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Irene Adler (Pulver)

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Irene Adler
Vital statistics
Sex Female
Occupation Dominatrix
Behind the scenes
Appearances "A Scandal in Belgravia"
"The Sign of Three"
Portrayed by Lara Pulver
"This is how I want you to remember me. The woman who beat you."
―Irene Adler [src]

Irene Adler, also known as "The Woman", is a dominatrix who has an apparently romantic attraction to Sherlock Holmes. She first appears in series two's first episode, "A Scandal in Belgravia", where she plays games with Sherlock.

Whilst Mycroft is telling Sherlock about Irene, he states that she is a dominatrix who gives out 'recreational scolding' to people. She has been in the middle of two political scandals in recent years, one of them involving a famous author, where she had an affair with both sides.

She is brought to Sherlock's attention, as well as the viewers', when he and John are summoned to Buckingham Palace by Mycroft and are asked to take on a case of national importance. Irene had taken compromising images of a young female member of the British Royal family during a dominatrix session. Even though Irene doesn't want money or power (blackmailing) for the pictures, Sherlock is tasked in getting them back. She is using them, and other information on her mobile phone, for her "protection".


Irene Alder is manipulative, devious, enigmatic and clever enough to even give Sherlock Holmes a run for his money. She likes to 'misbehave' and gathers all sorts of incriminating information so as to continue to 'misbehave'. Irene is not above blackmail, although she refers to it as 'insurance'. She can be ruthless, cold and fierce at times but showed emotional intelligence towards the likes of Sherlock Holmes. She had a deep degree of fear, as she allowed herself to be callously manipulated by Jim Moriarty.

When she and Sherlock meet, she displays her more caring and ingenious attributes. She asserts herself as a notorious flirt, though she defends herself by correcting John when he states she flirted with Sherlock: ' him. He never replies.' As a dominatrix, Irene had no problems with being naked in front of men. This proved to be an extremely effective method of blocking Sherlock's scans, which were almost always accurate yet failed completely against her.

In the episode she claims that brainy is the new sexy and that she likes detective stories. She also told John that she was gay, though her attraction to Sherlock indicates that she may be fairly flexible, possibly bisexual. She is a fan of novellas and commented on recently reading Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.


Sherlock HolmesEdit

She and Sherlock have a close, if unusual, relationship. Jim Moriarty had advised her upon how to manipulate the Holmes brothers, but sometime in between she seems to develop an affection for Sherlock, changing her phone's (which Irene explains to be '[her] life') password to read 'I AM SHER-LOCKED' upon completion.

Sherlock first approaches her to obtain incriminating pictures, as ordered by Mycroft and the British government. He attempts to fool her assistant, Kate, into believing that he'd been the victim of a mugging, and although she played along, Irene had already told her to expect him. Disguised as a priest, Sherlock enters Irene Adler's home and waits for her in the lounge. She goes to join him and Sherlock immediately loses his composure when she appears before him, naked, this led him to deduce nothing from her except '????????'. After a few minutes, he offers her his coat, though this seems more for Watson's benefit than his own.

Shortly after, members of (we're later told) the CIA arrive, trying to get her phone from her, only to be defeated by the combination of Sherlock, Watson and Irene. The battle won, Sherlock refuses to give her her phone back, causing her to drug him to get it, rendering him unconscious. Later, Irene goes to 221B Baker Street to return his coat, which also held his phone (which she has hijacked for a very personal text notification when texts are received from her). While he's still barely conscious, she returns to their earlier conversation about the case, which Sherlock appears to hear as he dreams about her having the conversation with him. When she reaches the conclusion that it only took Sherlock one glance to work out, she reiterates 'brainy is definitely the new sexy'. Upon his awakening, Irene flirts with him through the means of fifty-seven texts, none of which receive a reply, though he noticeably never changes the tone she's programmed in.

When she sends him her phone as a 'Christmas present' Sherlock deduces that she must be dead, and Irene ensures that a duplicate body is found and delivered to St. Bart's. Outside the morgue, Mycroft warns his brother that 'caring is not an advantage', although Sherlock later sinks into depression as time passes.

When Irene eventually goes to Sherlock, seeking his help, Sherlock returns to his usual self. John watches their interactions, and suggests "Hamish", if they're looking for baby names. Irene smirks and Sherlock does not respond to the jibe, although he seems puzzled by it. Later, Sherlock deciphers a code for Irene in less than four seconds.

In the evening, as John left Sherlock and Irene alone, they came to an almost intimate moment together. Irene slid her hand up to Sherlock's and he reacted by holding his hand back to hers. Their faces came close, attempting contact, murmuring about dinner and how Sherlock wasn't hungry and that there was something in their mind rather than dinner. Mrs. Hudson then disrupted this moment, as a man in a suit came in to take Sherlock away again (he resisted strongly, but this was a very significant matter so he couldn't, in the end, decline).

They developed a close bond, and when she double-crossed him, Sherlock said he knew she fell for him; "(...) Because I took your pulse. Elevated. Your pupils dilated.' Later, it seems as though he coldly rejects her when giving her phone – her lifeline – to Mycroft. Later on, Mycroft tells John that she has been put into a witness protection programme in USA and that Sherlock can never see her again. When John says that should be fine, Mycroft admits that this is only the cover story for Sherlock and that she was actually killed two months earlier. At John's point that she's 'died' before, Mycroft says he was more thorough and only Sherlock could have duped him this time, whom they both know couldn't have been involved.

When John tells Sherlock the fake story later, Sherlock seems unperturbed by it, except for demanding her phone from the evidence bag before it's returned to Mycroft, ignoring John's protests, who ends up acquiescing to Sherlock's request. John asks if he has heard from her at all, leaving Sherlock to admit that he had received one text, reading 'Goodbye Mr Holmes'. John seems to realise that Sherlock must know she is dead, but appears to rethink voicing it. After he leaves Sherlock to his own thoughts, and after reviewing all the texts between them, we see her sending the final text just before she is to be executed, only for the executioner to be revealed to be Sherlock in disguise, who saves her. After the memory, he smiles and states, 'The woman … the woman,' with a smile before putting her phone away.

Irene apparently has a habit of cropping up in Sherlock's "mind palace" as he is making deductions, as shown in "The Sign of Three", when she appears and caresses his face as he mentally evaluates a group of female suspects.

Irene is named as one of Sherlock's 'pressure points' by Charles Augustus Magnussen in His Last Vow, implying that if she were threatened or used against him in some way, he would care.

John WatsonEdit

John interrupts Sherlock and Irene during their first meeting, and is from then on very confused as to Sherlock's relationship with her. Eventually, he becomes convinced that the two have romantic feelings towards each other. Jokingly, in passing, John made a remark about if they were to ever need a baby name in the future to use his middle name.

Jim MoriartyEdit

Jim Moriarty advised Irene on how to manipulate Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes. She then sent him the code Sherlock had deciphered for her.

Mycroft HolmesEdit

Mycroft Holmes is an adversary of Irene's, whom she blackmails several times within A Scandal in Belgravia.

Molly HooperEdit

The two never meet on screen, but once Molly finds out that Sherlock is able to identify 'Irene' by her bodya (not her face), she believes that they have a close relationship and appears to be jealous.


Kate is Irene's assistant and friend, who helps her dress for her clients and is seemingly privy to details pertaining to those clients, as Irene tells her to expect Sherlock when he calls for her. It is also implied that she is a sexual partner of Irene's; when Kate is found unconscious on the bedroom floor, Irene comments "Well, God knows she's used to that". Also, as Irene is preparing for her meeting with Sherlock and is gauging a dress in the mirror, Kate says, 'It works for me', to which Irene replies, 'Everything works on you'.

References to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Original WorkEdit

The character of Irene Adler appears only once in the original canon, in the story A Scandal in Bohemia'.' However, she is referenced in a handful of other works, and is frequently used as a love interest for Holmes in derivative works.

According to the story, Adler was born in New Jersey, USA, in 1858. She works professionally as a singer, though, during her time in Warsaw, was said to be "a well-known adventuress" (a term widely used at the time in ambiguous association with "courtesan").

In 1888, The King of Bohemia enlists the services of Sherlock Holmes. He needs the detective to recover a photograph of himself with Miss Adler. The King is to marry the second daughter of the King of Scandinavia, and as long as the photograph exists, there is a risk of the marriage being jeopardised, should the King's previous relationship with Adler come to light.

Using his mastery of disguise, Holmes follows Miss Adler's movements, and learns that she, herself, is soon to be married. He then sets up a fake incident, to cause a diversion that allows him to discern where the photograph is hidden. Adler has already detected Holmes through his disguise, yet goes along with his ruse, tending to his injuries, as he claims to have been a victim of a crime outside her house.

However, when Holmes returns to snatch the photo, he finds that Adler and her new husband have gone, along with the photograph. In its place is a photo of Adler in an evening gown, along with a letter, addressed to Holmes, explaining how she has outwitted him, and is happy with her new husband. She also explains that she will not compromise the King, provided he make no further move against her in the future.

The King asks Holmes how he wishes to be paid, and Holmes asks for the photograph of Adler. Holmes keeps it as a souvenir of her cleverness, and a reminder that she outwitted him. He considers Adler too good for the monarch, though he is careful not to phrase it so clearly, and the subtlety seems lost on his client.

Adler is one of only three people to have ever beaten Holmes, and is referred to by him, perhaps affectionately, as "The Woman". This is usually pronounced by actors playing Holmes as "The Woman", with emphasis. Watson, in the opening of the tale, is, however, explicit that what Sherlock feels for her is not love, nor seemingly anything closely akin; he implies rather that it may be a kind of overwhelming admiration.


  • "Do you know the big problem with a disguise, Mr. Holmes? However hard you try, it’s always a self-portrait." —Irene to Sherlock.
  • "Are you feeling exposed?" —Irene to John.
  • "I would have you, right here, on this desk, until you begged for mercy twice."—Irene to Sherlock.


  • There has been some speculation amongst fans that it was Molly who supplied the body in the morgue that Sherlock identifies as Adler's, further implying that Adler 'knows what [Molly] likes'. However, this is very unlikely, considering Molly's reaction when she finds out that Sherlock knew Irene.
  • She is presumably in hiding, although there is always the possibility that she could be re-introduced in future episodes, perhaps as Sherlock's ally.
  • The main difference between A Scandal in Belgravia and A Scandal in Bohemia, the book it is based on, is that in the book Irene is noteworthy for outwitting Holmes whereas in the TV episode, this never takes place. Rather, he outwits her.
  • She differs dramatically from her literary predecessor in wanting to engage with Sherlock, the original having (along with her new husband) "thought the best resource was flight, when pursued by so formidable an antagonist".
  • According to Sherlock, she was born in the 1980s.



  • Sherlock and Irene
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