Hello. Are you ready for the story? This is the story of the fan who liked to pull loose threads. Every time she found a loose thread, she’d pull it out and tie it to another one. “The doctor was because of the rubber ball!" she’d say. Or "The binary code was because of Bach—and so was Henry Fishguard!” The other fans would smile and nod politely, and she’d just go back to her threads. But one day the fan saw two more loose threads. How had she not noticed them before? There they were, just waiting to be pulled out and tied to something. So she tugged on those two threads at the same time. And it made her whole brain unravel. The end.
In case it wasn’t abundantly clear from that introduction, this is the promised Crack Theory That Thinks It’s People. The strongly recommended background reading is my Assassins vs. Gunmen post. Because the gunmen working for Jim weren’t given names in the episode, I’m going to keep referring to them as Gunman 1 (assigned to shoot Mrs. Hudson), Gunman 2 (assigned to shoot John), and Gunman 3 (assigned to shoot Lestrade) as I did in that post.
Edit: Please, please make sure you read through to the notes at the end, because additional evidence caused me to change my mind about one part of this after I wrote it. Everything else about the theory stands, though.
So. The kidnapped girl. The one who screamed at Sherlock.
We know there must’ve been something about the kidnapping that was designed to confuse or mislead the children in a way that would implicate Sherlock in the crime.
Many fans have gone with the idea that the kidnapper was a perfect Sherlock lookalike—either because he was wearing a mask, or because Jim had a henchman surgically altered to be identical to the detective. This was an especially tempting line of thought, considering that Sherlock managed to fake his own death later and we weren’t sure how he did it. Maybe if there was an exact lookalike of him out there, he could’ve [insert body-double theory of choice here].
But my theory of how Sherlock faked his death didn’t require an exact lookalike. In fact, I thought having one involved would actually contradict things we’re more certain of.
I also understood that it’s not as if Jim’s purpose in any of this was to actually get Sherlock convicted for kidnapping or any other crime. The whole kidnapping plot was just a phase in his larger plan. It was a chance to make people doubt Sherlock, but it was by no means the endgame.
Jim: So, all of the knights went to King Arthur and said, “I don’t believe Sir Boast-a-lot’s stories. “He’s just a big old liar who makes things up to make himself look good.” And then, even the King began to wonder. But that wasn’t the end of Sir Boast-a-lot’s problem. No. That wasn’t the final problem.
The endgame was always the fall. After the fake genius was exposed and committed suicide, most people would believe the worst of him without any further evidence. Who needed to create an exact double of Sherlock to cause him to die in disgrace? Much simpler to manipulate public opinion. It’s just like how Jim didn’t have to go the full-on cartoon supervillain route and actually invent a computer key. Making people think he had one was much easier. And the fact that Jim got that is what made him a cleverer supervillain than the all ones who do go to the trouble of writing computer keys and having their henchmen surgically altered.
But still. The little girl screamed at Sherlock. It was a loose thread, begging to be pulled.
Let’s start with the kidnapper. Do we know anything about him?
The funny thing is, in all this rush to assume that there was a Sherlock clone on the loose, we kind of forgot that we actually saw the kidnapper.
When Sherlock and John were in a cab after leaving the crime scene, Sherlock explained to John how someone could’ve gotten into the school without being noticed. As he talked, the video shifted to the school…
…and then to a man entering the school exactly as Sherlock described.
In this series, we often see parts of crimes that Sherlock wasn’t present for. But it’s not really the show’s style to present things that are completely imagined as if it were something that actually happened. They’ve got a whole variety of onscreen graphics to use when they just want to show us what’s running through Sherlock’s mind.
So maybe it’s as simple as: they showed this man entering the school while Sherlock talked about how the kidnapper entered the school because this man was the kidnapper.
That’s still not a whole lot to go on, but… Hmm. We also know he was working for Jim.
And so was Gunman 3, the one who was assigned to shoot Lestrade.
Actually, he’s kind of a loose thread as well, isn’t he? We saw less of Gunman 3 than the other two gunmen, so there’s not a lot of footage to go on. But the kidnapper and Gunman 3 look rather alike, don’t they? So maybe in addition to being in charge of shooting Lestrade, Gunman 3 had also been in charge of the kidnapping.
That’s actually similar to how how Gunman 1 had been assigned to shoot Mrs. Hudson late in the episode, but earlier in the episode he was the one who planted a hidden camera in Sherlock’s flat.
And, come to think of it, did we actually see less of Gunman 3 than the other gunmen? Or did we just not notice that we’d seen him before?
Because he was sitting at a desk at Scotland Yard watching Lestrade. So he was probably a police officer.
You know who was sitting at a desk like that earlier? This guy.
The guy we kept getting glimpses of when they were working on solving the kidnapping. The guy that wasn’t shoved into the background like all the other Scotland Yard extras in that scene. The guy Lestrade decided to stand behind for no apparent reason. The guy that was even allowed to let a small but slightly odd reaction cross his face when Sherlock deduced where the children were being held. (It’s hard to gif subtle facial expressions, so I suggest watching it in the real show if you can’t see what I mean.)
Interesting thing is, he kind of looks like Gunman 3 as well.
If you don’t think all of these men really look enough alike to be the same person, well… I said “crack theory” and here you are. As for me, I have long since hit my limit of how long I am willing to sit and compare the haircut, ears, and eyebrows of these one-or-two-or-three men.
So let’s run with this and see how far we get. The kidnapper, Gunman 3, and the policeman are all the same person. Jim placed him at Scotland Yard ages ago, or maybe he just bribed someone who was already there. Either way.
In my Assassins vs. Gunmen post, I suggested Gunman 3 was the one who delivered the gingerbread man clue to Baker Street. The kidnapper was the one to leave the Grimm’s Fairy Tales book clue at the school.
Maybe this guy was in charge of all the fairy tale clues.
Also, if this was the man who’d taken the children from the school, it becomes more clear why Sherlock was surprised when the girl screamed at him. Because remember? He’d deduced some of the features of the kidnapper already.
Anderson: That’s the end of it, we don’t know where they went from here. Tells us nothing after all.
Sherlock: You’re right, Anderson, nothing. Except his shoe size, his height, his gait, his walking pace.
If this was our man, I’m guessing not one of those clues matched Sherlock’s self-description, so it didn’t occur to him that he was being set up until the girl actually started screaming.
But still, the girl did scream at him. Unless… she didn’t scream at him? I’m not the first to mention this, but the girl seemed just as freaked out by John as she did Sherlock. Look at this sequence and tell me you’re sure she was pointing at Sherlock the whole time and not John:
While he’s no surgically-modified double, our kidnapper does look a bit like John. Not a lot, but enough that an extremely traumatized seven-year-old might make the connection.
So is that it? The whole kidnapping mystery comes down to, “it was a guy that kind of looked like John and luckily for Jim that was enough to scare the girl”?
Well, maybe not. We’re running pretty low on clues at this point, but there might be one more.
Back when they were still at Scotland Yard trying to figure out where the children were being kept, Lestrade handed Sherlock a fax from the kidnapper that he explained had arrived an hour ago.
A moment later, we saw our suspected kidnapper there at Scotland Yard, sitting at his desk. Presumably he’d been keeping up the pretense of being a normal policeman this whole time, so unless this just happened to be the start of his shift he’d probably been at work for a while. Sure, maybe he could’ve popped out for a minute and sent the fax to Scotland Yard, or done it from his computer. But either way feels like a risky move.
So maybe he had help.
Who else would’ve helped him? We know Gunman 1 (assigned to shoot Mrs. Hudson) had his little jobs to do around Baker Street. Haven’t heard a lot from Gunman 2 (assigned to shoot John) yet, though.
If you are currently thinking, “But wait! Jim’s barrister was the sniper! I read it
in the paper on the internet, so it must be true,” then I know you skipped the recommended background reading. Ian Hallard, who played the barrister, made a joke on Twitter and it led fans to believe he played the sniper as well. But he later denied being the sniper.
Another funny thing, though. Does anyone remember what Ian (husband of Mark Gatiss, incidentally) said when he explained why it couldn’t be him?
Huh. Curly hair.
It’s not clear from every angle, but Ian has a point. That guy does have curly hair.
And his coat collar is turned up.
And he appears to be tall and thin.
And… are those cheekbones?
What if Gunman 2 and Gunman 3 both worked together on the kidnapping, and the girl saw both of them?
No, they are not exact copies of Sherlock and John. Not at all. But stop and imagine—if they had the children describe those two kidnappers, what would the police sketch come out looking like? If the girl said, “There was a tall, thin man with dark hair and he was with a shorter man with lighter hair…” Who would you immediately assume that was describing?
Sally’s been willing to believe this of Sherlock since the beginning. It didn’t require clones. Just a little nudge.
So that’s the story. Don’t like it? Write me a better one that fits the evidence.
I mean it.
Because, honestly? The idea that we are now dealing with Bizarro!Sherlock and Bizarro!John: Assassins for Hire IS FREAKING ME OUT A LITTLE. I may not want this to be true.
But the idea is in there, guys. And I’m not sure I can kill it.
FIX IT FOR ME.
UPDATE: Less than 24 hours later, the very first question I answered from someone who was doing exactly as I asked and trying to find a problem with the theory led me to find additional evidence to support it instead.
I am no longer calling this a crack theory. I believe.
UPDATE 2: More evidence. So much more evidence.
UPDATE 4: New behind-the-scenes photos have led me to revise part of my opinion on this matter. I think the guy who took the kids from the school wasn’t the same as the cop in the pink shirt, but the cop in the pink shirt was still a gunman/mole working for Jim, and is very likely the one who tampered with the crime scene evidence. Any additional updates once I have time for coherent processing will be added at the bottom of this post.
UPDATE 5: Guess I never really had time for coherent processing. This post will have to do as a wrap-up, because Series 3 is almost here.
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