- Sherlock explaining to Joan why he can't accept his one-year sobriety chip: it's not his one year anniversary of sobriety, because the day after he entered rehab, he snuck out to get drugs to deal with his crippling withdrawal. He's shuddering and his voice seems close to breaking. He looks almost like he's going to start crying.Sherlock: It just- it sounds like a mere detail, but I am a man of details and, it- it matters to me.
- Sherlock's reaction to finding Irene alive. Harsher in Hindsight considering The Reveal about Irene's true identity.
- In "Step Nine", You feel for Mycroft as he tells Joan that he couldn't even bring himself to contact his own brother to tell him he had cancer and needed a bone marrow donation. His cancer treatments made him rethink his life and his relationship with Sherlock.
- The scene in "Solve For X" where Joan describes the death of a patient, how it drove her out of the medical field, and how she's haunted by guilt over the incident.
- In "Poison Pen" Sherlock Holmes reveals more about his backstory—merciless bullying and isolation at boarding school.
- Abigail Spencer is this personified.
- The entire episode was one giant tear jerker. We have a son who kills his father for sexually molesting him and possibly going on to molest his younger son and tries to frame the family's nanny, Abigail Spencer, for the crime. Said nanny was accused of poisoning her abusive father when she was fifteen and lost her entire life and all her friends due to the controversy. As soon as she heard of what happened to the son, she immediately took the fall for it because she loved him in a maternal way and couldn't bear to see his life ruined like hers had been and in a way, she says she is finally paying for her crime since she really did kill her father. It counts as a Bittersweet Ending as well.
- A recurring motif in Season 2 is the effect of Moriarty's betrayal on Sherlock. It's quite tragic to see such a brilliant man continue to struggle with his contradictory feelings. Although the line delivery is lighthearted in "The Best Way Out Is Always Through", Sherlock still refers to her as "the love of [his] life", despite also calling her "a homicidal maniac". He still has feelings for her but still struggles with it.
- Sherlock's speech to his NA meeting at the start of "The Marchioness". Sherlock talks about how his powers of observation can overwhelm him, especially in today's Hi-Tech society. In a moment of meta commentary, Sherlock wonders if he was Born in the Wrong Century. It also nudges the edge of Deconstruction, basically implying that someone like Sherlock Holmes, with amazing powers of observation and deduction that he can't simply "turn off," couldn't be a functional human being in modern society.
- It gets even sadder when you realize that his belief that if he'd lived in the Victorian Era he wouldn't have been an addict is wrong.
- The sadness of that moment stacks higher the more you think about it. Not only would being in the Victorian era not have stopped him from an addict, but it would also have none of the things that Sherlock uses to keep himself sober, like support groups or sober companions. If this version of Sherlock had been alive back then, he would be an addict with no hope of recovery.
- Especially when the original Sherlock Holmes took cocaine because he had the opposite problem. The world of the Victorian Era was too quiet most of the time, and he used the drugs to keep his brain stimulated. So who knows? Maybe he's right, and there is a point in between the two periods where Sherlock wouldn't be an addict...
- The end of "Tremors". When Holmes' antics finally go too far, a suspect takes a shot at him. Bell takes the bullet instead, sustaining a nerve injury that might impair his ability to be a detective. Even worse, their relationship is now more strained than ever.
- "Internal Audit"'s Victim of the Week is just plain sad. Not only does he turn out to be guilt ridden for creating a Ponzi scheme and would have been Driven to Suicide had he not been murdered first, it turns out the charity he devoted a part of his life to was really just a front for money launderers and he was killed for attempting to reveal that fact. Sherlock puts it best when he states that it's rare for someone to be totally good or evil-he may have been a greedy Corrupt Corporate Executive, but he was a person too, and he was punished for his virtues.
- "The Diabolical Kind" has one from Moriarty, of all people, in the scene where Sherlock is yelling at her about the code she put in the sketches and she's on the verge of tears, and the scene where the kidnapper's on the phone and puts Kayden on and Moriarty flinches as Kayden cries for "Mommy". Especially upsetting after The Reveal that Kayden is Moriarty's daughter.
- Joan's explanation of why she volunteers with the homeless. Her biological father is schizophrenic and lives on the streets of New York City. There's no tears or drama, just a calm, sad acceptance of the situation and a compassionate determination to help other homeless people.
- Lestrade's breakdown in "Ears To You", wherein he finally admits to everyone (not the least himself) that he's nowhere near as clever a detective as everyone thinks he is, and further that he's relied on Holmes for so long that whatever skills he might have had on his own as a detective have been lost to him and he doesn't think he can do it any more. He ends by bitterly implying that the same thing will happen to Joan eventually: that Sherlock will get bored with her and move on to a more interesting project, and leave her completely incapable of functioning...and he advises her to "enjoy the ride while it lasts."
- The Bittersweet Ending of Bell's storyline in "The Hound of the Cancer Cells". A respected teacher whom Bell has befriended is battling a local drug lord who's on trial for murder. When the only witness (a pregnant student the teacher was protecting) gets cold feet, the teacher sees only one way to make sure the drug dealer doesn't walk: a Suicide Attack that winds up killing both men, which the teacher realized would happen all along.
- "No Lack Of Void": the speech that Sherlock makes while, standing in front of Alistair's grave (his friend who appeared in season one, and died from an overdose in that episode).
- From "Paint It Black" Sherlock's response to Joan being held captive. The best way to sum this up is what Mycroft said "I think [Joan] is the person you love the most in the world".
- Everything that happens to Joan in "Paint It Black". She's been kidnapped. She performed surgery using only vodka and a box cutter, after years being out of practice. This is the same person who didn't want to do autopsy on a corpse because she's uncomfortable with having a scalpel back in her hands. But instead she volunteered to dig a bullet out of her captor. During the entire process, she kept her calm. Unfortunately, the guy she tried to save gets brutally shot in the end. Joan thinks she failed as a doctor and detective. Then, comes the Mycroft act, where he says there's a great deal he needs to tell her, and she wonders if she failed as a person as well, falling prey to this man's deceit. She just looks so afraid and unsure of herself.
- And when Sherlock and Mycroft are trying to find her, this is one of Sherlock's insults.Sherlock: I wish it had taken you. The leukaemia. I wish it had rotted you to bones.
Mycroft: Sometimes... I wish the very same thing.
- "The Grand Experiment": The murder victim was a mole and was going to burn and reveal Mycroft's true identity as an intelligence agent. While Mycroft didn't kill him, he admits to have lead the NSA and British Intelligence to the mole. The NSA killed the mole and faked Mycroft's death in order to preserve Mycroft's cover. Because of this and the inherent danger of the job, he's forced to break his ties to Joan and Sherlock. Before he disappears into hiding for good, he hugs Sherlock goodbye and says, "I love you, brother. This year has been a gift." Joan leaves the brownstone to work on her own, leaving a heartbroken Sherlock alone and left with the drugs he'd stolen in a previous episode.
- In "Enough Nemesis to Go Around", Joan is not happy to see Sherlock again, and she doesn't want him moving in on her consulting work with the NYPD. In fact no one is happy to see him, because he didn't bother to say good bye when he left for MI6, and because it was motivated by Joan moving out.
- Gregson flats out admit that he and Sherlock were never friends, they just never bothered to admit it out loud, and that if he wants to go back to consulting he needs Joan's permission.
- And the end of the episode, Joan visits the brownstone and asks Sherlock why he came back from London, he responds with "I belong here. Same as you." Her response is to just leave.
- In "The Five Orange Pipz" we start to learn of Kitty's Dark and Troubled Past, which is indicated to include sexual assault. She clearly still bears the scars, having changed her name and moved to another continent, and she Hates Being Touched when Bell tries to direct her away from a tripping hazard. To make matters worse, Sherlock states that he had to tell Gregson about Kitty's past in order to get her okay-ed to work with the NYPD, and also gives Watson a file on the matter so she can understand Kitty; although Kitty allows this, for someone who just wants to get past their trauma, it must still be pretty horrible.
- In "Illustrious Client", Kitty finds out that her rapist is Joan's new boss by hearing his voice on the phone. She breaks down in tears and looks terrified as she talks about how she thought that she had simply forgotten what his voice sounded like and that was why she didn't recognize it before, only to find out that no, she hadn't forgotten and was reminded in the one of the worst possible ways.
- Everything concerning Sherlock and Kitty in "The One That Got Away", particularly their final conversation and a flashback showing just how deep in depression Sherlock was before Kitty agreed to continue being his pupil.
- "When Your Number's Up": The conversation between the killer and her sister. Throughout the whole episode, it's made clear that the killer epitomizes The Sociopath trope. She comes home to find her sister crying in her living room, and truly doesn't understand why. Then the sister starts talking, and it's clear that she knows who killed those people because she's finally accepted her sibling's nature. When the police interrupt them - and the knife the killer was pulling out surreptitiously - the sister tells her no, she didn't call them. It leaves the impression that she fully expected the sister to kill her and didn't care.
- "A Controlled Descent": Sherlock's vacant stare at the end.
- Especially when you know the context behind it. He's relapsed and is likely either high or beside himself with guilt and remorse that he can't even face Joan to explain himself.
- The plot of "A Burden of Blood", in which a man kills his pregnant sister because their father is a Serial Killer and they agreed never to have biological children so they wouldn't pass on his genes, and the sister was about to break the deal. So the brother wanted to prevent future murders so badly that he committed one himself, leaving everyone worse off and proving he was his father's son after all. Sheesh.
- In "Fidelity," the real reason why Sherlock seemed so unsettled by Kitty revealing that she has a son now. It's not that she'll be giving up detective work, like she assumed. It's that she had underwent a major life event, and even that wasn't enough to make her break her two-year-long silence towards him to let him know. He took it as confirmation of what he'd already assumed, that one of his exceedingly few friends had completely abandoned him without a second thought.
- In "Fly Into a Rage, Make a Bad Landing", we find out Marcus hates hospitals because he spent a lot of time in them because his mother was injured. And then we find out that it wasn't a car accident as Marcus originally said, but vicious and repeated abuse by his father that caused his mother to almost die. And Marcus and Andre were both victims of it as well.
- The end of season five and beginning of season six, Sherlock is dealing with post-concussion syndrome. Watching him hallucinate, suffer from migraines, struggle with memory loss and even contemplating giving up his sobriety because he doesn't see the point of maintaining it in the face of his PCS.
- In Season Six Nobody Lives Forever: Sherlocks former sponsor Alfredo asks him for help in robbing a store to take money Alfredo was owed so Alfredo could help his brother Dante. Knowing Dantes horrible history, Sherlock refuses, but Alfredo and Joan both correctly deduce that he was letting his own feelings about Mycroft cloud the issue. Sherlock had found out that the men who wanted Mycroft dead were now dead themselves, but Mycroft still refused to establish contact, so Sherlock remained furious at him. After being berated for his inability to forgive, Sherlock finally attempts to reach out to his brother, only to learn Mycroft died ten months ago.
- Naturally, Joan is as rocked as Sherlock to learn of Mycroft's death. She even points out how he faked his death before but Holmes immediately cuts her off with a simple "no," not even bothering to hope. The episode ends with each just stunned at this news.
- The episode has a Harsher in Hindsight moment: when Sherlock decides to reach out to Mycroft and is reflecting his fraught family history to Alfred, he says in a tight voice that "I'll have my brother back." It also counts as Heartwarming, given that not only Sherlock does see Mycroft as his brother after all this time, but also the brother that he wants in his life again. Now try not to cry when watching that scene in light of the episode's closure
- "The Further Adventures" provides two examples.
- Tabloid model Lola Quinn is Driven to Suicide when an acid attack disfigures her, destroying her livelihood. The petty reason for the crime makes it even worse. The attacker is a plastic surgeon who had performed an incorrect procedure on Lola, then threw the acid to hide his malpractice.
- Bell convinces Gregson to call Sherlock and Joan to apologize for his role in their exile from New York. The episode ends with Sherlock getting a call from Gregson's phone... but it's actually Bell, calling to say that Gregson has been shot and may not survive.
- "Their Last Bow" is the series finale, so there being tearjerkers is almost a given.
- The first one comes from The Reveal that Gregson gives Sherlock off-screen and it cuts to him going to talk to Joan about it. He's in near tears as he tells her that Gregson told him that she has cancer and starts chemo soon. He's also upset by the idea that she was going to let him leave again without telling him. Joan tries to argue that she'll be fine and she's going to make it through this and Sherlock's response is to hug her. (This is, it's worth noting, the first time that Sherlock has initiated anything like it.)Sherlock: I'm staying.
Sherlock: I'm staying. Of course, I'm staying.
- Another is after another time skip, after Joan's completed her chemotherapy and has been declared cancer-free and they're going to ask Bell (now the captain) if they can start consulting again. They debate details back and forth about it and it ends with this exchange, which happens to be the last words of the show:Joan: What if he says no?
Sherlock: He won't say no.
Joan: But what if he does?
Sherlock: Well... As long as we're together, what does it matter?
- Word of God has clarified that Sherlock also gave up detective work during that year to be Joan's support system and help take care of Arthur, Joan's son.
- During Sherlock's reunion with Gregson we learn that his wife Paige succumbed to her Multiple Sclerosis during the timeskip.
- The first one comes from The Reveal that Gregson gives Sherlock off-screen and it cuts to him going to talk to Joan about it. He's in near tears as he tells her that Gregson told him that she has cancer and starts chemo soon. He's also upset by the idea that she was going to let him leave again without telling him. Joan tries to argue that she'll be fine and she's going to make it through this and Sherlock's response is to hug her. (This is, it's worth noting, the first time that Sherlock has initiated anything like it.)
Tear Jerker / Elementary