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We've got a serial killer on our hands. Love those, there's always something to look forward to!—Sherlock Holmes
Dr. John Watson has just returned from service in Afghanistan with bad dreams, a psychosomatic limp and a bullet wound for his trouble. John's therapist encourages him to keep a blog about his life as a returned vet, but it doesn't seem to help since, as John himself puts it, "nothing happens to me". And to top it all off, his army pension isn't enough to keep living in London. All in all, things are kinda crappy for John until he runs into Mike Stamford, an old friend from his days at St. Barts. As it happens, Mike knows of someone who's looking for a flatmate, someone who wouldn't look down their nose at living with a disabled war vet for the simple reason that he's a good deal strange in his own right.
As if to prove this, Sherlock Holmes is introduced beating a cadaver with a riding crop For Science!, being completely oblivious to the advances of the St. Barts morgue attendant Molly Hooper and texting people the solutions to murder cases. From a glimpse of John and a brief lend of his mobile phone, Sherlock is able to deduce that John is an army doctor home from service with a psychosomatic limp who disapproves of his alcoholic divorcee brother (though he wasn't quite right).
John goes to look at the flat with Sherlock and quite likes it. Sherlock introduces him to the landlady, Mrs Hudson, who he did a favour for once. After John agrees that the flat would be a good place to live, he is interrupted by the arrival of Inspector Lestrade, who needs Sherlock's assistance with the fourth in a series of identical suicides that have been occurring. Sherlock leaves, before returning to ask John to come along, since he's a qualified doctor who might be able to help. In the taxi, they talk and Sherlock explains his job: he's a consulting detective, one who helps the police with problems when they're out of their depth. He also explains his first deductions of John. John is amazed, naturally, and Sherlock is intrigued by someone who actually appreciates his deductions.
They go look at the corpse, a woman in pink. When they get there, John finds that the police don't like Sherlock- the first officer they meet, Sgt Donovan, calls Sherlock 'freak' and another officer, Anderson, seems to really dislike Sherlock (though to be fair, after Sherlock reveals his affair with Donovan, it's easy to see why). Sherlock and John examine the corpse and find a few anomalies: one, she wrote 'rache' on the floor next to her. While Sherlock recognises this as being an incomplete 'Rachel', the question still remains: why? Two, Sherlock sees that she had a suitcase, but no suitcase was found. Finally, her phone is missing. Sherlock has a brainwave and runs out of the scene, leaving John to walk home. On his way out, Donovan gives him some advice: stay away from Sherlock, whom Donovan calls a psychopath who gets off on crimes and puzzles. She also says that she fully expects Sherlock to eventually get bored of solving crimes and start committing them. John gets back to the main road and phones around him start ringing. He finally answers one in a public phone box and is picked up and taken to an empty warehouse, where a man with an umbrella identifies himself as the closest thing Sherlock has to a friend (an archenemy) and offers John money to spy on Sherlock. John declines and is taken back to Baker Street.
John tells a remarkably unfazed Sherlock about the man's offer. Sherlock isn't bothered by the event and asks John to text a message to a certain number. John sees that Sherlock has the woman's case, and texts the message to the number- the victim's phone. The message is designed to freak out the murderer and gives an address. Sherlock and John go to a restaurant near the address and when a cab arrives, they chase it. However, the cab's passenger has a perfect alibi, and they return home only to find a drug bust in progress- Lestrade, thinking that Sherlock was withholding evidence, orchestrated the bust so he could search the flat. They find nothing, but a cabbie arrives for Sherlock, and he's got the victim's phone. Sherlock follows the cabbie outside, where the cabbie tells him that he doesn't actually kill his victims- he talks to them and they kill themselves. Sherlock goes with him to a specially-chosen place, where he and the cabbie play psychological mind games. The cabbie explains that he has a sponsor, a person who is giving him money for each person he kills, money that will go to his children. In addition, he's dying and thus has nothing to lose. John follows Sherlock to the building but ends up picking to investigate the wrong building of two- but at the crucial moment, he shoots the cabbie through a window. Sherlock manages to get the name of his sponsor out of the man- Moriarty.
Outside, Sherlock talks to Lestrade about the cabbie until he realises that John killed him. The man with the umbrella and his assistant arrive, and Sherlock reveals who he is- Mycroft, Sherlock's older brother. They have a brief fight before Sherlock and John leave, and Mycroft decides to step up surveillance on his younger brother.
Tropes present in this work include:
- Actor Allusion: Possibly unintentional, but our first view of John is him in pyjamas and a dressing gown.
- Beneath Suspicion: Cabbies, apparently.
- Big Brother Is Watching: The most direct example of the series, Mycroft uses CCTV cameras on the street to watch John.
- And he is, literally, a big brother to Sherlock.
- Bland-Name Product: MePhone.org.uk
- Blood Knight: Mycroft suggests that John is one, evidenced by how calm and capable he is in dangerous situations, compared to his shakes and his limp in everyday life.
- Butt Monkey: Anderson.
Sherlock: Anderson, don't talk out loud. You lower the IQ of the entire street.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Arguably in "A Study in Pink", if the cabbie was as much a genius as he claimed, then why was he driving a cab in the first place instead of putting his genius to some real financial use?
Cabbie: Either I'm a genius, or God loves me.
Sherlock: Either way, you're wasted as a cabbie.
- Character Blog: You can look up Sherlock's website and Watson's blog.
- Double Take: John gets in a blatant one after Sherlock tells him that girlfriends aren't really "his area."
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Holmes deduces that Donovan spent the night with Anderson. "And I assume she scrubbed your floor, going by the state of her knees."
- He Is Not My Boyfriend / Not a Date: When the pair have a stakeout at a restaurant while waiting for the murderer to appear, the waiter refers to John as Sherlock's 'date', which he immediately denies. The waiter pays no attention to this and afterward brings a candle for the table.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Holmes uses this on the taxi driver to get Moriarty's name.
- Love Makes You Evil: As Sherlock puts it when working out the motive of a serial killer, "Bitterness is a paralytic. Love is a much more vicious motivator".
- Mistaken for Gay: See above. Starting a running gag that continues into the second season.
- Mythology Gag:
- A character who is a Red Herring for being the murderer is an American visiting London for the first time. This is a nod to the original A Study in Scarlet, in which the murderer was an American visiting London for the first time. In both, the killer is a cabbie.
- In the original story the police assumed that the person writing Rache was trying to write the name "Rachel", and Holmes poo-pooed this by advising them that "Rache" is German for "revenge". However, this is completely inverted in "A Study in Pink".
Sherlock: "No, she was writing an angry note in German. Of course she was writing Rachel!"
- John finds Sherlock lying down on the sofa moving his arm in a way that made it look (from the audience's POV) as if he had just treated himself to a ringer of cocaine.
- It's a three-patch problem. = It's a three-pipe problem
- Never Suicide: What look like suicides turn out to be the work of a Serial Killer, albeit one that makes his victims kill themselves (by telling them they will be shot, unless they take the 50:50 chance on survival by choosing between a poisoned and harmless pill) rather than killing them himself.
- Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: A variant; John says "Nothing ever happens to me" to his psychologist's suggestion that he blogs everything that happens to him. And then a couple of scenes later, he meets Sherlock...
- Not Now, Kiddo: Sherlock to Mrs. Hudson, regarding the taxi.
- Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: The serial killer has two identical bottles of pills, one poisonous and one completely harmless, and forces his victims at gunpoint to choose one while he takes the other. Sherlock realizes the gun is fake and is about to simply walk away, but the killer challenges him into playing anyway. However, before they can actually take the pills, Watson shoots him, and we never do find out which was which.
- Red Herring: The taxi passenger, who has a strong alibi of being new to the country.
- Shout-Out: When Sherlock and Watson go to a cafe to stake out the killer, they walk down Rathbone Street, London W1. Basil Rathbone played Sherlock Holmes in over a dozen films.
- Tomboyish Name: During his investigation of Watson's phone, Sherlock notices the name "Harry" on it. Turns out it's Watson's sister, Harriet.
- Trouble Entendre: Played with for laughs; when John is driven to a secret location to meet a sinister gentleman who inquires after his friendship with Holmes and attempts to bribe him for regular updates on Holmes' activities, he becomes convinced by the man's manner that he's some kind of master criminal speaking in these ("I worry about him. Constantly"). Turns out, it's actually Sherlock's brother Mycroft, who was being entirely sincere and (for him) straightforward the whole time.
John: So, when you say you're concerned about him, you actually are concerned about him?
Mycroft: [As if John's grown a second head] Yes, of course.
- The Un-Reveal: Which pill was poisoned?
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle: After realizing Sherlock's gone off with the murderer, John tracks them down to a college campus. After frantically searching the building next to where their taxi is parked, he gets to a room with big windows only to see Sherlock and the murderer in the building next door. He makes the most of it by shooting the killer through the window.