I have trouble with this huge plothole in Sherlock Holmes.

In the movie Holmes enlightens Lord Coward that he knows about the machine in the sewer to kill the lion (parlament).

After that Lord Coward does not seem to care since the machine is not really protected (around 5 people). The same goes for Blackwood assuming Lord Coward told Blackwood about Holmes knowledge.

If this event was so important to Lord Coward(as far as I know he believed in the magic) why would he not make 100% sure to protect the machine (I would put around 30 people in the sewer, even if Holmes would still find a way around that I had at least tried).

Again same goes for Blackwood except he doesn't believe in magic. His goal was to dominate with fear and not the mechanism of the machine itself. The mechanism was only important for the mysterious professor.

Please mark spoilers of the second movie if those reveal/solve this problem.

2 Answers 2


I would suggest a few reasons:

Firstly, Coward knows the location of it, but Blackwood is the mastermind. It's his men that are protecting the device. It could be argued that Coward knows Blackwood has taken care of the protection detail.

Secondly, it could be argued that Coward, if he knew about the number of the men protecting the device, simply severely underestimated Holmes and his companions. Although there were something like five people protecting it, that is a lot for a single person. Holmes had Watson and Adler with him, which certainly helped.

Thirdly, Coward sees Holmes jumping into the water in handcuffs. If memory serves me right, he doesn't see him make his mistake, i.e. he doesn't realise Holmes had an escape route planned out. Therefore, he may have assumed Holmes didn't have time to stop the device.

Fourthly, Coward may be demonstrating the typical nothing can stop me now attitude of so many villains in films, where he believes it is irrelevant if Holmes knows his plans, as he doesn't have time/ability to stop him. As you said, it almost seemed he believed in the magic. Perhaps he believed nothing could stop Blackwood?

Fifthly and finally though, it follows the standards trope of villains underestimating the hero. If thirty guys had been around the machine, it would have been a little unrealistic if Holmes had defeated them. Five or so guards makes Holmes and his companions seem extraordinarily, but believably, good. On top of that, they obviously need to succeed for the movie to work, so this plot-hole exists in tons of films, unfortunately.

  • 1
    "so this plot-hole exists in tons of films, unfortunately" - Well, if this is a plot-hole at all is subject to personal opinion anyway. But given that question, this answer goes out of its way to provide something "better" than "because they were just 5 people, it wasn't you who was responsible for the guards but the bad guys from the movie and ultimately its screenwriters". So clearly +1 for making the best out of the given question.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    May 1, 2014 at 12:40
  • @NapoleonWilson: Lol! Thanks. Although your point is very much the one that was in my mind as I was writing it! May 1, 2014 at 12:41
  • Few points: 1) I should change my question including Blackwood since afaik he wanted to dominate with fear. Only the professor wanted the machine itself. 2) Holmes does release his cuffs way before he jumped and even threw those to Coward. 3) I know that 30 would be unbelievable and many movies may have this problem but this movie is the first where it seemed like the villain put no effort in the defense. Maybe because I am used to the villain be part of the defense? I dont know.
    – Wandang
    May 1, 2014 at 13:15
  • @Wandang: Although Holmes throws his cuffs off, I'm not sure Coward realises he has an entire escape planned. There's a difference between being stuck in the Thames, uncuffed, and being picked up immediately so you can be whisked off to your destination. As to the final point, I'm afraid that does seem rather typical of many movies. Right so too I suppose - it would be unrealistic if they were able to save the day all the time against competent villains! May 1, 2014 at 13:17

The machine is very sturdy and hard to break. They seem to have difficulty and only manage it due to a flash of inspiration from Irene (I think).

On top of it being a very sturdy machine:

Approximately 5 men armed with pistols, knives etc. and one of them Dredger? This sounds pretty secure to me - I would not fancy trying to get passed them!

We already know that Holmes will win but I do not think that they were being that slack with the guards. Too many would be as bad as too few due to confusion, friendly fire etc.

30 guards would be manic as it would be easy to infiltrate as everyone would not know each other that well.

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