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Was Sherlock In Love With Irene Adler (& What That Would Mean)?

Sherlock season 2 introduced Irene Adler, and her presence left a big question: did Sherlock fall in love with her? The answer is complicated.

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most popular literary characters and as such has been adapted to all types of media for over a century, but many aspects about him are still a mystery, such as his feelings for Irene Adler, which the TV series Sherlock made more confusing. Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes made his debut in 1887 in A Study in Scarlet and became widely popular when the first series of short stories was published in The Strand Magazine, beginning with “A Scandal in Bohemia”, which introduced viewers to Irene Adler.

As mentioned above, Sherlock Holmes and his many cases have been adapted to all types of media for years, and he has always been accompanied by Doyle’s most memorable characters: John Watson, Inspector Lestrade, Moriarty, and Irene Adler. All of them made it to one of the most recent and successful adaptations of the Great Detective: the BBC’s Sherlock, created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat and starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the title character. Sherlock brought the detective and company to modern-day London, adapting and combining some of his most notable cases and giving them a modern touch, but that also meant making some big changes to some characters, as was the case of Irene Adler (played by Lara Pulver).

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Irene Adler made her debut in Sherlock season 2’s premiere episode “A Scandal in Belgravia”, and she was made into a dominatrix known as “The Woman”. In order to protect herself, she took photos of her clients during her job so she could blackmail them if needed, which led to Sherlock being called into a case involving her. Sherlock and Irene had a connection never seen before or after in the detective’s life, which has made way for the question of whether Sherlock was in love with Irene or not – and the answer is complicated.


Sherlock Irene Adler season 2

In the books, Sherlock refers to Irene as “The Woman” not out of romantic interest but due to fascination and respect as she managed to outsmart him. Watson notes that his friend has no romantic interest in Irene or other women, and instead shows platonic admiration for her wit. However, back in 2012, Cumberbatch shared that Sherlock fell in love with Irene in the show, explaining that he “fell for her charms” and he was “no longer the logical machine” when he was in front of her. This hasn’t stopped the debate on whether Sherlock loved Irene Adler or not, as there’s also the wide belief that Sherlock was actually in love with John Watson, but as he had a hard time processing and showing his feelings, he kept it to himself. Other interpretations of Sherlock’s interaction with the three characters he showed vulnerability to – Watson, Irene, and Molly – say he loved Molly as a friend, was attracted to Irene’s intelligence, and was in love with Watson.


Sherlock Holmes is usually shown as an asexual character in the books who chooses to focus on his work rather than on his feelings and building romantic relationships, so if he did fall in love with Irene Adler in Sherlock, that would mean Moffat and Gatiss made a major change to the character. However, Sherlock having loving feelings for Irene Adler would explain why he chose to save her and help her fake her death, though in a very Sherlock-move, later episodes revealed she still texted him but he never replied. Sherlock being in love with Irene changes the character as Doyle presented him, but adds another layer of complexity to the BBC’s version of him.


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