, one of the group of four agents (Alex, Gabriel, Rosamund - Mary - and Ajay) on the Tbilisi mission in "The Six Thatchers", and Alex Garrideb, the guilty brother who killed a man called Evans from a distance of 300 metres with a buffalo gun in "The Final Problem".
    • Averted yet again with the name David. David is the name of Mary's ex in "The Sign Of Three" in season 3, and appears twice in season 4 in the name of cabinet minister David Welsborough in "The Six Thatchers" and of the name of the prison warden in "The Final Problem".
    • Another aversion, this time with the name Howard, which appears in "The Empty Hearse" in the name of Howard Shilcott, the man who left his hat behind in 221B (Sherlock and Molly return it to him later), and in "The Final Problem" in the name of Howard Garrideb.
  • Only One Name:
    • Lestrade, whose first initial ("G") was given in the canon but never his full name. Worth noting since the shift to First-Name Basis is one of the most striking aspects of this adaptation. However, we find out in "Hounds of Baskerville" is that this iteration of Lestrade is named "Greg", which might be yet another Mythology Gag, referencing the mysterious Inspector Gregory (Doyle probably meant Inspector Gregson, the "other" detective from A Study in Scarlet). Oddly, we then find out in "The Reichenbach Fall" that Gregson exists in this version too.
    • Mrs Hudson. We never learn her first name, and Sherlock never deviates from addressing her as "Mrs Hudson", though in the Christmas scene in "Belgravia" John addresses her affectionately as "Mrs H." He also does this on his blog occasionally.
      • "His Last Vow" reveals her name is Martha.
    • Obnoxious crime scene tech Anderson suffers from this for the first two series It's only in The Empty Hearse that we finally learn his name is Phillip. His name has variously been cited as Gillian, Moira and Sylvia.
    • The women the Mayfly Man dates in "The Sign Of Three", who we only know as Tessa, Gail, Charlotte, Robyn and Vicky. In the same episode, we don't find out Archie's surname, either.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Many of Sherlock's uncharacteristic moments are signs of affection, and consequently are listed on the Heartwarming page, but one example that doesn't fit there is during Sherlock's first meeting with Irene in "A Scandal in Belgravia". When she says "Brainy's the new sexy" his normally perfect enunciation fails for a second and he mumbles his next sentence. John's expression shows how big a deal this is. Sherlock might have done it intentionally, suspecting that Irene might have feelings for him and wanting to draw her in by pretending to reciprocate so that he could manipulate her later if need be. It's hard to tell with Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch indicated in the Series 2 DVD commentary that Sherlock's verbal keyboard mash happened in response to John's obvious interest in Irene Adler's flirting.
    • His apology to Molly was also OOC, but probably not an act; John reacts with shock to that, as well.
    • After the row with John in "The Great Game" over Sherlock's lack of concern for the victims of Moriarty's crimes, Sherlock seems to have begun making a concerted effort to at least appear contrite when he realizes he's hurt someone's feelings. His immediate apology to Molly may have been mostly for John's benefit, but the Insufferable Genius seemed earnest in his attempt to uncross the line over which he knew he'd just stepped.
    • In "The Great Game", John learns the hard way that when Sherlock offers to buy milk, there's something odd going on and it would be a bad idea to leave the flat.
    • And then in "The Hounds of Baskerville", Sherlock voluntarily makes him a cup of coffee. Sherlock never makes coffee. It doesn't end well.
    • In "The Hounds of Baskerville", it's a huge deal to see Sherlock and, to a slightly lesser extent, John, experiencing and expressing devastating levels of fear:
    Sherlock: (tearfully clutching a straight whisky for dear life and shaking badly): Look at me. I'm afraid, John.
    • Also in "The Hounds Of Baskerville", later in the same scene as the previous example, Sherlock loses it a little bit and shouts at John and insisting he's in the right. It's quite jarring.
    John: Sherlock—
    Sherlock: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME! Do you understand?!
    • Sherlock lets the audience know that shit just got really real with this line from "The Reichenbach Fall":
    Sherlock: You were right. I'm not okay.
    • Then the ultimate example of this trope occurs when Sherlock is standing on the hospital roof, saying goodbye to John on the phone and tears are running down his cheeks. The breakdown in "Hounds" can be excused by the effects of the drug but this is 100% genuine emotion.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot
    Molly: How's the hip?
    Mrs. Hudson: Oh, it's atrocious. But thanks for asking.
    Molly: I've seen much worse. But then I do post-mortems.
    • Then there's this, from "A Study in Pink":
      Stamford: I heard you were abroad somewhere getting shot at- what happened?
      John: ... I got shot.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome:
    • Sherlock's uncanny abilities and intelligence lead people to forget that John is both tough enough to be a soldier and smart enough to be a doctor.
    • In "A Scandal In Belgravia" Sherlock Holmes himself is overshadowed by the awesome that is his older brother Mycroft. Here, and in one scene in particular, he's reduced to a "naïve, lonely man desperate to show off", revealed to not be Moriarty's main target at all, played for a sucker with a classic Damsel in Distress ploy that Mycroft describes as "textbook" and referred to in all sorts of ways that range from the dismissive to the insulting: "Mr Holmes, the Younger", "Junior", "the clever detective in the funny hat", "The Virgin". Heck, even a case he spent some time on was solved by the brilliant Mycroft in seconds, and another case, that of the Düsseldorf air crash and the missing victim, was actually part of something orchestrated by Mycroft. This is on par with the books, where he is described (by Sherlock himself) as Holmes' much smarter brother.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: In "The Empty Hearse", Sherlock disguises himself as a waiter by taking a pair of glasses and a bow tie from restaurant patrons, scribbling on a fake mustache, and adopting a French accent, all in an attempt to surprise John and tell him that he's not actually dead. The disguise works until Sherlock drops the act.
    • Even moreso in the next episode. He gets into the building by simply wearing a hat and walking in.
  • Parody: On John Watson's blog, of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Between Mycroft and John, in four of six episodes so far. They're rarely downright rude to one another, and usually resign themselves to working together for Sherlock's good, but they're not friends and things can get awfully snarky and hostile at times. And that isn't counting their last showdown in "The Reichenbach Fall", which is just out and out aggressive kombat.
  • The Patient Has Left the Building: in "His Last Vow".
  • Pet the Dog: After Sherlock accidentally hurts Molly's feelings in "Scandal" by humiliating her in front of everyone at his Christmas party, he quickly realizes his mistake, immediately apologizes to her, and even kisses her on the cheek. This seems so out-of-character for him that we see John giving him a surprised look. Even better, Sherlock begins treating Molly much better from this point on.
  • Phone-In Detective: Well, Skype-In Detective, anyway. After achieving internet fame via John's blog, Sherlock decides he isn't leaving the flat for "anything less than a seven". John is left to do all the legwork, so that Sherlock can solve crimes that happened in rural locations without even having to put clothes on.
  • Photographic Memory: Charles Magnusson. There are hints that he's using some sort of Google Glass-esque Head Up Display, and that's the conclusion Sherlock initially comes to, but it's a red herring. He keeps all his secrets in his "mind palace", with no backup whatsoever.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Army Captain John Watson is 5'7" of badass with nerves of steel.
    John: Remember, Sherlock, I was a soldier! I killed people!
    Sherlock: You were a doctor!
    John: I had bad days!
  • Please Put Some Clothes On:
    • John to Irene, understandably. Even a napkin would do.
    • And Mycroft to Sherlock, when the latter turns up at the official residence of the British monarch clad only in a bedsheet.
    Mycroft: We are in Buckingham Palace, the very heart of the British nation. Sherlock Holmes, put your trousers on.
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: The serial killer has two identical bottles of pills, one poisonous and one completely harmless, and forces his victims at gunpoint to choose one while he takes the other. Sherlock realizes the gun is fake and is about to simply walk away, but the killer challenges him into playing anyway. However, before they can actually take the pills, John shoots him, and we never do find out which was which.
  • Pop-Up Texting: Makes considerable use of this, showing texts and anything else on a phone screen floating in the air, and allowing Sherlock to have his Establishing Character Moment when he's not even present!
  • Poor Communication Kills: The entire reason why the Tong were holding the Villain Ball in "The Blind Banker". All they had to do was tell the carrier that the pin he took was not a cheap trinket, but actually worth 9 million. They could have avoided every stupid decision they made trying to get it back.
  • Post-Victory Collapse: John almost collapses on the spot after Sherlock rips the bomb vest off him in "The Great Game". Perfectly understandable reaction, though, and it doesn't diminish the moment.
    • If anything, it makes the moment. It makes John's stoic command of himself during the stand-off all the more impressive. It's clear that he's not unafraid or unaware of the danger — he just manages to hold himself together until Moriarty leaves.
    • Also a rare moment of vulnerability from Sherlock: His panicked "Are you all right? ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?!" to John after his "Catch ... you ... later" swagger to Jim. Followed by him distractedly pacing, and trying to stammer out a thanks to John, while he scratches the back of his head with a loaded gun.
      Sherlock: That — uh — thing that you did — that you offered to do — that was — um — good.
  • The Power of Love: After Sherlock is shot in His Last Vow, he pulls himself back from what death, because he believes that John is in danger.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Said by Sherlock in "A Scandal In Belgravia" after Neilson led CIA agents to interrogate Mrs Hudson. "He fell out of a window."
  • Pre-emptive Declaration: Sherlock informs Lestrade over the phone that the robber fell out the window. Crash.
  • Preemptive "Shut Up":
    Sherlock: Shut up.
    Lestrade: I didn't say anything.
    Sherlock: You were thinking. It's annoying.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Sherlock has no concept of gun safety.
    • The way Sherlock was swinging John's gun around at the end of "The Great Game," the series could very well have ended with Sherlock accidentally shooting himself in the head before Moriarty got the chance to come back and finish the job. He RUBBED HIS TEMPLE with the barrel of A LOADED GUN! He also waves it at John as a careless gesture as he's trying to blurt out a thank you to him. As mentioned under Artistic License – Gun Safety, though, this one might not be a real gun.
    • Another example can be found at the beginning of the same episode where Sherlock is so bored he's using a handgun to shoot holes into the wall forming a smiley face. This is incredibly reckless and dangerous because it would only take one resilient bullet to make it through that wall and hit someone on the other side — one of the reasons you are not allowed to practice shooting in a residential area outside of a shooting range.note 
      • Averted by John right afterwards, though. He takes the gun from Sherlock and immediately removes the magazine, even though it's visibly empty, and continues to handle it in a safe manner. He is, after all, a former soldier.
    • He does it again in "A Scandal in Belgravia", randomly firing shots into the air in a residential neighbourhood to attract the attention of police.
    • In "Scandal", he disarms an assailant and holds it to the perp's head with his finger on the trigger.
    • The climactic scene of "The Hounds of Baskerville" combines loaded guns with a group of men hopped up on a paranoia-inducing hallucinogen in a forest in the middle of the night.
    • Not to mention when they run out of the hollow and through the dark forest after Dr Frankland, Sherlock leads the way- which is fine, except John is right behind him holding a loaded gun in his hand. Presumably John, who's seen as being very gun-responsible, is smart enough to not have his finger on the trigger at the time, but it's still never safe to get in the path of someone holding a loaded gun.
    • In "The Reichenbach Fall" Sherlock, pretending to take John hostage, points a loaded gun at his head — with his finger on the trigger.
      • In that particular moment, however, he clicks on the safety before pointing it at John. It's a blink and you'll miss it moment, but it's there.note 
  • Red Baron:
    • The Golem, a notorious Czech hitman hired to kill gallery attendants and astronomy professors.
    • The Woman, Irene Adler.
    • The Whip Hand, Adler's Twitter name.
    • The Iceman, Moriarty's code name for Mycroft.
    • Subverted when it's revealed that Moriarty's code name for Sherlock is "The Virgin." Ouch.
    • Played for laughs when John learns that his tabloid nickname is "Bachelor John Watson".
    "Confirmed bachelor. What are they implying?"
  • Red Herring:
    • The first episode, "A Study in Pink," does a great job of making you think that the sinister, all-controlling gentleman who calls himself Sherlock's arch-enemy, and who Sherlock tells John is the most dangerous man he'll ever meet, is Moriarty. It's actually his brother Mycroft.
    • And the "Rache" red-herring in "A Study in Pink", as mentioned above.
    • "The Hounds of Baskerville" throws one at John in the form of the Morse code he picks up. Given the way this series has loaded up on Chekhov's Gun, people probably weren't expecting it to turn out to lead him to a dogging site.
    • "Hounds" also gives one to any audience members familiar with the original novel; Dr. Stapleton had nothing to do with the crime (besides Bluebell's disappearance) and was actually helpful with the investigation. Barrymore isn't actually up to anything, either.
    • All of the trailers and promos for Series 4 seemed to be setting Culverton Smith up as the Big Bad, only for it to turn out to be Eurus Holmes.
    • A case in John's blog: While Sherlock was Faking the Dead between series 2 and 3, John wrote some posts, and among the comments that said Sherlock was a fraud there were a couple by "Sauron 1976". Since Cumberbatch was born in 1976 and plays the Necromancer (Sauron's alter ego) in The Hobbit, it was logical to assume that was Sherlock. Come series 3, not only this isn't brought up, but Sherlock doesn't seem to know what John's been up to in these two years.
  • Red Shirt: All of the killer's victims in "A Study In Pink".
    • Brian Lukis in "The Blind Banker".
  • Refuge in Audacity: Moriarty's "Crime of the Century" in "The Reichenbach Fall" — he breaks into the Tower of London, the Bank of England and Pentonville prison, three of the most secure locations in England, in one day, then is apprehended wearing the crown jewels. He's then acquitted, despite being caught red-handed, offering literally no evidence in his favour, not even bothering to have a lawyer and actually admitting he was guilty! This actually has very little to do with his endgame in the episode; it's almost entirely about showing off and making Sherlock look foolish.
  • Reinventing the Telephone: In the pilot, Mycroft contacts John by watching him on London's ubiquitous CCTVs and calling every public phone he walks by until he picks one of them up.
  • Retired Badass:
    • John occasionally reminds people that he was also a soldier in the army.
    • Mary was a trained killer for the CIA at one point.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: The climax to "The Reichenbach Fall".
  • Running Gag: A few.
    • Everyone assuming Sherlock and John are gay... and being okay with it. Fridge Brilliance since the people more likely to notice or assume that someone is gay are the ones that are generally ok with it.
    • Mycroft inconveniencing or confusing John to get his attention, only for his car to pull up moments later.
    • Sherlock's disdain for that hat.
    • The orgasmic moan that Irene Adler programs onto Sherlock's phone as her personalized text alert in "A Scandal in Belgravia". Doubles as a Chekhov's Gun.
    • Sherlock inability to remember Lestrade's first name becomes one in Season 2 and throughout Season 3.

     S - Z 
  • Samus Is a Girl:
    • General Shan.
    • And John's sister Harry.
    • Moftiss likes this trope. Eurus, Mycroft and Sherlock's secret sister.
  • Sarcasm Mode: Sherlock is prone to doing this quite often, usually when confronted with an explanation he dislikes. John engages in it from time to time when he's upset.
  • Say My Name:
    • A fairly panicked yell of "SHERLOCK!" once John sees that Sherlock is with the murderer and looks as though he's about to take a pill. It's muffled through a window, which lessens the impact, but the fact that there's a dramatic echo (as well as an appropriate choice in soundtrack) helps.
    • Later on in the same scene as described above, Sherlock uses a Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique on the cabbie to get the name of the antagonist out of him, he finally screams, "MORIARTY!".
    • In the unaired pilot, when the cabbie drugs and stuffs Sherlock in the cab, Sherlock makes an attempt at calling for help with a slurred "John!". It seems to pass unheard as John doesn't realize the full extent of the situation until the cab takes off.
    • In the second episode, when Sherlock is being strangled in Soo Lin's flat, you can hear him choking out "John" a few times, before passing out for a few moments.
    • Near the end of "The Reichenbach Fall", John screams Sherlock's name as Sherlock steps off the roof.
    • Sherlock and Mary do this several times while rescuing John from inside a bonfire in "The Empty Hearse".
  • Scarf Of Ass Kicking: Sherlock, of course.
  • Scenery Censor: Done in "A Scandal in Belgravia" when Irene Adler decides to receive Sherlock and John naked.
  • Scenery Porn: Steven Moffat commented on a DVD commentary that the adventures worked best when contrasted against an almost fetishised picture of modern London.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Mycroft tries to bribe John into spying on Sherlock. In true sociopathic fashion, Sherlock doesn't see a problem with this.
    Sherlock: Pity, we could have split the fee, think it through next time!
  • Selective Obliviousness
    • Sherlock, as of the end of season two, has consistently and completely ignored every insinuation or outright remark about the nature of his relationship with John. The only scene that has ever spoken to it is when he turns on Kitty Reilly in "The Reichenbach Fall", seconds after she has implied she'll be running a story on how his relationship with John is "not just platonic." But it's not clear that this is specifically what's caused his response; on every single other occasion Sherlock has patently ignored the assumptions of others, even while John is still protesting that he's not gay.
      • Sherlock's response could be because he knows John would be upset by it. Earlier in the episode Sherlock asked John why he cared so much what people thought.
    • Lestrade does a lot of this. In "A Study in Pink" he makes it clear that he's got no intention of investigating who shot the cabbie. It's somewhat implied that he already knows, especially after Sherlock figures it out as well in the most obvious and unsubtle fashion ever. Otherwise, we have to conclude that Lestrade honestly thought this guy must have been shot by "an enemy", possibly an even bigger crazy lunatic than himself, but shrugs it off with "eh, well, got nothing to go on." In "A Scandal in Belgravia", he makes a point of simply walking away from an incident where Sherlock beats a CIA agent within an inch of his life and throws him out a window - because he's about as pissed off as Sherlock is over the spook threatening Mrs. Hudson.
    • The Christmas party in "A Scandal in Belgravia": Sherlock is able to deduce that Molly is intending to romance someone with a special present; he just doesn't realise that that someone is him. Particularly noteworthy because, in other episodes, he seems aware of Molly's crush on him and uses it to his advantage. He also manages to crack Irene's phone security by deducing that she's in love with him. It seems that he's perfectly capable of observing these feelings in other people but, in Molly's case, it's not important or interesting to him so he overlooks it.
  • Self-Destructing Security: In the episode "A Scandal In Belgravia", Irene Adler's phone, containing lots of politically-sensitive data, contains miniature explosives that will destroy it if anyone attempts to physically remove the hard drive.
  • Setting Update: To 21st century London.
  • Sexy Secretary:
    • Mycroft's PA, Anthea. Not that that's her real name.
    • And Irene Adler's PA Kate.
  • Shared Family Quirks: In addition to both being geniuses, Sherlock and Mycroft are both obsessive compulsive. In "His Last Vow," Sherlock realizes that Mycroft is at 221B because he has straightened the door knocker, something he does without realizing he's doing it. Sherlock then proceeds to make it crooked again without a second thought. John even asks why Sherlock did that but Sherlock has no idea what John is talking about.
    • It is considered fanon that Sherlock changes the position of the knocker because John always left it crooked. You may notice that John always closes the door of 221B by the knocker.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Both of the Holmes brothers qualify, Lestrade as well. While John is no slob, the former three are always in suits. Amusingly, in the commentary for "The Great Game", Benedict Cumberbatch bemoans the fact that he can't talk about the designer clothes he wears in the show since the names haven't been cleared. Moriarty in his Westwood is also quite an appearance.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Molly at the Christmas party in "A Scandal in Belgravia". You can clearly see Lestrade ogling.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: John subverts and inverts this trope. You'd expect him to be traumatized given his situation, but he actually misses the danger. His hand shakes when he's not thinking about the war! Hence his enthusiasm to help Sherlock. Even an exploding mine barely fazes him.
  • Sherlock Scan: With visual aids to help the audience follow Sherlock's thought processes. This often makes for some interesting Freeze Frame Bonuses.
    • A prime example of this is in "The Empty Hearse" when Sherlock scanned Mary, we could see, among others, words such as liar, secret and tattoo. Paranoid fans could easily deduced her past and therefore, the whole plot of "His Last Vow" from it.
    • Discussed when Sherlock meets with an old friend, after Sherlock appears to scan him. Seems initially to be subverted, since Sherlock tells him that he actually knew about the guy travelling from talking to his secretary. John later questions this, resulting in it becoming double subverted when Sherlock admits that yes, that was a lie, and he really did deduce the travelling from the man's watch.
    • Moriarty is actually able to fool Sherlock's initial scan of him, by placing subtle but key clues in the way he dressed, his appearance and behavior. Sherlock did seem rather perturbed when he finds out he was duped.
    • Sherlock gets John to try one of these on Carl Powers's trainers in "The Great Game." John suggests that the soles were well-worn, so the owner probably had them for a while despite them looking new, and that because of the name written inside in felt-tip, they belonged to a child because adults don't write their names in their shoes. The name part is correct, but the soles, as Sherlock deduces, were actually well-worn because the owner had weak arches.
    • Irene Adler is able to foil Sherlock's scan as well, but rather than doing so by placing red herrings (à la Jim), she simply gives Sherlock no clues at all. This leads to Sherlock performing a scan on John just to make sure his powers of observation haven't failed him and then back to Miss Adler who remains inscrutable.
    • He's so eerily good at it that Moriarty has little trouble planting the idea in the heads of the cops that Sherlock has actually been doing research and setting up crimes to appear brilliant while solving them. It helps that he's such an ''insufferable'' genius that they want to believe that.
    • In "The Sign of Three" his scanning is thrown off when he's drunk, represented with an Interface Screw. Every object he glances at looks blurry and is surrounded by useless observations riddled with question marks.
    • Charles Augustus Magnussen has his own version of it, with its own visual format, where he recalls brief notes about the person he's looking at from his eidetic memory instead of deducing them on the spot. Sherlock examines Magnussen's glasses just to ensure he's not ACTUALLY reading the data from them a la Google Glass.
  • Shipper on Deck: Almost everyone ships John/Sherlock apart from Sherlock and John themselves. Sherlock's oblivious to all of it; John just wants Sherlock to find a nice girl or boy and burn off the excess sexual tension.
    • Mrs. Hudson falls just short of having a "Hi, Slash Fans!" sign above her head.
    • Even Mycroft likes to insinuate, and he's known Sherlock from birth and has cameras in the flat.
    • In "A Scandal in Belgravia", Irene Adler teases John for getting jealous over Sherlock's fascination with her. She knows that they're not sleeping together but points out that sex is hardly a requirement for a romantic relationship:
    John: Who the hell knows about Sherlock Holmes, but if anyone out there still cares, I'm not actually gay.
    Irene: Well I am. Look at us both.
    • Anderson, however seems to ship Sherlock and Molly, if his Imagine Spot to how Sherlock survived is any indication
    • Meanwhile, a girl in Sherlock's fanclub ships him with Moriarty!
    • Sherlock himself seems to support John and Mary, even going so far as to intimidate Mary's ex-boyfriend, whom he's deduced is still in love with her. However, it could be that he just wanted John to be happy.
  • Ship Sinking:
    • It appears that the Sherlock and Molly ship has been sunk with the revelation of the latter's fiance in "The Empty Hearse", but later it's revealed that the relationship didn't work out.
  • Shoot the Dog: At the end of "His Last Vow", Sherlock, upon realizing that the information that Magnussen is using to blackmail Mary and torment John is only in his head, grabs John's gun and shoots Magnussen in the head in front of John, Mycroft and several armed police officers.. That was more of shooting the son of a bitch though.
  • Short-Distance Phone Call: Sherlock is fond of these, just to show off and make an impression. He calls Eddie Van Coon's mistress in "The Blind Banker" as he's walking up to her desk, and calls the cabbie in the unaired pilot from about three feet away.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the third episode, a shout out to Jim'll Fix It.
    • Both the Establishing Shot of Baker Street in the first episode and the layout of Sherlock's flat are essentially a modern day versions of their counterparts in the Jeremy Brett series. In the case of the apartment it's right down to the arrangement of the furniture.
    • In the pilot, while Sherlock checks his e-mail, he responds in regards to a church bell theft that "Davies is your man".
    • In "A Scandal in Belgravia," the 1,895 hits that John's blog gets stuck on is a Shout Out to Vincent Starrett's poem "221B," which ends with the words "and it is always eighteen ninety-five". Particularly appropriate to a TV series that's reimagined the characters in modern times, given that the poem is about how Holmes and Watson are timeless.
    • At one point in "A Scandal in Belgravia", John Sherlock and Irene are in 221B, and Sherlock says that he put her phone into a safe-deposit box. John's suggestion that "Molly can get it, and then have one of your homeless network members bring it here" is reminiscent of the final act of The Maltese Falcon, when Sam Spade leaves the titular artifact in a safe-deposit box, mails the ticket to another box, and then calls his secretary to get first one then the other, and bring it to his office, where he and the other principal characters are waiting. And then Sherlock immediately subverts the whole situation by pulling the phone out of his pocket.
    • Watson's remark about fighting the urge to steal an ashtray at Buckingham Palace is very likely to be a reference to an incident in which British TV host Denise Van Outen stole not just an ashtray, but also a tissue box (although she did return them both). The fact that the ashtray was made of glass is likely also a reference to the Michael Fagan incident, as he broke a glass ashtray and cut his hand when he "visited" Buckingham Palace for the second time.
    • Mycroft's three-piece suit and ever-present malacca-handled umbrella could be a nod to John Steed. Mycroft often strikes a similar pose to Steed's, leaning on the umbrella with one hand, and with one leg crossed behind the other.
    • At the beginning of "The Reichenbach Fall," John's statement that "My best friend, Sherlock Holmes, is dead" sounds very familiar to Rose Tyler's This is the story of how I died.
    • Moriarty's claim to be an actor hired by Sherlock echoes Without a Clue. Moriarty's so Genre Savvy, he's probably seen it.
    • During "The Hounds of Baskerville", Sherlock (while under the effect of a fear-inducing drug) explains his usual disregards to sentiments. John calls him Spock as a response. Bonus points for the nickname coming a few lines after Sherlock reminds us of his famous phrase, "when you have eliminated the impossible", a line also used by Spock during Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It's a Mobius strip shout-out !
    • Another Star Trek reference is when Captain John Watson, at Sherlock's 'grave' in The Reichenbach Fall, makes a speech calling him the "Most human human being that [he's] ever known." This bears a striking resemblance to Captain Jim Kirk's speech at Spock's funeral at the end of Wrath of Khan, saying that "of all the souls [he] have encountered in all of [his] travels, [Spock's] was the most human.
    • Also in "Hounds", Sherlock analyzes words like John Anderton analyzed dreams in Minority Report.
    • In "A Study In Pink" Sherlock and John walk past a hair salon on Charlotte Street en route to a cafe where they plan to stake out the killer. This places the cafe on Rathbone Street, which they must then run down in a chase scene. Basil Rathbone played Sherlock Holmes in over a dozen films.
    • Also in "A Study In Pink", Sherlock hops up onto his chair in a way very reminiscent of Jeremy Brett (who does it in 'The Adventure Of The Empty House', among others).
    • One of newspapers on screen after Moriarty's trial in "The Reichenbach Fall" has a line in it that read 'In a twist worthy of Conan Doyle.' Arthur Conan Doyle is of course, the creator of Sherlock Holmes.
    • When in hiding in the lab during the events of "The Reichenbach Fall," Sherlock bounces a ball off of the cabinets across from him the same way that Steve McQueen does in The Great Escape.
    • The season 3 opener The Empty Hearse, Sherlock texts Mycroft about LAZARUS. Mark Gatiss played Dr. Lazarus in the Doctor Who episode "The Lazarus Experiment".
    • On the "Hollow Client" entry of John's blog, Sherlock formulates many theories as to how the the titular client could turn himself invisible: one theory is that he was "dressed up in the same fabric as the chair". A similar technique another world famous detective employed in A Game of Shadows. And it's one big shout out to The Invisible Man.
    • In "The Sign of Three" one of the flashbacks to previous cases has Sherlock holding a matchbox, the only one of hundreds that wasn't empty, and when asked what was in it he says that it's "inexplicable" as he opens it and a golden light shines on his smiling face much like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction.
    • In "The Sign of Three" Sherlock's drunken analysis of items in the flat includes a reference to the animal skull as "deaded", a term largely associated with The Goon Show.
    • Four to James Bond;
      • In "The Empty Hearse", a He's Back shot of Sherlock resembles one of the closing shots of Bond - in a similar coat, even - from Skyfall, down to both being on the roof of the old MI6.
      • In "His Last Vow" Mycroft calls Sherlock a “a scalpel wielded with precision” in comparison to a "blunt instrument". A "blunt instrument" was Ian Fleming's traditional description of James Bond. It's also often used to distinguish their characters: Sherlock takes down criminals by analysing and figuring out their methods, while James takes down criminals using force. And fitting for a professional assassin, Mary Watson wields a suppressed Walther PPK, Bond's signature weapon, to threaten Magnussen, shoot Sherlock and show off her terrifyingly good aiming skills.
      • In "Scandal in Belgravia", the flight number associated with Mycroft's plan to foil a terrorist plot to blow up a Jumbo Jet, said jet's flight number is "007". Naturally, and quite unsubtly, the operation is referred to as "Bond Air".
    • During the Book search in "The Blind Banker", Freakonomics and Transition are featured prominently.
    • This case is Murder on the Orient Express in the Sherlockverse.
    • In "The Abominable Bride", the outfits of the secret society closely resemble the outfits of the conspirators from a certain Tintin adventure. Resemblance to the KKK is an unfortunate side-effect. Then again, all three such organizations are not exactly standing on the moral high ground.
    • In one episode, Lestrade flat out states that he can't take credit for Holmes' deductions because sooner or later Watson will post the details of the case on his blog, and that will make Lestrade look like a Glory Hound taking credit for Sherlock's work.
  • Shown Their Work: Read enough of the canon and you'll see how well-versed the writing team is Holmes lore from the sheer number of allusions they make. The showrunners are a couple of Holmes fanboys themselves. Even the setting update itself is more authentic than fans think; at the time the stories were written, Sherlock Holmes was a modern man on the cutting edge of science and technology, as he is in this series.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Sherlock and Mycroft.
    John: So when you say it's a childish feud, it really is a childish feud?
    Mycroft: Mmmm, you can imagine the Christmas dinners.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: It's implied by Sherlock in this post on John's blog.
    They're both perfectly acceptable friends in their own way but then they start talking and I wish I really had died.
  • Single Tear: Irene in "A Scandal in Belgravia" after Sherlock finally figures her out.
  • Slobs Vs Snobs: Mycroft straightens Sherlock's doorknocker, has a well-organized office, and works with powerful government agencies and their clandestine spy networks. Sherlock's flat is a complete mess and he works with a "homeless network" of his own design which is loosely kept together by bribes. John also tries to keep to the Snob side but gives up on 221B.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Subverted in "The Empty Hearse". We see Sherlock and Mycroft locked in a battle of wills over a board game and assume this trope is in effect, and then the camera cuts to reveal that they're playing Operation.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Given that this series is a World of Snark, this happens quite often. Especially true with any combination of Sherlock, John, and Mycroft, which is guaranteed to have some of this.
  • The Southpaw: Jennifer Wilson in "A Study In Pink" and Eddie Van Coon in "The Blind Banker". Both are dead when Sherlock first sees them, but he deduces each are left-handed via Sherlock Scan.
    • John too, and Mary as revealed in "His Last Vow".
  • Speak Friend and Enter:
    • John discovers the code that Sherlock has been searching for. He runs back, fetches his pal and...finds that the code has been painted over. Sherlock starts spinning John around in a circle in some odd attempt to sharpen his memory, ignoring John's protests that he can remember all of the code and waxing lyrical about the limitations of the (non-Sherlockian) human memory. John, meanwhile, is trying to get the detective to stop messing him around so that he can reach his phone, on which is stored a photo he had taken of the entire wall.
    • Also in "A Scandal in Belgravia," the passcode to Irene Adler's mobile phone. After finally realizing that Irene is genuinely attracted to him, Sherlock types in the correct passcode of "SHER". It Makes Sense in Context. The lock screen reads "I AM ___ LOCKED", so with the password in, it reads "I AM SHER LOCKED".
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To Doctor Who, as Steven Moffat has remarked on occasion. Doctor Who is about a virtually immortal, omnipotent alien who's afraid of losing touch with his compassionate human side, and Sherlock is about an ordinary human who wants to distance himself from his emotional side.
    "They're sort of, I suppose, weirdly opposite, in that the Doctor always strikes me as sort of like an angel who aspires to be human, whereas Sherlock Holmes is a human being who aspires to be God. They're sort of opposite parts. ... [The Doctor] wants to have fun, he wants to be silly, he's very, very emotional and sentimental, whereas Sherlock Holmes is trying to put all of that behind him."
  • Squick: Invoked. The reaction to Sherlock's experiments by everyone but Sherlock. For example, Donovan finding human eyes in the microwave in episode 1 and John finding a severed head in the fridge in episode 3.
  • Stag Party: In "The Sign of Three" John, soon to wed Mary Morstan, has one with his "best friend" Sherlock. It doesn't go very well, ending with Sherlock picking a fight at the bar.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Downplayed. Sherlock pulls a Stealth Bye on someone in "The Empty Hearse," but we see him leave. He does it again to John in "The Sign Of Three", while sitting next to him. John doesn't notice he's not there until he (and the audience) turn to look.
  • Sticky Fingers:
    • Sherlock mentions in "A Study in Pink" that he regularly pickpockets Lestrade when he gets annoying, hence why he has Lestrade's badge to flash. He also apparently has several more back at his flat.
    • In "A Scandal in Belgravia", Sherlock decides, on John's joking suggestion, to swipe... an ashtray. From Buckingham Palace.
    • Sherlock is not even above pickpocketing his own brother! In "Baskerville," it's Mycroft's clearance ID, which seemingly comes in handy at military bases... with the implication he DOES attend inspections. It's strongly suggested that Mycroft is well aware of this, as the first thing he does upon being notified is text Sherlock.
  • The Stinger: Mary delivers one posthumously at the end of "The Six Thatchers" via recording:
    • By "The Lying Detective" the stinger is revealed to be a portion of a plea to help John.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Moriarty, at least twice.
    • In "The Great Game":
    Sherlock: People have died.
    Jim: That's what people DO!
    • In "A Scandal In Belgravia":
    Jim:[on the phone, perfectly genial] Hello? Yes, of course it is. What do you want? [short pause]'' SAY THAT AGAIN! Say that again, and know that if you're lying to me, I will skin you.
    • John in "His Last Vow": "Why is everything always... MY FAULT?!", at the same time as him ferociously kicking a table in his anger.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Mycroft implies this in his dialogue in "The Empty Hearse"; when discussing their relative intelligence, Mycroft says to Sherlock: "If you seem slow to me, Sherlock, imagine how real people are like. I'm living in a world full of goldfish." Worth pointing out that Sherlock has supersonic thinking processes compared to normal people, so if Sherlock is slow to Mycroft.....
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: During John and Mary's wedding reception in "The Sign of Three, the song "December, 1963" by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is playing. Choice lyrics include "Oh, what a night/ You know, I didn't even know her name/ but I was never going to be the same/ What a lady, what a night." It's revealed in "His Last Vow" that Mary is an assassin living under an assumed identity.
  • Sword Cane: In "The Final Problem" We learn that Mycroft has a sword in his trusty umbrella... which also carries a pistol, when he removes the blade from the handle.
  • Take a Third Option: The serial killer in the first episode forces people at gunpoint to choose one of two pills, identical but one deadly and one safe. When he gives Sherlock the choice, Sherlock chooses the gun, which he recognized as a fake. Real guns are expensive and this guy's just a cabbie. More to the point, most people will panic when someone sticks a gun in their face. Sherlock didn't, and actually looked at the gun, and could tell that it wasn't real - as would any normal person if they kept calm and looked, but the point was that they didn't and he did.
    • Eurus forces Sherlock to either shoot John or Mycroft. He instead decides to shoot himself, making Eurus panic for the first time in the entire episode.
  • Take Our Word for It: Holmes does so many Sherlock scans per episode that he doesn't bother to explain many of them, unlike the original Conan Doyle stories where each scan was explained to the reader.
  • Taking the Bullet: Mary dies by doing this for Sherlock.
  • Taking You with Me: Carried over from the original story "The Final Problem" where Holmes decides that killing Moriarty is worth his own death. Inverted here in that Moriarty kills himself as part of a plan to utterly destroy Sherlock Holmes.
  • Talent Double: While Sherlock can play the violin, Benedict Cumberbatch certainly can't. While he has proper posture and acts the violinist very well (he holds it in a lazier version of the orchestral rest position at times, and tunes it in the same way in one scene), it's obvious to anyone who's ever played the instrument that the actual music is dubbed. The bowstrokes don't quite match up, and we never see him use vibrato, despite hearing it on the soundtrack. Still one of the better cases of instrument dubbing, as you usually won't see the inconsistency unless you're looking. The musician who did the actual playing was named Eos Chater, a member of the classical-pop crossover quartet Bond. It's her music on the soundtrack, and she mentioned later some of the more bizarre ways they kept her just off camera so Benedict could mimic her movements, including at one point having her positioned outside the window on a crane.)
  • Tall, Dark and Snarky: The Holmes brothers. It devolves into a hysterical genderflip of The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry.
  • Tan Lines: Used in Sherlock's deductions on a couple of occasions, particularly in Sherlock's initial scan of John.
  • Team Mom: Mrs. Hudson, at least for her tenants. Do not harm her or even speak rudely to her in front of Sherlock or John, unless you're either of them. In The Empty Hearse, her dialogue to John when they first meet again suggests even she sees herself as the Team Mom.
  • Technicolor Science: Narrowly averted. There are colorful liquids, but none all too unusual for a laboratory.
  • The Television Talks Back: Subverted in "Many Happy Returns" where Sherlock has given John a video message. John states "Stop being dead" to which Sherlock says "Ok". John's reaction seems to invoke this trope, but Sherlock's statement had nothing to do with what John said.
  • Tempting Fate: In the first episode, John's therapist says that keeping a blog of everything that happens to him will help with his PTSD. John scoffs and says,"Nothing happens to me."
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Played straight in the first episode. The first episode has the killer turn out to be the cabbie. Moriarty then pulls the same trick on Sherlock in "The Reichenbach Fall" too.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Sherlock, several times over the course of the series, thanks to John's influence. He's already become a little bit nicer from the beginning to the end of Series 1, and has changed a lot by the end of Series 2. By Series 3, he's a very different person; spending two years alone on the run, separated from his friends (with half of them thinking he's dead) must have made him appreciate them all the more.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: John ditching Soo Lin, who knew the code, in the dark museum, knowing she was marked for death by trained assassins who were most likely in the building. May have been to protect his heterosexual Life Partner or serve his own Blood Knight tendencies.
  • Tranquil Fury: When Mrs Hudson is hurt by the Americans in "A Scandal in Belgravia" Sherlock gives no outward sign of his anger, seeming just as cold as he usually does, but is in reality Sherlock Scanning to decide which of the assailant's pain centres to attack. The sequence before that (when he pieces together what happened), his subtle-yet-telling expression lets the audience know exactly how incredibly pissed he is.
  • Trespassing to Talk: After Moriarty discredits John and Sherlock, they break into a reporter's flat who was going to report the story. Once inside, they just sit on her couch until she comes home, at which point they confront her about her sources.
  • Troperiffic
  • True Companions: Sherlock and John naturally. But also Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, Molly Hooper, and now Mary Morstan. All six of them in fact.
  • TV Telephone Etiquette: Whether they're talking to a terrified hostage, or talking to the villain, or are the villain, people in this show are terribly polite and almost invariably answer the phone with "hello". Saying something along the lines of "goodbye" at the end, not so much.
  • Unbelievable Source Plot: Sherlock's skills aren't supernatural and he never lies about them, but many who dislike him don't believe skills like his are possible and want to believe he is lying and only revealing information he learned through other means (including possibly committing the crimes himself). His criminal counterpart, Moriarity, exploits this as part of a plan he hopes will bring about Sherlock's demise.
  • Unknown Rival: Moriarty before Sherlock (and the audience) meet him face to face.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Sherlock especially during his wedding speech. He tries to convince Mary that he learned origami due to some amazing feat to solve a crime, only to admit he learned it on YouTube. He states that to learn John's middle name was by earning his trust over a long course of time, he simply stole John's birth certificate. When he tells the people at the party that he told the guests he told John he was honored at being made the Best Man, cut to Sherlock being almost frozen in silence multiple times. He did later admit after that he didn't say it at the time.
  • The Unreveal: "Empty Hearse" plays this to the hilt, with a group of fanatic Sherlock fans theorizing how Sherlock survived his suicidal leap in "The Reichenbach Fall" in front of John, even before he came back from the dead. Multiple elaborate guesses are made, and after Sherlock gives his version of what happened, it's left in the air whether or not even that was true. John does say earlier in the episode that the details don't really matter, because the reasons behind it all (both before and after) are explained thoroughly.
  • Uncovering Relationship Status:
    • In "A Study in Pink" John asks Sherlock if he has a girlfriend or a boyfriend. When Sherlock makes it clear that he's single, John replies "Right. Okay. You're unattached. Like me. Fine. Good.".
    • In "The Blind Banker" Sarah mentions John's girlfriend, he replies that he doesn't have a girlfriend and invites her on a date.
  • Unstoppable Rage: In "A Scandal In Belgravia", Sherlock attacked a man and threw him out of a window so many times he lost count for breaking into 221B and interrogating Mrs Hudson. We never see this onscreen, just a body crashing to the ground once.
    • John has a few moments of this in "The Empty Hearse" when Sherlock reveals he's still alive. John first tackles Sherlock to the floor of the restaurant and attempts to strangle him, then he gets Sherlock around the throat, and finally John headbutts him and it cuts to Sherlock with a bloody nose.
    • For a few seconds in "His Last Vow", after Mary is revealed as a former assassin, John briefly loses his shit, slipping from Tranquil Fury into this trope, raising his voice and kicking a table aside before he is able to calm down.
  • Vehicle Roof Body Disposal: In "The Great Game", Andrew West's killer places the body on top of a train to get it as far away as possible. The body falls off when the train jolts over switch points in a rail yard.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Despite being caught red-handed committing a crime, Moriarty is completely exonerated and later declared to not even exist. He receives widespread public sympathy as Rich Brook, the manipulated and pitiable minion of the real villain: Sherlock Holmes.
  • Visual Pun: After John berates Mycroft, actually Irene Adler for kidnapping him again instead of just phoning him and accuses him of having a "bloody stupid power complex", we then see John was driven to the disused Battersea Power Station.
  • Wasn't That Fun?: Sherlock and John have an important one of these after a chase, as John realizes his limp actually is psychosomatic and going on Sherlock's little adventures makes him forget the pain. The moment doesn't last long.
  • The War on Terror:
    • John Watson, like the original, was invalided out of the Army after being injured in Afghanistan. The more things change...
    • Also part of the plot in "A Scandal in Belgravia".
    • The researcher in "The Hounds of Baskerville" mentioned that a lot of their study is to allow the country to be prepared for an event of biological warfare.
    • Used again in "The Empty Hearse", where an underground terrorist cell in London attempts to blow up the Parliament on Guy Fawkes Night.
  • We All Die Someday: Used often. From "The Great Game":
    John: Try to remember there's a woman in there dying.
    Sherlock: What for? This hospital is full of people dying, doctor. Try crying by their bedsides, see what good it does them.
    • Later, by the pool:
    Sherlock: People have died.
    Jim: That's what people DO!
    • And again in "A Scandal in Belgravia," emphasizing the Holmeses' collective sociopathy:
    Sherlock: Look at them. They all care so much. Do you ever wonder if there's something wrong with us?
    Mycroft: All lives end. All hearts are broken.
  • Wedding Ring Removal: The first episode has Sherlock examining the body of the woman in pink, particularly her well-maintained jewelry and her dirty and tarnished wedding band, which he finds to be clean on the inside, meaning it was regularly removed, and leading him to conclude that she was a serial adulterer.
  • We Have Ways of Making You Talk: Mycroft's polite threat to Irene Adler, "and I very much regret to say, we have people who can extract [the password] from you."
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Jeff Hope in "A Study In Pink". He was killing innocent people in a kamikaze murder spree that could have killed him too, but he wanted to ensure his children would be better off after his death, as for every life he took, money would be paid to his children.
  • Wham Episode:
    • The Cliffhanger ending of "The Great Game" with Sherlock, John, and Moriarty locked in a Mexican Standoff at the pool.
    • The only reason Reichenbach Fall hadn't been added to this thread yet is because everyone else in the fandom was too busy reeling.
    • "His Last Vow" continues the trend.
    • Breaking with tradition, the second episode of season 4 is a huge Wham Episode, possible the greatest of all, revealing that The Big Bad of season 4 is Sherlock and Mycroft's secret sister.
  • Wham Line: When Sherlock arranges to meet Moriarty:
    John: Evening. This is a turn-up, isn't it, Sherlock?
    Sherlock: John! What the hell —
    John: Bet you never saw this coming!
    • But no, he's been rigged with a bomb vest. And then the real Moriarty announces himself:
    Jim Moriarty: I gave you my number. I thought you might call!
    • At the beginning of "The Reichenbach Fall":
    John: My best friend, Sherlock Holmes, is dead.
    • When Sherlock and John are at Kitty Riley's flat to ask who Richard Brook is and out steps Moriarty.
    Kitty: Of course he's Richard Brook. There is no Moriarty.
    • Mycroft and John are discussing Irene being in witness protection when this happens:
    (John comments to the effect that Sherlock will be okay with never seeing Irene again, as she's in witness protection)
    Mycroft: I agree. Which is why I've decided to tell him that.
    John: Instead of...?
    Mycroft: She's dead.
    • And then, we get the Wham Text-Alert.
    • There is one near the end of "His Last Vow" when Mycroft is speaking to Lady Smallwood and the MI-6 representatives that seems to have mostly gone unnoticed, but is all the more frightening for its implications.
    Mycroft: "Don't be absurd. I'm not given to outbursts of brotherly compassion. You know what happened to the other one.
    • "His Last Vow" ends with Jim Moriarty's face being projected onto every screen in the country, repeating one message over and over:
    Did you miss me?
    • From the Lying Detective: "My parents liked silly names, like Eurus, and Mycroft...and Sherlock."
      • From the same episode, we also have the Wham Text-Alert. Again.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Though some of them are probably better left unexplained.
    • Sherlock's fight with a swordsman in the opening sequence of "The Blind Banker." Who was this swordsman? Why was Sherlock fighting him? And what happened to him between when Sherlock cold-cocked him and when John innocently walked in the front door? No one can say.
    • John's ASBO is unheard of after the second episode, though Inspector Lestrade and/or Mycroft probably have enough experience working with Sherlock to guess what really happened and quietly get it overturned.
    • Also from "The Great Game," The Golem gets away.
    • In "The Reichenbach Fall," we never find out how Moriarty got the girl to scream when she saw Sherlock.
      • Though it's possible this one may get an explanation, as there are theories that it plays into which is revealed that Moriarty got someone that looked just like him and then killed the man after he served said purpose.
      • Confirmed in the third series, if we can believe what Sherlock told Anderson. And if you can believe that was an actual conversation, and not a scenario that played out in Anderson's guilt-ridden mind.
    • We never find out what happened to the Water Gang in "The Sign of Three."
  • With Friends Like These...: There's probably a reason John keeps insisting he's Sherlock's "colleague" and not his "friend" — friends aren't supposed to leave you standing holding objects used in a crime and then leave you explaining yourself to the police. Or test hallucinogens on you because they wanted to see the effect on an "average mind." Still, in this same episode, Sherlock tells John he doesn't have "friends" because he only has one. Guess who it is. And in "The Reichenbach Fall," John refers to Sherlock as "my friend" in a stressful moment. Even in "The Sign of Three" when he asks Sherlock to be his best man, Sherlock has to confirm this means "best friend" as well (which takes him a moment to comprehend).
  • World of Snark: Every main and recurring character has had at least one good one-liner, and there's tons of Snark-to-Snark Combat to go around between the snarkiest characters. Sherlock, John, and Mycroft are especially guilty of contributing to this.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Moriarty.
    • In "The Great Game", he straps one of his bombs to a boy and gives Sherlock ten seconds to prove the Vermeer painting is a fake, while the boy counts down to his own demise. If Sherlock doesn't give the answer, or gets it wrong, the bomb will explode and take the boy with it.
    • In "The Reichenbach Fall", he organises the kidnapping of the children of Rufus Bruhl, the British Ambassador to the U.S., and in doing so starts to paint Sherlock as a fraud to get him to ruin his own life. But it doesn't stop there. Those kidnapped children are left alone in a factory with only chocolates to eat. Chocolates with wrappers painted in mercury. Oh, dear God.
  • Wrong Insult Offence: "I'm not a psychopath - I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research." note 
    • Of course, Sherlock might have been being sarcastic when he made that remark.
    • The astronomy incident established already that Sherlock isn't interested in knowledge outside criminology. It would be quite in character for him to rely on an outmoded model from abnormal psychology, as long as that model works well enough for him to solve crimes using it.
  • Yaoi Fangirl: One of the members of Sherlock's fanclub ships him with Moriarty.
  • You Have 48 Hours: Sherlock is given twelve hours to solve the first mystery in "The Great Game", eight hours for the second, and ten seconds to prove the Vermeer painting is a fake.
    • Eurus similarly puts Sherlock through a series of timed challenges in "The Final Problem".
  • You Have Failed Me: Moriarty's response to General Shan at the end of "The Blind Banker" is to have her shot in the head as she apologizes.
  • You Just Told Me:
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Used by the cabbie. When Sherlock realises the gun is fake and he can just walk away unharmed, the cabbie changes tactics and uses reverse psychology instead, convincing Sherlock to take a risk by appealing to his vanity.
  • Zero-Approval Gambit: Sherlock, who, despite being a self-confessed sociopath, fakes his own suicide and allows his entire reputation as a consulting detective to be completely destroyed, along with being framed for murder and kidnapping, in order to call off snipers trained on his only three friends in the world. He even goes so far as to call John and make a fake confession, attempting to convince him of his guilt before forcing him to watch the faked suicide, so that the grief would be genuine enough to call off the snipers.
    • The howdunnit reveal in "The Empty Hearse" makes part of this a wham moment: John's sniper most likely did see the whole staging and was actually bought off by Mycroft's men. Meaning John didn't need to be kept in the dark after all. Though probably there were other people who could have finished the job if they didn't see him grieving.
    • In "Sign of Three", Sherlock starts his speech at John's wedding as obnoxiously as possible; turns out he was deliberately establishing his own flaws to make a greater point about why John is so important to him.