In Sherlock, BBC Series, Season 2 Episode 3 - The Reichenbach Fall, how did Sherlock survive the fall? I've read some theories online regarding this, but in this interview, Steven Moffat says "There is a clue everybody's missed". He also says "Yes. We had to have Holmes dying in Watson's arms – and get away with that, which we have."

So how? Does anybody know yet?

  • 3
    I jsut assumed this would be answered in the next season, but it is a good question.
    – DForck42
    Jul 19, 2012 at 14:11
  • I am glad to see this series get some traction here. Wasn't there an odd scene at the start of the episode in which Watson gets a letter full of unidentified powder? I assumed it would be a clue to something but I think it was never referred to again. Dec 25, 2012 at 1:14
  • I've been sitting so close to the tv my eyes burn. Freezing frames, rewinding, writing things down, even comparing facial features. Jim's eye color, there brown. Look it up, look at the actor, whatever helps. When there on the roof his eyes are green.
    – user4010
    Jan 30, 2013 at 10:05
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    @Michael Stern, those were bread crumbs. It was a clue to the case of the missing children. Its how he made the connection that they'd be in the candy factory.
    – Matt
    Mar 23, 2013 at 20:13
  • I read a theory that the "clue that everybody missed" was when Sherlock sings "If I've got you..." which is a line from Parachute by Cheryl Crowe.
    – Anthony
    Jan 31, 2014 at 6:47

9 Answers 9


He jumped into the truck which was in front of the pavement and drove off as soon as he pushed a body out wearing his clothes or he landed in the truck and then rolled from the truck to the pavement.

Remember how he told Watson exactly where to stand? (to make sure he could only see from the correct angle)

Watson was delayed by a bicycle hitting him as he ran over. (to give Holmes and co some extra time)

Watson was pushed back by bystanders telling him not to look? (so he would not spot any inconsistencies but would see enough)

Suddenly medics appeared and rushed off with the body? (to prevent Watson, or anyone else, looking too closely)

Holmes remarking to Molly that he needed her?
(either for a spare corpse or to falsely pronounce him dead)

This fits well with the books where Holmes often keeps Watson in the dark, especially as Watson is a very poor liar.

  • I have been told that the hospital that Holmes jumps off is not one with an A&E dept, but only has labs and similar, therefore the medics who rush Holmes off on a stretcher are likely to be in on his plan (Baker St Irregulars in costume, etc). Can anyone confirm/deny this? Can't remember where I heard or read it, sorry - have been looking! (Hope I didn't dream it!)
    – NiceOrc
    Jul 23, 2012 at 2:21
  • "Could whomever downvoted this leave a comment to let me know why?" - Could you leave such messages as comments instead of filling the answer with unneccesary informationless clutter?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Aug 22, 2012 at 22:34
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    No problem: Could whomever downvoted this please leave a comment to let me know why?
    – Stefan
    Aug 23, 2012 at 8:16
  • @NiceOrc: Barts hospital has no A&E (sources: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Bartholomew's_Hospital / bartsandthelondon.nhs.uk/for-patients-and-visitors/… ), but it's not only labs, and not implausible there was an ambulance crew nearby.
    – Hugo
    Sep 2, 2012 at 16:36
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    There are few problems with this - we can see Holmes' face as he is rolled over. So are you saying they found someone who looked like him? Also, the fall was a straight drop.. I think. Maybe I will go home and watch it once more.
    – bobbyalex
    Dec 28, 2012 at 7:15

I theorize that Sherlock JUST DID JUMP (1). He did, however, have a means of breaking the fall presumably by the exact same means that helped one of the CIA operatives survive in 'A Scandal in Belgravia'. If you recall, Sherlock was asked on the phone by Lestrade:

LESTRADE: And exactly how many times did he fall out the window?

SHERLOCK: It’s all a bit of a blur, Detective Inspector. I lost count.

And from Mrs. Hudson when we hear Neilson fall from the room:

MRS HUDSON: Ooh. That was right on my bins.

Since we know that the CIA operative (Neilson) was able to survive multiple falls and he was still in standing-condition, I propose that Sherlock did the exact same thing: foreseeing that he was going to have to jump (2) even from a height much higher than what Neilson had to do, he did so but was more severely injured. The fact that Sherlock also was sitting (rather than standing with a cane) in the final reveal supports this idea.

For me, it's certainly plausible that Sherlock gave the biker some of that hallucinogen to get Watson to believe Sherlock was dead. However, one thing I don't necessarily understand is why he would have required Watson to be alone in that 'poisoning'...in that if he also got the pedestrians nearby affected, they would further corroborate the idea he fell and died (which is what their suspicions were, likely, anyway). Of course, it does make sense that he kept Watson so far away (because then he might have identified the means Sherlock had to break his fall).

Molly assuredly was part of the plan (3) (his means to get past the coroners and proclaimed dead) and because of how Irene got proclaimed dead as well, I have every reason to believe Mycroft was in on it (4) , too (explaining his disinterest when he reads about it).

Lastly, I also believe that this would have had to have been convincing EVEN IF Moriarty did not shoot himself, which makes 'jumping onto a truck' less viable...not to mention it seemed clear to me his downward falling trajectory couldn't possibly have landed on the street, anyway.

On a TANGENT, one of the more popular theories I've read was that it was a double and that Hallucinogen + Facemask is how he faked his jump (akin to how the kidnapped children were afraid of Sherlock). But I refute the facemask idea for reasons of inelegance, as well...not to mention that it seems fairly clear how those children were scared. Richard Brook was a real persona created by Moriarty (as 'the Reader') in which he used the television show to tell stories of Hansel and Gretel and (though not shown on the series), with a very good likeness of Sherlock (5) over television, condition the two orphans (and probably lots more children!) to be afraid of him when they finally saw him.

Edit: added corroborating evidence from S3E1 by the numbers:

  1. (Sherlock spreads his arms to either side and falls forward, plummeting towards the ground. Inside the building, Molly gasps as he falls past her window. We see from John’s point of view that the last thirty feet or so of the fall are blocked from his view by the station. Unseen by him, Sherlock is plunging towards the airbag, twisting as he goes.)

    SHERLOCK (voiceover): I needed to hit the airbag – which I did.

  2. SHERLOCK (voiceover): There were thirteen likely scenarios once we were up on that roof. Each of them were rigorously worked out and given a code name. It wasn’t just my reputation that Moriarty needed to bury – I had to die.

  3. SHERLOCK: Molly found the body, faked the records, and I provided the other coat. I’ve got lots of coats.

  4. SHERLOCK: Mycroft’s men intervened before he could take the shot. He was invited to reconsider.

  5. SHERLOCK: You assumed she reacted like that because I was her kidnapper. But I deduced Moriarty must have found someone who looked very like me to plant suspicion, and that that man – whoever he was – had to be got out of the way as soon as his usefulness ended. That meant there was a corpse in a morgue somewhere that looked just like me.

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    Is it just me or....? He beat up Neilson and when Lestrade asked he said he fell out of his window, since the beating was heavier, he asked how many times and Sherlock slyly replied multiple times? I could be wrong but this is how i remember the episode. Aug 4, 2012 at 7:56
  • @SenthilKumar is your question about the cited quotes? If so, I took this directly from these Sherlock transcripts arianedevere.livejournal.com/26848.html. Your recollection does sound familiar, however, so I wonder why this transcript differs--luckily, it corroborates the same point. :)
    – hexparrot
    Aug 7, 2012 at 15:08
  • There is one problem with all the explanations here - How did Holmes know that he would be asked to jump from the building? If he had to arrage all this elaborate setup then he had to know.
    – bobbyalex
    Dec 28, 2012 at 7:24
  • I'm not sure that would be a particular question with any explanation, though.... We take it as a given that he foresaw that he had to fake his death--you and I don't yet know, but we know that Sherlock did (otherwise his talking to Molly and the throwing the agent off the roof had no purpose). We certainly couldn't have known that he would HAVE to jump from the building, but seeing as it would be the only controllable way to fake it and get distance from Moriarty (for whom he couldn't have foreseen suicide), I speculate he would've requested to jump anyway.
    – hexparrot
    Dec 28, 2012 at 14:53

There are several things that you had to notice to put this together:

  1. Sherlock asks for Molly's help. With what? I'm gonna get there in a sec.
  2. Sherlock talked to the homeless network earlier in the episode for unknown reasons.
  3. Sherlock tells Watson exactly where to stand
  4. There is a truck full of garbage bags near the place where Sherlock lands. Before the truck arrive, there is an out of service bus parked in that spot to save it. You can tell it's out of service because it's parked there for the duration of Sherlock's conversation with Moriarty, and there's even an old man banging on the door with a cane to no avail when Sherlock first stands on the ledge.
  5. Earlier in the episode, Sherlock is bouncing a ball in the hospital.
  6. Sherlock calls the reporter, Riley I think her name was...

Sherlock is on the roof of a hospital, meaning that there is no need for an ambulance. He tells Watson exactly where to stand, and he tells Watson to keep his eyes on him the whole time so that Watson will not notice anything going on at the foot of the building. Sherlock jumps off the building into the truck. He could then get out of the truck and lay on the sidewalk.

The bicyclist that hits Watson is part of the homeless network and hits him to disorient him, so he can't get to the body quickly. Also, the crowd of people that surround Sherlock's body are also homeless network people, because they make it impossible for Watson to see Sherlock's body right away.

Watson goes to Sherlock's body, and checks the pulse. He doesn't feel a pulse, but there is an explanation for this. When the ball Sherlock was bouncing is squeezed between your arm and your body, it makes the feeling of a pulse disappear from your wrist. Sherlock is rushed into the hospital, which does not let Watson accompany Sherlock, and Molly declares Sherlock dead. Watson has to believe this because there is a funeral (for closure), and there is no other explanation.

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    agree most part of it, except one. how are you sure he jumped into the truck? Feb 8, 2013 at 4:48

My favourite theory is akin to the answer given above, but with the extra that when the cycle courier bumped into Watson he exposed him to the chemical from the previous episode that induces hallucinations of that person's worst fear.

It's been a while since I've seen the episode but I do remember that Watson got a clear look at the body on the ground, rolled it over and saw Holmes face. My theory is that by this time the body had already been swapped out, and it was the effects of the hallucinogen that made Watson see the body as Holmes when in fact it was A.N.Other.

  • That is a seriously nice idea!
    – Stefan
    Jul 24, 2012 at 14:03
  • This is a better idea than Stefans.
    – bobbyalex
    Dec 28, 2012 at 7:19
  • I suppose we'll find out soon enough!
    – Rob
    Dec 16, 2013 at 14:07
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    @Rob ... Or not. :/ May 30, 2014 at 14:08

In January 2014, Steven Moffat provided some insight in an interview on how Sherlock faked his death:

As we keep saying to people, I do think there was -- I can now say this -- a measure of nonsense going on. He's falling off a building. He has one objective -- that is, not to hit the sidewalk. That's it. That's the only thing he can do. Didn't anybody notice that there's a whole building between John and the point of impact? So obviously something got in the way. That's it. It wasn't going to be anything else. The TARDIS wasn't going to fly in. That wasn't going to happen."

Since Moffat's explanation best corresponds with the final explanation provided in the episode itself, I think the official answer is--disappointingly--that Sherlock jumped on the airbag shown in @howlers answer.

His lackluster answer fails, though, to address a number of different plot holes. For one, what happened with the assassins set to kill Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson?

ANDERSON: And what about the sniper aiming at John?

SHERLOCK: Mycroft’s men intervened before he could take the shot. He was invited to reconsider.

But according to The Reichenbach Fall, on the roof:

JIM: Okay, let me give you a little extra incentive.

JIM: Your friends will die if you don’t.


JIM: Not just John. (In a whisper) Everyone.

SHERLOCK: Mrs Hudson.

JIM (in a whisper, with a delighted smile): Everyone.

SHERLOCK: Lestrade.

JIM: Three bullets; three gunmen; three victims. There’s no stopping them now.

JIM: Unless my people see you jump.

We have little reason to believe that Sherlock could anticipate three assassins, as he likely was hearing about these assassins for the first time on the roof. But by sheer luck, Mycroft and his men were able to locate one sniper and successfully coerce him to call off the other snipers. It turns out there was only a single hired gun watching Sherlock rather than the multiple people ("my people") he claimed needed to witness Sherlock jump. Seeing how Moriarty did not establish a pattern of lying (nor did he need to), this seems less realistic.

Further, Sherlock did not anticipate Moriarty's suicide. He spoke the following words to John, which seems unlikely a line to lie about:

SHERLOCK (voiceover): But the one thing I didn’t anticipate was just how far Moriarty was prepared to go. I suppose that was obvious, given our first meeting at the swimming pool – his death wish.

But he also says he planned out for likely scenarios:

SHERLOCK (voiceover): There were thirteen likely scenarios once we were up on that roof. Each of them were rigorously worked out and given a code name. It wasn’t just my reputation that Moriarty needed to bury – I had to die.

Put another way, Sherlock admits he didn't anticipate Moriarty dying, but he had thirteen scenarios planned for; one of which involved an empty street, an enormous blue airbag, and a taxi driver letting Watson out exactly at the right place. With Moriarty potentially alive, could this have been a plausible idea?

I think Moffat got outmaneuvered by the most fanatic viewers, and conceded early on before filming there were more fitting theories out there, but they were unable/unwilling to pull it off in the timeslot and writing:

As to the theories that were presented online, Moffat says he is aware of them, but that for the most part, the audiences explanations are far more complex than what the show ultimately needed. (emphasis mine)

"Needed" being the operative word, as there are many people perfectly satisfied with this explanation and a much smaller minority who are severely outraged at its incompleteness or implausibility.

Going deeper into the meta, I think Moffat knew he was denying us sufficient closure. As we as viewers find holes in the story and receive no answers, Andersen finds holes in the story and Sherlock abruptly disappears, leaving Andersen to completely break down. Of course, Sherlock fanatics are Andersen in this metaphor. /fanaticism

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    Yes, I agree that it is deliberate that we are denied closure of the question. This is the best answer! Mar 9, 2015 at 17:34

He used an inflatable crashmat hidden by a low building, and a cyclist who deliberately knocked John to the ground, buying time for Molly and members of Sherlock's "homeless network" to bloody up his “dead” body and take away the crashmat crasmat, The squash ball under the arm to mask Sherlock's pulse – a technique used on stage by Gatiss's friend Derren Brown was used when watson checked for a pulse

  • 3
    Well... I don't think it's true cause Sherlock(Writers of Sherlock) was playing(?mocking) Anderson's(fans) theories. As he said everyone is critic. Jan 13, 2014 at 18:09
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    While I agree that this explanation is definitely worth putting it up here as an answer, the answer should still mention that this is merely what he tells to Anderson (in an episode full of possible/wrong explanations), so it isn't entirely sure if that is the correct explanation.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    May 29, 2014 at 23:25
  • 1
    @tintinmj I've heard that said, but the way it seemed to me that Sherlock was telling the truth and Anderson not being satisfied was Moffat mocking the fans that won't be happy with the long awaited explanation. Jul 16, 2014 at 6:29

I don't think anyone can answer this question for sure until the next episode comes out but my observations.

Sherlock asked Molly for help but the audience didn't find out what for.

Moriarty actually told Sherlock he was going to fall!

Sherlock chose the location, not Moriarty

Could the cyclist who hit John be part of the homeless network?


The bicyclist is Holmes. He calls Watson from his cell so he could be anywhere. Man on ledge is not Holmes he wears the costume Moriarity used to scare the children and that is what he has returned to Moriarity not the key code. Homeless (Holmesless) Network and Molly play the parts in the leap of death magic act.

  • interesting, can't wait to find out! Dec 23, 2012 at 15:39
  • 2
    Holmes's plan also had to fool Moriarty/his sniper. If I remember correctly Holmes appeared shocked when Moriarty shot himself, meaning he didn't expect that.
    – Oliver_C
    Dec 23, 2012 at 21:40
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    its not good idea Aug 8, 2013 at 5:58

Sherlock Holmes asks Molly (the coroner girl) for a favour knowing he would die, so he got her to take a dead body and put a mask of Sherlock on it. When Holmes jumps, there is a red bus parked underneath, filled with bags to soften his fall, and he had Molly dump a body when he would land. The reason why the biker pushed Watson over was so that he didn’t see the body switch. One can tell, because Sherlock jumps when there’s no one around and also because Watson checks for a pulse, which means that the body was dead, and not Sherlock knowing he would survive the fall.


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