CliqueClack TV

Sherlock – The arch-enemy, the woman, and the bromance

The season 2 premiere of BBC's 'Sherlock' was fast-paced, furious, brilliant, and far too complicated for me to analyze on my own, which is why fellow clacker Katie helped me break it down.

- Season 2, Episode 1 - "A Scandal in Belgravia"
Katie: For me, Irene was close, but just slightly too sexual. I know she was originally an actress and singer, which meant something more scandalous back in the 1800s, but having her be a dominatrix went just a little too far for me. I didn’t mind her sexuality being at the forefront in the show, but it might have gone just a little too far with it. Traditionally, Irene is sexy, but a little more subtle about it. If I was asked what Irene would be today, I’d say more of a Dita von Tease-level burlesque star who happens to work on the side as a high-class mistress. Having Irene’s first onscreen scene be her butt in a thong seems just a little too … Michael Bay.
Julia: It was gratuitous, but I just assumed it was to show that Sherlock is supposed to be the master of reason, whereas in contrast, Irene is the master of human emotion and desire. And that totally could have been shown more subtly, but when you’ve got that much plot (and there was so much plot, I had to watch it twice to understand most of it) to pack into 90 minutes, I can’t exactly bring myself to be mad at them for going “fuck it, we don’t have time for subtlety” and just going for it.
Katie: What did work with Irene was her chemistry with Sherlock. I believe their relationship and I believe the amount of respect Sherlock has for her. But the two of them work best when they’re both being their brainy selves. I started really liking Irene when she and Sherlock go through the hiker’s death. As funny as her shock and awe method of introduction was, I only started believing her as Irene when she started really talking to Sherlock and not trying to seduce him.

The best thing about this episode is how you do see Sherlock grow. As cruel as he can be about relationships and love, he backed down when he saw Molly’s gift was for him. He even apologized, which shocked the hell out of John. And I loved how protective Sherlock and John were for Mrs. Hudson. There is development there, if slowly.

On the other hand, John seems to be taking on Sherlock’s tendancies to not create relationships. I was really disappointed that Sarah from series one was written off off-screen, but at the same time I know that dating John couldn’t be easy with such a legendary bromance (that’s right, I said it. Bromance.)

Julia: I always really bristle at the term “bromance.” It seems so patronizing and dismissive of a whole spectrum of male-male relationships, like it implies that men can’t really form deep and meaningful friendships the way women do. Either they’re frat bros, gay, or we have to make up some cutesy name for what they mean to each other, because heaven forbid men can’t have relationships that aren’t defined by whether their dick is in either the “on” or “off” setting.
I’d describe both Irene and John’s relationships with Sherlock as romantic, but neither of them as necessarily sexual. Sherlock loves and admires both of them, and they both care deeply for him. Granted, his relationship with Irene isn’t exactly a healthy or sustainable for prolonged periods of time, but still, it’s an intellectual romance, if not a physical one.
John and Sherlock are partners in every sense of the word. John cares for Sherlock above all others, and Sherlock trusts John more than anyone else. If Irene and Sherlock have a volatile, tempestuous and mental love affair, John and Sherlock are the exact opposite. They’re like the ultimate comfort blanket relationship. They get each other. They’re not trying to change each other or make each other better, they do just by dint of being around each other. Before John, Sherlock would have had no idea that he should apologize to Molly, much less have done it. (And I loved both of their relationship with Mrs. Hudson as their ersatz mother. It was adorable.) The John we see this episode who’s happy, healthy, and fulfilled by what he’s doing with his life is eons away from the dead-faced and temperamental John we met in the pilot episode. And if love isn’t defined by two people who share their lives, unreservedly accept each other’s flaws, and make each other better versions of themselves simply by being together, then I’m not sure what it is.
Katie: I totally get the bristling at “bromance,” but I see the term as a positive thing in some situations — two men that are emotional and comfortable with each other. That’s what it means to me, at least, and for the most part I’ve heard the phrase used as a positive thing rather than a condescending thing. Truth be told, Sherlock is probably more emotionally open with John than any other person on earth, so I’m OK with calling their relationship a bromance.
Something we’ve kind of danced around while talking about the episode is how the show let us know that time has passed since the Great Game. While that montage ended up being a much bigger surprise plot point, its first job was to let us know that time has passed. The boys are closer now because they’ve gone through a number of cases together. And I love that. Also, I don’t care that it was breaking the fourth wall like crazy, I loved and laughed like crazy at Sherlock grabbing the Deerstalker hat. It made me far too giddy for my own good.
Julia: There were so many great moments in between all the seriousness, like the deerstalker cap, and Mrs. Hudson hiding the phone in her bra, or her trying to clean the fridge and finding toes, or John and Sherlock yelling at Mycroft in unison when he dares insult Mrs. Hudson, or Mycroft revealing that Sherlock wanted to be a pirate when he was little. Or there’s my other personal favorite besides Moriarty’s ringtone, which is when Sherlock not only goes to Buckingham Palace naked, but you’ll notice that John makes some comment about wanting to steal an ashtray, and then in the taxi scene right after, you see Sherlock tucking an ashtray (presumably from the palace) into his coat. I like to pretend that John keeps that ashtray, like, on his bedside table or on his desk in a place of honor, the way a proud parent would put their kid’s drawing on the refrigerator.
Katie: Another great moment: when John and Sherlock are just sitting in Buckingham Palace, laughing at the absurdity of their situation. You really believe their friendship in a way they didn’t quite achieve in series one because there just wasn’t enough time. They’re building really strong characters, which is my number one requirement for a favorite show.
Photo Credit: BBC

One Response to “Sherlock – The arch-enemy, the woman, and the bromance”

January 5, 2012 at 2:32 PM

I’m so glad that someone has articulated why the character of Irene Adler is not the feminist anathema that she has been portrayed as in several media articles. She managed to hoodwink both Mycroft and Sherlock after all.

I found this episode of Sherlock illuminating in it’s portrayal of the eponymous hero’s flaws: his emotional immaturity, his lack of perception when it comes to understanding emotions and the holes in his “infallibility”. In particular, it referenced the cases he didn’t solve and the fact that Irene pulled the wool over his eyes several times in this episode.

I think that they played up the “romance” and emotional aspects of the Irene Adler story to show his more human side. Possibly, to set up a plotline later on.

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