I wrote this post in April 2012 and cannot believe it was six years ago now. I still remember watching this particular episode of Sherlock, and being blown away by it. I thought I’d bring it forward, because even though the BBC series is now in hiatus, possibly never to return, the episodes are all much easier to access now, via streaming services including NetFlix, so even if you’re a little bit curious, you can check out the series.
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.”
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:
- Sherlock and Watson yelling at Mycroft for swearing at Mrs. Hudson
- Christmas at Baker Street — the entire scene. Wow!
- At the morgue — even better.
- Battersea Power Station. The whole scene. (Martin Freeman is brilliant and so deserved his BAFTA award!)
- Mrs. Hudson’s rescue.
- …and after.
- Cracking the code.
- “Will you have dinner with me?”
- Flight 007.
- The showdown – “I am _ _ _ _ locked.”
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!
And forgive me for the BSP moment, but if you have seen Scandal in Belgravia, and want more, check out my thinly disguised romantic suspense series retelling the Sherlock Holmes story surrounding the Great Hiatus and his exploits during World War I.
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