5 Compelling Sherlock Fan Theories


As we said in our 5 Throwaway Scenes That May Yet Mean Something article, us Sherlock fans like to spend the (long, long) time between series being detectives on our own; analysing what we have seen so far to determine what could happen in the show’s future. Sherlock fans are particularly gifted at coming up with in-depth and well-thought out fan theories. There are many, many out there but here are five of the most compelling.


5. Sherlock, Secret Agent


It is a thinly veiled secret in the series that Mycroft does not, as he claims, “occupy a minor seat in the British government” but is most likely the head of the secret service. Some fans believe that, before becoming a detective, Sherlock was actually one of his agents. The name’s Holmes. Sherlock Holmes.

The theory goes that Mycroft sent Sherlock and the mysterious “other” brother alluded to in ‘His Last Vow’ on a dangerous mission – in which the third Holmes boy was killed. Sherlock blames Mycroft for this and quit the secret agent business, which is why the brothers have such a strained relationship in the show.


4. Sherlock and Mycroft are Orphans


But we’ve met their parents, I hear cry! Yes, but some fans are not convinced the kindly, completely normal couple we got to know in Series Three are in fact the biological parents of the distinctly unkindly, completely unnormal Holmes boys.

Forgetting that actors Wanda Ventham and Timothy Carlton are Benedict Cumberbatch’s parents in real life, the pair in the show don’t seem to have much in common with the men who are apparently theirs by birth. This theory states that Sherlock and Mycroft were in fact orphaned as children – which would go some way to explaining their dislike of emotion and getting attached to people – and were adopted by Mr and Mrs Holmes.


3. We Still Don’t Know How Sherlock Faked His Death

Sherlock Holmes

The most fervent period for Sherlock fan theories was in the gap between Series Two and Three, as everyone came up with their own explanation for how the detective faked his death. In Series Three opener ‘The Empty Hearse’, we finally got the answer, as Sherlock explained it to Anderson. However, just like the man says, why would Sherlock explain his secret to him? Because of this, some fans think the truth was different from how he described it…

Alternate explanations include the idea that Mycroft was heavily involved, as he used his governmental contacts to forge medical records (along with Molly Hooper’s help, of course). Another is that Sherlock got Irene Adler to help him – after all, she masterfully faked her death in ‘A Scandal in Belgravia.’


2. The Truth About Redbeard


Though we have had the explanation of Redbeard as Sherlock’s beloved childhood pet in ‘His Last Vow’, many think there is more to come with the pooch, as his name was written in Mycroft’s notebook.

One Reddit user suggested the heartbreaking idea that perhaps Sherlock was somehow responsible for Redbeard’s death. The theory goes that the dog was Sherlock’s only friend as a boy but, due to his reckless nature and interest in science, an experiment or game he was playing with Redbeard hurt the dog which meant it had to be put down. This would have caused Sherlock to retreat from his emotions and never get attached to anyone again.

Excuse us, we’ve just got something in our eye…


1. The Johnlock Conspiracy


Probably the Sherlock fan theory with the most ardent supporters, however, is the so-called Johnlock Conspiracy which states that the show is building up to a point where Sherlock and John will be a romantic couple.

There is an extensive amount of evidence collated by followers of TJLC, including the reference to the classic romantic movie Casablanca in ‘His Last Vow’, the secret hearts found in many of the pair’s scenes together and even the clothes of Sherlock’s parents – a happily married couple – mirroring Sherlock and John’s fashion senses. You can find more evidence here.

Though Moftiss have denied that this is where the show is heading, these theorists think otherwise. After all, the writers are no strangers to lying to keep future plot points a secret…


Do you have a favourite Sherlock fan theory? Let us know in the comments!


8 thoughts on “5 Compelling Sherlock Fan Theories

  1. I haven’t heard of all of these before, but I certainly agree with Number 3. I don’t think Mofftiss would be kind enough to actually give us how he faked his death, and to be honest, I don’t really care how he did it anymore. He’s alive, that’s all that matters.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I honestly don’t see why homosexuality has to be mixed in with everything these days. Straight people are cool too and relationships with the same sex don’t have to be sexual. I like the original Sherlock and I hope Moftiss keeps Sherlock as is. (Besides he’s already shown an interest in women, so…)


  3. As an adoptive parent, please allow me to enlighten you about the vocabulary we use to talk about adoptive families. Children are born to birth parents (‘biological parents’ is also okay, but please don’t use ‘real parents’). Adoptive parents (also just ‘parents’) are those who have legally adopted one or more children. The children are just as much ‘theirs’ as a those in a typical birth family belong to their parents. So we wouldn’t say ‘the men who are apparently their sons’, we’d say something like ‘the men who appear to have been born to them’. I hope this helps next time you write about adoption, and if you’d like to revisit point four above that would be great. Thanks!


    • Thanks for the comment, Sarah. We appreciate the feedback and have fixed the article accordingly. Hope we didn’t cause offence!


  4. I absolutely agree with no 5 and no 1. I’ve read a brilliant fanfic about the death of the third Holmes brother when working with Sherlock and Mycroft in the Mi6. Fits really well. The Johnlock conspiracy is well founded too. I’m not completely sure that they will take it there…?, but it’s is hinted at in the original Conan-Doyle books (in a coded sense) as it was in many literary works of that time. Oscar Wilde was a friend and inspiration for Conan-Doyle and he wrote of his admiration for him and his work – so definitely not an inappropriate or unsupported theory.

    In the BBC adaption a romantic connection between John and Sherlock is joked about, foreshadowed, weaved into the storyline and sometimes directly refered to (as in the Irene Adler/John scene “We’re not a couple” – “Yes you are” – “Well I don’t know about Sherlock Holmes, but I’m not gay” – “Well I am, look at us both” …… (Ie: both theoretically not ‘into’ men, but both in love with Sherlock). Season 3 and TAB most definitely presented us with a Sherlock who seemed to be struggling with the depth of emotion he felt for John – and the loss of John to another (Mary). A lot of TAB doesn’t really make sense unless you consider the Johnlock angle, after which the metaphors, narrative choices and direction of the show seem surprisingly clear. One of the writers Mark Gatiss said his favourite thing about the show was that “it is all so terribly unspoken”……… I suppose you can read that as you’d like…

    I also want to caution against comments like “I honestly don’t see why homosexuality has to be mixed in with everything these days”. I myself am not gay, but I can see how desperately biased towards heteronormative/ straight relationships TV and film are. LGTB+ people make up a sizeable part of society and contribute financially, productively, culturally and creatively (Mark Gatiss, the show’s creator who plays Mycroft is gay)……..and yet there is close to no representation of LGTB+ relationships on our screens. Movies made with LGTB+ relationships are typically focused on only that aspect of the narrative and become defined as ‘specifically gay flicks’ etc …. How marvellous it would be to see normal LGTB+ relationships filtered into our stories, films and TV shows as almost incidental….not necessarily the whole focus of the story but a part of the whole. The lack of inclusion must feel incredibly oppressive, depressing and invalidating from their perspective. I think a more diverse representation of human relationships would be a wonderful thing. Gay people have to watch hetero romances very time they turn on the TV – why is it an issue if this show moves in that direction? There is a kind of blinkered view we all hold when we are part of the ‘privileged majority’ (White, Western, heterosexual etc). At least 90% of programming is angled towards us, and yet we feel attacked, affronted, challenged and object on the rare occasion our media represents ‘other’ types of people.

    As I said earlier, I’m not convicted Mofatt and Gatiss will ever completely ‘spell out’ the Sherlock/John relationship – or that it will ever resolve from being partially unrequited. They never completely explained how Sherlock survived the fall either. It seems to be their style to leave us wondering, to hint and tease and imply …. quite a clever option really. The show is written in such a way that each viewer interprets it differently. Personally, I cannot ‘unsee’ Johnlock as a major underlying theme. The story takes on a more intense and tragic feel when viewed through the Johnlock lense with deeper levels of tension and angst – a brilliant screen writing device. Also, John/Sherlock …..Mwaaaaa just SO romantic 😉 Lots of dying for each other, killing baddies for each other, coming back fom the dead for each other… That’s romance Sherlock style – bring it ON!


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