Monday, January 23, 2017

"The Final Problem" - Canonical References and Nods

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There might be spoilers and the readers who are yet to watch the episode are recommended to skip this post.

1. The episode title The Final Problem is a reference to Arthur Conan Doyle's story of the same name. This is the one where Holmes comes face to face with his archenemy, Professor Moriarty and ends with both of them being presumed dead. Public outcry (and possibly the publisher's monetary offers) forced Doyle to bring the detective back to life in The Adventure of the Empty House.

2. After John Watson (Martin Freeman) asks him to come to 221 B Baker Street on the next day to discuss about Eurus Holmes (Sian Brooke), Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss) angrily respondsFor God's sake, this is not one of your idiot cases - In The Adventure of the Bruce Partington Plans, Mycroft scolds Sherlock Holmes to appreciate the urgency of the case: You must drop everything, Sherlock. Never mind your usual petty puzzles of the police-court. It's a vital international problem that you have to solve.

3. John tells Mycroft: There is an East wind coming..” - 

In His Last Bow, Holmes tells Dr Watson: There's an east wind coming, Watson.
Watson: I think not, Holmes. It is very warm.
Holmes: Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age. There's an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's God's own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.

Interestingly, at the climax of His Last Vow, Sherlock tells John: The East Wind takes us all in the end ... It’s a story my brother told me when we were kids. The East Wind - this terrifying force that lays waste to all in its path ... It seeks out the unworthy and plucks them from the Earth. That was generally me.

4. Mycroft asks Sherlock as to who said this line: The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” Sherlock replies: I don't know and I don't care.” - In A Study in Scarlet, Dr Watson writes that Sherlock Holmes' knowledge of literature is Nil. (Later in the episode, John clarifies that Oscar Wilde wrote this line in The Importance of Being Earnest)

5. Musgrave, the Holmes ancestral home. Later, Eurus makes the statement: At long last, Sherlock Holmes, it's time to solve the Musgrave ritual. Your very first case and the final problem - Reference to The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual. In the story, Holmes solves the mystery behind the disappearance of Brunton, the family butler and Rachel Howells, the maid.

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6. Eurus tells Sherlock: You try and try, but you just can't see, you can't look.” - Holmes makes a very similar statement to Watson in A Scandal in Bohemia: “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.”

7. Eurus asks Sherlock to figure which of the three Garrideb brothers (Nathan, Alex and Howard) murdered Evans - This is a reference to The Adventure of the Three Garridebs. In the story, Killer Evans assumes the false identity of John Garrideb in order to get Nathan Garrideb out of his house. To achieve this, Evan concocts a story of how he can split the property of the late Alexander Hamilton Garrideb, a rich real estate business tycoon, if he can two more Garridebs.

8. Eurus mentions that Sherlock and Victor Trevor were inseparable - Holmes explains about Victor Trevor to Dr Watson in The Adventure of the Gloria ScottHe was the only friend I made during the two years I was at college...Trevor was the only man I knew, and that only through the accident of his bull terrier freezing on to my ankle one morning as I went down to chapel. It was a prosaic way of forming a friendship, but it was effective. I was laid by the heels for ten days, but Trevor used to come in to inquire after me. At first it was only a minute's chat, but soon his visits lengthened, and before the end of the term we were close friends.

9. Mary says in her DVD: There is a final court of appeal for everyone -
Holmes states in The Sign of the Four: I am the last and highest court of appeal in detection. When Gregson or Lestrade or Athelney Jones are out of their depths -which, by the way, is their normal state - the matter is laid before me. I examine the data, as an expert, and pronounce a specialist's opinion.

In The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual, Holmes tells Dr Watson: You see me now when my name has become known far and wide, and when I am generally recognized both by the public and by the official force as being a final court of appeal in doubtful cases.

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10. In the final montage scene, we see a reference to The Adventure of the Dancing Men. There is a picture of stick figures on the whiteboard at 221 B Baker Street.

11. Mary (Amanda Abbington) says in her DVD: The best and wisest men I have ever known. My Baker Street boys. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson.” -

Dr John Watson refers to Sherlock Holmes as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known” in The Adventure of the Final Problem. 


1. Eurus Holmes is placed in Sherrinford, a maximum security prison - The character of Sherrinford Holmes was not created by Arthur Conan Doyle. William S. Baring-Gould created this character in his fictional biography “Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street”. Sherrinford is presumed to be the eldest of the three brothers.

2. The final scene in the episode has Sherlock and John running towards the camera. The building in the background is named Rathbone Place” - A tribute to Basil Rathbone, an obvious inspiration for Moffat and Gatiss to create the show.

3. Inside Sherrinford, Eurus forces Sherlock, Mycroft and John to a series of tests while she watches them and taunts them - I found this setup to be similar to the Saw movies.

Readers are welcome to point out any other nods I might have missed out.

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Image Sources: Hartswood Films, BBC Wales, Masterpiece Theatre, Wikipedia

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Canonical References in "The Empty Hearse"
Canonical Nods in "The Empty Hearse"
Canonical Nods in "A Study in Pink"


  1. Thorough and insightful as ever! What did you make of the episode though?

    1. Thanks GK. The episode was mostly a disappointment with a few good scenes here and there.