Screens: BBC

Sherlock Gives Good Hand

Last season on Sherlock, 'A Scandal In Belgravia' finally gave 'shippers a world in which Sherlock falls in love.

Plenty of Sherlock Holmes fans, present company included, have longed for a scenario where Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler (a.k.a. "the woman") get together, so it was definitely the stuff of fanfic wet dreams when this relationship bore juicy physical fruit in BBC's Sherlock's Series 2 premiere, "A Scandal In Belgravia."

Historically speaking — wait come back! I'm going to talk about sex and stuff! — Sherlock is a bit of a cold fish when it comes to emotions in general, and love specifically. In "A Scandal In Bohemia" — the story where Sherlock Holmes meets and is bested by Irene Adler — Arthur Conan Doyle makes it clear from the first paragraph that Sherlock is 100%, definitely not in any sort of love with "the woman," Irene Adler. Conan Doyle even goes on to say that Holmes scorns "the softer passions," and that all emotions, but especially love, "were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind."

That canonical statement from Holmes's creator has not stopped fans from imagining a world in which Holmes and Adler fall in love. Just Google "Sherlock Holmes Irene Adler fanfic" and you'll be well convinced. (And probably in need of a Silkwood shower.) Heck, even in the Sherlock Holmes series from the '80s, there were at least two concrete moments in "A Scandal In Bohemia" that showed Jeremy Brett's Sherlock to be more than a little enthralled by Irene Adler. Clearly this was a consummation devoutly to be wished.

You can therefore imagine, after blue-balling it for 121 years, just how orgasmic Sherlock's Season 2 opener was for Irelock 'shippers. Because while in Conan Doyle's version Irene merely outwits Sherlock Holmes and remains in his consciousness only as "the woman of dubious and questionable memory," something rather more intense was squeezed out of the relationship in Sherlock's take on it. This is where I instruct those of delicate sensabilities and excitable constitutions to immediately desist with reading and instead dose themselves with a prophylactic measure of sal volatile, because, to put it bluntly: there is touching. And it is gooooood touching.

To set the scene: Irene — who has already spent a great deal of time in this episode attempting to discomfit Sherlock with her nakedness, blunt sexuality, and lacquered hair — is in full-on proposition mode as they sit by the fire discussing the case that has tangled them together. Irene begins her seduction by asking whether Sherlock has ever "had" anyone. Then, while asking him out on a hypothetical end-of-the-world dinner date, she slides her hand over Sherlock's. Far from pulling uncomfortably away as one would expect Sherlock to do with anyone else, Sherlock appears to welcome the touch and even responds in kind.


And with that reciprocal touch, it is as if a hundred years of 'shipgasms suddenly cry out in release and are suddenly smoking cigarettes. The hand sex goes far enough that Sherlock and Irene even get their faces in kiss position — with Irene's face getting there rather sooner because of Lara Pulver's protuberant eyes — but then the damnable (but very worthy) Mrs. Hudson interrupts them, and the moment is over.

Insane as it sounds, for the Irelock yearners, that incredibly brief, mutual physical contact is better than sex. (Okay, fine: an actual sex scene would have been amazing, but given Irene Adler's job in this episode as a sex worker/dominatrix/government traitor, the actual sex act would have felt cheap, meaningless, perfunctory, and more than a little suspect.) It's better than sex because it's the moment that proves Sherlock Holmes has fallen in love with Irene Adler, sticky-outy eyes and all.

Sure, sure — Sherlock later tries to toss a pan of cold water over the fireside canoodling by saying he was just taking her pulse to determine that she truly had the hots for him, which then gave him all the resources he needed to finally crack her phone's password. Whatever. Fine. I mean, Sherlock is a multi-tasker, so he probably was actually doing that, too, but the detecting was secondary to the hand sex. AT BEST.

As uncomfortable as Sherlock has proven himself to be with physical contact or emotional displays, the consensual hand sex scene is also the final proof of what had been happening throughout the episode: Sherlock is falling in love with Irene. Check it out: first, there's Sherlock's reaction to Irene's first (faked) death. His despondence is so marked that even Mycroft and Watson find it necessary to comment on it. Building on that, Sherlock displays unprecedented tenderness with Molly, the poor coroner who is so desperately in love with him. That particular newfound sensitivity shows that love has changed Sherlock so much that it has made him more perceptive to the emotional states of others. Finally, Sherlock miraculously shows up to save Irene's neck from the executioner's sword. If you think he would have done that for just anyone (I mean, aside from Watson, of course), just look deep in his eyes.


That's the look of love. Pure "I'm going to travel the world and decapitate people in order to save your life" love. So go forth, rewind, and celebrate, fellow 'shippers, because after over a century, Sherlock and Irene are finally in a tree T-O-U-C-H-I-N-G.

And, probably, Arthur Conan Doyle is in his grave, spinning like a sewing machine bobbin.

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