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Recap / Sherlock S4 E2 "The Lying Detective"

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"You're not what I expected, Mr. Holmes. You're... nicer."
Faith Smith ... or so it appears.

As Sherlock attempts to comfort John Watson after his wife's death, entrepreneur and apparent philanthropist Culverton Smith (Toby Jones) tests a new drug on daughter Faith and his employees to make them forget his confession that he is planning to commit murder. Faith has a partial memory and approaches Sherlock to identify a likely victim but her disappearance, and his descent into drug-taking, lands him in Smith's hospital and at his mercy. However, Sherlock is not as helpless as he appears and has his own way of trapping Smith, though the final shock is for Watson as his therapist springs a terrible surprise on him.


  • Actor Allusion: It's interesting that Sherlock's hands trembling while on withdrawal look eerily similar to how Stephen Strange's damaged hands were shaking.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Culverton Smith was no saint in "The Dying Detective"; he did kill his nephew for inheritance. But this version is a complete sadist killing scores of people and is quite happy to be caught since it means he'll live in infamy.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Happens to John at the end. As Sherlock finds the clue on the note left in his flat, John realizes with a shock that his therapist he is sitting with is actually an impostor, too late for him to do anything but sit and watch as she locks the doors on him and pulls the trigger.
  • And Here He Comes Now: In the opening scene John talks to his therapist about Sherlock not having contacted him yet. Cue the car screeching sound outside. Subverted when it turns out to be Mrs Hudson coming for John. Double Subverted when Sherlock is revealed to be stashed in the trunk of the Aston Martin.
  • Arc Words:
    • "It is what it is" crops up several times near the end of the episode, stated by several different people.
    • "Miss me?" (arc words for the season) turns up again, this time scrawled (invisibly) on the note from Culverton's daughter.
  • Artistic Licence Law: Sherlock claims the recording is inadmissible and entrapment. Entrapment is when a police officer incites someone to break the law when they would have been unlikely to do so. Sherlock is not a police officer and Smith had already murdered many people. The recording catches Smith deliberately trying to kill Sherlock with what English law calls "direct intent", which is admissible in court.
  • Aside Glance: Sian Brooke gives us one of these, through her disguise glasses upon shifting her accent from German to Yorkshire to deliver the "Faith Smith" line quoted above, and just before revealing her character's real identity.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The opening of the episode made it seem like it was Sherlock driving the Aston Martin. Later on, it's revealed that Mrs Hudson was the one driving.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Sherlock successfully predicting that John would change to a particular psychiatrist even before John himself did, to the point of being able to arrange a meeting with Culverton Smith where they would be picked up from that psychiatrist's house.
    • And also predicting that John would require Molly Hooper to assess Sherlock's condition — she turns up with an ambulance about 5 seconds after John makes the demand.
    • Sherlock on Culverton Smith, guessing he would look for recording devices on Sherlock's belongings and would think he had found them all when he found three.
    • Sherlock planted a recording device in John's old walking stick, knowing John would make a present of it to Sherlock while he was in Culverton's hospital, allowing Culverton's confession to be recorded.
    • Sherlock predicted that Culverton would try to kill him in '[Culverton's] favourite room', getting the nurse to switch the potentially overdosing medication with a saline drop. Oddly Culverton may have picked up on this at some level as he also tried to smother Sherlock — or just got tired of waiting for the overdose.
    • Also Mary, correctly guessing that John would reunite and reconcile with Sherlock if the latter put himself so badly into harm's way that John's instinct to save people forced him to act.
    • And Eurus Holmes, out-Batmanning them all by arranging to put Sherlock onto the scent of Culverton in the first place and arranging his seeming mental instability by pretending to be Culverton's daughter.
  • Beneath Notice: Continuing the theme from last episode, the true villain of the piece is a woman who everyone thought was harmless. But unlike Vivian, Eurus is a master of disguise.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Culverton Smith and Eurus Holmes are both working against Sherlock and John but do not appear to be on the same side as each other, with Eurus even being the one to manipulate Sherlock into taking Culverton down. They do, however, share "a mutual friend", which was how Eurus was able to get a cryptically incriminating note from Culverton's possession.
  • Blatant Lies: Mycroft says he's totally not acting out of concern for Sherlock, just national security. He may even believe it himself. Nobody else does.
  • Bookends: The ending and the starting few seconds are both of the same scene: a smoking gun that has just been fired.
  • Brick Joke: Mary kept nagging John to get Sherlock to wear the deerstalker, and at the end he does because Mary wanted it.
  • Call-Back:
    • Remember when Sherlock admitted that it is way too hard to actually predict someone who thinks they're acting randomly? Turns out he wasn't kidding.
    • He's still good enough at navigating London to spell out a rude message to Mycroft.
    • John mistakenly assuming that Sherlock's other sibling is a brother, not a sister; back in the very first episode, Sherlock made a similar mistake, assuming Harry was John's brother rather than his sister.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Mrs Hudson's Aston Martin. She uses it to bring Sherlock to John at his therapist's house, and at the end of the episode John uses it to get to the hospital and save Sherlock from Culverton Smith.
    • A four-series-long one: John's cane, which was introduced in "A Study In Pink" and it turns out that Sherlock hid a recording device in it to catch Culverton Smith's confessing his crimes.
  • Cliffhanger: Twofold; Sherlock puts "Faith"'s note under a black light and sees the words "MISS ME?", meanwhile, Eurus reveals herself to John and decides to shoot him because she's bored.
  • Cool Car: Mrs Hudson's Aston Martin.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: There were always hints given what has been revealed about Mrs Hudson's past, as well as her quick recovery from being tied up in her own house by the CIA in a previous episode, but here she really gets her game on. As well as showing herself to be a very skilled driver, she evades Sherlock's Sherlock Scan and Batman Gambits him into getting a gun out of his hands, stands up to both John Watson and Mycroft Holmes (it is implied that even quite senior government figures daren't do that), and finally does a very passable Sherlock Scan of her own by pointing out what Sherlock does with important material (stabs it).
  • Cry into Chest: John cries into Sherlock's chest after having confessed his cheating on Mary.
  • Dead Guy Puppet: In the mortuary scene, Culverton mockingly uses an elderly woman's corpse as a ventriloquist's dummy, to Sherlock and John's disgust.
  • Dead Person Conversation: John has these with "Mary" (or his mind's projection of her) throughout the episode.
  • Dirty Old Woman: Mrs Hudson is implied to be this with what she was doing with the handcuffs when neither Sherlock or John are around.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Mrs Hudson in the opening scene.
  • Exact Words: As a way to misdirect the audience about Eurus.
    John: Sherlock's not your only brother. There's another one, isn't there?
    Mycroft: No.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Lots to Eurus's reveal:
      • John's therapist keeps asking about Sherlock.
      • "Faith" notices a helicopter following Sherlock and quips "Big Brother is watching".
      • Smith talks a lot about H.H. Holmes the notorious American serial killer and whether Sherlock is related to him.
      • During the Batman Cold Open, the therapist seems completely fine with a car chase pulling up at her front door, and the general weirdness of John's life. The recurring adults in the series who do that are always damaged in some way; Irene, John, Hudson, Mary, Mycroft, Sherlock, etc. It's the normal folks, like Molly or Lestrade, who struggle with it.
    • Culverton's 'board meetings', where he injects people with amnesia drugs so they later forget and tells them about his killings, leads into his love of confessing at the end. There is also the fact he doesn't destroy his daughter's note when she attempts to piece together what she has heard after one such board meeting - he gets off on confessing or any equivalent.
    • Mycroft and his colleagues don't mention "Faith" when he's having Holmes followed, and we don't see her onscreen. The obvious hint is that she's a hallucination of Sherlock's. Except when Mycroft's men are searching the apartment, someone dislodges the actual paper. Mycroft just didn't see fit to mention that Sherlock had a client.
    • Similarly, when John is beating the crap out of Sherlock, there's a shot where Smith looks either worried... or pleased. Another hint Sherlock isn't crazy.
  • Gender Flip: Sherrinford Holmes, elder brother of Mycroft and Sherlock originating from William S. Baring-Gould's biography Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street becomes a woman - Eurus Holmes (those Holmeses did like funny names after all). The word Sherrinford is instead revealed to be the place where Eurus has lived all these years.
  • Get Out!: Mrs Hudson insists on Mycroft leaving Sherlock's office in the scene where John receives Mary's Video Wills.
    "Get out of my house, you reptile!"
  • Hey, Catch!: Mrs Hudson pretends to be jittery while making tea and drops her cup in slow motion, so Sherlock would drop down the gun he was holding in order to catch the teacup before it could hit the floor, at which point Mrs Hudson picks up the gun and points it at Sherlock and forces him into the trunk of her car.
  • Homage: John's visions of Mary are framed, in certain scenes, in homage to Ronald Craven's visions of his murdered daughter Emma in Edge of Darkness.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: John's therapist casually brings up Sherlock's secret sibling in their session, only for John to realise he never told her about that. Certainly deliberate.
  • Infraction Distraction: Culverton Smith stopped searching for recording devices after finding three of them in Sherlock's coat. There was one more though hidden inside John's cane.
    Smith: Oh, Mr Holmes, I don't know if this is relevant, but we found three potential recording devices in the pockets of your coat. All your possessions were searched. Sorry!
    Sherlock: Must be something comforting about the number three, people always give up after three.
  • In Harm's Way: Invoked by Sherlock. Mary implores him to put himself in danger in order to reconnect with John. So Sherlock picks Culverton Smith as his target and orchestrates events to make John save his life.
    Mary: Go and pick a fight with a bad guy, put yourself in harm's way. If [John] thinks you need him, I swear... he will be there.
  • Internal Reveal: Several things the audience already knew are revealed to other characters this episode:
  • Invisible Writing: "Miss Me" on the note Sherlock receive from Faith could only be seen under black light.
  • Ironic Juxtaposition: We see a commercial of Culverton Smith with him saying "Even when I'm on the road, I still like quality food." - Cut to Sherlock and Faith ordering chips at a stand.
  • Just Between You and Me: Culverton Smith confesses to his murders before attempting to kill Sherlock, thinking no one will ever know because he checked for recording devices in the room first. However, he forgot about John's cane.
  • Justified Title: "The Lying Detective" might seem to have nothing to do with the episode itself besides being based on the original Holmes short story, but it is in fact in reference to Sherlock's manipulation of John, in addition to Sherlock's accusations of Culverton... which may or may not be true.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In the scene with Faith, the usual text and lines showing what Sherlock has observed are written in chalk. Sherlock gets annoyed, walks over, and erases them with his hands when they don't fade out normally.
  • Meaningful Name: Eurus says her name is referring to the east wind. Just to ram it home about her character, there's an English weather folklore rhyme that goes "The wind in the east is good for neither man nor beast". Additionally, the original book canon had Holmes using "an east wind" as an ominous euphemism for the First World War. What rams it home even more is that, in "His Last Vow" in Series 3, Mycroft commented more than once about "an east wind coming". Sherlock told John that Mycroft used to tell him stories about "The East Wind; this terrifying force that lays waste to all in its path. It seeks out the unworthy and plucks them from the Earth. That was generally me." This sounded at the time like an example of Mycroft being a Big Brother Bully (and maybe partially was), but Eurus's reveal gives this a whole new meaning. The look on John's face heavily implies that he recognises this, too.
  • Meta Twist:
    • The episode repeatedly plays with the idea that Sherlock is just fixating on an innocent Smith and demonising him because of his drug addiction and guilt. This is inspired by the famous novel and film The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, in which Professor Moriarty is an innocent man whom a drug-crazed Holmes deludedly believes to be a supervillain because he once had an affair with Holmes's mother, and Holmes's innocent exposure of it led Holmes's father to kill her. In the end Smith really is as evil as Holmes believes.
    • As soon as Sherrinford is mentioned, hardcore Holmes fans are surely all predicting the twist that Sherrinford is the third Holmes sibling. They're wrong. The third Holmes sibling is a woman named Eurus, and Sherrinford is the asylum where she is being held.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • There are major parallels between Culverton Smith and Jimmy Savile, a British disc jockey, radio and TV presenter, and charity fundraiser who after his death was unmasked as a serial rapist of people of all ages and genders (although not, so far as is known, a murderer). Culverton and his daughter (both the real and the fake one) speak in a vaguely northern accent (Savile was from Leeds), Culverton is showing running for charity, he is a well-known and loved celebrity who apparently can do no wrong, and he hides in plain sight despite acting at times in a blatantly creepy way that is put down by most as just being a Bunny-Ears Lawyer. The repeated use of the phrase "in plain sight" in the episode may well be a reference to its use as the title of an in-depth post-exposure biography of Savile by Dan Davies. Then, just to ram the point home quite firmly, he is shown as having complete dominance over a hospital and for bonus points is shown with the keys to said hospital as Savile apparently did with Stoke Mandeville, Leeds General Infirmary and Broadmoor, abusing his access to rape people. His description of the morgue as his "favourite room" and playful mockery of a corpse there are references to Savile's notorious interest in the morgue at Leeds General (which in the real world has been rumoured to have extended to necrophilia).
    • There's a rich, blond-ish businessman who isn't conventionally attractive, with a working-class accent. He's a charismatic, bombastic man with fingers in a lot of pies and a successful reality-TV star, in shows about businesses. He's accused of horrible things, and somehow manages to spin the controversy lead into publicity gold, much to the frustration of his detractors. This makes Smith a combination of Savile and Donald Trump.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: After Sherlock goes public with his accusations towards him, Culverton Smith is shown filming an advert for breakfast cereal in which he gleefully takes the piss out of them.
    Culverton: I'm a killer. You know I'm a killer. But did you know... I'm a cereal killer?
  • No Warrant? No Problem!: Discussed; Sherlock points out that the recording he took is almost certainly inadmissible in court. It doesn't matter though, because Culverton confessed. They can't get him to stop, really.
  • Oh, Crap!: John has one at the end when his therapist reveals that she isn't exactly who she says she is. He then gets another one when she pulls a gun on him, and a third time before she fires it.
  • Once More, with Clarity!:
    • The Aston Martin's Dynamic Entry in the opening scene is repeated half an hour in, this time showing who the driver actually was.
    • "The Six Thatchers" ends with Sherlock watching a video message left by Mary, who had saved his life at the cost of her own at the episode's climax, telling him to "save John Watson", followed by a short stinger in which she tells him to "go to hell", seemingly out of spite. At the end of this episode, John watches the same video and it's revealed that "go to hell" was actually Mary's instruction on how to save John, as she reasoned that the only way to save him was for him to have to save Sherlock, thus giving him renewed purpose.
  • One-Woman Wail: Can be heard on the soundtrack in an emotional moment at the morgue when Sherlock confirms that he was responsible for Mary's death.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: John's therapist exploits this trope as part of the above revelation, switching through the accents of her disguises (the original therapist's German accent, Faith Smith's Northern English accent, and the bus girl's Scottish accent).
  • Punk in the Trunk: Apparently Mrs Hudson forces Sherlock at gunpoint into the trunk of her Aston Martin.
  • Red Herring:
    • Mycroft is asked by a colleague whether he's still in contact with Sherrinford, shortly after he mentions having a sibling who was labelled a security risk before Sherlock. The obvious assumption is that Sherrinford was the sibling (especially since Sherrinford being the name of an unmentioned eldest third Holmes brother is a very old piece of popular fanon). It's a Meta Twist, however - Mycroft is still in touch with Sherrinford, but it's the place where his sibling is locked up, not the sibling herself.
    • Early on Smith is shown to use a substance called Bliss that makes people forget, but it never becomes plot-relevant.
  • The Reveal: Philanthropist and public icon Culverton Smith really is the serial killer Sherlock accused him of being. The woman who visited Sherlock at his flat claiming to be Culverton's daughter Faith really was there (and not a drug hallucination as Sherlock feared), and she, John's new therapist, and the woman John flirted with on the bus in the previous episode are all the same person: Sherlock's and Mycroft's sister Eurus Holmes.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Sherlock's living room looks like this during one of his drug trips.
  • Rule of Perception: Averted. The same actress played three characters, without any obvious indications other than what the viewers might've observed.
  • Rule of Three:
    • Invoked by Sherlock. He lampshades the fact that people expect things to happen in threes, so he hid a fourth listening device in his hospital room.
    • Also, we meet Eurus Holmes in three different disguises before her true identity is revealed.
  • Running Gag: People thinking that Sherlock writes John's blog and completely ignoring John.
  • Saying Too Much: Mycroft accidentally lets it slip to John how there's another Holmes sibling.
    Mycroft: Sherlock gone rogue is a legitimate security concern. The fact that I'm his brother changes absolutely nothing. It didn't the last time, and I assure you, [realizes what he just said] it won't with... with Sherlock.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections! / Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Culverton Smith revels in this. He even lampshades it by asking Sherlock what he could possibly do if the Queen of England wanted to murder someone.
  • Ship Tease: John finds out that Irene still texts Sherlock occasionally, wondering what this implies, and Sherlock behaves very awkwardly at the reveal, trying to pretend he doesn't know what John's talking about. The script for the episode even describes Sherlock's behaviour as "Like he got caught by his parents trying to hide his girlfriend".
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Wiggins bails on Sherlock when he gets too high even for him.
  • Secretly Wealthy: Mrs. Hudson. When John is in awe of her cool car, she reminds that she was married to a drug dealer and she does own property in the middle of Central London (very expensive)... and she is NOT his housekeeper.
  • Shipper on Deck: John encourages Sherlock to hook up with Irene to make the most of their time together before it's too late.
  • Ship Tease: Between Mycroft and Lady Smallwood of all people.
  • Shout-Out:
    • John's extended Dead Person Conversation with a loved one who ends up dramatically vanishing echoes a similar plot from the British series Cold Feet.
    • The roundels on the wallpaper in the hospital room evoke the interior of the TARDIS.
    • Culverton's amnesia-drug, "Bliss," brings to mind the Doctor Who episode "Gridlock"—there, "Bliss" was a mood-enhancer that had somehow gotten an infection in its chemical makeup, which ultimately killed almost everyone in New New York.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: During Sherlock's outburst inside his room, his quotes were taken from Henry V. The scene he's referencing contains the quote "The game's afoot!"
  • Sickbed Slaying: Culverton Smith tries to strangle Sherlock in his hospital bed. Apparently that's his M.O.
  • Spirit Advisor: Mary's ghost to John. At the end of the episode, Sherlock addresses a remark to "her" too.
  • Trumplica: Culverton Smith is a vaguely defined businessman, implied to be a Corrupt Corporate Executive who often appears on posters, adverts and game shows, promoting his businesses. He's also a Serial Killer who has a compulsion to confess his murders due to the immense pride he takes in them and uses his Villain with Good Publicity status to hide his true nature from the public, being a philanthropist and charity runner. People watching the show thought Smith was based on Jimmy Savile but Steven Moffat has denied this, saying that Smith was based on the dark side of fame in general but especially Trump.
  • Tsundere: Lady Smallwood's first appearance in the episode is sniping at Mycroft for suspecting her of leaking secrets. A few seconds later, she's asking him about his personal life. At the end of the episode, she gives him her personal number, in case he wants to go out for drinks.
  • Wham Episode: We meet Eurus Holmes, who is Sherlock and Mycroft's sister.
  • Wham Line:
    • When Sherlock deduces that John is hallucinating Mary.
      Sherlock: I'm Sherlock Holmes, I wear the damn hat. Isn't that so, Mary?
    • And a more serious name when John meets the woman who's been pretending to be his therapist.
      Eurus: I'm Eurus. It's Greek; it means "the east wind". My parents loved silly names. Like Eurus, or Mycroft...or Sherlock...
  • Wham Shot: The words "MISS ME?" written on "Faith"'s note in invisible ink.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Mrs Hudson chews John for his selfish attitude by cutting Sherlock out of his life, telling him if he doesn't intervene to save Sherlock from himself, he'll lose his only friend and by extension Mrs Hudson.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: John admits to Sherlock that he was never the man Mary thought he was. Sherlock gets about halfway through giving him a speech like this when he confesses to cheating on her, stopping Sherlock cold.
    John: No clever comeback?