The Definitive Ranking of Every Sherlock Episode (So Far)

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5. A Scandal in Belgravia

Irene Adler is one of few really notable women in the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle canon. That she is the only person who outsmarts Sherlock Holmes is remarkable, and a big reason her character is so fascinating. For some reason, Sherlock decides to not only to tell a version of her story where Holmes ultimately beats Adler in the end, but one where she loses because she is distracted by emotion. It even adds in a bit where he physically rescues her from death at the hands of nameless terrorists. So much for girl power, I guess.

If you can ignore all that possibly sexist business, “Belgravia” is an entertaining episode, with a complicated mystery and lots of action. Lara Pulver guest stars as The Woman, reimagined here as a dominatrix who traffics in high profile secrets. She and Benedict Cumberbatch have an interesting, ambiguous sort of chemistry. It’s hard to tell whether their attraction is sexual, cerebral or some combination of the two. The two actors play well off of each other, even during moments where they are let down by the episode’s writing. Sherlock is so overwhelmed by Irene that he lets her to just walk up and stab him with a needle? Irene is so flummoxed by whatever she feels toward Sherlock that she turns his name into her top-secret phone password? Is this eighth grade?

On the plus side, “A Scandal in Belgravia” is a great ensemble episode, and makes good use of the entire cast. There are wonderful moments throughout, including Sherlock and John’s trip to Buckingham Palace, Mrs. Hudson’s rescue, and Molly standing up to Sherlock at Christmas. Virtually every character who isn’t Sherlock or John is given greater depth and background here, and it’s really nice to see.