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Did the BBC hide a giant clue for ‘Sherlock’ inside the show’s coloring book?

The new 'Sherlock' coloring book is offering us insights into more than just his mind palace.


Aja Romano


Posted on Nov 5, 2015   Updated on May 27, 2021, 4:54 pm CDT

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Series 1, 3 and potentially Series 4 of Sherlock.

One of the most popular fan theories surrounding the upcoming season of BBC’s Sherlock just got a huge boost from an unlikely place: a coloring book.

Tumblr user ladymacphisto did the rest of the fandom a major solid this week when she decided to buy the newly released adult coloring book aimed at fans of the show. Titled Sherlock: The Mind Palace, the book is an “official” coloring book that includes “vital” clues that illustrator Mike Collins has drawn into notable scenes from the show.

While thumbing through the pages for the first time, Ladymacphisto immediately picked up on a clue to a possible series spoiler that, if true, would mean fans have been right about a major theory they’ve been arguing for years: The theory that John’s wife Mary is actually one of Sherlock’s most formidable villains, Sebastian Moran.

In the original Holmes canon, Moran is the criminal assistant to the infamous Moriarty. Though we’ve never actually seen or heard from Moran in Sherlock, his specter has loomed over the show since season 1, most notably in the “swimming pool” scene that both closes season 1 and opens season 2. In that scene, viewers realize that Moriarty has a set of very skilled snipers under his command. Canonically, marksmanship is one of Sebastian Moran’s most notable qualities, as is his past as a decorated member of the army. Both facts quickly coalesced into the theory that one of the marksman in the pool scene was Moran, and that he’s been working for Moriarty throughout the show.

Astute Sherlock fans have been arguing the “Mary Morstan = Mary Moran” theory for years, since before she actually appeared on the show in the third season. Though at first the only connection seemed to be the canonical similarities between their names, the third season gave a major boost to that theory, when we learned that Mary is actually a deadly marksman, an assassin with a mysterious past and no qualms about near-fatally shooting her husband’s best friend.

Yet at the third series’ conclusion, it seemed John and Mary had reaffirmed their love and were back together, with John destroying a file of information revealing her past without reading it; no further harm done. Right?

Not so fast. Moriarty returned at the end of the season finale, leaving us all on various cliffhangers—like wondering how he survived a gun shot point blank to the temple, and whether he’d returned to reclaim Mary, his right-hand woman.

Enter the coloring book. It handily lists for the reader which clues the artist has drawn into various scenes from the show, and which episodes they relate to. One huge clue given to us is Mary’s wedding ring, and Ladymacphisto quickly ascertained that it had shown up in the most telling scene of all: 

Not only is the “Morstan/Moran” ring prominently displayed in the swimming pool scene, but it’s where the clock should be:

Tumblr user glassofteajlc suggests this means that Mary’s days being able to hide her true identity are numbered, that the symbolism is “counting down, running out of time.” Other Tumblr users suggest the clue doesn’t necessarily mean Mary is Moran, but does mean she was one of the snipers at the pool. (It would be especially poignant if she were the original sniper who first trained a rifle on John’s heart!)

But not everyone is convinced. “[I]’m sorry but do you really think they would put a future plot twist in a coloring book,” deadpanned one reblog. But given that showrunner Steven Moffat and his co-writer Mark Gatiss have dropped clues everywhere from Twitter to official photos to the series trailers, that seems to be exactly what many fans think.

In any case, we’ll be waiting a while to find out. Although the Sherlock holiday special is just around the corner—could Mary be John’s “Abominable Bride?”—series 4 won’t even start filming until after it airs, which means it most likely won’t turn up for another year. 

So Sherlock fans will just have to content themselves with pouring over clues in coloring books until the real answers come.

Photo via Sherlock221B/Twitter

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*First Published: Nov 5, 2015, 11:58 am CST