Sherlock recap: A Scandal in Belgravia – warning spoilers

So, because I’m a late Sherlock fan, I managed to miss this episode. I got hooked because of “The Hound of Baskerville.” That’s the reason why this recap is coming so late. As always, please note there will be spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t watched it yet, please don’t go any further.

The last episode of season one had Sherlock and Watson in a public pool, standing off with Moriarty. We saw ghostly red dots of sniper rifles dancing on Holmes and Watson. Meanwhile, Holmes is pointing a gun at coat full of explosives that Moriarty had strapped onto Watson earlier in the episode (I won’t go into the details, because that’s its own recap).

It’s a tense moment, but because I’ve seen the rest of the season, I know it’ll sort itself out. How does it? Suddenly, in this tense moment, we hear the strains of “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees (a quick side note, I was thinking a lot about the Bee Gees lately because of the recent death of Robin Gibb). Moriarty uses the disco classic as his ring tone. Mobiles are very important in this episode – it’s a recurring theme. Because Moriarty is nuts, he takes the call, but not before silently mouthing an apology – and Holmes, ever the gentleman, graciously accepts.

Suddenly, Moriarty seems annoyed. He gets some interesting news that he’s sceptical of and warns the caller that if the news is a lie, he’ll “skin” him/her. He then announces to Holmes and Watson that it’s not time to die and lets them live.

So it’s back to “normal” life for our heroes. For some who will remember, Watson has become a blogger, documenting the cases the pair take on. Because of his site, Holmes has become an Internet celebrity and well-sought after – there’s a great moment, by the way, when Holmes is dashing into a throng of reporters and dons a hunting cap to shield his face from the cameras – a wonderful nod to the classic image of Holmes, so undone by this modern retelling.

There’s more bits of funny throughout this episode. While working on a case of a murder in the countryside, Holmes and Watson are summoned to Buck House by Sherlock’s enigmatic brother, Mycroft. It appears that a young female royal is into S&M and has been a client of a popular dominatrix, Irene Adler (yup, the same Irene Adler from the original Conan Doyle stories); Adler has some very compromising pics of the royal and Mycroft orders Sherlock and Watson to get those pics back. Oh, and Sherlock is naked during this meeting. Yup, Sherlock Holmes is being entertained at the residence of Queen Elizabeth II, wearing just a bed sheet.

So  because Sherlock’s Sherlock, he thinks he the shit and knows everything. They get up to Adler’s home by having Holmes pretend he’s a mugged vicar. Adler’s no fool and she’s been expecting them. She saunters into the living room naked. I wasn’t sure if this was to a) shake Holmes up or b) prevent Holmes from doing that whole, scanning someone’s clothing to deduce where she’d been, who she met, and what did she have for breakfast. He asks for the phone, but she refuses. Watson, meanwhile trips the fire alarm and Sherlock sees that Adler’s instinctively looks at a large mirror – the phone’s in a safe behind the mirror. He wants the combination, which Adler says he knows. Before anything else can happen, a bunch of CIA ops burst into the room and hold everyone at gunpoint. One of them demands that Holmes opens the safe and threatens to kill Watson if he doesn’t; after some hesitation, he figures it out and punches out the numbers – except – surprise! the safe’s booby-trapped. Holmes is able to duck out in time, but one of the CIA guys is killed. Adler apparently can kick serious ass, because she subdues her CIA guy with some nifty Karate work.

Adler asks for her phone back – of course, Sherlock refuses. So what’s a dominatrix to do? She knocks him out with a sedative and then beats him up with a riding crop. She gets her phone just as Watson comes into the room. She smugly tells Watson that the combination to the safe was her measurements (very sexy) and then like a female James Bond (and Ian Fleming’s character comes back later in the ep), she slips out of a window.

Sherlock comes to and realizes the phone’s gone. Adler’s also done a naughty thing: she’s hacked into his phone and replaced his ringtone with the sound of a woman’s orgasm – each time she texts him, Sherlock’s phone climaxes.

Six months whizz by and Adler’s been texting him. One day he gets a text from her, but this isn’t funny – he realizes she’ll be dead. She sent him her phone, too – with a code that even he can’t crack. Unfortunately, Sherlock’s premonition is right – he identifies her body at the morgue. Because Sherlock’s been thrown for a loop so much in this episode so far, I was hoping he’d be wrong about this.

Later on, Watson follows a hot woman to some abandoned building. He expects to see Mycroft, because that’s how Holmes’ brother got Watson’s attention in the last season. Except it’s not Mycroft. It’s Adler. This is a bit that gets a little formulaic – she fakes her own death because she’s in danger. Sherlock knows of Adler’s survival also, because he followed Watson – a strange detail that never really gets explained (the only thing I can come up with is that Sherlock’s so protective of his friend, he can’t let him out of his sight? I dunno).

When he gets back home, he sees that the CIA thugs broke in and are holding Mrs. Hudson hostage. She’s crying and blubbery. Nielson, the lead of this gang offers Sherlock Mrs. Hudson for the phone. Sherlock demands the other two leave and then he quickly subdues Nielson. Oh, and throws him out of a window. As you do. This is, again, a moment where Sherlock gets to show his cuddly side – as cuddly as Sherlock allows.

Later in the kitchen, Watson insists that Mrs. Hudson should leave and stay with her sister until the danger passes. Mrs. Hudson waves off his suggestion and produces the phone from inside her shirt – see, Mrs. Hudson isn’t the useless dotty old woman. Sherlock then proclaims England would “fall” if Mrs. Hudson left 221 B Baker Street.

So Adler and Holmes meet up again – and if this sounds confusing – don’t worry, it’s really well done. She shows Sherlock her phone with a code she wants deciphering. It’s a code from the Ministry of Defense – Sherlock of course has no problem and sees it to be an airline seat number. Adler pings a text to Moriarty, who then lets Mycroft know that he knows of the Ministry’s plan to hoodwink a terrorist group intent on blowing up an airplane.

Sherlock and Alder have an almost-canoodle – she tries to seduce him, but they’re interrupted by government blokes who take Sherlock to Heathrow. While on his way, Sherlock talks about the Conventry Blitz – when the British government allowed for bombings to happen so that the Nazi wouldn’t know that their codes have been cracked. So of course, I’m thinking Mycroft and the government are asshats for letting a plane full of people to blow up just to keep their secrets.

But Mycroft is a crafty character. He meets his famed brother on a plane full of dead bodies. The explosion was going to happen, but no casualties – just corpses – quick flashback to all these folks who visit Holmes asking for help, link them to these dead passengers. Sherlock realizes that he had a hand in junking up this plot. Adler, Sherlock and Mycroft discuss matters – she demands protection. Because she can’t leave it alone, she teases Sherlock, telling him that she felt nothing for him. Back when they were almost-intimate, Sherlock stroked her arm – what he was really doing was taking her pulse – he realized through her accelerated pulse at the time, that she did have feelings. He then figures out the code to get into her phone: SHER – the screen then reads “I am SHER-locked.” With her hand empty, she begs for mercy, but both Holmeses refuse.

Again more months jump forward. It’s rainy in London (I know, big surprise, huh?). Watson and Mycroft meet at a cafe on Baker Street. Mycroft tells Watson that Adler has been executed by a terrorist cell in Pakistan. Again, Mycroft surprises us with his humanity by asking that Watson lie and say she’s in a witness protection program in the States. Watson lies to Holmes to spare his friend’s feelings. Sherlock muses and smiles to himself: In a flashback it’s revealed that Sherlock was disguised as Adler’s executioner and saved her life. A happy ending.

So, I was very curious to see just how Irene Adler would’ve been included in this modern retelling and I think the writers did a great job. Some feminists complained of her depiction – I’m usually in tune with feminist sensibilities, but I’m not seeing the issue (it may be because I’m a guy and have an internalized blind spot). Maybe it’s her depiction of being a sort-of hooker that may offend – it’s a fair charge. It would’ve been interesting to see if Adler was recast as a crime boss of some kind – a godmother of sorts.

Also, it was interesting to see the Christmas celebration. Molly, the pathologist who has a crush on Sherlock, was treated like crap by him – this  a great illustration of just how cracked Sherlock really is – he can carry on relationships with Mrs. Hudson and Watson – they tolerate his idiosyncrasies, but with Molly, it came off as cruel.

Also Watson’s date (played by Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter – fun trivia fact) expressed a concern a lot of us have: how is he going to have a normal, functioning relationship, when he’s tethered to Sherlock? Without even notice, he’ll sweep into Watson’s life and demand assistant and attention. Maybe the two are fated for a life of confirmed bachelorhood. I like Watson and would like to see him settle down with someone, but his lot in life seems to exclude this.

Now, that I’m completely caught up, I’m also completely invested in the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. I cannot wait to see how the third season will work out: I also hope that Adler will make more appearances.



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