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I can't remember a more vivid discussion on social media about an Elementary episode than this one and all because of one character. Well done Elementary staff. The mysterious woman is indeed an intriguing albeit disturbing figure.

I will try to solve the mystery in this review so if you want to keep the suspense about her until next week don't read on. Stop here!

As you didn't stop reading you are probably curious what my thoughts are. Although I am not 100% certain I think I know who she is and it all makes perfect sense.

It's his mother or better Sherlock's hallucination of her

These are the facts that indicate that:

1.The character's name
Take a look at the cast list. The name of the mysterious woman is May.

2.The clothing and the haircut
Sherlock told once that he was 15 years old in 1990 (S.2. Ep.4).
This means he was born in 1975.
His mother died when he was eight or nine years old so in 1983 or early 1984.
Take a look at the things the mysterious woman is wearing and also at her hairstyle.
Trenchcoats and floral patterns on dresses were typical for the early 1980s same as her shoes and the handbag. Same can be said about the haircut.

3. How she talks and what she says
It gets clear that she knows Sherlock inside out. She is worried about him and tries to give him some peace of mind. The way she talks to him is more like a mother to her upset child than two adults having a conversation. Here are some examples:

"Sherlock? I'm sorry about your friend."
"Thank you, but he wasn't my friend."
"Well, the thing is, I've known you a good deal longer than that lot. You've got more on your mind."
"Yeah, I suppose I do."
"I'm always here to listen. It is sort of my job."

"I know. I'm not supposed to come here. I just wanted to see how you were doing. You seemed so troubled yesterday."
"Well, I'm happy for you. You can rest a bit easier now."

"You wanted to see me?"
"Yeah, I did."
"Not like you.You don't look good. There's a meeting in about an hour if you want."
People who love each other don't make threats, Sherlock. They make promises."

4.The incident with the text message
If the mysterious woman is a hallucination then who sent the text message?
Well, the answer is easy: Sherlock himself.
The police officer said that he got the text at about 3 o' clock the day before.
This fits to the time slot Sherlock "talked" to his mother at the precinct. When in his mind he held the conversation in reality he wrote the text. The style of language is definitely Sherlock's.
Oh, about the different phone number. The theory of the officer was correct. Sherlock has a new phone. Shinwell destroyed his old one when he beat him.
It is understandable that Sherlock is so upset in the last scene as he has realised that he doesn't know what he does while he has the fictional conversations.
His problems are starting to interfere with his ability to do his job and work is the only thing that keeps him upright.

You might say this is crap, why does a show that has always been realistic introduce a hallucination?

Well, because it is realistic.
Let me tell you why. ( Warning: Psychology following)

Sherlock is suffering from a Complex PTSD due to the early death of his mother, the emotional abuse and neglect by his father and the bullying and physical abuse by his classmates.

"Researchers at the University of Manitoba, Columbia University and the University of Regina examined the data on 5,877 people from across the United States in order to determine the rates with which people with PTSD experience different psychotic symptoms. They found that among people with PTSD, the experience of posivtive psychotic symptoms was most common.
Approximately 52 percent of people who reported having PTSD at some point in their lifetime also reported experiencing a positive psychotic symptom."


Hallucinations are one form of positive psychotic symptoms. They can be triggered by a new traumatic event that functions as a reminder.
Usually the hallucinations are linked to the event that originally caused the trauma. For Sherlock it was the death of his mother so it is logical that he imagines seeing his mum.

I think the event that worked as a trigger was Shinwell beating him. Sherlock had been beaten before in Season 3 but this time it was different.
Shinwell wasn't a stranger like the other two men, Sherlock knew him quite well, he trusted him to a certain degree and what is even worse Shinwell insulted Sherlock while kicking him. It was probably exactly the same situation as at school.

When Sherlock said to Watson last week that he was working hard not to lose himself he seemingly referred to his recovery process, now we know he meant it quite literally.

In contrast to most people with psychosis, PTSD patients know that what they experience is not real. This puts them at risk for further problems like a general increase of distress and suicidal thoughts or even suicide attempts.

The first thing is definitely true for Sherlock as we could see in the final scene. The way he said that this couldn't happen again and that it had to stop sent a shiver down my spine.
I hope he won't go for the last option.

We'll see what the writers have in store for us next week but Joan Watson already tried twice in this episodes to make Sherlock tell her what's wrong.
She will not give up to get him to confide in her and I am positive he will do it in the end.

Additional thought:
"People who love each other don't make threats, Sherlock. They make promises."
This statement is genius. It took me some time to realise this. At first I considered it odd because it doesn't really fit into the conversation. But when you replace the word 'Sherlock' with 'Morland' it suddenly gets important.
It delivers the reason for the Holmes family tragedy.
Neither Sherlock nor Mycroft would ever threaten the people they care about. Just think about the argument between Sherlock and Mycroft in Season 2 where Mycroft said that he considered his employees to be family, that he would never let them down or Sherlock who, although he hates his father profoundly, promised him to find the attacker who wanted to kill Morland.
Morland on the other hand always used threats to make people do what he wanted.
May successfully taught her sons the essential rule of relationships but wasn't able to make Morland understand.
That destroyed the family in the end.
Comments (7)
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May 19, 2017
Well done, have explained in perfect detail exactly my deductions on the of the puzzle of the "mysterious woman". From the first scene with May, I believed she was Sherlock's mother. Thanks for all of your psychological research!
May 18, 2017
I also came to the conclusion that the woman was not real and she was a hallucination of Sherlock's mother, but I don't think he's hallucinating because of PTSD. My theory is that to deal with the physical pain of the beating, Sherlock started taking painkillers, which caused him to fall off the wagon completely and he's been able to hide it up until now but he's starting to lose control.
May 17, 2017
I had not thought of that but it may also play into the idea that suddenly Sherlock is sleeping so something else is going on there as well. The only downside to this is that it has been done on shows before and a lot of people will be disappointed if this turns out to be true, but I will wait to see how they do this.

Another theory, one that crossed my mind but may not completely fit or make sense is we are seeing Moriarty, only with a new face. Again it is a bit of a stretch, and honestly I am not sure I like my theory any more than yours.

We can see where this goes, either way I am enjoying this even if this mysterious woman seemed to come out of no where, but sometimes you throw a curve ball and it can completely change the game, so to speak.
May 17, 2017
that is a well-reasoned argument - I have not had time to contemplate the oddities of the episode, and this fits all my questions and concerns - thanks nullnull2654
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