Mark Watches ‘Sherlock’: S02E01 – A Scandal in Belgravia

In the first episode of the second series of Sherlock, there’s so much sexual frustration onscreen that I became sexual frustrated in the process. Oh, it’s a pretty good story, but I was also distracted and disappointed by other things? BASICALLY I HAVE A LOT OF FEELS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Sherlock.

I’m glad I’ve sat on writing this review in one sense, as it’s allowed me to collect all the thoughts and feelings I had about what I witnessed over the course of ninety minutes. I’m used to instantaneous reactions, and I’ve gotten used to writing them. Hell, I like them, and I like the very constant and present nature of what I do around here. I guess I’m starting to understand how on earth tens of thousands of people come ’round here every day because it’s fun to write with this kind of immediacy.

Yet taking time to think about “A Scandal in Belgravia” really hasn’t helped me sort out much. In truth, the only way I can summarize how I felt about the series two premiere was that I was conflicted.

It would have been easier for me to dislike this episode had it been written like “The Blind Baker.” It’s not. It would have been easier for me to obsessively deem this the greatest ninety minutes of my life had Irene Adler ultimately not been treated so poorly. But she was. Instead, my brain and my heart are at war. I am deeply in love with Sherlock and John. (And now Mycroft, too? HELP ME I HAVE SO MANY FEELS.) I am so obsessed with Irene Adler and Lara Pulver’s brilliance that I think I need help???? And at the same time, I feel like my brain is shouting at my feelings and saying, “NO STOP IT. STOP LIKING THIS. YOU CAN’T LIKE THIS BECAUSE HOW DARE MOFFAT DO THIS THING. JUST STOP IT.”

I’d rather err on the side of caution, though, and not be reductionist about “A Scandal in Belgravia.” It’s not a simple episode, and it does not deserve simple thoughts. So, allow me to start at the very beginning:

OH MY GOD I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES FOREVER UNTIL THE END OF TIME. Look, the beauty of Moriarty’s ring tone being “Stayin’ Alive” will never not be one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. But right off the bat, I was just so nervous. That cliffhanger was just so disgusting, and I loved that we were taken back to that horrific moment so completely, despite that it’s been so long since “The Great Game” aired. (To be fair, I did watch it like seven times since the first time I saw it. WHOOPS I AM OBSESSED.) That is a feat of brilliance to me, and the seamless nature of the premiere is one of many things that “A Scandal in Belgravia” has in its favor.

I suppose I didn’t comment much on it during my initial run of series one, but it’s never more clear how modern this update is, and that’s not a criticism. Given that any sort of use of the Internet on television generally falls flat of reality (or is, at the very least, an embarrassing display of a complete misunderstanding of Internet culture), I absolutely adore just how much Sherlock embraces the digital age in a way that’s realistic and believable. Of course, John’s blog was a huge part of series one, so I don’t want to make it seem like Moffat and company never addressed this. Without John’s blog being used before, we could never have what occurs in this episode.

It was inevitable, then, that John’s blog would become popular, and because of this, a deluge of people would funnel into the lives of Sherlock and John, bringing with them their mediocre tales and crimes. (OR SO WE THOUGHT HOLY GOD THE ANSWER WAS RIGHT IN THE FIRST TEN MINUTES.) Unsurprisingly, I knew that Sherlock wouldn’t get involved unless something was interesting. (Did this remind anyone of the first few seasons of House? I remember when Dr. House also refused to get involved with any case that didn’t interest him on an intellectual level.) That case? Well, I mistakenly believed that the “death” of the man in that field and the backfiring car would be the one that this story focused on, especially since it was so interesting. How could a man be murdered in a field in a matter of seconds without the culprit being spotted? Like most things, I fell for it. I totally thought that this is where we’d spend most of the episode, but then we’re in Buckingham Palace and Sherlock is only wearing a sheet and I had the biggest smile on my face and then John is staring at Sherlock’s sheet and I can’t handle any of it and all of my feelings are happening at the exact same goddamn moment. Look, there are problems with this episode–and I am going to talk about them, goddamn it!–but it’s as if Moffat knew we all loved the relationship between these two, so he just made it even more spectacular.

But even that aside, I just love that there’s no pretentious attitude to the love that Sherlock and Watson have for one another, even if that love is silly, written with a ton of sexual subtext, written with no sexual subtext, and written so that Sherlock can be wearing only a sheet inside Buckingham Palace and John wholeheartedly approves of it. It’s interesting to watch this episode after “A Study In Pink” because there’s virtually none of the irritated resistance on the part of John. Sure, there are times when he’s frustrated with Sherlock’s behavior, though Martin Freeman is able to convey a new sense of longing and sadness for such things instead of marked anger or fury. John now knows how to tolerate Sherlock’s actions, even sometimes enabling them in the case of the ashtray stolen from Buckingham Palace.

Right, and Sherlock stole an ashtray from Buckingham Palace. Bless.

The other thing that I want to hug in this episode is the furthering of the relationship between Mycroft and Sherlock, so much so that I am willing to believe that they’re actually closer by the end of this. It’s certainly unexpected for me. I did like the dynamic between the two brothers in series one, and I thought that would just be expanded a bit further. But in “A Scandal in Belgravia,” the usual bickering between Sherlock and Mycroft turns into something completely different. A silent acceptance? A quiet gesture of respect? I’m not sure how to quantify it, but it’s clear that Mycroft comes to feel differently about his brother over the course of ninety minutes. Of course, the conversation on Christmas regarding Irene Adler has this fascinating subtext to me, that something in their upbringing made them the way they are. I guess I’d never stopped to think how similar those brothers were until that point because they’re at-odds with one another so often.

But let’s back things up a bit to talk about Buckingham Palace. I generally avoided any sort of spoilers about guest appearances or what series two would be about, so as soon as Mycroft begins to pitch a case to Sherlock about someone who took compromising photos with a member of the Royal family, all I could think was IRENE ADLER. PLEASE LET THIS BE HER. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE. And as it’s revealed that The Woman is indeed her, I nearly passed out from joy. The character who bested Sherlock WAS ABOUT TO BE ON HER SCREENS. And there’s really a whole lot that Moffat includes from “A Scandal in Bohemia,” the original story from Arthur Conan Doyle. There’s the request from royalty to keep it out of the papers; there’s the clergy disguise, the “fake” fight, there’s Watson setting off a fire so that Sherlock can trick Adler into looking at where the photos are hidden, and then…well, thinks depart from the original a bit.

And I’m fine with that. It doesn’t need to be the same. Everything that happens when Sherlock arrives at Adler’s residence that first time is nearly perfect. (I mean, I did side-eye the idea that a woman can only be powerful by being sexual, but I need to save this for a bit later for now.) It’s frightening and thrilling to see Sherlock unable to read a single thing of Adler, to know that he’s met someone who might very well eclipse his own abilities. In fact, the entire sequence, which feels like it lasts A LIFETIME, is just brilliantly filmed and acted by all parties. Every other minute, someone else is ahead of the other one. Irene has the upper hand; then Sherlock; then Irene injects Sherlock with some sort of drug and one of the greatest things ever happens. He is to remember her as the woman who beat him, and she stands over him, whip in hand, and everything hurts and is beautiful and this is everything I could ever want from Irene Adler on television.

Well, it was for a while.

Here’s the thing: the Internet does not need a dude telling y’all about how immensely problematic Irene’s portrayal ends up being in “A Scandal in Belgravia,” and the world certainly doesn’t need my approval on this sort of shit. At this point, it’s best for you to read the numerous articles and posts written by women because all I’d be doing is repeating what they said. So allow me to instead just make one big, large, Very Important Point about how Irene Adler falls apart by the final minute of this episode:

She does not beat Sherlock Holmes.

Yes, she “beats” him in her own house, but the entire reason that “A Scandal in Bohemia” is so fantastic is because this woman comes out of nowhere, bests Sherlock Holmes, and then disappears, making it so that Sherlock can’t one-up her. It’s something he just has to live with. And for the most part, I genuinely thought that this is where this premiere was headed. Hell, that entire scene at the end with Mycroft, Sherlock, and Irene suggested that the very first episode of series two would have Sherlock losing.

But that’s not the case, and Moffat does two things that kind of bug me a whole lot with her character. First of all, while it does provide the impetus for Moriarty sparing the life of Watson and Holmes in the pool during the cold open, I just don’t understand why Irene Adler has anything to do with Moriarty. How do they even know one another? Was this all just one giant set-up to try and shame Sherlock? If so…..what???? Why? I mean, I get that Moriarty would want to do that, but why even bring Irene Adler into this mess if that’s the case?

Additionally, I just really hate that Irene Adler loses in the end. There’s enough commentary out there about how fucked up it is that Irene’s emotions are the cause of her downfall. Plus…again, I know others have said it, but she said she was a lesbian? Like, I don’t imagine that Moffat was trying to make some brilliant, clever statement about sexual fluidity here. There could have been a way to execute that, but what is this weird I AM TOTALLY GAY EXCEPT FOR YOU SHERLOCK thing here? Look, some of us are just gay and no matter how much we like someone, it doesn’t work! Sooooooooooo.

But really, Irene Adler should have beat Sherlock. The MoD scheme should have been exposed as it was, she should have gotten her requests from Mycroft and the British/American governments, and it would have been unbelievably fascinating to see how Sherlock dealt with the conflicting feelings of defeat and respect. Because let’s not kid ourselves: Even if Sherlock is not attracted to Irene Adler in any sexual way (I spy you, metaphor for sex. I SEE YOU. Going to dinner? It’s “The Doctor Dances” all over again!), he most certainly holds her in high regard. She does not bore him. She excites him because she is the first mind he has encountered that is so genuinely brilliant to him. That is what I want to see more of.

On the one hand, I am glad she is still alive. I want her back in the story, and I have just the slightest bit of hope that there is still a great tale to tell between her and Sherlock, that perhaps she really does beat him in the end. But seriously, y’all: a fucking scimitar. WHO THE FUCK HAS ONE OF THOSE IN A SITUATION LIKE THAT. Like, Moffat wasn’t even trying not to avoid the stereotype, and I’m pretty sure he still didn’t even get it right? But it is just so disturbing to me how much she feels shamed by the story in the end.

It’s disappointing to me because holy shit I still liked this a whole lot. And that’s a difficult thing to parse in the grand scheme of “A Scandal in Belgravia.” I know that Adler’s portrayal is riddled with problems; I know that I despised how Molly’s rejection was handled; I know that this could have been so much better. But this is not “The Blind Baker.” I don’t feel like this episode was a waste. The performances are just simply incredible from the six actors and actresses who are on screen the most. I love that Mrs. Hudson plays such a large part in the story, and I love that Sherlock scolds Mycroft for insulting her. I love that Lestrade’s least irritating cop is himself. I love how damning the end feels, when Sherlock first steps onto that 747 and we realize we have all been fooled. It’s so horrifically disturbing to me. And, of course, seeing Cumberbatch and Freeman play off one another is just another sign that these are the right people for these roles.

Sherlock has so much potential, and it’s precisely why I want to be harsh on it. There’s so much to love here, almost exactly the same amount I disliked. I don’t expect a perfect show because HELLO HAVE Y’ALL SEEN DOCTOR WHO. But I also don’t want to avoid talking about these things, you know? Irene Adler is such an important character to the Sherlock canon, and I just feel that she’s not given what she should be given here. I’m still painfully excited for the next two episodes, and Benedict Cumberbatch how is your face real, and this shit was super entertaining to watch. I just want to make sure I’m still critically engaging with what I see instead of just rolling over and all-caps raging over how beautiful Martin Freeman is.

Which, for the record, is not a bad thing. We must have a GIF-off about this episode immediately.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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207 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Sherlock’: S02E01 – A Scandal in Belgravia

  1. Aslee says:

    I don't even know what to say about the episode that you haven't already said except:

    – Sherlock stole a ashtray because John made a joke that he wanted one. WHAT IS AIR.

    -It was heavily hinted that the royal person involved in the scandal is Kate Middleton. ohmygodpleasesomeonegetthatimageoutofmybrainI'vebeenthinkingaboutitforDAYS.

    – I love Mrs. Hudson more than the entire world. And, honestly, she, Sherlock and John make the cutest little family.

    -John's attitude confused me. Was it really jealousy, or merely worry for Sherlock's well being?

    – OH MY GOD, DID ANYONE ELSE SEE THE ADORABLE GINGER. NOPE? JUST ME? Well guess, what! That was Teddy Lupin. Which explains the Instant Intense Sexual Attraction.

    – Moriarty blowing rasberries at TEXTS. Best Big Bad EVER!

    – I ship Irene/Me.

    I ship it HARD.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      OH GOD ALL OF THESE POINTS ARE GREAT. What is air indeed.

    • Bumblebee says:

      "OH MY GOD, DID ANYONE ELSE SEE THE ADORABLE GINGER. NOPE? JUST ME? "

      HOLY BANSHEE WAS THAT THE YOUNG POLICEMAN?
      Watching that bit, my brother casually mentions "Oh, I went to Primary School with him."
      (Why does this even excite me so much?) (I feel proud by association) (especially as that means I went to Primary School with him too) (Why do I not know him?) (Life is woe)

      • Aslee says:

        OH MY GOD, YES!!!! HE WAS SO ADORBS. WELL. THAT'S GOT TO BE YOUR NUMBER ONE REASON TO POSSESS A TIME MACHINE NOW.

        TO MEET THE ADORABLE GINGER.

  2. Starsea28 says:

    Totally agree with everything you said.

    But I do think Irene is coming back.

    • Aslee says:

      :/ I haven't decided whether or not I think they will bring her back or not.

      Maybe I'll make my decision when I hear a plausible theory of how they'd manage that while sticking to the canon like they like to.

      Or maybe they'll just go crazy. She could show up at Reicenbach.

  3. Nomes says:

    This is pretty much exactly how I felt about the show, and I thank you for summing it up so concisely. I totally get the points of view of people who thought the whole thing was irredeemable, but I genuinely loved… oh, 80 of the 90 minutes. And then that awful, awful ending. ugh. UGH. NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY.

  4. psycicflower says:

    I haven’t read much discussion on the episode yet and this is probably overly long and a bit repetitive but oh how I’ve missed this show.

    <img src="http://i42.tinypic.com/s4q3gp.gif&quot; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">
    I actually really liked how they got out of the cliffhanger. It was never going to live up to a year and a half of speculation and fic writing but I love how they just went in the complete opposite direction. It was just so tense, especially with their recap of the pool scene and then tension was broken so completely with Moriarty’s ringtone that I could not stop laughing. I also loved the montage/time passing start to the episode with all the glimpses of cases. (everyone just has to read John’s blog to fill these in. It’s so good.) I like that it also allows for everyone to have settled down into their usual way of life and that’s clearly seen in everyone’s actions with each other, from John and Sherlock having a steady source of cases to having people over for Christmas.

    This episode is like an act in the Holmes brothers saying caring doesn’t work and how they have no feelings and yet showing the exact opposite.
    <img src="http://i44.tinypic.com/6rnfgp.gif&quot; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">
    Mrs. Hudson leave Baker Street? England would fall’
    I think Sherlock is fighting, or at least denying, feelings a lot stronger this series despite how much evidence to the contrary there is. His relationships with John, Mrs Hudson, the police force at Christmas and even Mycroft in its own way show otherwise. Sherlock might not like a lot of people, but those he does he cares for deeply. It’s easy to see with his relationship with John and how he reacts when Mrs Hudson is attacked that although he tries to act likes he’s aloof it just doesn’t fit. He even apologises to Molly (which btw show, you really need to stop with the whole Molly loves Sherlock and he’s a prick about it. Molly deserves much better treatment.)

    <img src="http://i40.tinypic.com/kp9y1.gif&quot; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">
    Even Mycroft, The Ice Man, who always acts so cold and distant, clearly cares. His reaction to Moriarty’s text isn’t just anger or frustration that so much planning has gone to waste but as the montage goes on there’s so clearly sadness there too once he’s figured it out. For all he and Sherlock have a more antagonistic relationship he doesn’t want to see his little brother hurt. As the American guy said he could shoot Sherlock and be given a medal for it but Mycroft gives into Irene’s demands to protect Sherlock. He makes sure Sherlock is looked after when he has danger nights and there’s even the hint of family and big brother coming through with knowing that Sherlock wanted to be a pirate when he was little. The Holmes brothers might not think caring does anyone much good but they still do it.

    (cont.)

    • psycicflower says:

      ‘Who the hell knows about Sherlock Holmes, but for the record, if anyone out there still cares, I’m not actually gay’ ‘Well I am. Look at us both.’
      I find this exchange fascinating, the whole John and Irene conversation is great, but there’s just something about that part in particular. There’s of course the problematic interpretation of a gay person just needing to find the right person of the opposite gender which I completely acknowledge and understand, but for some reason I just find it interesting that Irene frames it all in terms of herself and John and both of their relationships with Sherlock. I think it’s in terms of Sherlock the person and the effect he has on the people who care for him and he for them. In the same way that if Sherlock cares for someone, he goes for it full tilt (whether he realises it or not), people who care for Sherlock care for him a great deal. (If that even makes any sense?) But yeah, as a whole that plot point is problematic.
      <img src="http://i40.tinypic.com/334866d.gif&quot; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">
      On the whole though I kind of don’t know what I want to say about Irene Adler because I think I need to read and think more about it. (I also haven’t read any Holmes books so I’m not familiar with book!canon Irene) There were parts I liked and there are parts I didn’t like and there are parts I’m conflicted and hmming about.

      Other random things because I apparently have a lot of feelings and this is getting too long and I just noticed the review just went up
      •This show continues to be absolutely gorgeous. Every scene and shot is just stunning.
      •I need to know more about Sherlock’s past with addiction because this episode paints such an intriguing picture without being in any way explicit about it. It mustn’t be a thing of the past if John and Mrs Hudson know where to search and Sherlock isn’t bothered by it.
      •Bedsheet. Need I say more? <img src="http://i44.tinypic.com/2cnimab.gif&quot; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">
      ‘And exactly how many times did he fall out of the window?’
      •Moriarty sticking his tongue out at Big Ben when texting Mycroft, oh the symbolism.
      ’You look sexy on Crimewatch. Let’s have dinner.’ Because a) lol at Sherlock on Crimewatch, and b) no one looks sexy on Crimewatch.
      ’The last thing I need is a public image’ cue newspaper photo in deerstalker hat. (which was extra hilarious because I’d just listened to the commentaries earlier in the day when they talked about doing something like that.)
      ’Shut up Mrs. Hudson.’ <img src="http://i41.tinypic.com/2803vkg.gif&quot; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">
      •John’s Christmas jumper.
      •Stealing an ash tray from Buckingham Palace.
      ’Please don't feel obliged to tell me that was amazing. John's expressed that in every possible variant available in English.’ ‘I would have you right here on this desk until you begged for mercy twice.’
      •It’s interesting how the episode starts with a power play with the most powerful family in Britain and ends with a power play against a powerful family of a completely different kind. And honestly, I think the Holmes brothers are much worse to take on.

      All in all though the main thing I came away from this whole episode feeling was family and friends. The crime and adventure are great and I can’t wait to see what they do with Moriarty but you could just stick a camera in 221B with a 24 hour feed and I would be a happy girl.

      On a final more fannish note asdfghjmk,l.; Sherlock and Irene. And my god Sherlock and John are just such a couple who need to get married and live in somewhat strange domestic bliss filled with crime and jumpers and dressing gowns and blogging.

      <img src="http://i41.tinypic.com/262uzjp.gif&quot; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

      • psycicflower says:

        Randomly because I had no where else to put them and Sherlock and Irene being BAMFs is always good.

        <img src="http://i41.tinypic.com/fjjcs3.jpg&quot; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

        <img src="http://i43.tinypic.com/2wp1g0j.gif&quot; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

      • platoapproved says:

        I need to know more about Sherlock’s past with addiction because this episode paints such an intriguing picture without being in any way explicit about it. It mustn’t be a thing of the past if John and Mrs Hudson know where to search and Sherlock isn’t bothered by it.

        SECONDED SO MUCH OMG.

        Also, those gifs. πŸ˜€

        • psycicflower says:

          When Mycroft offered Sherlock that cigarette I was a bit angry but then it turned out to be a test and I just needed to know more.

          (Oh my god you do not realise the amount of gifs I made from this episode. This isn't even close to half.)

      • unefeeverte says:

        There’s of course the problematic interpretation of a gay person just needing to find the right person of the opposite gender

        Well, technically, the way she says it, isn't it simultaneously also a straight person just needing to find the right person of the same gender? Meaning John? Not that I'm saying it's unproblematic, but it wouldn't have immediately stood out to me like that.

        • psycicflower says:

          True, and that's exactly what I found so interesting about their conversation (as well as just how amazing they were together in that scene), but there's a history of the idea that gay people only need to find the right person that means it has a much higher chance of being problematic and I wanted to acknowledge that, especially given how it played into the ending.

          • ferriswheeljunky says:

            For the most part, I didn’t really have a problem with the presentation of the characters’ sexuality here. I think the writers have made it pretty clear that Sherlock is asexual and John is straight, and neither of them has any sexual interest in the other. Yeah, it’s fun to ship (because they’re so damn adorable together) and it’s fun to nod to the shippers, but the Sherlock/John relationship isn’t about sex, it’s about really deep friendship. They love each other, but they’re not IN love with each other. Similarly, Sherlock can be fascinated with Irene on an intellectual level, without being sexually attracted to her. And during John and Irene’s conversation in Battersea Power Station, I assumed this is what they were getting at: John loves Sherlock and Irene is fascinated by him, but it doesn’t have to be about sex. And I thought that was pretty awesome. Then… it kind of went downhill at the end, when it was all like ‘oh but she secretly wants him really’ and ugh wtf NO.

            Also, Martin Freeman is very beautiful, thank you Mark for validating my *feelings*.

          • unefeeverte says:

            I totally get the argument, and what I find a bit weird is that, well, Irene says that after ONE conversation and a whole lot of one-sided texting? IMO, of course John loves Sherlock (whatever the nature of that love may be), but he's also been living with him for something like a year and a half at that point. She gets straightened out pretty quickly, then.

  5. Randomcheeses says:

    Ugh Moffat

  6. @endless_run says:

    Yeah, pretty much exactly, except more AGDBGSLDKNGDSNG about a) Adler being a dominatrix, and b) Sherlock-can-make-lesbians ungay. FUUUUUUCK NO. I get that Moffat wanted his sexual tension and to make a big deal about how sexuality is pretty much the only area in which Sherlock is not an expert, thus putting Adler in as an expert in that area, but god, why do women always have to wield power through sex? What would have been wrong with making Adler just a spy or a thief? But no, she has to be a SEX spy and thief, because WOMAN!

    And re: the crush – WHY couldn't it just have been about mutual intellectual respect? Why did it immediately have to be about ~love~? And god, fuck that ending, yes Adler, your WOMANLY EMOTIONS have gotten your ass in a huge mess, and now the great SHERLOCK HOLMES~~~ has to come and rescue you because you fail so much.

    GOD. I was really hoping Moffat would do all the justice to this character that Guy Ritchie didn't, and yet again, a massive disappointment.

    • slybrarian says:

      I didn't interpret it as Sherlock making Irene straight/bisexual, or John the opposite, simply saying that they're both in love with him intellectually despite the lack of sexual attraction.

    • lisab says:

      in the canon, Irene is a highly paid courtesan, involved with all sorts of nobility. I thought that making her a dominatrix, and never judging her for it was a good touch. She did get judged for being y'know, a villain helping the big bad, but not judged for being a sex worker. I won't argue that she wasn't given her entire due, but I will defend the decision to keep her in character.

      • Starsea28 says:

        Agreed. She was judged on, y'know, BEING A TERRORIST. Or at least aiding and abetting one!

    • woot says:

      1. Adler is a dominatrix because the episode explores Sherlock's supposed lack of sexuality, and having someone so sexual be his intellectual equal makes sense for character exploration.

      2. She isn't a lesbian. She says so, but I doubt she's saying the truth. She's probably bi. She does, after all, sleep with male clients. I doubt that gay sex workers go temporarily hetero for the sake of $$.

      • Mauve_Avenger says:

        I can't address anything else here because I haven't watched the episode yet, but re: your point number two, not really.

        It's not too uncommon for straight male sex workers to perform sex work with other men because there's more money to be made that way. It doesn't make them "go temporarily [homosexual]" (sexual acts =/= sexual orientations), it just makes them men who're willing to perform sex work with other men. There's nothing logically prohibiting a lesbian sex worker from taking on male clients, and I'm guessing that in some cases there might be significant advantage in doing so.

      • vermillioncity says:

        Technically she says 'gay' ['I'm not gay' 'I am'], and I'm a bisexual woman who calls myself 'gay' at times, just as a catch-all word or alternative to 'queer'. Of course… I'm a real person, and this is my decision, which doesn't apply to Irene, who is written by a straight man. It's potentially an explanation, but whether it applies here is dubious.

    • Genny_ says:

      …OK, there's a lot to hate about this episode, but Irene being a sex worker is not inherently problematic.

  7. xpanasonicyouthx says:

    wait everyone i forgot this and I need to talk about it

    WHO THE FUCK IS THE TEXTING GIRL WE THOUGHT WORKED FOR MYCROFT BUT NOW WORKS FOR ADLER WHO NOW WORKS FOR I DON'T KNOW?????

    OH MY GOD SOMEONE HELP ME

    • iremo says:

      She brought Watson to meet Mycroft in the first episode.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        NO I KNOW

        i meant like

        how

        like who is she and how does she work and how is she working for multiple people

        • Randomcheeses says:

          Maybe she is the secret mastermind behind everything?And Moriarty is her PA.

        • psycicflower says:

          I thought it was a different woman and John just assumed she was an assistant of Mycrofts?

          • xpanasonicyouthx says:

            no it's totally the same woman!

            • psycicflower says:

              I bet Mycroft would not be best pleased if he found out. Unless of course she's just a super!assitant for hire and Irene pays better.

            • mediamadmeg says:

              Maybe she just works for whoever pays her the most? And an awful lot of time has passed since S1, so maybe Mycroft fired her or she quit ages ago but then Mycroft recommended her to Irene?

              • xpanasonicyouthx says:

                OH GOD THEY LOOK SO SIMILAR THOUGH

                IS IT A CLUE

                PLEASE LET IT BE A CLUE BECAUSE I LOVE CLUES

                • knut_knut says:

                  alternate universe a la Fringe? I'm down with 2 Cumberbatchs and 2 Freemans on my screen!

                • redheadedgirl says:

                  I…. really don't think they do. I mean, they are both women (possibly even white women), but they have different skin tones, different hair color, differnet hair styles, different eye color- yeah, they both seems to wear black, and text a lot, but… Londoners text like it's a sport.

                • Tauriel_ says:

                  Well, they are a similar type, but I think it was just to deliberately confuse us, so that we, like John, automatically assume it's Mycroft again, and then it's LULZ NO, IT'S IRENE, SHE'S ALIVE, HAHA! :p

                • allonsyten says:

                  Wouldn't it be awesome if they were sisters?

              • Aslee says:

                I didn't think it was Anthea!

                (I love her dearly, btw.)

              • @RadagastWiz says:

                I never thought it was the same woman, no. Anthea has a more classic beauty, while this girl is more businesslike and direct. It still seemed like Mycroft's style, though, so points to Irene for fooling both John and myself.

          • platoapproved says:

            It was a different actress (according to IMDB anyway). I don't know if we were supposed to not notice that or if it is legit supposed to be another woman. I interpreted it the same way you did.

            • katherinemh says:

              Personally, I'm assuming it is supposed to be the same character, because despite his… unsuccessful (?) love life, I don't see John offering to drop all his plans to go out with a, albeit pretty, complete stranger that was hanging around outside his door and seemed to be waiting for him.

              • tardis_stowaway says:

                I don't think they're supposed to be the same character. I thought John just recognized that Mycroft's style is to send a beautiful woman and a classy car. Presumably Mycroft has enough people working for him that John wouldn't necessarily distrust a new person presented in the same circumstances.

                I do miss "Anthea" from the first series. She managed to be very funny with very few words.

                • katherinemh says:

                  That's true, although the car didn't pull up until after they started talking. But I guess he could've seen it and it was just out of frame.

    • enigmaticagentscully says:

      I AM IN LOVE WITH THAT GIRL.

      Everyone else was all 'Ooohh Irene Adler' but I just want to take that girl out for texting and scones.

    • Tauriel_ says:

      I thought it was a different girl this time… I'll need to rewatch this episode to be sure.

  8. enigmaticagentscully says:

    Yeahhhhh this was pretty much my reaction to this episode. Much though I enjoy 'Sherlock', I don't think I ever really developed that kind of obsessive love of it that some people have – in this episode I was glad I didn't, because it meant that I could be a little annoyed with how it went, but not be totally cringing in second-hand embarrassment and trying to defend it to all my friends.

    It did so much right but the ending was just…a pointless change. It's weird that TV has come so far and yet still some writers don't understand that we don't need the main character to be perfect all the time in order to like him. John even said as much to Sherlock in this very episode – that people liked hearing about the cases he failed at because it made him more human. So why not practice what you preach? Actually have him be beaten for once, as he is in the original story.

    I wasn't really angry at this episode or anything, just a little disappointed.

  9. Tauriel_ says:

    Important point: Irene Adler LIVES at the end of the episode. She hasn't lost, not completely.

    Who says she can't come back and ultimately kick Sherlock's intellectual arse?

    Just some food for thought. πŸ˜‰

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      THIS IS WHAT I TOTALLY WANT, BTW.

      • Tauriel_ says:

        I think it's logical to assume Moffat and Gatiss are keeping a back door open for Adler's potential return, because if they wanted her to ultimately lose, they'd just have her killed off and have Sherlock deal with his conflicted thoughts and feelings about her.

        But she survived, so… *nudgenudgewinkwinksaynomore* πŸ˜€

      • Jennifer says:

        That's what I'm hoping, too – that Irene Adler's playing a long, long game. It doesn't make the end less problematic, but Irene ultimately beating him herself would make it sting less (for me).

      • AulaCicero says:

        Yah me too it would be so cool to see her again. The protrayal of Irene Adler reminded me of Catwoman. If they go down that route it will certainly not be the last time that we have seen her.

    • mediamadmeg says:

      In the end Irene lives BECAUSE Sherlock saves her life. In the end, the man saves the woman.

      That was my MAIN problem, in terms of sexism.

    • woot says:

      Also, strictly speaking, she beats the guy. I mean, she makes him care about her – in that sense, she breaks him. You could even say she makes him slightly interested, sexually. She probably understands him better than Watson…

      I loved the episode. They're on equal footing and they beat each other. As far as I know, that's something to celebrate.

      • Genny_ says:

        How the hell does she beat him? Look, I'm sorry, but this whole 'she made him care!' thing is bullshit. It's not represented as a moment of triumph at the end of the show, it's in no way the same as the final shot being of him ~riding to her rescue~, and honestly, this is all basically 'but the female character gave the male character reason to develop, that counts, right?' stuff, which is not remotely progressive.

        • sl says:

          I agree with Woot. Irene played Sherlock all throughout the episode, and played with his feelings or generally his character. It would make sense that sentiment would be the marking of her own downfall. Karma’s the greatest biatch after all. But a very very close win for her, if he didn’t figure out her password. I was starting to speculate that the episode’s theme was “caring is not an advantage” but I changed my mind after seeing the final scene.

          Btw loathing the internets for all the spoilers on her camera phone password before I got to buy the dvd and watch the series. Loved the episode though. I had no qualms about it. I hope for a reappearance of Ms. Adler in the future. The character is immensely intriguing and the actress’s portrayal impressed me.

  10. Chelsey says:

    If I hadn't seen Doctor Who and known Moff has Trouble With These Things, I would think he was trying to make Sherlock as problematic for the modern viewer as the original Conan Doyle stories are now. Trouble is, they wouldn't have been problematic for the Victorians.

  11. platoapproved says:

    A couple more interesting blog reactions re: Irene Adler that I found in the last few days:

    One
    Two
    Three

    Aaaand a GIF <img src="http://27.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lxanv0Fewy1qffgg0o2_250.gif"&gt;

  12. Shiroikami says:

    You know you can actually go and read Watson's blog, yes? And Sherlock's "The Science of Deduction" website as well, but that's not nearly as clever a tie-in as Watson's blog. It's, um… oh yeah! http://www.johnwatsonblog.co.uk

    It's really kind of interesting because in addition to the "entries" about the cases we've seen in the episodes, you can also read the ones about the cases we DIDN'T see in the episodes. The entries that are only kind of mentioned in passing.

    The comments on some of the posts are really clever too.

    HOWEVER! Actually about "A Scandal in Belgravia". I totally agree with your assessment of the treatment of Irene Adler in this episode. I had this naggy feeling while I was watching it that I didn't like it while I was liking it, but I couldn't quite put my finger on WHY. Now I realize what it was. I liked canon!Irene. She was brilliant, she outwitted Sherlock, and she GOT AWAY WITH IT. But this Irene was… umm… I don't want to say "needy" because that's not quite right, but, I don't know, it's like she lost her superpowers or something. I mean, at the beginning of the episode, as you mentioned, she's completely unreadable, but then in the end, she was weak enough, I guess? For Sherlock to read her and figure out the password? Meh.

    Regardless, I am still excited for the next two episodes of this series. What dastardly plans does Steven Moffat have for the plot? Inquiring minds want to know… and don't want to have to WAIT for the episodes to come out!! … I think it's time to rewatch all four existing ones to make myself feel better…

  13. platoapproved says:

    OKAY, ALSO, am I the only one who didn't quite follow the logic that led from taking Irene's pulse/observing pupil dilation –> she is in love with Sherlock –> her password must be a pun on him name, since she digs him. WHAT IF SHE'S IN LOVE WITH PUNS?

    Wouldn't that have been a hilarious twist? FOILED BY HER INABILITY TO RESIST BEING CLEVER AND PUNNY. I'd have preferred that over it being her ~ladyfeelings~.

    • amyalices says:

      Yesss.

      I mean, my personal headcanon is that she chose 'SHER-locked' as a taunt – because how amazing would it be to have his own freaking name as the password he couldn't guess? And she only picked that due to incorrect information from Moriarty – she said herself he gave her information about the Holmes boys, and he clearly had the impression that Sherlock knows nothing about love or romance.

      IF SHE HAD HAD ACCURATE INFORMATION SHE WOULD TOTALLY HAVE WON.

    • Aris Katsaris says:

      > I'd have preferred that over it being her ~ladyfeelings~.

      It was about feelings, not "ladyfeelings". Sherlock lost because of feelings, then Irene Adler lost because of feelings while Sherlock dismissed his, then eventually Sherlock ends up saving Adler, thus losing the sense of (unemotional) superiority he claimed before; but it now is a positive-sum scenario for both of them.

      People that miss that Irene Adler's feelings are about her being a *lady*, while they ignore all the discussion of Sherlock losing also because of his feelings — I think they portray a deeper sense of sexism than whatever it is the show portrayed.

      It was about feelings, not about "ladyfeelings", it was about emotion not about *ladyemotion*.

      • Genny_ says:

        Yeah, and it's a total coincidence that the female character is represented as emotional and losing because of it, and the male character rational. It's not like that's a longstanding, well-known stereotype that women are emotional and exist to fall in love with men and therefore not as strong as the stoic men, or anything, and it's not like most of Irene's behaviour is heavily coded as connected to her being female- between the sexualisation and The Woman and so on. It's not as though the story this is based off is in large part about her being a *woman*, and what that implies when she beats Holmes.

        You can't separate media from the culture it exists in, and ours is a culture which punishes women for their emotions.

    • giishu says:

      I am sorry that I can upvote your comment only once.

      WHO DOESN'T LOVE PUNS? NO ONE, THAT'S WHO!

    • Jennifer says:

      Sometimes – and this is sort of unrelated – I have trouble following Sherlock's logic. Not that I don't understand what he's saying, but I think, "Those miniscule pieces of data could have provoked far more conclusions than the one you said." I agree that most of his proposals are cases of fairly strong deduction, but then sometimes I think – "But, what if he/she was having a bad day, and what you're seeing is not habitual but circumstantial? Maybe that guy ran into three dogs on the sidewalk while he was walking, etc."

      I approve of the puns idea.

  14. @kaylasavard says:

    I think my view on the whole Irene Adler debacle is a little more…not bothered? Like, I completely understand the idea that it would have been more in character for Irene to cut and run instead of staying around and losing. I just think the idea of making losing because you have feelings akin to being sexist is a little silly.

    I totally agree that it would have made for a bit more interesting story to have him not figure out her password, and then have her get away, but when I was watching her "downfall" scene, I was not at all thinking ZOMGSEXIST.

    idk. Overall, I really loved this episode πŸ™‚

    • enigmaticagentscully says:

      I kind of agree with you there – I was disappointed with where her character went and the need to have Sherlock 'beat her' in the end, but I didn't see it as a particularly sexist thing.

      Unless there's something I'm missing?

      • Aslee says:

        I agree. I felt it more of an affront to our precious canon than a sexist act.

        I can see where they're coming from, but I can't really say I felt the same way while watching.

    • jbb says:

      I can understand you not being bothered, because everyone reads these things differently, but I can't see how it's silly to call it sexist. Put it in the context of gender stereotypes — women have traditionally always been cast as the weak, emotional sex whose ~special ladyfeelings mean they need a man's help and protection. Its sexist, and its been used to demean women for a gazillion years. And here in this episode, we have a woman who is set up to be Sherlock's equal, and she is bested because she develops feelings for him. She cries and begs him for mercy, and then he has to sweep in and save her from terrorists. I mean, if I didn't know better, I would think Moffatt was an enormous troll.

      • amyalices says:

        Agreed: It's part of a larger trend (especially where Steven Moffat is concerned) that women are more emotional, and that that is a weakness. It fits too closely with sexist tropes to be ignored, especially where this is the one single incident where a woman was supposed to be the victor.

      • @kaylasavard says:

        I explained my thoughts a little more in depth below, in response to 'Genny', but I just wanted to reply here a little too. When I said it was "silly", I was more referring to the idea that every time a woman on TV has emotions, people cry 'SEXISM'. While in a LOT of those instances they are completely called for (way too many instances, in my opinion), in the context of this episode, I didn't find myself as bothered by it because I thought they did a good job at building up Irene's inclination towards Sherlock.

        Clearly she was fascinated by him on a certain level, and clearly she enjoyed messing with him – and the whole thing about her password being "Sher" seemed to me to be born from a combination of these two things. From my point of view, she was probably having a good laugh about the fact that the password was his name, but he couldn't figure it out.

        Anyways, I just wanted to clear up that I'm not like 'pro sexism' or something – just that I think female characters on television need as much variety as male characters, and that means some of them will be emotional, and that should be okay.

        Also, Moffat is totally a troll haha.

        • jbb says:

          Oh I totally agree that emotions have a part to play in women's stories on tv! πŸ™‚ Its not so much that she had feelings for Sherlock or that she was upset — totally understandable response. It was that those emotions were presented as being her downfall against a rational man, and it left her as the character that needed to be rescued. It feels like the plot of every Hollywood movie ever.

          I think Moffat could have written it so that even with all Adler's feelings she could still have been a step ahead of Sherlock and gotten away — her own choice, her own way. That would have been in keeping with his plot, as well as the canon.

          Moffat totally deserves the troll in the dungeons gif.

    • Jabberwocky says:

      Yeah, I'm not offended. I enjoyed her character completely and don't really see the problems people are bringing up. Or, well, I guess I can kind of see them, but I feel a little like it's people digging for reasons to be offended rather than things that are actually problematic?

      Yes, Irene got mixed up in her emotions over Sherlock and this hurt her in the end. That… totally happens. I don't think she wanted to sleep with him, I think she was attracted to his intelligence and the high of playing the game of constantly one-upping him. When you play a specific role to con someone, it can be easy to get a little lost in that role. Irene is an actress, she took on a role to play Sherlock Holmes, at the end she got a little too invested and made a mistake. That happens, and I don't think it's sexist, it just makes her a more realistic character.

    • Genny_ says:

      Okay? Not personally being bothered by something is fine, but that doesn't mean it's not there or not worth being bothered by. Your personal feelings do not dictate whether something is sexist or not.

      It's a stereotype that men are better because they're rational, and women inferior because they're too emotional/hysterical, and it is *harmful* to perpetuate it by having the female counterpart's main difference in their standoff be her emotions.

      • @kaylasavard says:

        I definitely never said anything near that my personal feelings on the matter meant that there was no sexism…all I said was that while I completely understand how people could take that away from the storyline, in this instance, I wasn't as bothered because I thought they built up the emotional side of her character well throughout the episode.

        There have been many, MANY instances where I have wanted to shake the writer of a particular episode/show for making the female characters cry every five minutes over the fact that they didn't have a boyfriend – and I'm aware that perpetuating a stereotype is not at all helpful, but does that mean making women have feelings is always sexist? Emotions are a human trait, not a woman trait, and in my opinion, and in the context of the episode (so not taking into account 'A Scandal in Bohemia' where Irene really does "win"), her character went on an emotional journey. And like in life, it was a bumpy journey.

        Sorry to make this so long, but I really want to make it clear that I'm not one of those people that think female characters need to learn their place or something – I LOVE strong female characters, but I also want them to be more than one dimensional characters who never feel anything. I want as much variety in female characters as there is with male characters, and that means that I don't see every instance of a woman's emotional moments as sexism.

        In the end, my point with my original comment was to just say that I didn't think it was quite as big a deal as everyone was making it out to be – and again, in my opinion. I'm not trying to make it out like my views are gospel, but if everyone else is allowed to give their thoughts on why they think the episode was sexist, then surely I should be allowed to give my thoughts as well.

  15. Tauriel_ says:

    I had a discussion with a good friend of mine about this episode, and she raised some very interesting points. Let me share them with you:

    And Irene Adler herself… well, I really liked the upgrade from controversial opera star to dominatrix. That was fascinating, actually. I'm not entirely sure where they were taking the whole sexuality thing, especially with her saying that she's lesbian. Queerness in any kind of entertainment is extremely difficult to pull of because the audience is so used to pigeon-holing characters into the various labels society has "conveniently" set up for us. Last series we were having enough difficulty with the asexual Sherlock thing thanks to the heterosexual/homosexual binary (audiences really have hard times adjusting to non-normative sexuality, don't they?). While I did like the implication that Adler had in her dialogue with John – the "I'm gay, you're straight, but we both have some form of attraction/care towards/for Sherlock Holmes" since it infers a more "sexuality is a moving target" idea (even though that does kind of fall into the Everyone is Bi trope that I have some issues with) than a "let's give everyone they're specific labels, yay!" trend, I don't think it was executed as well as it could have been. It's so difficult to tell what they were going for and people are going to read it the way they want to.

    I did like that they didn't set Adler up to be a "love" interest, per se. It seems that way at first, but after thinking about it, it comes across more of a mutual interest in the opposite party because of their minds. Adler was definitely attracted to Sherlock, but I don't think he reciprocated that feeling. When he goes into his "depressed" state in the middle of the episode after her first "death", I think he was more mourning the loss of someone who could have been a creative/intellectual partner/opponent who could have catered to something he usually doesn't experience. She's something new. The whole "SHERlocked" bit with the phone was more tongue-in-cheek rather than "I'm going to use my crush's name as my password, haha!". Also, it really was the last thing he would have expected, though in hindsight it seems obvious. If anything, the "love interest" role is more a one-sided one. If not, then it's definitely an example of If It's You, It's Okay.

  16. platoapproved says:

    A+, Ponyboy.

  17. Shadowmarauder says:

    I enjoyed mostly apart from the last five minutes. Irene is supposed to be the woman who gets the better of Sherlock: why change that?

    I'm hoping to see more of Mycroft in the next couple of episodes, and how he interacts with Moriarty. Which makes me wonder: When Moriarty went after Holmes in the last episode, why didn't he go after Mycroft as well? I'd imagine killing the little brother of a very senior member of British Intelligence can't be good for your health. I just get the impression that Sherlock is protected by his brother to a greater extent than he realizes.

    • psycicflower says:

      I'm curious as to why Moriarty seems to want to mess with Mycroft. Sherlock I get, they're equals, opposites but so very similar, Consulting Detective and Consulting Criminal, but I don't know what he gets out of openly challenging someone as obviously powerful as Mycroft. Then again Moriarty's definitely the type that could be doing it purely for the kicks.

      • Shadowmarauder says:

        Yeah, me too. I wouldn't mess with Mycroft, the dude is meant to be smarter and more dangerous than his brother.

  18. Randomcheeses says:

    That would have been much better!

  19. mediamadmeg says:

    I loved the episode. I absolutely loved it. It was hands down my favorite episode of Sherlock to date. The only serious problem that I had with it was that in the end, Irene lived BECAUSE SHERLOCK SAVED HER LIFE. Honestly, why did THE GUY need to save THE GIRL?! I don't believe for a single second that Irene Fucking Adler was not capable of getting herself out of that situation, or that she would need Mycroft's help to be protected. She was so much smarter than that at the beginning of the episode.

    The thing about Irene's heart being her downfall…I don't know if I really saw that as being sexist, because it was Sherlock's downfall, too, earlier in the episode. He was so caught up in Irene that he didn't see what was actually going on. His feelings for her caused him to slip. It wasn't *just* Irene who lost because of her heart. And then him beating her was his way of getting revenge. And I completely expect her to come back in the season finale, or something, and *actually* beat him.

    The whole sexuality thing…ugh. I go to an all-women's college and have discussed pretty much every theory on sexual orientation extensively so I really don't want to go into a really long discussion of it here. So I'll just say this: My best friend in the entire world is one of the straightest girls I know, but she's said many times that she's never been attracted to a girl nor has she ever fallen in love with a girl, but she's not going to rule out the possibility that she'll fall in love with a woman, and that said woman will be her life partner. So there ARE people with that point of view of sexuality, and I think Irene is one of them. But then there are also people who are completely one way or completely the other, no exceptions. Okay. I've said my bit.

    OMG THE TWO LITTLE GIRLS AN DUDE WITH THE ASHES ARE COMPLETELY THE CLINIC PATIENTS!!!!!! I spotted that too and was all excited. For the people who've read the books, were there similar situations? Since House is based on Sherlock, I wouldn't be surprised, but I'm just honestly curious.

    Also, Mrs. Hudson for ALL OF THE AWARDS. MRS. HUDSON FOR BEST ORIGINAL SCORE. MRS. HUDSON FOR BEST ACTOR. MRS. HUDSON FOR BEST SOUND EDITING.

    • Keri says:

      I was typing out this long comment about how I didn't view Irene's "downfall" as negative towards her, but really as a parallel to Sherlock's mistake when I saw yours. You already explained that, and much more clearly! Also YES YES YES to the rest of your comment.

    • Genny_ says:

      "it was Sherlock's downfall, too, earlier in the episode"

      Exactly- and that's the problem. Sherlock has that and then he recovers from it to rise triumphant. Irene has it and simply falls. The person who has the last word is the winner in people's minds. 'She was winning for a while, but then he won in the end'.

      And why the hell they turned a story about a woman besting a sexist man into a story about a man getting back at a woman… well, I'm raising both eyebrows over here, tbh, and I fail to see how that justifies it.

    • javelina says:

      Re: the Rescue. There's an argument to be made (not that I'm making it passionately, I'm more spitballing) that the fact that Sherlock runs to Irene's rescue means that she has, at some level, also won – because if he didn't have feelings for her he wouldn't have done it. She got under his skin just as he got under his?

      Or something.

      I mostly loved this episode but it had serious outbreaks of illogic. (For instance, why would the explosion of a plane full of dead people cause any less tsouris than that of a plane full of live people?)

      • jbb says:

        That doesn't sound like much of a victory though. Someone liked her enough to stop her being killed by terrorists. Woo! I'm being sarcastic, but it's a bit rubbish given what Moffat actually had to work with, right? πŸ™‚

  20. Tauriel_ says:

    Besides, who cares about Adler, when Mrs. Hudson is clearly the only woman Sherlock loves? πŸ˜€

  21. My first reaction after seeing this: Everyone is gay for each other! But straight! But gay! But straight! Maybe everyone is bi-sexual? But straight! But gay!

    ( I just had all of the chocolate ever. this might get messy and repetitive and there will be fangirling all over the place. please skip this if it's not your cup of tea)

    OH MY GOD LAURA PULVER AS IRENE ADLER= I WILL BE IN MY BUNK FOREVER! I don't care that they changed Irene from American to British. She was too amazing and fantastic for me to care. For those of you who've watched True Blood or the BBC Robin Hood Series does she look familiar? πŸ˜‰ hehehe

    I loved just about everything in the episode. Martian Freeman y u such a good actor? Even the thing's I didn't like, Sherlock being a total asshole to Molly was a bit to much. It did help he said he was sorry but it still made me want to slap him so hard his head would spin around. Twice.

    Ships I have boarded because of this episode:
    Irene/Sherlock
    Irene/John
    Irene/Sherock's coat
    Irene/Moriarty
    Irene/Molly
    Irene/Cate
    Irene/me
    Irene/Doctor
    Irene/Sherlock/John
    Irene/Captain Jack Harkness
    Irene/River Song
    Irene/tumblr (if you had any idea what my dash looked like after this aired you'd understand)

    *barricades self from lynch mob*

    Okay I'm going to say this I don't think Irene's portrayal in this episode is sexist ( WAIT PLEASE) I think Moffat and were only trying to show the problem with caring when you’re a detective. And I think they were also trying to dig deeper into Sherlock’s character and she his weaknesses. He admires her because she can feel deep emotion and respects for being able to do what she does while still feeling those emotions. I don't think that just because she was capable of having deep emotions but it led to her downfall is sexist.

    There's a line that Lestrade has in in the first season that's“Sherlock Holmes is a great man, and I think one day, if we’re very very lucky, he might even be a good one.”

    Irene is that good person that Sherlock could be and maybe we'll see him over come those issues that keep him from being that.

    And while I do agree that there are faults with Irene and I think Moffat doesn't fully understand how to write women very well(we can't all be perfect) I still loved Irene very much in this. There's sexism and then there's not understand and I think Moffat falls into the latter and not the former.

    I think people are over reacting just a tad on the whole MOFFAT'S SEXIST! SEXIST! HATE! HATE! Maybe some of it comes from it wasn't at all what they were expecting(I know I wasn't but for the most part I thought it was very good) I'm not saying you have to like it or agree with it because everyone is entitled to their own opinion but in the end its still a TV show. It's not the end of the bloody world. Dial it down a notch will you?

    As far as Irene telling John she's gay I think she said that to throw him off as part of the game she was playing? So she didn't have to admit her feelings? Something seemed off about it.

    All these actors and actresses need ALL OF THE AWARDS.

    Now have ALL OF THE GRAPHICS because I've been saving them and saving them FOR THIS MOMENT.

    I hope you don't mind I just link these from my tumblr because there are multi-images with each and I will be here for hours trying to figure out how to make the html work for it.

    The one that breaks my heart into a 1,000 pieces: http://tinyurl.com/8292zju

    Sherlock at the door: http://tinyurl.com/7fwxmpj

    Pretty: http://tinyurl.com/6t29jsr

    No tracks in the snow: http://tinyurl.com/7z4a5vd

    Irene love: http://tinyurl.com/6pfn2kt

    Hee!: http://tinyurl.com/7czkdms

    Possibly my favorite scene: http://tinyurl.com/6mpw7m6

    Gifs: http://tinyurl.com/6scat3x

    More gifs: http://tinyurl.com/7agtz44

    And my favorite Sherlock post I have found: http://tinyurl.com/6r7sf23

    • I think Moffat and Gatiss were only trying to show the problem with caring when you’re a detective *.

      And I think they were also trying to dig deeper into Sherlock’s character and show his weaknesses.**

      I was typing this so fast I forgot to look over for typos. When I pulled this up there were only 3 comments and now there are over 50. I am so sssllooww *HEAD DESK*

      • hilarius11 says:

        I agree completely with your comment about Moffat not "understanding" how to write women, rather than him writing women poorly because he is "sexist". As others have said, Moffat is definitely not perfect. He makes his mistakes and he has his problems. Women is one of them. Personally, all of his women are so smart and intelligent that the fact that they have ~feelings~ doesn't bother me, because most of his men do too. Rory? The Doctor? Both of these two have feelings that have acted as instigators for plot and have allowed them to be fooled. When it comes down to it, I think we notice it more in Moffat's women because we are programed to look for "weak" women, so any chance we see it, we call him out on it. Not every writer can be Joss Whedon, who writes women better then any woman I've ever seen.
        This is getting long and preachy, but my point is that, sure, Adler wasn't written perfectly. Moffat failed in that regard. But was that hour and a half not one of the more entertaining and tense times of your life? Was Irene Alder not dying a happy occasion, with all the endless possibilities for more between her and Sherlock?
        That's what I thought.

  22. knut_knut says:

    I was so conflicted too. Overall, the episode was really entertaining, but YES TO EVERYTHING about Adler. I was really disappointed with how her character ended up. There was so much potential!

    I'm also really tired of Moriarty. V yvxr gur gurbel gung znlor Zbyyl vf npghnyyl Zbevnegl orpnhfr gung jbhyq or sha naq ernyyl njrfbzr. I don't care if it's not possible, LET ME DREAM

    • monkeybutter says:

      Your rot13: yeah, I'm kinda hoping that's what's going on, too. It would be AMAZING. But I won't hold my breath.

    • psycicflower says:

      V npghnyyl yvxr Wvz Zbevnegl ohg Zbyyl gheavat bhg gb frpergyl or Zbevnegl jbhyq or nyy xvaqf bs nznmvat.

  23. buyn says:

    I really wanted more Lestrade in this episode. Also, it'd be nice to meet Harry, but I'm guessing we won't ever meet her, just because.

    Yes this episode had some flaws, but it's still leaps above other programs, and so I will sit here and wait until the next episode.

  24. unefeeverte says:

    YES TO EVERYTHING. It's like, I love most of the episode TO BITS, but the ending really leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I could've, maybe, lived with Sherlock outsmarting her, but what I just truly hated was that he had to impossibly, randomly, and I mean just, WTF, save her from being beheaded like a damsel in distress. It really made me go all FFFFFFFFUUUUUU–

    That said, Sherlock + John <3 4evah.

  25. bearshorty says:

    You perfectly articulate here my feelings about the episode. I had a lot of problems with the portrayal of Irene here, especially her losing. I liked her a lot and I thought the show would be brave enough to let her win. But then, it is Moffat, and I don’t have many expectation about his handling of female characters well. And yet despite all that I loved watching the episode and watched some scenes many many times and wrote a long page of ‘thoughts’ about it.

    My two favorite scenes where the conversation between Sherlock and Mycroft in the morgue because they were such brothers there and the conversation between Irene and John in the warehouse. “Look at us both” indeed.

    Some clever person wrote a short fanfic which twists the episode’s events and especially the last scene into something much better, something to let Irene win after all. And I think it will be my head canon.

    • woot says:

      You people who say Moffat can't write female characters need to go watch Press Gang. FFS.

      • jbb says:

        I've watched all of Press Gang. It's a very good show. But Moffat is being judged on the way he's writing characters now, in Doctor Who and Sherlock.

  26. Indigo Sto Helit says:

    I had kind of a different interpretation of the end of “Belgravia”. I felt like Irene lost one conflict, but won another.

    Ultimately, it seemed to me that there were two struggles going on between Mycroft and Irene. One was for the photos, and the Holmes brothers outwitted her on that. But the other one was for Sherlock himself. All his life, Sherlock has had Mycroft as his older brother, his role model. Mycroft is successful, powerful, and poised. There’s no way Sherlock doesn’t look up to him on some level. And Mycroft’s lifestyle is very clear from the clues Moffat gives us. He says “caring is a disadvantage”, he sees his own little brother as nothing more than a tool to solve a case… Mycroft is unemotional, aloof, and arrogant, and Sherlock is attempting to imitate him.

    But then comes Irene Adler, whose power comes from relationships. It’s all there in her catchphrase: “I know what he likes.” She has unquestionable mastery over human emotion, and she uses that mastery brilliantly to her advantage, exploiting Sherlock to make him give her the information about the plane so she can send it to Mycroft. So when Sherlock says, “Sentiment is a chemical defect found on the losing side”, he’s mocking himself more than Irene. He’s aware that she’s influenced him intensely throughout the episode, and he’s reminding himself of the Mycroftian values he’s always lived by.

    And then comes the ending scene. Though it’s no advantage to him, though it might be more judicious to let her die, Sherlock travels all the way to the Middle East to rescue Irene from terrorists. This isn’t a moment of weakness for her. It’s a moment of triumph. She’s lost her blackmail material, but she’s won Sherlock’s loyalties, and if I had to choose just one of those, I know which one I’d walk away with.

    I think his encounter with Miss Adler has greatly changed Sherlock, and I can’t wait to see how it affects him in the future.

    • noelle says:

      THIS! Awesome analysis. I agree with your interpretation of Irene, and the Mycroft-Sherlock-Irene struggle.

    • javelina says:

      This was my read on that final scene as well, from the outset. At some level she HAS won. However, you've said it far better than I have.

      It's complicated by the fact that this version of Adler is a villain – but hey, complicated is more fun.

    • woot says:

      > Sherlock travels all the way to the Middle East to rescue Irene from terrorists.

      Croatia's in Europe.

    • YES! This is exactly what I think. Not that I didn't find some aspects of the episode and Irene's characterization a bit problematic, but I agree with you that Irene wins in the end. Well said.

    • Genny_ says:

      This is a very nice interpretation, and it's one I like to believe as headcanon myself, but it's in no way what the episode emphasises or frames it as. It doesn't really go any real way towards making it any less problematic except on an individual level.

      It's not that it can't be true, but it's hardly what the show itself presents us with outright.

  27. melmel says:

    My first reaction when I saw Irene on screen was : "god, can't we see a woman who embrace her sexuality without wearing… nothing or lingery ?" I mean, we see a lot of men who are not ashamed of their sexuality and they aren't wearing "sexy" clothes 24/7.

    I was ready to take the "dominatrix" thing in the beginning but really became bored of it because it's the "easy way" to make a woman look powerful. I was a bit confused by the gay comment (didn't really understand if she was saying she was gay or not or what ?) so I kind of passed over it but then at the end… she revealed that she just had the information and all the plotting was Moriarty's. And I raged.

    But I'm good public so I still enjoyed the episode but like you Mark, the treatment of Irene bothered me. I hadn't watch Doctor Who so I didn't know that Moffat was this huge a sexist.

    Maybe we should lock him in a room with Joss Whedon.

    • melmel says:

      And when I rewatched it and understood that yes she was saying she was gay, I doubled rage that she "fell in love" with Sherlock. Or should I say, "lust" after him.

      • woot says:

        I would take the gay comment with skepticism. She even says she's hired by guys. She doesn't need to be.

        If anyone out there is actively pro-gay, it's Steven Moffat. Captain Jack to the lesbian Siliurian, he's done it all. FFS, Mark Gatiss the show runner is gay. I think they know WTF they're doing.

  28. noelle says:

    I am perfectly fine with Irene Adler “losing” to Sherlock in the end. She’s just too dangerous to be let loose. She knows too many national secrets, and she has shown that she WILL use them to further her own ends, no matter the consequences. I don’t think I’ll be comfortable with her getting off scot-free knowing the things she can and is willing to do. This is much more beyond a woman losing to a man; this is the necessity of bringing a rogue factor to her knees because an entire nation (or two) depends on it.

    But yeah, Muslim stereotype is Muslim stereotype.

    I’ve only recently read Doyle, so I may be wrong, but Irene Adler doesn’t seem to be that important to the Holmes canon. She appears (as far as I know) only in A Scandal in Bohemia. She’s the only woman who managed to outwit Holmes, that’s true, but canon!Irene is a far more benign figure than Irene here, and she is only a threat in Holmes’s client’s mind. In fact, she goes so far as to assure Sherlock that she is not, and will never be, a threat. Thus, canon!Sherlock is comfortable with not running after her.

    My only complaint is the very noticeable absence of John in the climax. He was always there in series 1. I know placing him there would’ve overcrowded the screen, what with the intensity of Sherlock, Mycroft, and Irene, but I missed him.

    Is it just me, or does anyone else find it funny that Sherlock and John are playing Smaug and Bilbo? When John jumps on Sherlock’s back and tackles him, I imagine Bilbo jumping on Smaug’s back. I swear this has colored my viewing experience.

    • Hazel says:

      I really like this. I think you really make a good point. Because they up the stakes of the drama the original ending just couldn't work. And the fall out of that information getting out would have HAD to been played out in a later episode. So from a narrative POV that doesn't come across as sexist at all. As for the character herself, within the other aspect of the character well… I don't think she is entirely sexist. Really I think she works but she just needs to have a few aspect tweaked to make her character the best if could have been.

      I was fine with the sex worker aspect. To have compromising photos (in this day in age) she would have to either have been realistically a sex worker or a spy or paparazzi/journalist. A spy brings in international politics into an already busy plot and the paparazzi/journalist isn't as exciting and would be harder to make an interesting villain – at least to match wits with sherlock. And sex worker fits with her original portrayal as a mistress. Given that they didn't shame her for her profession I'm fine with it. As for how that plays out in her relationship with sherlock, well she is a sex worker so it makes sense for her to use the skill set she has. Clearly she is still quite smart and is able to figure out the dead man in the field, etc and regularly sees through sherlocks tricks.

      As for the things that could be reworked…

      First I think that should have been reworked without a doubt was her relationship with Moriarty. Instead of having her ask him what she should do with the state secrets (come on – that one's REALLY EASY to figure out), she should have come to him with asking for access to his contacts or as a partner. This way her intelligence doesn't get undermined and you still get to have arch villain Moriarty in there.

      Second, they should have lost the gay line. Have her say she is bi or even "I prefer girls" (which allows for the possibility of boys). Don't have exceptionalism in regards to her relationship with Sherlock.

      Arguably last, Sherlock saving her. With the new ending having her be turned out and powerless makes sense. Having the terrorist react badly to the information being lost also makes sense. From the pov of sherlock, who in this version clearly cares for her, it makes sense he would try and save her (see his strong reaction to Mrs. Hudson being threaten). However probably the most female empowering version would have been if he discovered she had already saved herself. I can't say it would have been the best way from a narrative POV as enough little things would have had to be changed that I would literally have to watch that version to know. It's just hard to say.

      Unrelated to possible sexism – why Moriarty let sherlock go, I to am still a bit confused. It makes sense that Irene/Moriarty would assume Mycroft would get his famous brother detective involved in her case. Thus her being prepared for him is fine. Why they would choose let him live and thus have him involved in the case isn't clear – at this point I'm assuming it will become clear in a later episode.

      But those are just my general thoughts on the episode – over all I really like it and am REALLY looking forward to next week!

  29. Brigid Keely says:

    Thank you so much for posting about this episode and the problematic handling of Irene Adler.

  30. Tauriel_ says:

    Re: problematic use of scimitar in the final scene.

    To be fair, though, a curved blade is much more efficient for slicing than a straight blade (a friend of mine who does historical fencing and specialises on Middle- and Far-Eastern weaponry explained this to me once), so if Adler's executioners decided on decapitation by sword, it would be pretty logical they'd choose a scimitar or a similar curved-bladed weapon. I guess…

    But yeah, stereotypes and everything.

    • redheadedgirl says:

      And, well, the Taliban in Pakistan have been beheading people with greater and greater frequency since 2007. I don't know what blade they are using (I won't watch the videos just to find out what kind of sword is being used- we watched the first half of the Daniel Pearl video in a counterterrorism class in grad school and that was terrible enough), but….yeah, curved blades are a better tool for that particular job, which happens in Pakistan. A lot. I'm still not entirely clear what the problem is.

  31. elop says:

    Okay! I've got feelings and they are complicated!

    First of all, I LOVED THE SERIES RETURN. I still love it. But like you pointed out, it's got flaws. I'm not going to repeat everything you said (ADLER IS SUPPOSED TO BEAT SHERLOCK C'MONNNN), but there is a little something that's been bugging me ever since I saw the episode: the writing and acting is weirdly anti-American. It's a little bizarre to me. I don't have a problem specifically with Irene Adler's nationality being changed to British, although I'm still not sure why it had to be that way. But that coupled with the "American" CIA agents just leaves me with a gross aftertaste to an otherwise really well done episode (Well… mostly really well done!). All the CIA agents are played by British actors, and it shows. Their accents are off, and the head agent has this weird cowboy attitude going on. It's not helped at all by his writing. Sherlock shows clear disdain any time he talks about the Americans, and for good reason, too! They broke into his flat and tortured his landlady. Which is, you know, kind of a SHITTY way to get information, especially in urban London.

    I'd be willing to be convinced, if anyone has good reason, why it was correct to write the characters this way. Otherwise it just distracts from the story. πŸ™

    • Randomcheeses says:

      Well, now you know how the rest of the world feels when they have to watch American actors badly portray other nationalities on countless American tv shows.

      • enchantedsleeper says:

        XD You have a good point there. But it is a shame that we (by which I mean the English; not speaking for anyone else here) can't set a good example by doing it right. Goodness knows I find it agonising enough hearing English accents done badly (over and over and OVER again) so it would be nice if we could not do unto others as they do unto us.

    • Jennifer says:

      It happens in Doctor Who as well (except for Canton Delaware, but he's an exception), and it always makes me feel sort of guilty to be American. Which is a little strange since I can't help where I was born. But sometimes I feel like what's always portrayed is a certain kind of American, rather than something that's recognizable to me as someone I know in real life. I can think of a few instances in Doctor Who and Sherlock (including this episode) where it's a man obsessed with money or power, or where he's just doing something that doesn't seem to have motivations beyond "I am an asshole, it is how I roll." It just makes me want to feel very apologetic about Americans.

      Does that make any sense? Does anyone else feel this way?

  32. Whispy360 says:

    I watched the episode and had no real problem with it. In fact, I loved it. Judging by all the the commentaries I've heard critics have made on the episode seems I ought to have felt offended, but I actually thought Irene was pretty awesome. I can get an idea of why people would think the writing was sexist – and I can understand that view, I just don't agree. She and Sherlock were on equal levels of intelligence, and Irene won some battles while Sherlock won others. I wasn't even bothered when Sherlock swooped in and rescued her at the end, because I was so relieved that she -wouldn't- be killed. (Plus, all the acting in this show was especially great. I really enjoyed having more insight to Mycroft than I think we've gotten before. And I swear that for every moment that wasn't incredibly emotional and/or intense, I was laughing. The sheet, the ringtone, the text alert, John & Sherlock's "fight"…)

    But maybe it's just because Sherlock is back and I have waited A WHOLE YEAR for it to be back and FINALLY and I'm SO EXCITED FOR NEXT WEEK. OH MY ROWLING. But not looking forward to the Sherlock withdrawal that will come after the end of this season…

  33. ONE:

    CAN WE TALK ABOUT HOW JOHN WENT TO NEW ZEALAND IN HIS BLOG.

    HE WENT TO NEW ZEALAND

    TWO:

    MOLLY/LESTRADE. YOU KNOW YOU WANT IT

    THREE:

    CAN WE HAVE A SERIES WHERE MRS. HUDSON IS A SUPER SECRET CRIME FIGHTING SPY/DETECTIVE AND SHE TAUGHT SHERLOCK EVERYTHING HE KNOWS?

    • Tauriel_ says:

      I know of a girl who writes Creepy Molly/Moriarty fanfic, in which Molly only puts on the awkward, bumbling persona as a mask to fool Sherlock, and in reality is cold and calculating, and works for Moriarty. Creepy and unsettling, but very good. πŸ™‚

    • sudden_eyes says:

      Check out Molly Hooper's new tumblr! Here: http://mollyhooperblog.tumblr.com/

      I'm not 100% certain, but am v. close to sure that this is her "official" tumblr. It certainly has her tone. And she's most definitely noticing Lestrade, and vice versa.

  34. amyalices says:

    For the MOST part, I loved this episode – and really, that's always been the crux of the issue for me – because Sherlock is so good, the issues stand out even more.

    I've sen a lot of complaints about this episode, and most of them… actually, not that much of a problem. Dominatrix? Why not, so long as she's in control? Flexible sexuality? Yes, part of a larger trend about women's sexuality not being valid unless a cock is included, BUT is nicely balanced by putting John's preferences on the same level. Fine! Nudity? Actually shown as an effective and deliberate strategy on her part which works damn well – Sherlock cannot perform his habitual scan. Even the climax, with her choice of password to her all-important cameraphone – I can get behind. See, she was working with Moriarty, who 'gave her advice on how to handle the Holmes boys.' Right? And a large point of that seems to about about Sherlock as 'the Virgin' who doesn't understand love or romance at all – so what would be the ultimate burn to him? His own name as the password, unguessed! Only she had incorrect information, so in that particular game of wits, not ~*~emotions~*~, he came out on top. Which is fine! All okay!

    And the episode itself is brilliant. But.

    But.

    I can overlook one hell of a lot for a show as good as this, and indeed I do! So I'll skip ahead and just wail about the very end of Scandal: Whyyyyy must we have action hero!Sherlock saving Irene? Why? It would have been perfectly simple to have her save herself and vanish – something that would actually fit with the original ending of the story – but noooo, she has to be saved, as well as humiliated in her second-to last scene. (I could have lived with that – after all she made the rubbish choice to associate with Moriarty in this adaption, so it makes sense that she had to be defeated in some way – not that that was canonical either.) It wouldn't be such a problem, except that this is literally the only strong female character the Holmes canon gets. All other female characters are support for the male leads. (I'm sorry, Mrs. Hudson, ILU, but this is true!) For real, the 2011/12 adapations actually regresses from the 1800s version. Ouch.

    I do love this series, and even this episode in particular, so so much. I think it's that brilliance which makes the genderfail hurt so much more. Guys, you are better than this. Please think. We are people too, and you are making us sad and frustrated with you.

  35. amyalices says:

    …Dear lord, that was lengthy.

    I'll be over here.

  36. Jade says:

    "Who the hell knows about Sherlock Holmes, but for the record, if anyone out there still cares, I’m not actually gay" "Well I am. Look at us both."

    I would have had more problem with that had it not been implied that John isn't gay but clearly feels something for Sherlock. If it had just been Irene going OH BTW I AM GAY BUT I LIKE SHERLOCK I would have side-eyed it more, but we're also having to take into account that Sherlock is the sort of person who, for lack of a better way to put it, draws people to him. Those who get to know him come to care about him more than they'd like to, I think.

    I didn't like the last minute or whatever of the episode, though. I understand why they showed Sherlock saving Irene, possibly for future appearances which would be pretty A+++ but I was just kind of like "ehhh." But I guess that works better from a storytelling standpoint than her showing up in the future and going "oh yeah ha ha i faked my death again what's up" (even though I am sure there are better ways that they could have scripted for her to have saved herself! but they probably were like OH WE COULD USE THE RINGTONE OH HA HA THAT IS CLEVER /sigh/).

    I do really want more about junkie!Sherlock (and I have seen so much fanart of Lestrade taking care of junkie!Sherlock and it made my little heart go pitter-pat), and more about Mycroft and Sherlock. The scene at the morgue between them and "Do you ever wonder if there's something wrong with us?" was just.. idk, I don't have the words for that.

  37. Maile says:

    I'm hitting my face on the desk. Because everywhere I look people are completely disregarding the fact that Irene Adler's character is as true to the source material as can possibly be in a modern adaption of SH.

    Sherlock horrifically misinterprets Molly's actions because he has the emotional capability of a rock. Sherlock condemns Irene's sentiment "is a chemical defect found in the losing side" because he is a self admitted sociopath and – though that diagnosis is unsound at best – one of the major plot points is the development of Sherlock as an emotional being. Thus the final scene of the episode; Sherlock isn't saving Irene to make a statement of how she needs A Big Strong Man to protect her, he's rescuing her from a fucked up situation that he put her in by releasing her phone's contents. Why is he doing this? Because suddenly Sherlock has ~emotions~ regarding someone other than John and it occurs to him that there is more personal value to Irene than just her ability to be "interesting"

    And let's not even start on the subject of Irene Adler being a dominatrix because god forbid a woman utilize her sexuality! "I knew what he liked" becomes a running gag the more she repeats it. Would you rather there be a ten minute explanation with loving descriptions of Irene's cat-o-nine-tails and the exact shade of aubergine the man's face turned when she whipped him? No, as an author you would rather there be a funny thing t say every time it comes up.

    Also the scimitar. Why was there a scimitar? BECAUSE IT IS DRAMATIC AND THIS IS TELEVISION AND IT WAS MEANT TO BE A LITTLE RIDICULOUS.

    As for the Moriarty factor, this is yet another example not of Irene needing A Big Strong Man to do plan her deviousness for her but rather an (admittedly funky) attempt to further the idea that Jim has his fingers into ~everything~. I agree that it could have been presented differently, however.

    The only thing I agree with in terms of the Guardian article is the wtf moment where Irene's all like, "btdubs, I'm a lesbian." I can understand the angle Moffat wanted, what with the ~love transcends gender~ thing, but it was just awkward is execution and would have been better had it the audience been left with the impression that Irene was either bisexual or just didn't give a shit about gender.

    Right, /endrant. This isn't directed solely at you Mark. You really have the most balanced review of this episode that I've read so far, and I really appreciate that you maintain an objective stance. It was just the Guardian article you linked that got me. If the episode was viewed solely as social commentary, then the article would be pretty accurate and I think I'd agree with a good majority of it. However, what the author (along with quite a few other things I've seen 'cross the interwebs) completely misses is that there are other factors to the equation, such as the fact that this is an adaption of something written in the nineteenth century and therefore gender biased, or the fact that Sherlock is such an utter unfeeling dickhead at times because he has a tentative grasp on human interaction and emotions at best, or (especially) the fact that a lot of the weird one-off things like Jim's involvement make absolutely no sense if you haven't seen the rest of the series.

    • jbb says:

      But this script, as Moffat chose to write it, actually has a worse gender protrayal than the original written in 1895 or whatever. Which is weird. I enjoyed the episode overall but it's strange that he rewrote it this way.

      I agree with you that there are lots of things to take into account and that everyone has a different view on this stuff. But I think this comes down to the way Moffatt chose to plot the episode. This dude says it far better than I could:

      I find the plot offensive, not the character — what the script does with Irene, not who Irene is in the episode — and I am annoyed that this example falls right in line with how Moffat treats all his female characters, in all his shows. This is, after all, a made-up storyline: Sherlock didn’t save Irene. A writer decided to have Sherlock save Irene. Which is to say that unlike in a historical narrative (naively speaking), the events here are motivated — they happen because Steven Moffat wants them to happen that way. Which makes it possible, even necessary, to ask why that is — why is he so fixated on reducing woman after woman to male genius after male genius’s second fiddle (at best) or grateful damsel (at worst)? And why take this particular story, which is a story about an arrogant man being decisively put into his place by a woman who outwits him, and change it into its opposite? You may say you prefer this story over the original, but that preference itself isn’t neutral: why is “Scandal in Belgravia” a better story? Or even an equally good one? What would the episode have lost if Sherlock had been beaten the way that Holmes was, rather than, gently, inconsequentially, whipped?

    • amyalices says:

      Irene Adler's character is as true to the source material as can possibly be in a modern adaption of SH

      I think that's the point where most of us who had problems disagree with you – in the original story, she was not working with Moriarty, only holding onto photos for protection and for fond memories of her former lover. Some of the liberties they took were actually a good thing, I think! I really did enjoy her as a character, but as jbb said, it's what the story then does with her that is an issue – it removes the punchline of the original story, which was that she made herself disappear, retaining her agency and having the last word.

      • Maile says:

        Those are all references to the plot rather than the portrayal of Irene Adler's character.

        I'm going to say here that, as far as the source material goes, Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes were never personally involved. Sherlock hated her on principal and she was never mentioned in Doyle's stories after A Scandal in Bohemia.

        That said, everybody and their aunt who adapts SH luuuuurves to put them together. And to be honest with you, that has driven me absolutely crazy. There's an infinitely larger basis for Sherlock to be with John.
        So here's where I feel that Moffat's portrayal of Adler is as close to the source material as I've ever seen in an adaption. In the story, the most basic, t;'dr version of her interaction with Sherlock is that she proves him wrong and makes him reevaluate his opinion of others. In this episode, that's exactly what she does once again. Though the context is emotional rather than intellectual, it's the same base idea. There are more details in my reply to jbb ^^^^^^

        • jbb says:

          I'm going to read you reply above but this caught my eye. Sherlock hated her on principal? Before he met her, do you mean?

          • Maile says:

            No, he hated her simply because she was a person who beat him. That's why he refers to her as "the woman" because he can't bring himself to recognize her.

            • jbb says:

              I thought that he respected her greatly, and that she was the woman because she stood out to him over every other woman.

        • xpanasonicyouthx says:

          Woops, could you be careful about using the word 'crazy' in the comments? It's considered a slur and triggers folks, so I try to do my best to make sure people are aware of that.

          And you're right: Adler really only is in that one story.

  38. consmot says:

    I don't get the problem with Irene being gay except for Sherlock, given that Sherlock is asexual except for Irene.

    And, frankly, I don't know if their chemistry's entirely a sexual thing so much as a raw mutual fascination. Sherlock is a man for whom caring is irrational and a weakness, but he finds himself composing tragic music when he thinks Irene's died. Likewise, Irene is a woman for whom sex is practically mundane, irrelevant to her feelings, but she finds her pulse quickening when Sherlock touches her. It's not a gender thing so much as the two smartest people on earth finding each other mutually compelling. She's gay 'cos it mirrors how Sherlock breaks type too when presented with a person clever enough.

    I also don't think her portrayal's sexist. I felt that making her take her clothes off felt a little wish-fulfillmenty, and I was very worried about where it might've going, but I couldn't honestly say my fears were realised at any point.

    But hey, that's just how I saw it – take it or leave it. Maybe I'm just badly calibrated.

  39. Late to the party, but I have so many mixed feelings about this episode. I loved the Christmas party, thought it was amazing all round. Mycroft and Sherlock interacting was amazing; seeing these brothers struggling to figure out just how they relate to each other is awesome. Mrs. Hudson was glorious, I loved how Sherlock got so defensive of her, it was amazing to see that side of him and Cumberbatch handled it so freaking well.

    What I didn't like: ending, rather obviously, as Sherlock is supposed to be beaten pretty thoroughly by Irene.

    Irene's overall presentation.
    And I need to qualify that by saying that I thought the actress who played her was effing spectacular; I loved seeing Irene's personality. But I hate with a raging passion the suggestion that sexuality is women's only way to get to power. It just- gah, I'm not explaining well, but it felt really crude and rather over the top. And this may just be me (prudish Catholic girl, for the record), but I was wishing so hard that we could have had an Irene who was something completely different- maybe actually show her as a bloody opera singer who spies on the side because that would be awesome. In my opinion. But I just really wish that the later interactions with Irene and Sherlock hadn't been so sexualized because that's not who the original character was, and while I get this is an adaption, what I've liked about episodes such as "A Study In Pink" is the fact that they've kept to the spirit of the originals. This one really didn't and it makes me mad because I think it really had the potential to have been awesomely in the spirit of the originals. But it just didn't come together the way I'd hoped it would.

    • jbb says:

      And I think in the original story she had also trained as an actress, and drssed in men's clothing, so they could have used that as well. It might have been more interesting to have her be actually in a relationship with the royal 'client', whether her profession was opera singer, actor, 'entrepreneur', spy…whatever. Lara Pulver could have made anything convincing.

      • She was, and she was enough of a persona that she had an entry in Holmes' index of important people. I actually think it could have been kind of fun to see someone who was a rock star/actress/minor celebrity who also has the intellect and wherewithal to beat Holmes. Because as you say, Lara Pulver could make anything convincing. And she did do a good job showing Irene as she was written in that episode- but I just felt like so much of the sexual stuff, such as her whole gay/bi schtick was really badly written. Hell, I would have been able to handle a sex worker like Irene beating Sherlock intellectually and outwitting him, but instead there was all this weird tension which felt out of place for them both… and as other people have commented, she doesn't actually beat him.

        So yeah… mixed feelings.

  40. When Irene Adler meets the Doctor, she changes the passcode on her phone:

    I
    AM
    TIME
    LOCKED

  41. theDMG says:

    Yay, two new MarkWatches for my birthday! Now, if only I'd caught the new Sherlock *shuffles off to watch it*

  42. @Meddacated says:

    I agree with your criticisms. Also, the episode felt like a lot of fan service. I keep expecting the writers to throw John and Sherlock together. While that isn't a terrible image, the purist in me says "No thank you!" πŸ™‚ Moffat has a problem when it comes to writing women and it shows with Irene. And I love River Song but come the hell on, her entire life revolves around The Doctor!

    Also, the end baffled me. So Sherlock tracked her down and infiltrated a terrorist cell without Mycroft or anyone noticing? REALLY MOFFAT? A PALE WHITE ENGLISHMAN JUST SNEAKED IN THERE, DID HE? [/caps]

    Sorry 'bout that. :/

  43. Danielle says:

    Srsly, Lara Pulver was one of only four good things in the whole utter shambles that was series 3 of Robin Hood. So much respect for her. She is brilliant.

  44. Vikinhaw says:

    I'm just repeating but I really need to say this.While watching it I completely missed the part where she said she was gay and now, as a queer woman, the issue of Irene's sexuality is genuinely making me angry (especially cause I'm hearing too many comment in rl from straight women telling me it's not problematic at all).

    She's gay and she falls for/in love with/ lust with Sherlock. Yes, I know in real life there are gay women who have sex with/relationships with men but Irene is not real, she's created by Moffat and other writers. The idea of women's sexuality being fluid in media is so common compared to portrayals of lesbians who are not interested in men, particularly when idea serves straight men's sexual fantasies. And this is what it feels like here. I don't think it's comparable to Watson/Sherlock because that is played for laughs frequently while Irene's queerness is presented as titillating.

    This blog sums up my feelings better than I can: http://slatternly.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/sherlo

    He uses this woman’s sexuality and profession to provide nudges and winks to the audience, to titillate safely whilst allowing him to be seen as somehow progressive for discussing Irene’s sexuality in the first place. Which I think upsets me most of all. Because a gay woman’s sexuality isn’t something you should throw away to make a plot work and neither is her narrative agency.

    This was so nearly a plot of my dreams: a queer female sex worker outwits one of our greatest minds, remains calm and collected throughout with a hit of exploring the performativity of sex work?

    But then Steven Moffat wrote it.

  45. Aris Katsaris says:

    I think I disagree with every sentence you said.

    The easy way to make a woman look powerful is to give her superpowers like Joss Whedon did with his supposedly feminist/celebrated characters in Buffy, Firefly, etc. Or like Katara and Toph in Avatar the Last Airbender. Or effective superpowers, like Kiddo in "Kill Bill", like Charlies' Angels, etc…

    Showing a woman be powerful by mere attitude and intelligence alone is much harder.

    > I mean, we see a lot of men who are not ashamed of their sexuality

    Not on *this* show, on this show pretty much every guy is shown ashamed of it. Not just Sherlock, but Watson is e..g. insecure about being perceived as gay.

    > She revealed that she just had the information and all the plotting was Moriarty's.

    Hardly all the plotting, just significant info about how to handle the Holmes brothers. Since Mycroft Holmes isn't a public figure, this makes sense.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      I don't even know what you're saying here. How does this have anything to do with superpowers at all? You missed the point: Moffat creates a strong character and then destroys her because she has emotions. That's my problem.

      I don't know who you're quoting with the bit about men not ashamed of their sexuality.

      As for the Moriarty thing: what? The whole thing was clearly planned by Moriarty and was outright confirmed that Adler did what she did to provide him the information he needed about the 747. So….what?

      • Maile says:

        I have to agree that Moffat destroys Adler because of her emotions.
        Certainly her emotions are key to the situation. In my opinion they're one of the most important aspects of the episode.
        Moffat doesn't destroy Adler, Sherlock destroys Adler. Sherlock reacts horribly to the situation and does what he at time believes to be the intellectually superior thing and hands all of Adler's protection to Mycroft partially because of national security and because Sherlock is a child and the best thing he can think to do is go "you hurt me so I'm gonna hurt you HAH."

        But then Irene is in the hands of that middle eastern group and is going to be executed as a direct result of Sherlock's actions. And here's the kicker: pre-Adler Sherlock would've let it happen. Her continued existence didn't benefit him in any way. Post-Adler Sherlock reacts emotionally. He's responsible for the situation that Irene's in and suddenly he has all of these ~feelings~. I'm gonna lift what I said in an earlier comment:

        Thus Adler ends up in the hands of that middle eastern group. Entirely because of Sherlock. That was his fault through and through and he realizes it. And here is the big point of the episode: he goes to her. He takes responsibility for his actions and acts on the emotional impulse to save this person.

        Which brings me back to the idea that Sherlock "beats" Irene. In this situation, nobody is a winner as far as the character's personal preference goes. Irene loses her phone as a direct result of Sherlock, and in turn Sherlock loses the basis for his entire world view and is then forced to reevaluate himself. Neither character is better than the other. Never does Moffat portray Sherlock Holmes as a perfect man and Adler as somehow beneath him. Sherlock is a deeply flawed person and as a character may believe Irene Adler to be beneath him at the beginning of the episode, but by the last few minutes he recognizes Irene for her intelligence, her cunning, and most of her nature as an emotional, sentimental person.

        By the end of the episode, it's Irene Adler who is proven to be correct, what with her emotions and sentiment. Her proximity devastates Sherlock's preconceived notions about human emotion; proves them to be wrong to the very last fiber. And thus Sherlock develops as a character. Suddenly it's not only okay to care for other people, but it's also okay to act on those feelings.

        Moffat doesn't "destroy" Irene Adler because she's an intelligent, strong woman with emotions. Sherlock destroys Adler because he has absolutely no idea how important those emotions are. Moffat's commentary isn't that Adler is in the wrong, but quite the opposite. It's Sherlock who is wrong and through the terrible things that he does to Irene learns exactly how wrong he is.

        • Maile says:

          I'm sorry, *disagree
          I have to DISagree that Moffat destroys Adler because of her emotions.
          Quake at my obviously superior syntactical prowess /facepalm

  46. hallowsnothorcruxes says:

    Thank you Mark! You've perfectly articulated everything I wanted to say about this episode and Irene's portrayal. I really wanted Irene to win in the end and the ending in Karachi was just ridiculous.

    <img src="http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lx56tcn8CJ1qlulv6o1_500.jpg "/>
    <img src="http://27.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lwp4jeaclR1r3chabo1_400.gif "/>

    "I held my breath for what seemed like months."
    John’s blog (talking about the pool scene)

    <img src="http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lx5dxzIMLu1qa9d4ho1_500.png "/>
    <img src="http://27.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lx5dxzIMLu1qa9d4ho2_500.jpg "/>

  47. woot says:

    I respectfully disagree.

    She beats him. That's the thing. She beats him.

    See, the reason she's so *sexual* is because he, himself, is not. She dissects him. They're equally intelligent – she analyzes everything as he does, including the case with the boomerang. He can't read her. They make the same mistakes. She falls for him, and he falls for her. He only makes her beg because she said she'd do that to him, and he needs to feel superior. In the end, though, she beats him by breaking through that shell, and he saves her life because he needs to. She accomplishes what no-one else has.

    She beats him, and he beats her. As far as I'm concerned, that's lovely.

    • woot says:

      Also, her profession was because of the sexually confused Holmes. It has nothing to do with empowering her.

      Strictly speaking, she beats him. She outsmarts him *and* breaks through his shell.

      Sorry, Mark, but I think you're profoundly wrong on this one.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        i mean

        seriously she loses in the end.

        She does not get what she wants, Sherlock takes away the one thing that would protect her life, and then uses that to save her in the very end while she is at the lowest point in her life.

        I mean come on! She may "beat" him temporarily during that scene in her house, but when it comes right down to it, Sherlock wins the whole thing. In "A Scandal in Bohemia," Irene Adler wins and disappears. That's the whole point of it! Sherlock has to admit he got bested by a woman.

        Can he even say that here? No, because he outsmarted her in the end, and, in the process, took away everything from her.

        • woot says:

          But he does this by realizing she's given into her feelings. She beats him in the *exact same way*. After all, she tricks him into giving Moriarty the code. The only reason he *ever* figures that one out is because Mycroft tells him. Listen: she beats him by going through his feelings. He can barely read her at all – she pushes it at one point, makes a mistake and slips. She reads him like an open book.

          It actually takes two Holmes's two defeat Irene Adler.

          I think you lot think she "lost" because Sherlock gets in the last word. I can see where you're coming from, but you're ignoring the rest of the episode to make that point.

          Again, I respectfully disagree. This coming from a supporter of feminism and women's rights.

          • xpanasonicyouthx says:

            He doesn't get the last word: he destroys her.

            Again, she is stripped of the only thing that can give her safety and keep her alive. (The cell phone with the information.) She then must disappear to stay alive, gets caught, and is about to be executed while wearing what we're supposed to think is some bizarre version of…I don't even fucking know. But it's clearly designed so we think she's in Karachi somewhere, that she's been reduced to some poor stereotype of an "oppressed" Muslim woman, that she's crying because she's about to lose her life too, and Sherlock swoops in to save the damsel in distress!

            I am not ignoring the rest of the episode. I'm saying the final five minutes are so heinously gross, they destroy all of her victories in the past. So what if she "beats" Sherlock in her house? His actions ultimately humiliate her.

            That's not what Irene does to Sherlock in any sense at all. Yes, she does disarm him and I won't deny that at all, but the dynamic of the end of "A Scandal in Belgravia" is about shame. Irene beats Sherlock, but it's done out of this weird sense of respect for him. Sherlock beats Irene by making her feel worthless, and to me, that is a billion times worse.

            • woot says:

              Can I ask you? If the tables had been turned – if Irene had "destroyed" Sherlock (and mind you, I don't think he "destroys" anything) – would it bother you? Just genuine curiosity. I'm wondering how you're thinking about this.

              I don't think this is a major setback for women's rights or anything. I just think most people are disappointed this episode didn't play out the way they'd hoped. Personally, I came out of it really respecting and liking Irene. She'd skewer me in a brain match.

              > that she's been reduced to some poor stereotype of an "oppressed" Muslim woman

              As an Arab (check my IP, though I think you know who I am; we're classy!) dude from a Muslim family, this doesn't bother me. At all. So let's drop that one.

              • amyalices says:

                Jumping in briefly – yes, it would be upsetting (because Sherlock is our hero and we like him), but it would follow the plot of the original story much more.

                Removing Irene's original victory is troubling because it represented the single instance of a woman outsmarting a man in the whole series, and it was actively taken away in a decision by the writers. Why include that story if they are changing the outcome? I really don't think it was malicious at all, but I'm fairly sure Steven Moffat has problems understanding how prevalent sexism is in mainstream media – he jumps on the defensive every time it is mentioned, instead of thinking about the message he sends by changing a woman's ability to deal with her situation and save herself into having to be saved by the grace of the hero.

                I think I'm mostly upset by it because otherwise Sherlock is so good! No, it's hardly a setback of women's rights all by itself – but it is still incredibly common, and the effect is cumulative.

                (I'll leave the race discussion out, since I'm not particularly knowledgable there – still, it would be interesting to see a Muslim woman's perspective, too – do we have any among us?)

                • woot says:

                  Here's Moffat's position on it, from Twitter: "She outsmarts him TWICE- kept photos, derailed Mycroft's plan. He outsmarts her ONCE, and by saving her admits he's equally smitten."

                  JonathanAngwin: "@steven_moffat Everyone seems to forget that Ms Hudson outsmarts three male security operatives as well…"

                  Steven_Moffat: "@JonathanAngwin And that Sherlock is played for a fool thoughout the episode and has to be TOLD what's going on by his big brother."

                  I agree. These aren't conclusions I didn't draw myself from just watching.

                  > (I'll leave the race discussion out, since I'm not particularly knowledgable there – still, it would be interesting to see a Muslim woman's perspective, too – do we have any among us?)

                  My sister and two of her friends are here. They all said the image doesn't particularly bother them, but that anyone who attempts to portray Arabs or Muslims in media ought to give Reel Bad Arabs a look. As someone who's fought for women's right in the Arab world, I give my vote for "It's perfectly OK" too. I know Moffat and Gatiss aren't racists, sexists or homophobes (indeed, Gatiss is openly gay). It saddens me that they, of all people, are being accused of this.

                  This whole thing started because of an interview about "Coupling". Well, anyone who's seen that show all the way through knows that there's a purpose to the sexist character Patrick. Look, his wife keeps her last name – "Vertue". She isn't known as "Susan Moffat". Had he been a sexist bastard and she a pushover, she'd have taken up his name. Since we know she isn't, and that she's produced both COUPLING and SHERLOCK, we can conclude that Steven Moffat's motivations are being misread by you all.

                  • jbb says:

                    My personal position on Moffit is that he is not 'a sexist bastard'. I think he tries to do good things in his stories. The problem is one that most writers share, and that is a lack of understanding of how their individual episodes and character work in the greater context of television gender culture and society at large. And context is so important. Film Crit Hulk explains this in his post here, scroll down to argument 9.

                    People can have all the good intentions in the world and still produce something problematic.

        • Aris Katsaris says:

          > In "A Scandal in Bohemia," Irene Adler wins and disappears.

          In the sense that she settles down and marries, and assures Holmes she won't cause any trouble. She bests him by recognizing him, following him in disguise to confirm his idenity, and then… just fleeing before he snatches the photo.

          In comparison in this story she manages to leave him speechless and baffled (and drugged physically beaten) in her first scened, he is tricked to work on her behalf by midstory, and he's emotionally weakened and devastated by the end.

          Okay, she doesn't "beat him" at the *very* end, but she has much more substantial victories over him throughout the story, than canon Irene Adler ever had. If you wanted a 20-minute story about her recognizing him and fleeing, like in the canon story, fine — but it'd make Adler a quite *weaker* character than what we saw.

          • jbb says:

            Well, to be fair, the original is a short story set and written in the 1890s where women are pretty much assumed to be idiots rules by their ~emotions. The fact is, Sherlock Holmes set out to trick this lady using all his brain power and disguises, and instead of falling for his scheme she turns the tables on him. She dresses up as a man, discovers his true identity and gets out of the country before he can triumphantly reveal his investigation and force her to hand over the photo. The fact that she marries and decides not to use the photo is because she chooses a better life for herself than the crappy situation with the king. So while it may not seem like much compared to Moffat's modern plotting, it IS a big deal.

            I think it's also the only time someone turns the tables on Sherlock Holmes and escapes. The fact that it was a woman was a pretty big deal in 1890 and unfortunately it would still be a big deal in 2012 — we just didn't get to see that part in Moffat's vision.

          • Genny_ says:

            In the end, Irene in the story gets away from the guy who was a dick, still possess power over him (she says she won't use it, but she still *has* it), has a man who loves her far better, gets clean away, and is one of only four or so people to *ever* evade and prevent Holmes from finishing a case.

            By contrast, in this story, she confuses him and baffles him, misleads him- and at the end is broken, has no life left to speak of, is nearly killed, and then suddenly owes him her life. He has the last word, and you know what, I'm just gonna link this: http://panopticaa.tumblr.com/post/15193280015/the

            Yeah. No. Irene Adler in the original short story gets it all. Irene in this loses her entire life.

        • masakochan says:

          Just gonna reply with a link to a response that someone had over the whole saving thing: http://bittergrapes.tumblr.com/post/15216431609/s

          And this link to a person's response about the Guardian article: http://ingodtisswetrust.tumblr.com/post/152515309

          Other than that- I'm getting a kick out of how many links I've been seeing to "Staying Alive" pop up on tumblr.

          • xpanasonicyouthx says:

            those are both awful.

            How on earth did Irene manipulate Sherlock into "saving" her? If she knew he was coming, why the hell was she so upset right before she was about to die? Wouldn't she confidently appear to be accepting her death because she knew Sherlock would show up? I mean….that doesn't make a lick of sense. Look how terrified and defeated she is when Sherlock reveals that he knows the passcode on the phone. That's not an expression of calculated planning. It's pure fear. She had no goddamn idea.

            • masakochan says:

              I dunno- I think one of them at least had a point on the gross attitude that was in the Guardian article about "despite being a lesbian- Irene is undone by a big girly crush on Sherlock" which, personally just left me going ">:| WUT" at my laptop screen.

              *shrugs* After watching the ending again- yeah, I'm not going to deny that she was upset. I wouldn't even think that she had a definite idea about Sherlock showing up. I think she was going entirely on a 50/50 gamble that she knew involved her own life being at stake. Basically- she wins the emotional game if Sherlock shows up, or Sherlock doesn't show and she dies.

        • noelle says:

          If, by “everything,” you mean the leverage of millions of lives and international peace, then she deserves to have it taken from her. I don’t think it’s misogynistic of me to say that. She had to lose because she was willing to put a lot of lives at stake to preserve her own.

          If she were a man (and Sherlock a woman), we’d all say “he had it coming.”

          I don’t think canon!Sherlock would let canon!Irene go if this much were at stake.

          • Zoli says:

            I agree. And it's not like she can't set up her life again after. As skilled as she is at disguise and manipulation, she could easily create herself a new identity and continue doing whatever she felt like. Maybe the governments of the world are going to be on the lookout for her, but… they would do that anyway if she'd gotten away with the phone and all its information. So I guess I'm not seeing how her life was destroyed by Sherlock or her emotions. From what she says in the episode, she has faked her death/destroyed her own life several times already– the way she pulls off the body switch speaks to some skill and familiarity with the idea– so I can't even believe she'd be all that upset about it. She had compromising information, she got caught, they took the information away. That's how blackmail works.

            With all the skills she's shown to have, I have to wonder if she wasn't setting something up at the end anyway– possibly working together with Sherlock to fake her death (again) to fool Mycroft and the rest, so she can create herself a new life away from prying eyes.

          • jbb says:

            Interestingly, in the canon she's not a 'bad guy'. She's an adventuress who has an incriminating photo of the king, but she isn't cast as a criminal. It's really unusual, and I wonder why Moffat chose to write her as an outright baddie here.

            • noelle says:

              Conflict. The original Irene wouldn’t be as dramatic a character for modern viewers. Also, I don’t think Irene here is an outright bad guy.

  48. Genny_ says:

    YOUR FEELINGS ARE MY FEELINGS.

    I loved Irene as a character. I loved that she was a sex worker, and apparently unashamed of it. I loved that she was gay (queer Irenes are my favourite). I loved her actress so so much. I loved the interplay between her and Sherlock, until the skeevy 'straight for you!' stuff, anyway. My fave scene was between her and John, that was so perfect. And of course, I simply love Irene Adler; she is one of my favourite characters ever, so seeing her was a treat.

    I loved many other things, too! I love that Mycroft and Sherlock have such a complex and well-defined relationship, because I always wish adaptations made more of those two. I adored the conclusion to the pool scene. I like that we're starting to see Sherlock become a different person, just a little. I enjoyed everything relating to Mrs. Hudson. And so on, and so on. I found a huge amount to enjoy about this episode, which makes the stuff I'm about to rant about so much more depressing to me.

    But… lord, it was SO GROSS in so many ways. They went out of their way to take a character whose entire narrative purpose is defined as 'the one who beat Holmes', and they went out of their way to change the story to make her lose; they made an active effort to do so, FFS! They took a story in which Holmes famously gets screwed over by his sexism, and they do… that. They do the overdone 'lesbians need the right man!' bullshit. They use her for titillation. He gets the last word, the endpoint is that he saves her, the thing we're building up to as the ultimate goal is Sherlock Holmes saving Irene, the woman he just put in that position himself. We got… a scene of Sherlock Holmes berating a sobbing Irene Adler for her emotions, and I just- god. Sickening.

    And also, the way that the writers approach the Sherlock/John thing is getting on my damn nerves. This episode really shows the double standard, doesn't it? Gay women 'going straight' (blech) gets this long, involved and highly sexualised plotline. But we're still having the 'no homo' jokes, the 'let us point out how NOT GAY they are every episode' stuff, and combined with the incredibly insulting stuff both Moffat and Gatiss have said in interviews lately, I am getting so pissed off with this show about it. If you're going to write them as straight, okay. Just… do it. I am sick and tired of shows deliberately writing queer male subtext into characters, attracting a certain subset of people who enjoy that sort of thing, going 'nudge nudge wink wink' and patting themselves on the back for being edgy- generally just benefiting from queer subtext- and then not giving us any actual representation. It's weird, and it's an excuse to keep actual canonical queerness out the way, it's a double standard and it's so frustrating. It is not progressive to slap some queer subtext onto otherwise straight characters and make 'haha it's like they're gay BUT DON'T WORRY THEY'RE NOT' stuff onto it. And Sherlock is falling ever deeper into that trap.

    …Okay, as we can all see, I am an angry bitter queer about 'bromance'. Yeah, okay, know what, let's just leave it there.

    • jbb says:

      I'm glad you brought up the 'bromance' thing. It's getting VERY weird, what with both leads trying to squash gay possibilities in the press and reportedly Moffat said he wanted Adler to be sexy to stop people thinking of Sherlock/John as a romance. Uh…why?

      • Genny_ says:

        It is. It's just- they're clearly doing it on purpose. There is no way they aren't pandering to what they think of as their demographic on purpose. But then they're turning around and calling people delusional for seeing it. They want it both ways, they want the 'fringe' demographic of slashers to stay but they want everyone else to not see it in more 'mainstream' places. (Which is to say, they want it when it's convenient, but when it's not they deny it.) At least, that's what it seems like to me. It's so weird.

        Also, they seem ridiculously ignorant of the concept of bisexuality. 'Adler! She disproves it!' Um. No..?

  49. 4EyedBlonde says:

    Mark I think we have the same brain. I don't know how this happened.

  50. Jennifer says:

    I'm just writing to say that I'm glad you wrote this, and I'm enjoying reading and responding to the comments. I, too, was incredibly conflicted between feelings of AWESOME and THIS IS PROBLEMATIC. It's been nice to get a grip on those warring ideas by discussing it here and reading the links others have provided. (I LOVE EVERYONE IN THIS COMM.)

  51. Binx says:

    I kinda feel the same way about this show as I do about Supernatural: like it, but it's kind of a sausage party and doesn't offer up much of anything to female viewers other than attractive male actors. Which I find odd, because both shows have a big female fan base and KNOW it (Sherlock's rather large female following have actually dubbed themselves the Cumberbitches, apparently). So don't you think they'd be like "hey, maybe we should write in a really strong and interesting female major character"? Nope. Apparently not.

  52. Feminist Kinkster says:

    I feel like the only person who identifies as feminist who didn't get pissed about Adler's portrayal.

    Firstly, I don't think she's sexually attracted to Sherlock. I think she's attracted to her mind. Like, she's his fangirl. And he's her fangirl, because she's fascinating and clever and new and she understands how she works.

    And why the hell shouldn't she be a dominatrix? One of the biggest anti-feminist things is a lack of power in sex. Women are supposed to submit, be submissive, our sexual enjoyment is not important or even required, and is something that we do for the sake of men. There's a huge stigma against women enjoying and actively seeking out sex – that's why slut as a concept even -exists-. So making her dominant in every respect – including the one in which so many women are denied equality and power? WONDERFUL. And she's even a fricking lesbian, even better! She's not a service top, or fulfilling men's porn-y desires, its all about women's pleasure and women's power.

    Also, dominatrixes don't sleep with their clients, on the whole.

    P.S: "Are you wearing pants?" "Nope."

  53. jbb says:

    That bit in italics is a quote from the blog, by the way. I don't think I made that clear enough, sorry.

    I think we're talking about different things with this episode. I can't agree that they both win, or that Adler is victorious in this episode. Yes, they do go back and forth throughout the episode trying to get the upper hand or to affect one another in good or bad ways, but ULTIMATELY, in terms of winning or losing, she loses. Her plan gets trashed, she doesn't get anything she wants, she loses her only form of protection, she has to beg for mercy, Mycroft gets all her information, photographs, everything she held for insurance and as a way to blackmail the british royal family/the government, and she ends up being captured and almost killed by terrorists. She hatched a plan with Moriarty to play the Holmes' and the government and get a huge list of demands and she lost. What is she left with? The fact that Sherlock likes her? What does that give her? I don't think it will give her a new home, a new identity, food, money, protection.

    Saying that she won really because she got Sherlock to care about her just falls a bit flat, especially in the face of everything else that happens. The emotional plotline doesn't over-write all the other stuff that goes down, nor does it change her situation at the end of the episode.

    • Maile says:

      I knew that, no worries.
      I never said Irene won. I said that they both lose. So yes, I agree with all of what you wrote up there. I just disagree with the idea that Sherlock "won" over Irene, because from my point of view they were both the losers in the situation.

  54. masakochan says:

    Really late to the party on this one.

    I'm going to continue respectfully agree to disagree with you on some of your points, and anyone who says that Moffat is going with 'Sherlock turned a lesbian into a straight woman'.

    Speaking as a bisexual woman- yes, I am going with the attitude that sexual preference is a fluid thing. Seriously- I'm still trying to figure if, at this point, I'm more attracted to women than I am men. It's a mental jumble, and again- to see someone going on about "BUT SHE'S A LESBIAN!!1" – completely ignores the fact that sometimes there might be a person who is intriguing enough to bypass the labels that we define ourselves with. However- I am NOT saying "You clearly just haven't found the ~right~ person." because just. NO. That is wrong.

    Irene is still a lesbian if she says she is. I cannot think that Moffat is going for the line of "HEE~ We're turning a lesbian straight. &gt;:D" Just as much as John is straight, or whatever he is, if he says so. The point is that Sherlock just has such an amazing personality (even if he can be an outright misogynistic asshole (like he was to Molly)) that he makes people interested in him. And it is not always going to be on a level that can be defined exactly as physical, sexual, or mental.

    Also- Moffat is responding to people about the ending:
    From his twitter:
    – "Ah, we shall agree to differ. Cos if needing rescued makes you a damsel, I'm one too. And Sherlock certainly is. Twice in that show."
    – "And that Sherlock is played for a fool throughout the episode and has to be TOLD what's going on by his big brother."
    – "She outsmarts him TWICE- kept photos, derailed Mycroft's plan. He outsmarts her ONCE, and by saving her admits he's equally smitten."

    So, what I'm thinking- is that according to Moffat- Irene is, indeed, playing a game because she works with emotional manipulation (just as Sherlock works with intellectual manipulation). And she is letting her emotions be part of the game. Even if it comes out to a complete gamble, and she doesn't always know what the results will be- be it even the 50% chance that she might lose her own life.

    TL;DR: I just have a lot of feelings. D:

  55. msnaddie says:

    I don't see why they couldn't have kept Irene's profession as an opera singer in the series – I wish they had. I mean, Sherlock plays the violin, it's not inconceivable that he would enjoy the operas and concertos as in Doyle's books. The main reason she had compromising pictures of the man she had an affair with in the book was because he basically looked down on her position in life and Sherlock basically coldly informed the kingthat he doesn't deserve her. And apparently she works in league with Moriarty? I dunno, this is basically why I don't like Moffat and Guy's portrayal of Irene.

  56. arnenieberding says:

    I was bothered by the ending as well. However, after reading up on the issue, I've calmed down. There is no question that Irene Adler was "downgraded" (being placed under Moriarty and her losing in the end), but her falling for Sherlock fits with the "emotion will be your downfall"-theme. I think Moffat wanted to build on that and this builds a good foundation for it to be the theme of this season…

    I do wonder why he made Adler a lesbian and then made her fall for Sherlock. Is she lying? Or perhaps it is a sign that sexuality isn't a matter of well-defined boxes, but a spectrum where people can have mixed orientations (e.g. a different romantic than sexual orientation), which might also mean that John has romantic, but not sexual feelings for Sherlock, or maybe Irene's sexuality might be fluid? That would be wonderful, but Moffat's track record isn't really helping me believe it (but I want to so badly!)

    However, this isn't the last we'll see of Irene Adler. Perhaps she'll beat Sherlock after all… Maybe I'm looking for excuses to enjoy this episode 100%, but I do believe there's some truth to my reasoning. Hopefully the upcoming episodes will reveal more.

    The scimitar troubled me, too :/

  57. Binx says:

    One additional thought:

    I was pretty "oh really?" when she triumphantly announced that she was "the woman who beat Sherlock Holmes" and all that was actually involved in her beating him was jabbing him with an injection while he had his guard down and back turned. That doesn't take a whole lot of wit and isn't really impressive. Anyone could have pretty much done that. That *that* was her triumphant win over him is a little sad.

    Let's just say that when I want to see someone completely pwn a legendary intellectual that is not how I picture it.

  58. Thumbs says:

    i'm gonna be the odd one because I actually wasn't bothered by a lot of Adler's portrayal. I was worried at first at the idea of her being a dominatrix not thinking it would work out. but actually thought it was very well portrayed. She uses sex to beat people, but lets be honest, that's really effective, it makes sense. Plus it kind of punches Sherlock in the face, that's never really been challenged before,and portrayed her as much more an opposite challenge to Holmes, as opposed to Moriarity which is a challenge because he runs on parallel lines. On the matter of her being "ungay" for Sherlock, it seems to me that fits more along the lines of the idea of the Kinsey scale. Watson is portrayed as a straight individual with his own love for Sherlock, to the point of being a couple. Adler feels to me like something similar happened, however since she's a professional dominatrix its going to translate sexually. not saying its perfect, but Sherlock and Watson have already kind of challenged "straight" "gay" "bi" so it kind of worked in its own way.

  59. Brieana says:

    I really liked the internet aspect of this. I thought it worked pretty well. I did pause the video and was able to read John's blog description which says that he's an experienced medical doctor who has just returned home. I feel that John should really work on that description because even though he got the blog initially to sort out his feelings about returning home from war, I get the feeling that that's not what it's about anymore and that's not why people are reading.

  60. Ellie.B. says:

    Personally I disagree with your feelings on Irene fancying Sherlock, though not in a stupid I-Hate-Your-Guts way.

    I felt this was an episode which looked at the idea of fluid sexuality. Irene identifies as a lesbian but cheerfully informs Sherlock that she'd sleep with him (or put him on a leash, either way). Its not reeeaally made clear what Sherlock's feelings are made towards her, though probably platonic, though we know he is asexual. John is also brought into this which is quite interesting; Irene suggests his attraction towards Sherlock is like hers in that its an exception to their normal sexual preference and thats okay.

    Damn those cheekbones of doom πŸ˜‰

  61. Silverr says:

    I too both loved and felt uneasy about the episode, but rather than restate waht others have said so eloquently, I thought I’d bring up something I haven’t seen tossed about much (though I can’t find where I first saw it posited to give credit) – the idea that the “rescue” didn’t happen, but was instead Sherlock’s fantasy.

    Would you say there’s any merit to this idea?

  62. Elisa says:

    I totally agree with you. I hated that Sherlock had to "save" her in the end. I hate that she somehow was betrayed by her own emotions, but of course HE has none and HE is always brilliant and OMG the code was HIS NAME. Good grief. This is as bad as that second episode of season two the the asian mafia.

    BUT I did love what he did to the man who hurt Mrs. Hudson. :))

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