Sherlock: 34 nerdy spots in The Lying Detective

We've scoured The Lying Detective for details and noticed a few interesting titbits. Spoilers ahead...

Once again, we’ve clued for looks in the latest Sherlock episode The Lying Detective and noticed some fun details and references to the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories. Here goes…

1. The episode’s very first shot of a smoking gun – which we assume is that of Vivian Norbury in The Six Thatchers as remembered by John Watson – is actually the gun shot at John Watson by Eurus Holmes in the episode’s final shot. (The same shot also features in the series four opening credits and is briefly edited in to the scene of Sherlock and ‘Faith’ sitting by the Thames after he’s thrown her gun into the water.)

2. A vase of white roses, like those used in Mary’s wedding bouquet and Sherlock and John’s button holes on Mary and John’s big day, stands on the windowsill in John’s therapist’s house. Mary’s real name was Rosamund, which means ‘rose of the world’.

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3. With hindsight, when Eurus tells John “I am reminding you of your friend, I think”, it suggests a connection between her and Sherlock. In this scene, she is also occupying the traditional ‘Sherlock’ right-hand chair, with John facing her in the chair on the left (they’re like Ant and Dec in that respect), the visual language suggesting another link between her and Sherlock. Fans know that “it’s never twins” but on this occasion, might it just be twins?

4. Is it deliberate that the rug under John and Eurus’ feet looks very much like a blood stain?

5. The ‘Who?’ handwritten note from the series four opening credits is of course, Faith Smith’s note about her father’s murders. (And despite his code word, the odd chunk of something in one of Sherlock’s posh teacups we spotted in last week’s opening credits is simply tea plus gravity plus stylish camerawork.) Still on the opening titles, remember that photograph of Sherlock doubled in the opening credits. Are we sure it’s never twins?

6. In the original story which lends this episode its title The Adventure Of The Dying Detective, Holmes fakes a near-death infection from a tropical disease (sent by murderer Culverton Smith) in order to extract a confession from Smith about his crime. Dr Watson is tricked into believing his friend is dying, then instructed to stand behind a screen while Smith makes his confession. The walking stick containing a recording device fulfils this function in The Lying Detective, standing in for Watson himself.

7. “Do you ever look in the mirror and want to see someone else?” Eurus-as-Faith asks Sherlock. Are we totally, utterly sure it’s never twins?

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8. When a high Sherlock sees Eurus-as-Faith’s cane, he flashes back to a scene of John Watson walking in A Study In Pink, one of several callbacks to the show’s pilot, which was also about a serial killer who hid in plain sight.

9. When Sherlock and Eurus-as-Faith are eating chips, she’s sitting in the same position in the bus shelter as she was last week disguised as John Watson’s flirtatious ‘E’. (Incidentally, Lucy on Disqus here spotted the odd coincidence that the woman who wrote her phone number on Henry Knight’s napkin on the train in The Hounds Of Baskerville appears to share a mobile phone with Eurus. At least it shares the same last digits as the phone number ‘E’ gave to John. Odd. By the looks of things, we’re not the first Sherlock fans to look the number up on this nuisance call website)

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10. We still don’t know exactly when Sherlock Holmes’ birthday is. When Sherlock is explaining his kitchen notice board deductions to Eurus-as-Faith, Christmas lights are clearly visible on the street, but when they are later walking past Piccadilly Circus, Union Flags are hanging to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday this June.   

11. When Eurus-as-Faith notes to Sherlock about the helicopter “Big Brother is watching you”, unbeknownst to Sherlock she’s referencing their shared familial relationship with Mycroft (as well as the 1984 thing).

12. Is Sherrinford an institution rather than a person? On the phone in The Six Thatchers, Mycroft asked to be put through to Sherrinford and in The Lying Detective Lady Smallwood asked “do you still speak to Sherrinford?” and was told he had regular updates, but never were any pronouns used that might give it away. My bet? Sherrinford is the name of prison or psychiatric care home where Eurus was being kept.  

13. A couple of clues in the first two series four episodes suggest that a bridge may be exploded in the finale. The first was the ‘Explosive flavour’ ad on the side of John’s bus in The Six Thatchers, and the second is Culverton Smith telling Evan Davies “We must be careful not to burn our bridges” as Sherlock and Eurus-as-Faith walk over the Thames. That, and the shot of the massive explosion teased in the trailer for The Final Problem.

14. Check production designer Arwel Jones’ Twitter feed for a glimpse of how that tilting room effect was achieved. It’s impressive stuff.

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15. This may well be a coincidence, but look at the cushion Sherlock’s head falls onto here. It’s made of tweed, just like the famous hat that comes under such discussion in this episode.

16. When Sherlock is ranting and shooting, he’s reciting King Henry’s famous speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V, which includes the immortal line borrowed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle “the game’s afoot”.

17. A poster of Culverton Smith on Sherlock’s wall of pictures bears the sickening the caption “You wouldn’t believe the things they let me get away with”, paraphrasing a line he later speaks by Sherlock’s hospital bed. One of his books is also titled How To Make A Killing. And he’s glimpsed as a judge on a Britain’s Got Talent-style show pushing a red button and saying “Kill it”, and then on another show called “Business Killer”. 

18. The Culverton Smith hospital wing is to be found in Saint Caedwalla’s. According to this, Saint Caedwalla’s prolific slaughtering before he repented makes him the patron saint of… serial killers.

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19. The Culverton Smith wing was opened on the 20th of July 2014. Apart from being one day after Benedict Cumberbatch’s 38th birthday, does that date have any particular significance for Sherlock Holmes?

20. When addressing the children at Saint Caedwalla’s, Sherlock made a number of references to previous Holmes stories and films. “Blessington the poisoner” refers to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure Of The Resident Patient. “Drearcliffe House” is from 1945 Rathbone and Bruce film Sherlock Holmes And The House Of Fear, and “The Case of the Killer Orangutan” must be a nod to Edgar Allan Poe’s 1841 detective story The Murders Of Rue Morgue, a notable influence on Conan Doyle.

21. At a screening held in Wales for The Lying Detective, Mark Gatiss revealed that Katy Wix’s character, Nurse Cornish, who says of John Watson’s blog “Gone a bit downhill hasn’t it?” is named as an in-joke in reference to the Cornish boatman who, famously in Sherlock Holmes fandom, rowed Conan Doyle across a river and, after asking him if he was the writer of the Sherlock Holmes stories said “it was never the same after he came back from the dead”, making him “the first kind of critic” according to Gatiss.

22. Look closely at the logo for Saint Caedwalla’s (designed by Richard Wells, on Twitter as @Slippery_Jack) and you’ll see it was purposely designed to have two meanings. Someone bending over a bed caring for/smothering a patient, and perhaps the face of a Babadook-style ghoul.

23. Herman Webster Mudgett was a real-life serial killer who built a “Murder Castle” and disguised himself with the assumed name of H.H. Holmes.

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24. In the interrogation room with Lestrade and Watson, an officer brings in the laptop to show Culverton Smith being interviewed on the news. Just before Toby Jones starts speaking we hear “Harold Chorley reporting earlier today…” Harold Chorley was a journalist from Doctor Who’s 1968 serial The Web Of Fear.

25. The wallpaper in Sherlock’s room at the hospital appears to have TARDIS roundels on it. That would be fitting seeing as Toby Jones played the Dream Lord in series five Doctor Who episode Amy’s Choice, a character who was revealed to be a manifestation of the Doctor’s darker self.

26. While we’re on the subject of wallpaper, figment-Mary is earlier seen standing against a wall of heavenly clouds at John’s therapist’s house. More angel than figment, perhaps?

27. As a child, Sherlock set a man-trap to catch Father Christmas. This isn’t a hint or reference, but it’s fun to know.

28. Mrs Hudson watched the video Mary left for Sherlock at the end of The Six Thatchers. Then she acts as though she doesn’t know what’s on the disc when she points Mycroft and John towards it in this episode. Continuity error or fiendish act from a non-civilian?

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29. “Must be something comforting about the number three. People always give up after three” says Sherlock of his recording devices. As has been pointed out in several places (including by Quinn Drummer in our own review comment section), could this be a hint to expect more than a third Holmes sibling to come out of the woodwork?

30. When Lady Smallwood gives Mycroft her digits, his diary is open to a page that says “Call Sherrinford 2pm”. On the other side, there’s a list of places to monitor, all of which are known bolt holes for Sherlock Holmes as listed in His Last Vow. The Blind Greenhouse at Kew Gardens, the Leaning Tomb at Hampstead Cemetery, (with thanks to commenter El Pee) the clock face housed by Elizabeth Tower, popularly known as Big Ben…

31. Seeing as it comes from three years ago, can we assume that the “mutual friend” Eurus tells Watson put her in touch with Culverton Smith was Moriarty?

32. We can’t vouch for this, but according to this post by The Telegraph, actor Benedict Cumberbatch has a genetic condition called sectoral heterochromia that makes his eyes appear to change colour between blue and green. When Eurus has one contact lens in and one out, perhaps it doesn’t just help to make her look unhinged but also nods to her on-screen brother?

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33. When Eurus says to Watson “Didn’t it ever occur to you, not even once, that Sherlock’s secret brother might just be Sherlock’s secret sister?”, Watson is repeating a mistake made by Sherlock in the show’s pilot A Study In Pink. Making deductions about John, Sherlock assumes that “Harry” is John’s brother, not in fact, short for his sister’s name – Harriet. (Incidentally, yes, director Euros Lyn helmed The Blind Banker in series one, but Eurus has a different spelling.)

34. Eurus explains that her name in Greek means “the East wind”, which is a quote from Conan Doyle’s His Last Bow in reference to the First World War, later used in Rathbone film Sherlock Holmes And The Voice Of Terror in reference to the Second World War and finally used in His Last Vow by Sherlock and then Watson: “There’s an East wind coming”…

Sherlock series four concludes next Sunday the 15th of January on BBC One.