Sherlock order of events
Spoiler alert for all of BBC’s Sherlock season 1-4!
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What is included in the flowchart?
There are lots of information available about BBC’s Sherlock that isn’t shown on screen, mainly from Sherlock’s, John’s and Molly’s blogs. I have decided to disregard all those sources in the flowchart, since there are a number of discrepancies between the show and the blogs. Also, since the blogs were discontinued before season 4, but John kept updating his blog on screen, I think that the creators have distanced themselves from the blogs. Since I do not know how trustworthy the information is, and there are conflicting dates, I have chosen to rely solely on the information available on screen.
Sometimes, there is information available in the props shown on screen (newspapers, for example) but since there are discrepancies there as well, I have decided to exclude most of that information.
Within each episode, we are often given an impression of the passage of time. Day turns to night, someone seems to be eating what could be breakfast, and so forth. I have decided to not include these details, unless it is clearly stated that an event takes place the next day, for example. One reason is that this information is very easy to see for yourself when you watch the episode. Another reason is that once you start to look more closely at the scenes, the timeline tends to get more uncertain. Is this taking place the next day, or the day after that? Is he eating breakfast, or is he grabbing a quick bite in the afternoon, having lost track of regular meals? Unless there is a clear indication of how much time has passed, I have left that information out. Hopefully, this will make the flowchart easier to read and minimise the risk for mistakes.
I also decided to leave out very long arrows, since they made the flowchart very difficult to read. Events that take place years earlier are simply placed as a separate box without arrows. Hopefully the relationship to later events will still be clear.
When it comes to the light grey boxes with information on what must have happened for the events on screen to be possible, I have naturally had to pick and choose what to include. I could have made a box for ”getting dressed” every time a character has new clothes on, but I didn’t want that kind of detail. I have tried to include events that are interesting, not immediately obvious, highlights parallel storylines or shows what minor characters are doing when they are not on screen. I have excluded the mundane and the expected, such as routine police work for Lestrade, housework for Mrs Hudson and so forth, unless it helps to show why certain events must have happened in a certain order or that there must be a time lapse between two events. And sometimes I have included events simply because because they seem interesting to me.
This flowchart contains a lot of colour, to make it easier separate the different episodes. I have used these colours to represent the episodes in many earlier visualisations and they have been chosen to work with both black and white text, to be easy to distinguish between (this became more difficult for the last episodes, unfortunately) and, if possible, to relate to some colour in the episode that makes it easier to remember them. In this flowchart, it is possible that in choosing to use coloured text, I have made the flowchart difficult to read for those who have colour vision deficiency. If you are having trouble with the colours, please let me know and I will make a black and white version for you.
In the following, I will comment on the flowchart and the choices I have made. I will start at the top, working my way down. The numbers refer to the boxes.
The Holmes’ family back story
When Mycroft tells Sherlock and John about Euros, he says that there are seven years between him and Sherlock and one year between Sherlock and Euros (1, 3, 4). As far as I know, we do not know the birth dates for anyone in the Holmes’ family. Since Sherlock was at university with Sebastian Wilkes in 2002 (eight years before The Blind Banker) (21), he would probably have been born no earlier than 1980. Molly says that he is a graduated chemist (in The Sign of Three) and a chemistry degree at Oxford or Cambridge takes four years. One usually starts university at 18, so unless Sherlock spent time in rehab or had some other gap year, he would have finished his chemistry degree at the age of 22 — or earlier, being a genius and all that (24).
If Sherlock was born in 1980 (3), Mycroft would have been born in 1973 (1) and Euros in 1981 (4). We know that Euros was able to control people from the age of five (6). Based on that information and the appearance of the children in the flashbacks in The Final Problem, we can assume that the day at the beach (5), the death of Redbeard (7), and the burning of Musgrave Hall (9) takes place sometime in 1986 or 1987.
After that, the timeline gets even more muddled. We do not know how long Euros stayed in the institution before she burned it down (14) and we do not know when Mycroft took over from Uncle Rudy (20). Since Mycroft was the one who lied about Euros survival to Mr and Mrs Holmes from the start (17), he would have had to be in on it from the beginning. Also, his parents must have been content to receive the information from him without looking for confirmation. In 1986, Mycroft was only 13 years old, so it would be reasonable to assume this happened quite a few years later. In The Final Problem, Mycroft says that she has been isolated from a young age, but it is possible that he was referring to her time in the original institution as well.
If my theory that Sherlock is born in 1980 is correct, he would have been nine years old when ”he began” with the Carl Powers case in 1989 (19). This is definitely plausible for a gifted child.
In The Abominable Bride, we get a short glimpse of Mycroft finding Sherlock in a drug den. We get no information on when this has happened, so I decided to place this box somewhere in Sherlock’s teens or early twenties (22).
We do not know much about John’s history, but we do know that he was at St Bart’s when he was a student (23) and that he spent three years in Afghanistan before being invalided home (36). It is unclear how long he has been home when we meet him in A Study in Pink, but he seems to have healed physically but not mentally. He doesn’t seem to have been in therapy long, so I have tentatively put down 2006 for the start of his Afghanistan tour (28) and 2009 for his return (36).
In The Hounds of Baskerville, they find out that the H.O.U.N.D. project was shut down in 1986 (12). We do not know how long after that Henry Knight’s father was killed, only that Henry was seven years old (15). In the tv documentary, they show a drawing of the hound with the caption ”Henry’s drawing (aged 9)” (18).
Jennifer Wilson is the victim wearing pink in A Study in Pink. She scratches ”Rache” on the floor as she is dying, which refers to her daughter Rachel who was stillborn in 1986 — and the password to her phone (13).
In The Six Thatchers, we get to know the story behind the A.G.R.A. initials on Mary’s memory stick and the events in Tblisi in 2009 that made her leave that life and assume the identity of Mary Morstan (31-32, 34-35, 37, 39, 41, 44, 48).
A Study in Pink
Lestrade says that he has known Sherlock for five years, which means that they met in 2005 (25).
Sherlock says that he ensured Mr Hudson’s death sentence ”a few years ago” (27).
Sherlock deduces that Jeff Hope was told about his aneurysm three years ago, which means in 2007 (29). Hope probably made his arrangement with Moriarty some time after that (33).
Angelo says that Sherlock got him off a murder charge ”three years ago”, also in 2007 (30).
Sherlock says that John’s phone is a model that came out six months ago (38) and deduces that John got it (45) after Harry’s and Clara’s break up. John says that Harry and Clara broke up three months ago (42).
The dates for the suicides and the press conference are shown on screen (40, 43, 49, 50).
Euros gets a violin
In The Final Problem, Mycroft says that he gave Euros five minutes with Moriarty as a Christmas present 2010 (156), and the year before that she got the violin (46). He doesn’t say that it was for Christmas, but it is implied, so I put down Christmas? 2009.
The Blind Banker
We get a lot of information on dates in The Blind Banker. We are shown taxi receipts, diaries and Sebastian Wilkes’ watch. Therefore, we know that the murder victims flew from China on March 18 (75) and that Van Coon was killed on March 22 (87).
We are told that Soo-Lin turned away Zhi Zhu the day before finding the code (76) and Sherlock deduces that her flat has been empty for three days when they break into it (93).
When Sherlock finds the online auction site, he mentions items being put up there four days ago (73), one month ago (72) and two months ago (55).
It might be possible to put a date on all events in the episode, since we know that the show starts on the morning of March 23, but it is a bit unclear over exactly how many days the events of the episode take place. Therefore, I have decided to leave that out. Probably, the entire episode takes place in March, but it is possible that the final scenes take place later.
The Great Game
Without the blog posts, we don’t know the dates for The Great Game and we get very little information on time in general in this episode. Most of the setups for the crimes in The Great Game would have taken a lot of time, but we don’t know how much, except for some information on the Connie Prince case. It would be possible to add quite a few more boxes with setup preparations that must have been made, but that would require more speculation than I am comfortable with in this setting.
A Scandal in Belgravia
The first part of A Scandal in Belgravia takes place in what appears to be summer or autumn. It is very difficult to determine seasons in Sherlock, since they keep wearing their coats no matter the weather. They also filmed the episodes in the ”wrong” season several times, which means that we can not use flowers and plants as evidence.
After Mycroft has tried to dissuade Sherlock from pursuing Irene Adler, and has said ”Bond Air is go” on his phone (152), there is an obvious time jump to the Christmas party (155). They do not explicitly say that this is Christmas Eve, but Lestrade’s comment about going to Dorset for Christmas ”first thing in the morning” makes me believe that it is. It is possible that the party takes place on the 22nd or the 23rd, though.
The confrontation with Adler at Battersea station (164) takes place on New Year’s Eve, since her assistant asks John about his plans for ”New Year’s tonight”.
When Adler returns (178), it is summer, probably June, since she tells Mycroft that she let Sherlock have her phone for six months. Before that, Sherlock claims to have taken a safety deposit box in the spring (174).
After Sherlock finally cracks the password to Adler’s phone (178), we do not know how long it takes for her to get captured and for Sherlock to save her (189). Two months after her presumed death, Mycroft tells John about it and John gives Sherlock her phone (191). I believe that it is probable that this scene takes place after some of the events in The Hounds of Baskerville or The Reichenbach Fall. I’ll get back to that under The Hounds of Baskerville.
Sherlock trying to find out John’s middle name
In his speech at John and Mary’s wedding, Sherlock mentions trying for years to get John to confide his middle name to him. We are then shown a series of flashbacks where John refuses to answer and Sherlock finally gets hold of John’s birth certificate (163, 167, 169, 172, 176). We don’t have any information on when this takes place, but it must be before the scene in A Scandal in Belgravia where John tells Sherlock and Irene Adler his full name ”in case you were looking for baby names” (178). Therefore, I have placed those boxes in a conveniently empty space just above that scene. They could have taken place at any time during the preceding episodes, though.
Moriarty collaborating with Euros
Euros tells us that Moriarty made films for her (160) and that they discussed making Sherlock choose between John and Mycroft (166). We don’t know when this took place, but it must have been between their first meeting in 2010 (156) and Moriarty’s death in 2011 (244). I have placed those two boxes just below the box for their meeting at Christmas 2010 (156), but it could have happened later. If it did, it is probable that it happened after Euros’ ”enslavement” of the govenor of Sherrinford (407). The discussion could have taken place during their unsupervised five minutes at Christmas 2010 (156), but I have chosen to make a separate box for it.
Mary and David
In The Sign of Three, Sherlock says that David and Mary were dating for two years (173). Assuming that they broke up before Mary and John started dating (255), this means that they started dating no later than the spring of 2011, probably earlier.
The Hounds of Baskerville
We do not know when Henry started therapy (181), but we know that he did so before the TV documentary (188), since he returned to Dartmoor (183) on the recommendation of his therapist and in the documentary he is presented as ”Grimpen resident”.
It is implied that the inn keepers got the dog to sustain the interest created by the documentary (190). Fletcher says that he saw the hound a month ago (194). Lestrade says that the records for meat for the dog go back two months and the inn keepers do not deny this, making it probable that they got the dog 2 months before THoB. Gary says that Billy took the dog to the vet ”a month ago” (193).
Sherlock deduces that Henry went to Dewer’s Hollow the night before his visit to 221 B (196) and that he took the morning train to London (199).
At the end of the episode, we are shown Moriarty being interrogated and then released (214). We do not know when this takes place — it could have been much earlier or later.
A Scandal in Belgravia and The Hounds of Baskerville — which comes first?
At the end of A Scandal in Belgravia, Sherlock saves Irene Adler from a being beheaded in Pakistan (189). Two months later, Mycroft tells John that she is dead and they decide to lie to Sherlock about it (191). We tend to assume that the next episode, The Hounds of Baskerville, takes place after that, but there really isn’t any evidence that it does. There have been a few theories about this going around and from what I understand, there are two things that may point to another order of events. In the beginning of THoB, Sherlock deduces Mrs Hudson’s affair with Mr Chatterjee and says that she is wearing a new dress (200). But she wore that dress in A Scandal in Belgravia, which means that either the beginning of THoB takes place before the beginning of ASiB, or Sherlock means ”newish, not old”, not ”worn for the first time”.
In the same scene, John is reading a newspaper and we are shown an article with the picture of Sherlock in the deerstalker. This is the same newspaper article that Irene Adler is caressing at the beginning of ASiB when she calls someone to say ”it’s time” (138). There are four explanations for this:
1) John and Irene are reading the article on the same day.
2) John is reading an old article.
3) Irene is reading an old article.
4) The props department reused the article from ASiB and didn’t think anyone would notice.
Personally, I don’t think that either of those pieces of evidence are definitive. I have no problem with Sherlock saying ”new dress” meaning ”your newest/best dress” and I wouldn’t be surprised if the newspaper article is just a prop mistake (remember Tie Hell?).
I do think that it is is possible that Sherlock saving Adler from being beheaded (189) takes place sometime after The Hounds of Baskerville, though, considering the fact that Sherlock cracks the Bond Air code (178) in June 2011 (Adler says that he has had her phone for six months and he got it at Christmas) and Sherlock jumps (244) sometime in the autumn 2011, before the Christmas decorations are put up. This means that Mycroft tells John about Adler’s presumed death no earlier than August, probably September (191). The events in The Reichenbach Fall takes at least three months (see below!), which would make it a very tight fit for all of THoB and TRF happen consecutively between September and The Fall.
The Reichenbach Fall
Something is wrong with the timeline in The Reichenbach Fall. At the very beginning of the episode, we see John visiting Ella, his therapist, talking about Sherlock being dead (249). The next scene is Sherlock being praised for finding the painting The Reichenbach Falls, and a sign on screen says ”three months earlier” (218). We then get to see Sherlock receive accolades for two more major cases (218), after which Moriarty breaks in to the Tower (219), the Bank of England (221) and Pentonville Prison (220). When John and Sherlock talk during the trial, John says that the break ins took place ”six weeks ago” (225). After the trial, there is a two month time jump, according to the caption on screen, after which the case with the missing children kicks off (231), leading to the final part of TRF and The Fall (234). Two months + six weeks + two major cases + a few more days here and there does not equal three months, even if you use the word ”month” approximately.
The break down of Mycroft’s preparation for getting John to come see him (226, 227, 230) may be a little more detailed than the rest of the flowchart, but I couldn’t resist it. It is the most unnecessarily extravagant power display I have ever seen, having an ATM mysteriously announce the arrival of the sleek black car. And this is my flowchart, so I can do what I want!
I have put the events leading up to The Fall as autumn 2011, since in the beginning of The Empty Hearse, several people say that Sherlock has been gone for two years. And we know that The Empty Hearse takes place in the autumn of 2013. But we’re getting to that.
In The Lying Detective, ”Faith” (Euros) tells Sherlock that Culverton Smith drugged her and confessed three years ago. Since The Lying Detective takes place in 2015, that means that the confession took place in 2012 (252).
In the beginning of The Sign of Three, we are shown that the Waters family walk free from four different crimes, one 18 months ago (256), one 12 months ago (261), one 6 months ago (303) and one 3 months ago (308). The first two must have taken place before The Empty Hearse, during the winter 2012/2013 and the summer 2013.
We know that John and Mary start dating at least six months before TEH (”six months of bristly kisses for me”) (258), which means that Mary and David must have broken up before that (255). One could of course argue that there could have been an overlap between David and John, but if that were the case, surely Sherlock would have mentioned it when he threatened David before the wedding.
In The Six Thatchers, Sherlock says that he helped Craig, the owner of the dog Toby, get off hacking charges ”a few years ago” (254). Sinche The Six Thatchers take place in 2015, this should have been in 2012 or earlier. We don’t know exactly when, but since John had never heard of him, I am guessing that this took place while Sherlock was ”away”.
The Empty Hearse
We do not know exactly when The Empty Hearse starts and there has been some diskussion about how long it took John to calm down and go visit Sherlock (282). John hurts Sherlock’s lip when he hits him (269) and the wound is visible when Sherlock visits Molly (272) and Lestrade (271) (his face is in the shadow when he goes to Mrs Hudson (273)), but when Sherlock is building his case wall in 221 B in the scene after that (274), the lip has healed. Was the wound just a small scratch that looked bigger because Sherlock didn’t wash off the blood properly, or was it a larger wound that took weeks to heal? We don’t know.
We do get a date later on, though. When John finally comes to visit Sherlock (287) and they find the bomb in the Underground (289, 293, 295), it is November 5. This means that the earlier parts of the episode probably take place in early November or late October.
The episode ends with John and Mary’s engagement party/John and Sherlock’s press meeting (296), which happens at the same time as Mycroft is taking the parents to Les Miserables (297). Since they said that they were only staying in town for a few days when they visited Sherlock on the fifth of November (287), the party should take place sometime during the first half of November.
The Sign of Three
The Sign of Three is a mess, time-wise. The episode jumps back and forth like no other and many of the scenes are short flash-backs of things that Sherlock refers to, but does not elaborate on, in his wedding speech. There is even some confusion as to the wedding date. The wedding invitation shown in the episode says May 18 (306), but Mark Gatiss says in the DVD commentary for The Empty Hearse that Mary saying that they were planning ”a May wedding” in The Empty Hearse (296) and the date on the invitation in The Sign of Three is an inconsistency and jokes that it is the bride’s perogative to change her mind even after the invitations are printed. John’s blog says August and this makes more sense considering how far along Mary’s pregnancy is at Christmas. I have put ”summer 2014”, to be on the safe side.
A lot of things happen before the wedding and it is in many instances unclear what happens first. We do know that the case with Private Bainbridge (319) takes place two weeks before the rehersal (320) and that Sherlock writes the best man speech — and interrupts Lestrade’s moment of glory — the day before the wedding (323).
His Last Vow
In the beginning of His Last Vow, John says that he hasn’t seen Sherlock for a month (346). It seems plausible that they haven’t seen each other since the wedding, but it is not stated explicitly.
The day that John finds Sherlock in the drug den (347), Sherlock tells John that he stole the key card to Magnussen’s office building ”yesterday” (343). We also know that Janine sleeps in 221 B that night (344), since she wakes up in Sherlock’s bedroom that morning (352).
After being shot (353), Sherlock spends about a week in hospital, since he tells the paramedics that there was a shooting ”last week” when they come to 221 B after the confrontation at Leinster gardens (378).
The next scene is Christmas at Mr and Mrs Holmes’ cottage, where Mary says that she and John has not spoken for months (387). This fits rather well with a wedding in August and Sherlock being shot in September, but an earlier wedding is possible.
After shooting Magnussen (390), Sherlock spends a week in a prison cell, according to Mycroft in The Abominable Bride. This means that Sherlock’s short flight takes place on one of the first days of January 2015 (401).
The Abominable Bride
A lot of things happen in The Abominable Bride, but most of them happen in Sherlock’s drugged dream. It is not really clear which scenes are real and which are a dream in this episode — some argue that the entire episode is. I have chosen to consider only two parts of TAB as real: the scene where the plane first lands and Mycroft, John and Mary enter the plane (405), and the scene at the end of the episode where they exit the plane (408). This means that the modern scenes in the middle, where Sherlock wakes up on a bed and goes to dig up a grave, are a dream as well.
Euros prepares for her ”game” with John and Sherlock
I have put a number of boxes about Euros next to The Abominable Bride (404, 406-407, 409, 411, 413, 415), but we do not know when they take place, except that it must be before The Six Thatchers.
The box about Euros adding clues to the note (413) really ought to have an arrow pointing to the scene in The Lying Detective where she gives him the note (488), but this was another instance where I decided to remove a long arrow to avoid making the flowchart difficult to read.
The Six Thatchers
In the Six Thatchers, there is not a lot of information about how much time goes by between the scenes. Mary is heavily pregnant in the beginning and then gives birth to Rosie (418). Rosie is baptised as a small baby (no more than a few months?) (423) and then we see Rosie sitting up in John’s chair in 221 B while John and Mary sleep on the sofa and Sherlock tries to babysit (426). She seems to be sitting fairly straight, even if she is propped up and secured, and babies usually can’t do that until they are about 6 months old (babies’ development vary a lot, though!).
Since The Abominable Bride takes place in early January and John and Sherlock have time for a number of cases before Rosie is born, I think the events after the babysitting take place sometime in autumn 2015.
It is a bit difficult to place the scenes where John flirts with ”E” (424, 429, 432, 434). We know that it must have happened after Rosie’s birth, since he puts a flower behind his ear when he changes her nappie (420), and is still wearing it on the bus where he meets ”E” (424). They must happen before John and Mary discuss their marriage in Morocco, though (459). I decided to place them as near Rosie’s birth as possible, simply because there was room for them there.
The scenes after Mary’s death (475-482) are very difficult to place in time and we do not really know in which order they take place. Several of them could actually take place before Mary’s death, if the storytelling is non-linear.
In The Final Problem, Euros says that one of the Garrideb brothers murdered Evans six months earlier (484). Since it is unclear how much time passes during The Six Thatchers and The Lying Detective, it is impossible to know exactly where to place these boxes.
The Lying Detective
We get very specific information about time in the beginning of The Lying Detective, since Sherlock books meetings for him and John two weeks ahead. We are also told that Sherlock meets Faith three weeks before the meetings (488).
The rest of the episode mostly takes place on the same day, except the scenes at the end where Sherlock and John reconcile (532-534), Sherlock finds ”Faith’s” note (536) and John gets shot (537), which appear to take place later.
We do not get any information on dates or time of year in this episode, though, and we never see Rosie, so we don’t know how much time has passed since The Six Thatchers.
The Final Problem
We do not get any information on dates in The Final Problem until at the very end, where John and Sherlock play with Rosie, who now seems to have become somewhere between 18 and 24 months old (574).