Pulse Pause Moments – A Scandal In Belgravia – Sherlock

If you’ve only read a couple of the original Sherlock Holmes stories before, or only watched the two movies with Robert Downey Jnr., you’re probably wondering how on earth Sherlock Holmes could end up in one of my Pulse Pause posts.

I’ve actually been waiting impatiently to write this post for about three weeks now, although in fact, I could have written it anywhere in the last fifteen years.  But what has changed in the last three weeks is that now I have back-up confirmation.  Proof, if you will, that Sherlock is not the dry, academic, intellectual and boring character that most obsessed romantics like me steer clear of.

No, he’s driven, passionate and highly emotional.  He just doesn’t want to be.  He doesn’t like emotions.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

After scrupulously avoiding the BBC’s Sherlock for weeks because of what I considered to be various infractions, I finally caved about a month ago, and reluctantly gave it a go.  For a full run down on the crater the series made in my life and the fallout that ensued, click here.

A Scandal In Belgravia is the first episode in the second season, and up until that point the series had completely captured my attention.  Scandal made me a fan.  I haven’t been a fan of a series, movie or actor for a long, long time.  When you consider that “fan” is derived from the word “fanatic”…well, I don’t like to call myself a fan of anything unless I really mean it.

There are dozens of reasons why the episode…well, movie, really — it’s 90 minutes long — makes any romance reader’s heart stutter to a stop.  Some of them are hard to enumerate without laying down dreadful spoilers.  I’ll tread carefully, because I want to encourage you like crazy to go get a copy of both seasons and watch them for yourself.  The end of the second season will leave you weeping, I absolutely guarantee it.

But, back to Scandal and its pulse-pausing moments. The episode is loosely based upon the original short story by Conan Doyle, “A Scandal in Bohemia”, which also featured Irene Adler getting the better of Sherlock Holmes, the only female antagonist ever to do so.

The most interesting aspect of the episode is that this is a romance that was not consummated, yet the sexual tension was thick enough to float croutons.  For example, when Sherlock cracked a near impossible code inside five seconds, Irene looks up at him:

IRENE (intensely): I would have you right here on this desk until you begged for mercy twice.

(The two of them stare at each other for a long moment before Sherlock speaks again.)

SHERLOCK (with his eyes still locked on Irene’s): John, please can you check those flight schedules; see if I’m right?

JOHN (vaguely, overcome by all the sex in the air): Uh-huh. I’m on it, yeah.

(Clearing his throat, he starts to type on his laptop. Sherlock and Irene continue to stare at each other.)

SHERLOCK: I’ve never begged for mercy in my life.

IRENE (emphatically): Twice.

Surprisingly it isn’t an issue that there is no consummation to the romance — well, there’s no sex, anyway.  In many respects the romance is fully formed and completed — but again, I can’t get specific.  For these characters and this story it works.  It’s fitting.  You’re not left feeling dissatisfied in any way, because actions speak much, much louder than any words or endless amounts of sex could.  I’ve written before about Sherlock’s reticence when it comes to dealing with love, and inconvenient emotions that get in the way of his work.

In a very old post of mine where I was talking about Sherlock Holmes as a highly emotional man I wrote:

“But actions speak louder than words.  Holmes does not ever speak of what lies in his heart, but what he does to protect and finally, to revenge Elizabeth, shouts to the rooftops what he is incapable of saying aloud.”

Sherlock Holmes Had A Secret Lover?

In Scandal, too, Sherlock says it all by what he does.  But the creators of Sherlock have admitted that they, too, drew on The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes for some of their inspiration for the character of this new Sherlock, just as I did for mine, so the coincidence isn’t quite the surprise it might be.

In Scandal, the romance is all played out in their heads…and their hearts.  This is very much a heart-breaking episode, with shocking twists and turns that even took me by surprise and I am nobody’s fool when it comes to plotting out a story, and with my expertise on all things Sherlock, I should have seen some of them.  But the emotions in the story got me and I ended up just watching the episode as a viewer, my mind not working ahead of the writer — a very rare and unusual treat for me.

This is the episode when Sherlock comes face to face with love and has to deal with it.  He tries to keep it at a distance and it doesn’t work.   Of course, Irene is not a good woman, so in the end, Sherlock’s intellect is what saves the day, but the damage has been done.  His heart has been lost, and the tie to Irene Adler — “The Woman” — is in place.

Unfortunately, I have to talk in generalities to avoid spoilers.

But here’s a glimpse of some moments that don’t give everything away, altogether.

Sherlock’s first glimpse of Irene, in person, is when she walks into her lounge room wearing nothing but high heels and a smile.  Dr. Watson asks her to cover up, and Sherlock says it’s because Watson doesn’t know where to look.  Irene replies it’s because Watson knows exactly where to look, but she doesn’t know about Sherlock…

In the next few minutes, he learns from her where she is hiding photographs she is apparently using to blackmail the royal family – they’re in a safe in the same room they’re standing in, hidden behind a painting.  Sherlock studies the number pad for the safe’s lock and Irene laughs and says she’s already given him the code.

That’s when the CIA bust in and demand that Sherlock open the safe or they will shoot Dr. Watson.  Sherlock protests that he doesn’t know the combination.  The CIA insists they listened to Adler tell him she had given him the code, so open the goddam safe, or Dr. Watson dies.

And Sherlock glances at Irene, who looks downwards…

Sherlock turns and punches in 32-24-34 and the safe opens, only to kill the CIA operative with a booby-trapped gun.  When the fuss is over Irene smiles at Sherlock and compliments him.  “Thank you. You were very observant.  I’m flattered.”

The safe’s opening combination were her measurements.

The most heart-rending moments — the ones that really stop your pulse — come with the biggest plot spoilers, so unfortunately, I can’t relay them here.  (The fact that there’s so little I can relate without giving away the plot shows exactly how tightly written the show is – brownie points to the producers and writers.)

If you’ve seen Scandal, then you can nod along with me:

  1. Sherlock and Watson yelling at Mycroft for swearing at Mrs. Hudson
  2. Christmas at Baker Street — the entire scene.  Wow!
  3. At the morgue — even better.
  4. Battersea Power Station.  The whole scene.  (Martin Freeman is brilliant and so deserved his BAFTA award!)
  5. Mrs. Hudson’s rescue.
  6. …and after.
  7. Cracking the code.
  8. “Will you have dinner with me?”
  9. Flight 007.
  10. The showdown – “I am _ _ _ _ locked.”
  11. “Run!”

Of course, this is all gibberish if you haven’t see Scandal.  But I know there are a few Sherlock fans that read this blog, and I’m hoping if you’re not a fan yet, you might give this new show a try…it’s worth it!

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9 Comments

  1. Jennifer Crowley April 16, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    I felt like you were talking directly to me!

    My fiance and I have been watching it again (I’ve watched it several times, but I was hesitant to recommend it to him. We have wildly different tastes, and if I recommend something he doesn’t end up liking, I have to re-build up my recommend-cred before he’ll watch something I want him to watch again). The series is hard for him, because Sherlock isn’t necessarily a likable character, but I thought the who-dun-nit aspect would draw Michael (my fiance) in.

    SPOILERS AHEAD!

    Sherlock and Watson yelling at Mycroft for swearing at Mrs. Hudson – YES! Oh gosh, I mean, Mrs. Hudson in many ways is like a mother to the two lonely boys. I love series about people who “build” their families (like Firefly), and this really resonated with me. Sherlock yelling, and then later, “Mrs. Hudson leaving Baker St? England would fall first.”

    Christmas at Baker Street — the entire scene. Wow! “You always say such cruel things” And for a moment, you nearly see the regret on Sherlock’s face. He really didn’t mean to hurt her… was almost ribbing her like a brother might.

    At the morgue — even better. “who was she to him that he knew her… by not her face?”

    Battersea Power Station. The whole scene. (Martin Freeman is brilliant and so deserved his BAFTA award! YES YES YES!)

    Mrs. Hudson’s rescue. Great.

    …and after *Points to above*

    Flight 007. LOVE how it ties into the very beginning of the episode. So cool!
    The showdown – “I am _ _ _ _ locked.” The funny thing is, I was always paying so much attention to the actor’s faces in this episode, that I didn’t notice what the screen said until this watch-through.

    “Run!” Somehow, I think this is almost a happy ending for the two of them… partly because I’m not sure Sherlock emotionally could handle a sexual relationship with anyone. I think the fact that he can love Irene from afar is enough, with the hope that later, perhaps they both can change and grow enough to be together. I think if they tried to make it work now in their relationship, they might break each other, quite unintentionally. It’s like you were saying about the Count of Monte Cristo, where they both grow and change and are different than they were when they met, but the changes they both go through pull them together.

    On a side note, I think there could be a pulse-pause moments written about Sherlock and Watson in this series. Not that they are necessarily romantically inclined toward each other, but there are some ways in which the show gives us enough fodder to ‘ship them, or at least analize their arch through a romantic lens.

    If we were going to talk about pulse-pausing moments for these two, the Hounds of Baskerville and the whole, “I don’t have friends” would be a great talk about it. Not that I’m telling you what to do.

    • Tracy April 16, 2012 at 3:22 pm

      Hi Jennifer:

      Clearly, the series and this particular episode has bitten you, too.

      I know what you mean about being wary about recommending it, though. My husband Mark *hated* the first episode, because he couldn’t find Sherlock’s character in the least bit sympathetic when he was so rude and antisocial (which is the absolute opposite of Mark). I watched the rest of the two seasons alone, but my raving about this episode moved Mark enough to try it…and he was astonished at the end. “They didn’t even kiss!” he protested when it was over. “With all your obsessing over this, I figured they’d be doing it every five minutes! And they didn’t even SAY anything romantic!!!” And so I think I have permanently scarred him and turned him off Sherlock forever. And yes, I think my recommendation credit balance is in the basement for a good long while. 🙂

      As for Sherlock and John. Well, yes, there are a ton of moments between those two. I think one of the best, quite apart from the “friends” moment in Baskerville, and the horrific rooftop “note” scene in The Final Problem (which reduces me to a puddle of tears still, every time I watch it), is when Sherlock refuses to be a hero for John, choosing to remain human and flawed, instead. I’m trying to remember the phrasing. It’s from the Great Game, and the sequence starts with Sherlock saying something like “Oh, I’ve disappointed you.”

      …so I went and found the quote:

      John: “So why is he doing this then? Playing this game with you? Do you think he wants to be caught?”
      Sherlock: “I think he wants to be distracted.”
      John: “Well, I hope you’ll be very happy together.”
      Sherlock: “…sorry, what?”
      John: “There are lives at stake, Sherlock! Actual human lives! Just so I know, do you care about that at all?”
      Sherlock: “Would caring about them help to save them?”
      John: “No.”
      Sherlock: “Then I’ll continue not to make that mistake.”
      John: “And you find that easy, do you?”
      Sherlock: “Yes, very. Is that news to you?”
      John: “No… no.”
      Sherlock: “… I’ve disappointed you.”
      John: “It’s good. It’s a good deduction, yes.”
      Sherlock: “Don’t make people into heroes, John: heroes don’t exist, and if they did I wouldn’t be one of them.”

      From “The Great Game” – BBC’s Sherlock

      It sounds like Sherlock is being callous, but what he’s really doing is refusing to play Moriarty’s game. Which, ultimately, was just as well.

      But you make a good point, Jennifer. There’s enough pulse-pausing moments between John and Sherlock that it’s worth a post all on it’s own. I’ll add it to the calendar.

      t.

      • Jennifer Crowley April 16, 2012 at 4:13 pm

        “Don’t make people into heroes, John: heroes don’t exist, and if they did I wouldn’t be one of them.” Ah, but there, I think that is a moment when Sherlock is lying – or if not lying, he’s being a hero, but in a way that John doesn’t realize, not seeing the big picture the way Sherlock does. Because I think Sherlock does care – but caring won’t save people. He can’t allow himself the caring, because that is intellect and thought he could be spending on beating Moiarty.

        We know from the elder Holmes that Sherlock wanted to be a pirate when he was a child, and even though he has the mind of a scientist, he chooses to solve mysteries. (So we know there IS a sentimental side of Sherlock, and even a romantic side – look at the grand gesture of saving Irene Adler – the cell phone, etc). He solves mysteries for reasons beside the fact that it displays his intellect and offers him a challenge (there are many other fields that he could have the same satisfaction).

        He COULD be a criminal like Moriarty – he has the ability and the connections. He even says to Moiarty that he might be on “the side of the angels” BUT “he is not one of them.” This I think, proves that Sherlock is heroic, because it is his choice to be on the side of good, it is not, like perhaps John, a natural thing, but a conscious choice.

        This circles back to the statement in the first season, where the detective says “he is a great man, and some day, if we’re very very lucky, he might even be a good one.” I think the series is watching become that good one, because in many ways John (again, the transformative heroine, except it’s John). Mycroft even sees this, and says such to John.

        … and somewhere in here there was a final point, but I have lost it.

        • Tracy April 17, 2012 at 5:50 am

          Actually, I think you did make your point quite nicely, anyway. The scene perfectly underscores the fact that Sherlock is a highly emotional man who would much rather not have to deal with emotions. Any emotions.

          He’s set up his life in such a way he can generally avoid emotions…but he IS human, and they do sneak up and smack him around, and he has to learn how to deal with them.

          Sherlock’s success (or not) in learning how to deal with emotions (and all the human stuff that goes with them – like friendships, relationships, etc) will be the deciding factors in what makes him a great man.

          t.

  2. Andrewson April 17, 2012 at 5:18 am

    Nice post

    • Tracy April 17, 2012 at 5:40 am

      Thanks!

      t.

  3. Naomi Bellina April 19, 2012 at 9:38 am

    I’ve just started to watch this on Netflix, after reading one of your posts, Tracy. Are there only three episodes in the first season? That’s all I’m seeing, but sometimes Netflix is kind of slow. They get me hooked, then take it away. Like Spartacus. But I won’t go into that now, the day has been pleasant so far.

    • Tracy April 19, 2012 at 9:46 am

      Hi Naomi:

      Yes, there’s only three episodes per season. It’s a strangely constructed series – you get three 90 minute episodes per season, and no ad breaks because it’s the BBC, so it’s a solid 90 minutes each. It’s like three movies per season.

      Netflix aren’t holding out on you, so your day can continue to be pleasant. 🙂

      Looking forward to chatting with you tomorrow, too!

      Cheers,

      Tracy

  4. Katheryn Wallis March 18, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    You’re so right about all of this. I just had to comment because you mentioned what a tearjerker The Reichenbach Fall is, and I had to agree. I rewatched this just the other night and sobbed through most of it.

    I especially love all the little nods and digs at the books/stories – they don’t mess up viewers who haven’t read Doyle, but if you have, they provide an extra level of enjoyment. My favorite so far is “Rache” – in the first episode Sherlock slams Anderson for his interpretation of the word and says it’s something else… but in the book it actually plays out in completely the opposite way. I love that playfulness.

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