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Series / Sherlock

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"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 (2010-17, effectively on indefinite hiatus since then), created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, 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.

A special episode aired 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.

The show is currently on hiatus due to Cumberbatch's and Freeman's busy schedules but Moffat mentions that he may continue the show once the two main actors are available.

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.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • One of the books Sherlock pulls in attempting to crack the book cipher is Charles Darwin's On The Origin of SpeciesBenedict Cumberbatch played Joseph Hooker in the Darwin biopic Creation.
    • Remember Sebastian Wilkes (Bertie Carvel) from "The Blind Banker"? According to him, he and Sherlock graduated from the same university. Watch Hawking and have your minds blown. He's not lying.
    • In John's blog he explains that one of the reasons he didn't post in the time between the first and second seasons was because he was "visiting a mate in New Zealand."
    • In "The Final Problem", Cumberbatch seems quite au fait with the 'bit where the drivers sit' in an aeroplane.
    • The webisode "Many Happy Returns" also features a case of Creator Allusion. Lestrade gives John an uncut video of a birthday greeting Sherlock made for him. Watching the video, with Sherlock futzing about with Lestrade, John says "I can tell you what you can stop doing. You can stop being dead." Sherlock, as though he is talking to John through the video, replies "Okay."
    • A commenter on John's blog has the screenname "Sauron1976". Benedict Cumberbatch plays the Necromancer (an alias of Sauron) in The Hobbit. Benedict was also born in 1976.
    • In one of the possible ways Sherlock faked his death, Mycroft, played by Mark Gatiss is called upon to help fake Sherlock's death via something called "Lazarus". He also starred in an episode of Doctor Who called "The Lazarus Experiment", in which he played the titular Professor Richard Lazarus.
    • In "His Last Vow":
      • John staring intensely at a ring.
      • Sherlock criticises John's burglary skills.
      • Sherlock identifies a person, albeit falsely, through scent.
      • Then there's Sherlock and Mycroft's conversation about dragons.
  • 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 a deeper voice
    • 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 times change, 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 and him and Sherlock having a running bet on the exact date he finally dies.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Jeff Hope. In A Study in Scarlet he's a tragic character whose girlfriend was abducted and raped by his two victims several years prior. By contrast, this version of him is a Serial Killer who murders anyone who gets in his cab and makes it look like a suicide. Whilst he does still have an understandable motive of Moriarty giving money to his children for every person he kills, he comes off as much more evil than his book counterpart.
    • Moriarty. In the book he mostly just arranges robberies, and even when he is hired to kill someone he just has them killed quickly and takes no pleasure in it. In the show he's a sadist whose game with Sherlock consists of arranging crimes and forcing Sherlock to solve them by abducting random people, attaching them to bombs and detonating the bombs if Sherlock fails to solve the case in a certain amount of time.
  • Aerith and Bob:
    • Sherlock and John.
    • And, as revealed at the end of S3, the Holmes boys: Mycroft and William. S4 reveals they have a sister with the even odder name of Eurus.
  • Alphabet News Network: CAM Global News, owned by season three antagonist Charles Augustus Magnussen.
  • And the Adventure Continues: At the end of Series 4, which many fans and some of the show's creators are saying will be the last:
    "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
  • Arc Symbol: Deep water, from the pool in season one to the Reichenbach Falls in the Christmas special to the well in "The Final Problem" (in which there are also scenes where the relevance of the arc symbol of the aforementioned examples is revealed).
  • 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".
    • "Soldiers" and "Redbeard" for "The Final Problem".
    • 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 Licence – 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. Conan Doyle has Holmes do this in one of the original stories, equally implausibly.
  • Artistic Licence – 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.
  • Artistic Licence - Space:
    • 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).
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In the first episode, Dr. Watson is forced into a meeting with a man who's very interested in Sherlock Holmes and describes himself as someone Holmes would call his arch-enemy. It's all very cloak and dagger and gives the impression that Professor Moriarty is coercing Watson's cooperation against Holmes as The Mole (the man even pulls out a small red pocket book, like Moriarty is famous for). In truth, the man approaching Watson is Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's brother and a government agent.
  • 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 tells Lestrade "that lost Vermeer painting's a fake", leaving John and Lestrade confused about what he means. Sherlock explains that the man's clothes are cheap, heavy-duty formal attire that's too big for him, meaning it's a uniform, and his physical health shows he did a lot of sitting and walking, which lines up with him being a security guard. Some sort of insignia was torn off the shirt so he worked somewhere recognizable, and he had ticket stubs in his pocket, so it was probably a museum or a gallery. Sherlock used his phone to look up any museums or galleries reporting missing employees and found one, which has apparently come into possession of a thought-to-be-lost masterpiece and is to be selling it tonight. Sherlock thus deduced the man knew something about the sale and someone had him killed to keep him quiet; the obvious conclusion is forgery.
    Lestrade: What's this got to do with that painting? I don't see-
    Sherlock: You do see. You just don't observe.
  • 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.
  • Belated Injury Realization: in "The Sign of Three" this is the killer's method, first used on an unrelated victim as a test, then on the intended victim. Both victims, being soldiers in full dress, wear a tight belt preventing them to bleed out until in the course of regular undressing, that belt is removed.
  • Beneath Notice:
    • In the first episode, 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?
    • Sherlock himself notes that Molly was this to Jim Moriarty. Moriarty didn't think to include her among the list of Sherlock's closest friends (which included John, Mrs Hudson, and Lestrade) whom he would threaten to kill to force him to go along with his plan, and this oversight allowed Sherlock to turn to Molly for help in faking his death.
    • 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.
    • Then done again in the very next episode, "The Sign of Three", where the would-be murderer is the wedding photographer: someone who could go anywhere and get close to anyone without rousing suspicion, and would be difficult to identify since they wouldn't be in any pictures and most people wouldn't get a proper look at their face since it was typically hidden by a camera.
    • Vivian, the villain of "The Six Thatchers" was a secretary. As Mary puts it, receptionists know everything.
    • Eurus as the shrink in "The Lying Detective"...and John's texting tryst in "The Six Thatchers.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Watson has a Mustache Of Sorrow in the beginning of "The Empty Hearse"; although not technically a beard, the effect is the same. One of the first things he does upon learning Holmes is alive is to shave it off.
  • Berserk Button: John really dislikes people questioning his sexuality.
  • 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 blackmail 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".
  • 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.
  • Book Ends:
    • 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.
    • The last words from the police of the first episode of the first series and the last episode of the last series has someone referring to Sherlock as a great man, and Detective Inspector Lestrade remarking on his potential to be a good one (which is fulfilled in the last episode.)
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: Several times do Sherlock and John have a break-up but reunite soon after.
  • 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!"
  • Brits Love Tea: Used prominently, although Sherlock does drink coffee in his first appearance. Like most Brits, John has a favorite mug, with the Royal Army Medical Corps logo on it.
    • In the "The Blind Banker" episode, a client makes Chinese tea with hundred-year-old teapots, and it becomes an important plot point that the antique pots have to be used regularly.
    • In "A Scandal in Belgravia", John and Sherlock drink tea at Buckingham Palace with Mycroft and a client he is introducing to them. Mycroft is "mother", and Sherlock makes a joke about Mycroft's Self-Promotion To Parent.
    • In "The Hounds of Baskerville", John sardonically suggests that he and Sherlock can arrive at a top-secret military base and be greeted with "Come on in, kettle's just boiled."
    • In "The Reichenbach Fall", Moriarty and Sherlock drink tea while discussing crime and genius. Notably, this is the only time they're seen using "the best china" - getting it out of the cupboard is incredibly dramatic.
  • 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.
  • 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 realise 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?
  • 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.
  • Casting Gag: Sherlock's parents are played by Benedict Cumberbatch's real parents.
  • 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!"
  • Catchphrase:
    • 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.
    • Moriarty's Or Are You Just Happy to See Me? addressed to Sherlock.
  • 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.
      • It's quite probable that Star Trek was made in the Sherlock-verse, but the reboot movies never happened.
      • 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. It continues in Season 4, where he puts himself in harm's way to rekindle his friendship with John after Mary's death, and overall, cares about his friends and family so much that flies into a destructive rage after his sister Eurus creates a fake Sadistic Choice in which Molly must confess her love for Sherlock due to Eurus having bombs in Molly's home, and in a life-or-death challenge where Sherlock must shoot either John or Mycroft, he Takes a Third Option tries to shoot himself. This dialogue from "The Final Problem" displays this great change, meant as a Call-Back to Lestrade's "great man" quote from "A Study In Pink".
      "A Study in Pink"
      Lestrade: Sherlock Holmes is a great man. And I think one day, if we're very, very lucky, he might even be a good one.
      "The Final Problem"
      Lestrade: Fan, are you?
      Police Officer: Well, he's a great man, sir.
      Lestrade: No, he's better than that. He's a good one.
    • 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 "A Scandal In Belgravia", 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.
    • John's Embarrassing Middle Name Hamish. John mentions it as part of a Moment Killer in "A Scandal In Belgravia", and it becomes a plot point towards the end of "The Sign Of Three" when a seemingly random woman happens to know it.
    • "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 Chekhov'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."
    • The squash ball that Sherlock randomly bounces back and forth against a wall in "The Reichenbach Fall" is a major clue in Sherlock faking his death, as revealed in "The Empty Hearse", where he hid that under his armpit to temporarily stop his pulse, hence the reason why John couldn't detect one and assumed he was dead.
    • In "The Lying Detective", Mrs Hudson's Aston Martin. She uses it to bring Sherlock to John early on in the episode, then John uses it at the end to get to the hospital and save Sherlock from Culverton Smith.
  • 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".
    • The lady on the bus from "The Six Thatchers", and John's new therapist and "Faith Smith" in "The Lying Detective", all three of whom are the same person: Sherlock's and Mycroft's previously-implied secret sibling.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.")
  • Creator Cameo: Series co-creator Mark Gatiss's first appearance as Mycroft Holmes was uncredited and intended as a cameo, but the character quickly became a much more significant part of the show.
  • Criminal Mind Games: Several of Sherlock's antagonists are leading him on a paper chase, like the Mad Bomber from "The Great Game", Moriarty in Season 2 and Eurus in "The Final Problem".
  • 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.)
    • In "The Six Thatchers" Sherlock cuts off Mary's astonished "How the f-" with "Please, Mary, there is a child present" when she finds Sherlock waiting for her in a hotel in Morocco after she's traveled across the world in a random pattern to prevent anyone from following her.
  • 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.
  • Darker and Edgier: Series 4 is significantly darker than the past three series, due to life-changing events that almost tear Sherlock and John's friendship apart and destroy Sherlock, like Mary's death taking a bullet for Sherlock, with the latter turning to drug addiction as a result of him feeling responsible, the reveal of the sadistic Eurus Holmes, the third Holmes sibling, who forces Sherlock, John, and Mycroft into a sequence of "kill-or-be-killed" challenges. It also reveals that Sherlock had a childhood friend named Victor Trevor, who was killed by Eurus after she became jealous of their friendship, the trauma of which caused Sherlock to rewrite his memory so that instead of having a childhood friend, he had a childhood dog named Redbeard, transforming him into the anti-social, "high-functioning sociopath" we have known from the very beginning.
  • 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.
  • 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 Humour.
    • 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: Punch you?
      Sherlock: Yes. Punch me. In the face. Didn't you hear me?
      Watson: I always hear "punch me in the face" when you're speaking, but it's usually subtext.
    • Mary Morstan, John's fiancee as of "The Empty Hearse."
  • Death of a Child
    • 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.
    • In "The Final Problem", Sherlock realises that Eurus killed his childhood best friend, Victor Trevor, out of envy because she herself never had a best friend.
  • Deranged Taxi Driver: In the first episode "A Study In Pink," Holmes's investigation into a Serial Killer leads him to a terminally ill cabbie who forces his victims into a sick game of Russian Roulette involving poison pills. Sherlock almost plays the game with him just to see if he's smart enough to deduce the right pill, but Watson sharpshoots the cabbie before he can.
  • Diagonal Billing: for Cumberbatch and Freeman.
  • Disability Alibi: Season four episode "The Final Problem", when given three brothers who are suspects in a murder, Sherlock crosses out two of the brothers as the murderer due to their physical conditions. One of them wore glasses so could no fire the rifle, as the rifle having a scope and a strong recoil would result in his glasses shattering. The other brother was a drunk and did not possess the accuracy to fire the weapon. This leaves the third brother who was indeed the murderer.
  • 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.
  • Dying Smirk: Moriarty has his trademark Slasher Smile on his face when he shoots himself at the end of The Reichenbach Fall.
  • Early Instalment 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 irritable
    • 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.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: Sherlock's lack of emotion (and also that of his brother, Mycroft) is often shown in comparison the more emotional John. Whilst Sherlock's lack of emotion helps him to solve crimes, it doesn't always endear him to people.
  • 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!
      Moriarty: That's what people DO!
    • 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 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.
    • Also in "The Final Problem", Moriarty has a brother who was a station master.
  • 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, which introduces a bit of a plothole, because how can you blackmail someone if you can't prove what you're saying with hard evidence?
  • 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.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Sherlock would often start a sentence only to get a "Eureka!" Moment before finishing it.

    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 into 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) and Mark Gatiss (Mycroft) both appear in every episode of the second, third, and fourth series; Louise Brealey (Molly) appears in every episode of the first, third, and fourth series; and Una Stubbs (Mrs Hudson) appears in every episode, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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 realising. 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 could be a sister.
    • The climax of "The Hounds Of Baskerville", where it's revealed the hound is a figment of the characters' imaginations, and Henry rewrote his memory into that of a dog killing his father because he couldn't cope with the trauma of losing his father as a child. This thread comes back in "The Final Problem", where it's revealed something very similar happened to Sherlock when he was a boy: out of jealousy, Eurus murdered Sherlock's best friend, Victor, and he was left so traumatised, he rewrote his memory into that of losing a dog, which he had always wanted, as a way to cope with the loss. He's brought to tears when he remembers what actually happened.
  • 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 stylised "IOU" can be glimpsed spray-painted on the wall behind him.
    • When Sherlock steals Mycroft's laptop in "His Last Vow," we see briefly that Mycroft wears a wedding-band style ring on his right hand.
  • Friendlessness Insult: The titular character is mocked deliberately and accidentally by many for having no friends (beyond John Watson at least to start with; Miss Hudson is more of a Parental Substitute and Lestrade a Friend on the Force), to the point that an old "friend" from his university admits he hated him. This changes a bit as he slowly starts to befriend other people, though he still gets called a "weirdo".
  • "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 Season 3 we have a much better idea of how she affords this. note 
  • Fun with Subtitles: The series has a lot of fun with them:
    • The show relies heavily on email, IM, and texting conversations depicted with subtitles next to the character reading them, eliminating the need for many shots of computer and smartphone screens.
    • The main character's trademark Sherlock Scan is depicted with floating subtitles that point out his observations and the conclusions he draws from them. The subtitles appear, fade, and transmute as Sherlock's focus shifts and he revises his conclusions.
    • Subtitles are also treated as a part of the environment: reflecting in mirrors, floating in and out of windows, sliding away along with the objects they are connected to, and so forth. Sherlock will sometimes physically interact with subtitles representing his thought processes, especially in "mind palace" sequences.
    • The third season Big Bad also uses "mind palace" memory techniques, in his case to manage vast files of blackmail information. This is visually represented with subtitles. Specifically, a dossier for each person he looks at displayed in Google Glass-like screen text.
      • This is even more, fitting the trope, as those texts make the spectator think, that he got all the information through his glasses. And Sherlock thinks the same until he checks the glasses himself.
  • 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 allow an unsupervised meeting between two extremely dangerously psychotic and intelligent criminals, who are not hiding their intentions to harm his brother. If Mycroft refuses, she loses her only chance to do anything outside her prison cell for the rest of her life. Trusting notoriously unreliable Moriarty as an accomplice may be considered a gamble on its own.
      • Eurus has to be able to brainwash all the prison staff discretely and completely without Mycroft or any other top government agent noticing somehow, 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.
      • The plan of "The Final Problem" itself requires Sherlock, John, and Mycroft to survive a grenade explosion at close range and infiltrate the highest security island prison as just the start of a series of elaborate personalised mind games.
  • Genius Thriller: It's an adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, one of the Ur Examples.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gratuitous Laboratory Flasks: Sherlock's kitchen table is filled with lab flasks whenever he conducts chemical experiments at home.
  • 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.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: A Running Gag with John and Sherlock:
    • When the pair have a stakeout at a restaurant (in "A Study in Pink") while waiting for the murderer to appear, the waiter refers to John as Sherlock's "date", which he immediately denies. The waiter pays no attention to this and brings a romantic candle for the table.
    • This happens so frequently to John that by "The Hounds of Baskerville" he seems to have given up on correcting people.
      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.
  • Heroes Gone Fishing:
    • Referenced in "A Study In Pink". Sherlock says John could either come with him to investigate the case, or he could stay at the flat and watch TV.
    • The Christmas party at 221B in "A Scandal In Belgravia" before Sherlock discovers Irene's phone on the mantelpiece.
    • In "The Empty Hearse", John is having dinner with Mary and planning on proposing to her in a Marylebone Road restaurant before Sherlock is able to reveal to John he is still alive.
    • Also in "The Empty Hearse", Sherlock is eating chips at 221B when Mary tells him John is in danger after receiving a skip coded text message.
    • Twice in "The Lying Detective". Sherlock takes Faith Smith out for chips early on in the episode (except it's not really her), and again at the end when John deduces that it's Sherlock's birthday and decides to take him out for cake.
    • Mycroft is watching a Film Noir at the start of "The Final Problem".
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Moriarty tries to paint Sherlock as one in "The Reichenbach Fall" and attempts to drive him to kill himself.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Ooohhhhh boy. Sherlock and John are constantly Mistaken for Gay, and though 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 innkeepers 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.
  • 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 off compliments from people about his signature hat. In "The Reichenbach Fall" he rants at length about 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 hiring 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 circumstantial 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 centring 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 it 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 labelling 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 to 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.
  • Immediate Sequel: Series 3's finale and Series 4's premiere happen only hours apart in-universe, with "The Abominable Bride" showing events in the brief interval in between.
  • Improbable Infant Survival:
    • 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.
    • Double-subverted in "The Final Problem" with Eurus herself. Mycroft had made it appear that she had died, whereas she was actually incarcerated in Sherrinford. Needless to say, Mr and Mrs Holmes are not happy when they find out Mycroft's deception.
  • 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."
  • An Insert: Often used during Sherlock's Scans.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Doubles as I Resemble That Remark!.
      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.)
    • Magnussen isn't into blackmail, it's ownership.
  • Irregular Series: Consists of four three-episode series, with a two-year gap (or three, in the case of the fourth series) between them.
  • 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".
    • Used by the British government against Moriarty to attempt to obtain his key-code.
    • Used by Serbians after they capture Sherlock in "The Empty Hearse".
    • In "The Reichenbach Fall", Sherlock threatens Moriarty with such chilling conviction that Moriarty chooses to kill himself rather than face a vengeful Sherlock.
      "I may be on the side of the angels, but don't for one second think that I am one of them!"
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: Sherlock fires John's gun at their flat's wall out of boredom, and later uses it to scratch his head (with his finger on the trigger!) after the pool scene in "The Great Game".
  • 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.
  • 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 realise 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).
  • 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.
  • 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 Neilson falling out the window.
    • 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 led 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 leitmotif 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.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Through the series, several Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle are alluded to, either as episode names or in passing. For instance, "A Study in Scarlet" becomes "A Study in Pink", "The Greek Interpreter" becomes "The Geek Interpreter", "The Adventure of the Empty House" becomes "The Empty Hearse", "The Sign of the Four" becomes "The Sign of Three", "His Last Bow" becomes "His Last Vow", "The Adventure of the Dying Detective" becomes "The Lying Detective", "The Final Problem" remains "The Final Problem" etc.
  • 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 his 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 
  • Man Hug: Lestrade gives Sherlock a big hug in "The Empty Hearse" after revealing he is still alive.
    • John gives Sherlock a big hug after a heartfelt part of Sherlock’s best man speech in "The Sign Of Three". Even better? The congregation erupts in applause when it happens.
  • Meaningful Echo: "If you're looking for baby names....". This is said ironically by John (along with his fall name, John Hamish Watson) as a joke in "A Scandal in Belgravia", when he sees Sherlock and Irene having a Held Gaze. Four episodes later, Sherlock states his full name (William Sherlock Scott Holmes) and the aforementioned quotation during his last conversation with John and his wife Mary, as Sherlock is heading on an MI6 mission that could potentially get him killed, as penance for shooting the Big Bad in an attempt to protect John and his family. He is suggesting this because Mary is pregnant, meaning that he wants John to have someone to remember him by.
  • 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.
  • Mirror Character:
    • 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.
  • 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 and 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.
  • Mononymous Biopic Title: Just Sherlock.
  • 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 tensest, 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?"
  • 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.
  • Mythology Gag: Has its own page.
  • 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 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.
    • At the beginning of the Hounds of Baskerville, Sherlock enters the apartment covered in blood and carrying a well over 2 meters 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 leads 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 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 realising 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.
    • Mycroft has another in "His Last Vow." When he watches Sherlock straight-out murder a man in front of not just witnesses but a SWAT team, he's openly horrified, shouting for the police not to shoot Sherlock, and visualizing his brother as a young child standing there with guns pointed at him.
    • 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 The Illness That Killed Them: Jeff Hope, the villain of the first episode "A Study in Pink", confides in Sherlock that he has a brain aneurysm which could cause him to keel over at any moment. He ends up dying from a bullet wound when Watson shoots him to save Sherlock from his mind games.
  • 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 realises 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...
    • Also in "The Hounds of Baskerville", Frankland gets one when he tries to escape through the Grimpen Minefield and steps on a mine.
    • 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 realises 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 realises 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", Culverton Smith has one when he realises there was another recording device in the room he overlooked, that was hidden in John's cane.
    • Also in "The Lying Detective", John has one at the end when he realises his therapist isn't exactly who she says she is. He then gets another one when she pulls a gun on him, and a third time right before she pulls the trigger.
    • In "The Final Problem", Sherlock has one when he realises there is no glass in Eurus's holding cell, as she is able to lock fingers with 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.
    • Another from the "The Final Problem". John, Mycroft and even Eurus get one when Sherlock prepares to shoot himself.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Despite the fact that Sherlock only wears a deerstalker cap once in an attempt to disguise his appearance, it is referred to constantly by the press as a signature item of his wardrobe.
  • 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 realises 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.
  • Orwellian Retcon: John's blog does this a couple of times: the summary of "The Great Game" initially stopped dead, with increasingly panicky comments from Mrs Hudson and others who hadn't heard from either of them since. Once "Scandal" established the cliffhanger had been resolved quickly and simply, the whole thing got rewritten. And the original version of "The Six Thatchers" just disappeared completely when it was made into a full episode.
  • 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 combat.
  • 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 realises his mistake, immediately apologises 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.
  • Pop-Up Texting: The show makes considerable use of this, showing texts and anything else on a phone screen floating in the air. The creators have noted this is a handy way to avoid clogging the screen time up with shots of peoples' phones.
  • 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 Licence – 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. Being a student of crimes and unusual deaths, Sherlock should know that those bullets have to come down somewhere.
    • 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 "Sauron1976". 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.
  • 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 personalised text alert in "A Scandal in Belgravia". Doubles as a Chekhov's Gun.
    • Sherlock's inability to remember Lestrade's first name becomes one in Season 2 and throughout Seasons 3 and 4.
    • People thinking that Sherlock writes John's blog and completely ignoring John.

     S - Z 
  • 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 realise 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".
  • Scenery Porn: Steven Moffat commented on a DVD commentary that the adventures worked best when contrasted against an almost fetishised picture of modern London.
  • 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 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.
  • Serial Killer: Jeff Hope and Culverton Smith.
  • 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 realises that Mycroft is at 221B because he has straightened the door knocker, something he does without realising 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, and 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.
  • 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 deduce 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 behaviour. 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.
  • Shout-Out: Has its own page.
  • 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.
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: Mycroft straightens Sherlock's doorknocker, has a well-organised 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.
  • Smith of the Yard: Sherlock eventually becomes a celebrity detective through John's blog.
  • 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.
  • Spies Are Despicable: Hilariously, Mycroft, the head of an English spy agency, voices this opinion at one point when he recruits Sherlock and John to investigate a matter related to Irene Adler. When John asks the logical question of why doesn't Mycroft have his own people do it and if he doesn't trust them, we get this response:
    Mycroft: Certainly not. They all spy on people for money.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To Doctor Who, as Steven Moffat has remarked on occasion. Doctor Who is about a powerful 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.....
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • Tan Lines: Used in Sherlock's deductions on a couple of occasions, particularly in Sherlock's initial scan of John.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 honoured at being made the Best Man, cut to Sherlock being almost frozen in silence multiple times. He did later admit that he didn't say it at the time.
  • Villains Out Shopping:
    • In "A Scandal In Belgravia", Irene flirts with Sherlock and wants him to have dinner with her.
    • Frankland is seen spending time at the same pub John is interviewing Henry's therapist at in "The Hounds of Baskerville".
    • In "The Final Problem", Eurus passes the time by playing the violin. She does this first when Sherlock arrives at her holding cell, and again at the end, this time with Sherlock, Mycroft and their parents in attendance.
    • A small example, also in "The Final Problem", Moriarty is seen and heard listening to Queen on his iPod in the flashback of him arriving at Sherrinford on Christmas.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Culverton Smith is this in "The Lying Detective", being an entrepreneur and a philanthropist as well as a serial killer.
  • 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.
  • 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 that 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 strapped one of his bombs onto a little boy and forced him to count down from ten to his own demise.
  • 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.
  • You Just Told Me:


His Last Vow

Sherlock tells Magnussen what he is instead of a hero before shooting him dead.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / ImNotAHeroIm

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