Though Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was very careful to have Watson point out that Sherlock Holmes had no romantic interest in Irene Adler, the American adventuress who bests Holmes in a battle of wits in the first Holmes short story, a Scandal in Bohemia, writers who have endeavored to continue the adventures of the world's greatest detective have always latched on to Adler as a love interest for Sherlock Holmes.
Writer producer Steven Moffat Has taken the same approach in the first episode of the second series of Sherlock, the BBC updating of Sherlock Holmes to contemporary times. I went on record last year as absolutely loving this show, and this episode gave me no reason to change my opinion. Benedict Cumberbatch returns as the eccentric, neurotic, brilliant Sherlock Holmes, the best portrayal of the character since the late Jeremy Brett. Moffat, along with his writing partner, Mark Gatiss, have taken the character from Doyle's stories and lifted him, almost unaltered, from the Victorian age and dropped him into modern day London.
Martin Freeman is back as the long suffering, but brave and resourceful Doctor John Watson who gives an often needed heart to the series, counter balancing the often cruel and anti-social Holmes. The interaction between these two characters is one of the show's greatest strengths.
In A Scandal in Belgravia, our modern Holmes and Watson run into the aforementioned Irene Adler, retrofitted into the present as a dominatrix, a workable substitute for the now outdated term adventuress. She's still a character capable of using the weaknesses of her um...acquaintances to her own advantage and profit. Played with relish by actress Lara Pulver, this version of Irene is in turns brilliant, ruthless, sexy, and vulnerable. Heck, sometimes she's all of that at the same time. A great performance. Irene has a cell phone containing incriminating photos of a member of the Royal Family. Her plans for them change as the show progresses, but I don't want to give too much away. Sherlock's older brother Mycroft, played by Mark Gatiss, charges his sibling with retrieving the phone. A suitable updating of the basic plot from A Scandal in Bohemia.
However, this being a Steven Moffat story, there is far more going on than initially meets the eye, and the plot takes those twisty turny paths that Moffat loves so well. In some ways it works better in a mystery format than on Moffat's other show, Doctor Who. And as usual Moffat takes the plot twists right up to the edge of and perhaps a little beyond the believable. But it doesn't matter. The snappy dialogue and the great acting carry the day and in the end, I didn't mind some unlikely turns.
For Sherlockians there are almost too many in-joke references to keep up with. There are allusions to cases like The Problem of Thor Bridge, The Greek Interpreter, The Naval Treaty, and even one of the cases Watson never got around to writing, The Aluminum Crutch. Great stuff.
Next week, Holmes and Watson go looking for a certain well known Hound. Can't wait.