ETA: CLICK HERE FOR THE NON-CRACKPOT VERSION
We know that Moriarty leaves Grimm’s Fairy Tales as a clue for Sherlock to find the abducted children. But what if he also leaves this book as a clue to the IOU riddle?
It’s obvious that Sherlock doesn’t believe for one second in the binary code – the “code” he’s tapping out in Bart’s is completely different from Moriarty’s “Partita No. 1” sequence.
And yet, this scene in Bart’s lab is an important moment of realization for Sherlock. What he figures out is not how to “destroy Richard Brook and bring back Jim Moriarty,” but rather how to play “ordinary Sherlock” for his enemy. He immediately texts Moriarty and pretends to believe in the existence of the code, gaining the upper hand in their game.
At this point, Moriarty is so sure of his intellectual superiority that he’s fine with Sherlock choosing the time and place of their meeting. As long as Moriarty thinks that Sherlock is an ordinary doofus who bought into the “key that can open any door” farce, he doesn’t suspect a trap. And that’s what St. Bart’s rooftop is – not only a convenient place for Sherlock to fake his death, but also a trap for Moriarty. Because, you see, Moriarty just can’t be allowed to stay alive.
Sherlock can’t fake his suicide with Moriarty standing right next to him on the rooftop. Moriarty might notice the rubbish truck. He might see a mattress, or laundry bags, or a garbage bin, or a safety net, or a giant rubber ducky – whatever the hell it is that Sherlock lands on. Moriarty is not stupid; he’ll figure it out. He may even want to see Sherlock’s body in the morgue to make sure he’s dead. Killing Moriarty is out of the question, as Sherlock knows that their rooftop encounter is likely to be observed by Moriarty’s henchmen (who will then retaliate in kind). I think it’s fairly obvious that Sherlock figures out not only that Moriarty wants him to die, but also that Moriarty will kill himself right there on the roof if given enough incentive.
How does he figure it out? It’s easy to guess that Moriarty wants Sherlock dead and his reputation ruined; he does promise to burn the heart out of him and kill him “anyway, someday.” Moriarty also goes to great lengths to discredit Sherlock through the media, so it makes sense to conclude that he’s not going to have the detective assassinated – dead men get listened to. Suicide, on the other hand, will discredit every word Sherlock has ever said, destroying his entire legacy. I have no doubt Sherlock can deduce all of that. But how does Sherlock know with absolute certainty that Moriarty will commit suicide? It cannot be a lucky guess; there’s too much at stake here. Sherlock bases his entire “fake suicide” plan on the assumption thatMoriarty will not be there on the roof to call his bluff.
Something is missing here. When Sherlock says that he can “kill Rich Brook and bring back Jim Moriarty” using the binary code, Moriarty gets really, really upset because “this is too easy, this is too easy!” Looking sad and disappointed, he calls Sherlock “ordinary.” Why is Moriarty using words like “too easy” and “ordinary”? All he did was hire people to break into all those places – there is absolutely nothing extraordinary or even particularly difficult about it. In fact, it’s a lot more boring than having a key that opens “any door, anywhere.” So, what is all this talk about Sherlock being ordinary?
There’s this one really, really interesting, really quite extraordinary thing in “The Reichenbach Fall” – the “IOU” riddle. It’s never explained, so we’re left to assume it has no meaning other than the boring, ordinary “I owe you.” But are we so sure it’s meaningless? It’s the most fascinating thing in the entire episode, if not the whole series. It’s everywhere.
Moriarty gives Sherlock this “IOU” riddle – carves it into an apple, paints it on every available surface, and even tells him outright that it’s a riddle, learn to like riddles – but boring, ordinary Sherlock never solves it.
Or so Moriarty thinks.
Sherlock mutters “IOU” while analyzing the glycerol molecule in Bart’s lab (right before we are shown the chemical structure of glycerol). When asked about it, he claims it’s “nothing, a mental note.” It’s not like Sherlock to mutter random, irrelevant things out of the blue, so I choose to believe that Sherlock is having an “Aha!” moment here. What if IOU refers to chemical elements – iodine, oxygen, and uranium?
And what if, like in “The Blind Banker” (also written by Stephen Thompson), each symbol is a number? The atomic numbers for iodine, oxygen, and uranium are 53, 8, and 92.
My first inclination is to assume it’s a secret code. But this is a TV show, not the CIA, so 53-8-92 is probably something really, really simple. In “The Blind Banker,” the key to the cipher was in a book – London A to Z. In this episode, there’s also a book –Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Moriarty leaves it at the crime scene, knowing full well that Sherlock will find it.
From what I can see in the screen shots, Moriarty’s book was printed in “Great Britain by […]pire Press, Norwich.” I browsed through my school’s library database and came up with “Jarrold and Sons, Ltd., The Empire Press, Norwich.” I couldn’t find this book anywhere, so I’d wager it’s pretty rare. Luckily, we are shown the inside of Moriarty’s book, so I was able to compare page numbers, fairy tale numbers, illustrations, and text placement in several different editions. The 1944/1972 Pantheon Books edition turned out to be an exact copy of Moriarty’s edition:
Each fairy tale in this edition has its own number. (Please ignore the marked fairy tales. The markings have no meaning other than the fact that some people have no respect for library books.)
So, what if IOU refers to Grimm’s fairy tales #53 (iodine’s atomic number), #8 (oxygen’s atomic number), and #92 (uranium’s atomic number)?
Remember, Moriarty is the sort of criminal that leaves clues.
John: What sort of kidnapper leaves clues?
Sherlock: The sort that likes to boast, the sort that thinks it’s all a game. He sat in our flat, and he said these exact words to me: “All fairy tales need a good old-fashioned villain.”
Grimm’s fairy tale # 53 is Little Snow-White.
The Evil Queen makes three attempts to kill Snow White, just like Moriarty makes three attempts to kill Sherlock (the first two being the poisoned pill and the Semtex jacket in the pool). On the last attempt, both villains bring an apple to their intended victim. The Evil Queen orders the huntsman to bring her Snow White’s heart. Moriarty also promises to burn the heart out of Sherlock. To make sure Sherlock will be shown the security tape, Moriarty writes “Get Sherlock” in mirror writing and then poses for the security cameras wearing the Queen’s crown jewels and mantle. After his acquittal, he comes to Sherlock’s home, proclaims himself “a good old-fashioned villain,” drinks from a cup with a crown on it, carves “IOU” into an apple, and tells Sherlock to learn to like riddles. Sherlock takes the apple and studies the three letters, looking intrigued. Maybe this scene is not the “arts and crafts with apples” time. Maybe what Moriarty is doing here is leaving a clue for Sherlock (just like he later sends breadcrumbs to 221B as a clue). It makes sense if you think about it – in a way, their final problem is “who in this land is the fairest of all.”
When trying to get Sherlock to jump off the roof, Moriarty says, “I love newspapers. Fairy tales. And pretty grim/Grimm ones, too.” I bet he doesn’t count on Sherlock actually pulling a Snow White, though. This leaves me wondering if Sherlock’s Snow White stunt – dying, but coming back to life after getting rid of the bad apple (i.e., Moriarty and his network) – is a coincidence, or if Sherlock enjoys playing thisGrimm’s Fairy Tales game just as much as Moriarty does.
Grimm’s fairy tale # 8 is The Strange Musician (also translated as The Strange Violinist and The Wonderful Violinist in some editions). This fairy tale is about a violinist looking for a companion. The violinist’s music attracts three wild beasts. He outsmarts them, and they attempt to kill him in revenge. One of those beasts is a fox. Moriarty is wearing a fox pin on his tie when he comes over to 221B to give Sherlock the “IOU” riddle. Sherlock is the violinist, obviously.
Grimm’s fairy tale #92 is The King of the Golden Mountain. It’s the story of a boy who becomes king by passing a series of trials and killing his competition (there‘s also an evil queen, a demon who solves people’s problems for a price, and a merchant who unwittingly sells his only son to that demon). Moriarty puts on the crown and sits on the throne in the Tower of London. When they meet at 221B, he takes a tea cup with a crown on it and boasts to Sherlock that “the man with the key is king.”
So, Moriarty gives Sherlock a book of fairy tales, tells him what fairy tales to take a look at – “IOU” – and provides him with a gazillion clues to those fairy tales. And what, pray tell, is Sherlock supposed to do with them? The Sudoku Cube from Moriarty’s video looks tempting, but if it was relevant, it would’ve been included in one of the actual episodes. We’re probably looking for something that’s right there in “The Reichenbach Fall,” something so ridiculously obvious it’s been staring us in the face the whole time.
Moriarty leaves Grimm’s Fairy Tales at the site of the kidnapping. What else does he leave there for Sherlock to find? A message written in invisible ink. And a bottle of smelly linseed oil, just in case they don’t notice the invisible message.
Now, Moriarty is obsessed with fairy tales. He sends Grimm’s Fairy Tales to the future crime scene and an envelope full of breadcrumbs to 221B as clues to find the brother and sister eating candy in a chocolate factory. And yet we are supposed to believe that the trail of linseed oil (so obviously, obviously, obviously representing a trail of breadcrumbs here) is not Moriarty’s doing? Come on. What are the chances that the kidnapped boy just accidentally follows the plot of Hansel and Gretel? Slim to none.
I think it’s also important to note that Sherlock takes Grimm’s Fairy Tales from the crime scene and keeps it with him – we see him look at it in Bart’s lab after John remembers about the breadcrumbs. Could it be that there’s a message insideGrimm’s Fairy Tales? Sherlock looks through Moriarty’s book in the kidnapped girl’s room, but he doesn’t see anything on its pages. Still, he keeps it handy. So, what if the message inside the book is written in invisible ink, just like the message on the wall in the boy’s room? (Not the linseed oil – it has too strong of a smell. But there are many non-volatile invisible inks out there.)
Grimm’s Fairy Tales is a thick book, but Moriarty tells Sherlock what fairy tales to look at – “I.O.U.” The pages of these three fairy tales will have to be treated with something (iodine, heat, ultraviolet light, etc.) to make the message visible. The message itself can be anything – underlined text, highlighted words or letters, circled passages, or even marked illustrations (e.g., Snow White in the coffin on page 257). It can be just a message written on the margins or between the lines, but I like to think that Moriarty uses something in the actual fairy tales (because you’ve got to admit, that’s sexier).
So, here’s my crazy crackpot theory: Sherlock knows Moriarty’s plans because he has solved Moriarty’s IOU riddle, but he doesn’t let Moriarty in on it. Sherlock is used to risking his life to prove he’s clever, but now that his friends’ lives are at stake, now that he actually has friends, he’s risking his life to play “ordinary Sherlock” for their sake.
We can’t know for sure what exactly Moriarty’s message says, as Sherlock is the only one with the marked copy of the book. But let’s speculate, shall we? The most obvious guess is that Moriarty reveals he’s more than willing to end his own life if that is what it takes to ensure Sherlock’s death. That would explain why Sherlock has planned to fake his suicide on St. Bart’s rooftop despite knowing that Moriarty will be standing right next to him – he is counting on Moriarty being already dead by the time he jumps. I’d even go as far as to say Sherlock is purposefully driving Moriarty to suicide: “I don’t have to die if I’ve got you.”
Here’s the simplest example of what Moriarty’s message could look like:
But again, it could be anything in any of these fairy tales. There could be something in each of the three fairy tales that makes up a message when put together in the right order. Moriarty says that “every fairy tale needs a good old-fashioned villain,” so it could also be something a villain utters in each of the three fairy tales. Moriarty’s message could even give clues about “three bullets, three gunmen, three victims,” which would explain how Sherlock knows who will be targeted and that only three people will be targeted (he doesn’t name Mycroft, Molly, or Irene, for example). Each “IOU” fairy tale has something that comes in threes – three drops of blood on the snow and three birds weeping at Snow White’s coffin in the “I” fairy tale; three wild beasts who try to kill the strange violinist in the “O” fairy tale; three giants and three nights of torture (after which the hero dies only to “come to life again and be as healthy as before”) in the “U” fairy tale. For example, the three birds weeping for Snow White – an owl, a raven, and a dove – could stand for Lestrade, John (notice the black wings graffiti outside 221B), and Mrs. Hudson. But it could be anything. I’ve created several “secret messages” out of these fairy tales just to see if it can be done, and the possibilities are practically endless. It’s also lots of fun. Try it.
Sherlock knows that Moriarty’s people may be watching him, so he pretends to be shocked when the consulting criminal shoots himself. I don’t think his crying is caused by any kind of narcotic or anesthetic, as it would be an extremely stupid move to take drugs right before making a precise life-or-death jump. I believe that Sherlock’s show of distress is just that: a show. After all, “the stage lost a fine actor” when Sherlock became a specialist in crime.
When Sherlock reaches out his hand – seemingly to John – he is actually giving a signal to his and/or Mycroft’s people that he’s going to jump soon.
The rubbish truck, the rubber ball, and the bicyclist were already explained a gazillion times by brilliant people on the Internet, so I’m not going to repeat it. We all pretty much know how he faked his death. My only problem with Sherlock’s fall sequence is that there’s barely enough time to remove whatever contraption broke his fall, let alone for a make-up artist to get out of the truck, apply fake blood to Sherlock’s face – very realistically! – and get back in the truck unseen.
Now, watch what he’s doing with his hands.
It looks like he’s just having a major freak-out, but we’ve already decided that this is not the case. The camera is circling around Sherlock, and we can’t get a good look at what exactly he’s doing, but he is definitely doing something to his head. We see him touch his hair and then his nose and mouth. It seems unlikely, but in the absence of any other explanation, I’m going to assume that he strategically attaches little fake blood packets behind his ears and inside his nostrils (hey, I told you it was a crackpot theory XD). When he falls from a gigantic pillow (or a mattress, or a net, or a rubber ducky) onto the pavement, the fake blood packets burst open. Notice how he’s only “bleeding” from his ears and nose (the little bit of blood on the side of his mouth could also come from his nasal cavity area). He has no visible wounds or gashes, but it still looks realistic and not like someone just poured a bucket of fake blood on his face. The blood stain on the right side of his forehead is the result of him lying on his side in the pool of blood before his body is turned over.
I also have no doubt that Mycroft helps Sherlock fake his death. XD The original Sherlock Holmes enlists Mycroft’s help in “The Final Problem” and “The Adventure of the Empty House,” so it makes sense for this version of Sherlock to do the same.
All the screencaps are from this amazing site. The close-up of Moriarty’s fox pin is from charmmakers, which I found through wearsherlock.
ETA: No, seriously, go read the non-crackpot version now. XD