A Scandal in Bohemia
"To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name."
So begins "A Scandal in Bohemia," in Watson's words. In the modern-day retelling ("A Scandal in Belgravia"), Irene Adler is already known as The Woman before Sherlock even meets her. But there is still the business of the photograph(s) and protection vs. blackmail. And Irene Adler is still as enigmatic as ever (albeit in a more forward way).
Here are some other similarities (with trademark Sherlock twists) between the original short story and the T.V. episode:
- Watson observes in "A Scandal in Bohemia" that "Holmes, who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature." The creators of Sherlock certainly capture this aspect of Sherlock's nature well, showing his constant need to be stimulated by his work and his inability (as well as his lack of desire) to function normally in society.
- In both versions of the story Sherlock is supposedly working for royalty. Although suffice it to say the older Sherlock's meeting with the King of Bohemia in his apartment is quite different than modern Sherlock's "meeting" at Buckingham Palace (where he is rather humorously under-dressed for the occasion!).
- In Doyle's story Sherlock steps into a fight and pretends to be attacked, thereby putting pressure on Irene Adler to bring him into her home and help him. A similar tactic is used in "A Scandal in Belgravia," except that the creators of the show use it as an opportunity for an interaction between Sherlock and Watson, having Sherlock ask Watson to punch him in the face... (More on that later!)
- Watson sounds the alarm in both stories (yelling "fire" in Doyle's story but setting off the smoke detector in the modern version) in order to aid Sherlock's search for the photograph(s).
- And, of course, Irene Adler manages to outwit Sherlock (up to a point in the modern show, however...).
- "You see, but you do not observe." (In "The Great Game," Sherlock says this same line in frustration to Inspector Lestrade.)
- "I am lost without my Boswell." (Sounds a lot like, "I am lost without my blogger" - also from "The Great Game"!)
- "The stage lost a fine actor, even as science lost an acute reasoner, when he [Sherlock] became a specialist in crime." (This brings to mind Mycroft's quote from "A Scandal in Belgravia" - "My brother has the brain of a scientist or a philosopher, yet he elects to be a detective. What might we deduce about his heart?")
"A Scandal in Bohemia" is an intriguing short story - and if you enjoyed "A Scandal in Belgravia" (or even if you chose/choose not see it), this is an enjoyable fast read that highlights some unique aspects of Sherlock Holmes' character as it places him in some surprising situations.
A Scandal in Belgravia
Because "A Scandal in Bohemia" is a rather quick story, "A Scandal in Belgravia" simply uses the bare bones of the story as a launching point for another complex, convoluted, and captivating episode of Sherlock. While the show in general is not for everyone, that especially applies to this particular episode. There's a nude scene, that (somehow) manages to keep from being explicit. There are sexual overtones in general, more gay references (not completely serious), and drug references - not to mention the obvious inclusion of violence (although not gory). Yet, there are some intriguing relational elements of this episode that are not to be missed (well, technically they can be, but they're really interesting!).
There's the humor that comes so naturally as a result of Sherlock's and Watson's friendship. For example...
- Watson asks Sherlock to clarify something he said... Sherlock: "I said, 'Punch me in the face.' Didn't you hear me?" Watson: "I always hear, 'Punch me in the face,' when you're speaking, but it's usually subtext."
Sherlock ultimately shows deep concern and affection for Mrs. Hudson, the landlady. He apologizes (!) to Molly for hurting her feelings. And it's his friendship with Watson that remains a constant throughout his unusual up-and-down interactions with Irene Adler.
Sherlock becomes more aware of his oftentimes cold and sometimes cruel ways in "A Scandal in Belgravia." But growth takes time, and no one is perfect. Slowly but surely it seems that Sherlock in this show is learning that there is life beyond his work, and that people do indeed have feelings (even if he does not always acknowledge any feelings in himself). We as the viewers can see just how wondrous it is when a person such as Sherlock shows that he is, after all, human (as Watson aptly notes at the beginning of the episode) and makes the effort to care about someone else.
As for the plot of this episode, well... I confess after seeing it just the one time so far, I think I got rather lost. Maybe it's just me, but there seems to be a lot going on! I'm sure that, like the other Sherlock episodes, each subsequent viewing will offer plenty of laughs and new insights.
More Sherlock, Please!
- Learn more about "A Scandal in Belgravia" on the episode's page on the PBS Masterpiece website.
- Read Ruth's thoughts on "A Scandal in Belgravia" on her blog, Booktalk & More.
- Read my thoughts on the second episode ("The Hounds of Baskerville") in this second season of Sherlock.
- Read my previous Sherlock Double Feature - A Study in Scarlet (and Pink).