1. There will be spoilers.
2. The most amusing part of Sherlock season 2, for me, was after J and I finished watching it. We were getting ready for bed and I was walking around, letting the dogs out and back in, turning off the lights, starting the dishwasher, and explaining with some vehemence that the original stories of “The Final Problem” and “The Adventure of the Empty House” are a retcon worthy of DC Comics.
I mean, Doyle wrote a straight-up no-takebacks death. He wrote a Grant-Morrison-killing-Magneto-and-Jean-Grey death, a “see what you’ll do with THAT, hahahahh!” scene. He wanted out, he wanted to be done with Holmes, and he killed him, fair and square.
Nine years later, he brought Holmes back.
I recently watched the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series. I simply find “The Adventure of the Empty House” to be asinine, to be ludicrous. I find nothing in it to be believable or to be fair to the reader. The whole things strikes me as similar to the Veronica Mars episode “Donut Run,” in which Veronica lies to the viewer and breaks the rules of the show. It wasn’t fair when Veronica did it, it wasn’t fair when Doyle did it, and I fully expect it to be gratuitously unfair when Sherlock will do it next season.
But at this point it’s traditional.
I watched “Reichenbach Fall” with a sort of malign glee. I know it’s going to be a take-back. And I know the take-back will be ridiculously awful and convoluted and heavy-handed and unfair to the viewer. That’s CANON. So I am actually totally looking forward to it. I feel that I am in on it, you understand. That we all know this is how it goes.
I’m glad that my long-canon-form-fannishness is cross-fandom. Comics, Sherlock Holmes, Jane Austen — things that have been around a while and have accumulated interpretations — all need a bit of understanding from a fan.
2. Speaking of interpretations!
Here’s the thing; Irene Adler is a canonical cipher. You can either write her as unknown and unknowable, and interesting only because of how Holmes reacts to her, or … or you can make her up.
Adler has one canonical short story. And she’s barely in it. All her cleverness is revealed in hindsight. We really get almost nothing.
But there are, frankly, three female characters in the Holmes canon. Mrs. Hudson, Watson’s wife, and Irene Adler. It’s no wonder to me that people trying to make the Holmes stories less … male … hang a lot of weight on Adler. Modern interpretations and adaptations, particularly, try to make her something more than the canon presents.
I like all the adaptations I’ve seen. I like the Adler Rachel McAdams plays in the recent films. I like the Adler in Laurie King’s Mary Russel books. I like the Adler I saw here, in “A Scandal in Belgravia.”
I like them because they are all attempts to demonstrate two things. First, what sort of woman would rattle Sherlock Holmes? Second, what does that woman’s personhood and agency look like?
People make all sorts of speculations and theories about Holmes and his sexuality, misogyny, asexuality, homosexuality, relationship to his mother, relationship to prostitutes — it’s endless. It’s endless in no small part because there is so little substantive canon. Does Holmes’ admiration for Adler have a sexual component? Maybe. If it does, why her and no other woman? What makes her so special?
You can see how this leads to all sorts of wide-ranging character types.
3. I read an essay, somewhere — and if you know whereof I speak, please tell me — discussing that Holmes and Watson look to us today as if they are in a homosexual relationship because of invisible prostitutes. Namely, because no-one writing in Victorian England put prostitutes in their fiction, yet all readers at the time knew, without being told, that unmarried men regularly visited such businesswomen. Two unmarried men living together as best friends would never be presumed to be anything resembling homosexuals, not because homosexuality was unknown, but because EVERYONE went to bordellos. One merely didn’t talk about it.
I find some of the “people will think we’re gay” in Sherlock to be funny, some to be tiresome, and some to be so trolling of slash fandom that I believe — based on no data — that it is deliberate.
4. I like this show. I’m looking forward to season 3.