Still Waters Run Deep

I have never, ever done this for a theory post before, so please take it seriously when I say…

WARNING: Things. Get. Real. Under. The. Cut. Really. Really. Real.


Edit: OKAY, corrected from first version because I can’t freaking count. But I think it’s all still fine. Good. Yes.


The Waters Gang is not the Waters Gang.

That is to say, the gang is not the Waters family.

When Lestrade rushes off to help Sherlock, Sally namechecks Athelney Jones, the detective from The Sign of Four:

Sally: Jones will get all the credit if you leave now, you know he will!

In The Sign of Four, Jones wrongly arrests an entire household as he tries to solve a case.

What if the Waters family doesn’t keep avoiding conviction because they’re clever?

What if they keep avoiding conviction because they’re innocent?

The Waters family is not the gang that’s been robbing banks. Look at them:



They aren’t the bank gang.

Yes, they’re covering their faces. And yes, the robbers wore clown masks. But just enough of the Waters’ features and just enough of the gang member’s features were left showing that you can tell they don’t match up.

But then, we’ve also met the some of the bank gang before.



Mrs. Hudson’s gunman
Looks like he may have grown a mustache since the last time we saw him, but then again WHO HASN’T?



John’s gunman
Even when wearing a scary clown mask, you gotta keep that coat collar up to look cool.


Lestrade’s gunman


  1. Having a cop from Lestrade’s own team in the gang does completely explain how they were so good at besting Scotland Yard.
  2. It makes sense that all three gunmen would be in the gang.
  3. He was the only one with a specific established connection to one of the other gang members from that time they kidnapped those kids together.

And a bonus reason? Because Lestrade’s gunman was the one who helped push Sally Donovan into accusing Sherlock of staging the kidnapping, and the last time we saw Sally she was on her way in to arrest these clowns. (You guys don’t even know how excited I am for for Sally to find out the truth. I’ve been waiting such a long time.)

So we’ve found our three gunmen again in a new gig. And you know, I wouldn’t be shocked if turns out their names are Biddle, Hayward, and Moffat. But we’ll have to wait and see on that one. (And don’t tell me about the name in the Casebook. Does “Phillip” start with an “S”? Didn’t think so.)

There’s still one clown left, though. So who’s he?


The white hair suggests he’s older. Since we’re already pulling plot from The Sign of the Four, there’s only one option for me given the available data.

The fourth gang member is Mary’s father, Arthur Morstan. In the original story, he was mixed up with stolen treasure. This time it’s robbing banks.

Which, hey, suddenly does a lot to explain why Sherlock deduced Mary was disillusioned (that’ll happen when your dad’s in a clown gang), had a secret (same), and is a liar (not quite an “orphan” there, are you?).



Further, it lets us guess that Charles Augustus Magnussen (CAM) is blackmailing Mary using information related to her father as leverage. And maybe explains why CAM would choose to target Mary at all when there’s no reason to think she’s a high-value target. If her dad’s helping to steal millions or is some kind of genius hacker that CAM has a use for (Arthur’s the one who pushes the buttons during the robbery), well… As the CAM of the canon says, “you must admit that the occasion of a lady’s marriage is a very suitable time for her friends and relatives to make some little effort upon her behalf.”

And speaking of friends… By the time of the bonfire, CAM has obviously taken notice of Sherlock and may also be using the Mary connection to get to him. Janine’s “Mr. Holmes, you’re going to be incredibly useful” line at the wedding was suspicious as heck, anyway. And somebody had to have been the one who knew Mary’s deepest secret and took it to CAM in the first place, so why not her best friend who’s so smooth she can even get Sherlock Holmes to tell her a secret?

Also at the wedding, that telegram:





So obviously CAM was messing with Mary by sending this and mentioning her family at all. But if we consider what we now know about Mary’s father there’s maybe a more specific jab there.

In the opening sequence, we started eighteen months back in time with Lestrade and Donovan, then kept jumping forward as they worked the Waters Gang case. The final sequence was labelled “Yesterday.”


In other words, the day before the wedding.

We know Sally was about to go arrest the bank gang, but we have no idea what actually happened after that. By her wedding day, Mary’s dad could’ve been in jail, dead, or missing. (And incidentally, if you do want to bet that a Morstan will end up dying this Sunday, I say the smart money’s on Arthur.)

Okay, there’s a bunch of the Mary drama…well, not really resolved-resolved. But tidied up a little.

How about the bonfire, though? Someone could’ve targeted John to get to either Sherlock or Mary. And we’re starting to see the two of them may have a bunch of enemies in common anyway, so to some extent it may not even matter. But for the sake of argument, let’s say the target was Mary. The messages were sent to her phone, and since Sherlock and John both assumed Sherlock had been the target the obvious twist is that Mary actually was.

So who did it? I don’t think it was CAM. Good blackmailers aren’t supposed to need to resort to that kind of stuff, and CAM is the greatest blackmailer of all. In canon if you threatened not to pay him off, his attitude was basically, “Fine by me, and now I’ll be totally happy to make this information public and ruin your life because that’ll be a great lesson for everyone else who thinks they can say no to me.” He does watch video of the bonfire attack later, or course, but they’ve already connected CAM with the Orwellian anti-terror bill from The Empty Hearse (which I can only assume passed after the big scary terror threat) so I suspect he may be a man who can get videos of anything that interests him. One way or another, I don’t think the bonfire thing is just something CAM would up and do completely on his own.

That leaves one other group of obvious suspects—the bank gang. I don’t think Mary’s dad was in on it though, so really just the three gunmen. There’s maybe a bit of a clue there when you drop it down to three people involved. First, Mary gets sent a skip code message where you read every third word.


Then as she keeps getting texts, they’re shown in three different colors:






There’s little differences in the style of the messages, too. Like the white ones spell out numbers (“ten” and “two”), while the yellow message uses a numeral (“8”). The red messages seem focused on making puns (“hotting up” and “quite a Guy”). So let’s assume each color is from a different sender, and each of those senders is one of the three gunmen. (It’s The Reigate Puzzle, in text message form!)

Let’s stop for a moment and do a logic check on one thing—are these guys attacking John because they’re still loyal to Jim? I don’t think that’s it. Even if they thought Sherlock was dead for two years and just now found out he was back, what sense would this make in terms of carrying out their old “kill Sherlock’s friends if he doesn’t die” mission? They were supposed to shoot John before, so why not just shoot him? And why no attack on Mrs. Hudson or Lestrade? And why not try again after this attack didn’t kill John? And why warn Sherlock and Mary so they could save him? I don’t think any of this was about fulfilling Jim’s orders. I think these three were literally hired guns on the day of the fall. They did their job and got paid and that was that. (Otherwise, they are playing such an incredibly long game that I simply don’t have the mental energy left to try and track it right now. So I won’t try.)

But Jim aside, the interesting thing about how all of these guys were involved in the Reichenbach plot—and here I have reached the point of thinking this through for the first time at the moment I type, so gosh I hope this works out—is that each of the three gunmen actually has had some sort of encounter with John Watson before.

There was the one in charge of shooting him, obviously:



The one who posed as a builder at 221B:


And the one who was a mole in Scotland Yard when John and Sherlock worked the kidnapping case:


So each of the gunmen was fully aware of John Watson and his relationship to Sherlock Holmes long before any of this bonfire business.

The gunmen know about John, and they work with Mary’s dad. This is where the dangerous question must be asked: Did John and Mary meet by chance, or was Mary intentionally placed into John’s path?


Mycroft: What do we say about coincidences?

Sherlock: The universe is rarely so lazy.

Seems like the only way to proceed is to assume that it was not, in fact, a coincidence that brought John and Mary together. And if I’m going down the wrong trail, it’s ‘cause Mycroft tricked me.

So Mary was placed in John’s path intentionally.

Hang on, now. Hold off on your “ZOMG SHE’S EVIL AND NEVER LOVED JOHN” rant for just a moment.


  1. We don’t know if she knew whether she was being placed in John’s path. Mary’s his nurse. Maybe somebody just nudged her towards a job opening and let things go from there. (John… doesn’t exactly need to be seduced, if you get what I’m saying.)
  2. Sherlock thinks Mary loves John, and the man’s, y’know, kinda good at figuring this stuff out. Before you argue that he’s just playing along to find out what she’s up to, I will say that is pushing plausibility pretty far when you consider he allows the wedding to go on and voluntarily includes Mary in his last vow. “Hey, you’re probably pretending to love my best friend, but I’ll be there for you foreverz” is just silly.
  3. Consider the timing of the bonfire attack. It was right after John proposed and Mary accepted. (More or less, allowing for minor interruptions.) Going after Mary by threatening John doesn’t mesh with “the secret plan was to get him to marry you.” It matches better with “hey, hold up, you weren’t actually supposed to fall in love with the guy.” Or “oh, you’re not going to do what we want now because you care too much about John? And how does your standpoint change if we threaten to burn him alive?”

Obviously nothing can be proven one way or another yet, but there’s something…


Okay, I just caught myself making actual mind palace style hand gestures.

And honestly that was all one more deduction than I was expecting.

So let’s just get back on track to wrap this up.

Because I don’t need to work every detail out perfectly. The point, as far as I’m concerned, is that I’ve closed the loop. All those theories I’ve had where someone’s said things like “Uh, yeah, sure. A mole in Scotland Yard. Like they’ll have time to deal with that in Series 3?” Yes, apparently they do have time. Apparently that is the entire point. Build everything up into one giant plot that loops around from story to story and mystery to mystery.

The Lazarus solution was a lie to lure out Moran, Moran was the one who signaled the gunmen at St. Bart’s, the gunmen now work with Mary’s dad, CAM is blackmailing Mary and Moran, Moran becomes the front-runner for the job of CAM’s eventual assassin, and round and round and round we go.

The final story they’re going to tell in Series 3 is actually ALL THE STORIES.

The Sign of Four:



The Empty House:



Charles Augustus Milverton:



His Last Bow:



All carefully choreographed into one massive, interconnected thing of beauty.

The writers played a completely fair game.

All of the clues were there.















i made it

it’s the day before the preview screening

and i closed the loop

how did that even happen

i mean i did it and it still seems incredibly improbable

*collapses on floor*

that’ll do, brain

that’ll do

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