Don’t get me wrong now. I loved the finale. It was brilliant and gorgeous and just overall well-done. The plot twists! The emotions! The acting! Yes, good.
But I’m still a bit disappointed that the writers chose to use the character I call “adaptation!Irene.”
But there is one big problem that I haven’t seen anyone touch on. One major change from the canon that leads to all of the smaller problems with Irene. One major change that is at the core of what pulls the rug out from under those of us who loved the original Scandal in Bohemia story. One major change that betrays a complete misunderstanding of the point of A Scandal in Bohemia and the real reason Irene Adler could win against Sherlock Holmes and walk away from him scott free holding everything she ever wanted.
Stephen Moffat and Guy Ritchie made the exact same mistake that a million fanfic and pastiche writers have before them. They looked at the Rogues Gallery of Sherlock Holmes for a formidable female villain, someone with potential for romance and intrigue, and picked out the perfect-seeming Irene Adler. This is understandable. She’s popular among fans, particularly female ones. She’s one of his best known opponents, possibly the best known after Moriarty. She looks good in a suit. Her story involves political and sexual intrigue. She’s cunning and resourceful. She won.
There’s just one small problem.
Irene Adler isn’t actually in the Rogues Gallery of Sherlock Holmes.
Look back at A Scandal in Bohemia. She’s not the bad guy. She’s the good guy. Sherlock’s client is the bad guy, wrongly pestering his ex-girlfriend and painting her as a extortionist when all she wants to do is live her life. He lied to Sherlock Holmes. Her explanation for trying to keep a little insurance against future bad behavior from this man is perfectly understandable. The entire story is a misunderstanding.
And that, more than anything else, is why she got to win. Because in addition to being his equal, beating him fair and square, she was also on the side of right and he was the manipulated one.
Listing her among his “villains” is like listing Spider-man as a Daredevil villain.
Ragnell, “How do you solve a problem like Irene?”
This was originally written in response to A Scandal in Belgravia and A Game of Shadows, but I think it applies equally to Elementary’s interpretation of the character.
One other thing not touched on in this section but also pointed out in the article is particularly germain to Elementary’s choices: Irene is memorable because she beats Sherlock. Elementary did a good job of trying to preserve that, but when they turned her into Moriarty, they guaranteed she wouldn’t win, not in the end, not really. She would never be allowed to waltz off into the sunset and live happily ever after, which is her great victory in Scandal. Irene Adler, average citizen, is allowed to show up the great detective. Irene Adler, average citizen, is the person we should feel good rooting for, and the person who deserves to come out on top. But Moriarty?
Moriarty is a villain, and villains have to lose.
You barely knew her.
The Woman featuring Irene Adler, Vogue UK
Irene Adler (green) → asked by iadler
this is how I want you to remember me; for wasamazing
35/100 photos of Sherlock2
To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen…. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.