“To Sherlock Holmes,” John Watson wrote in A Scandal in Bohemia, “she is always the woman.” He refers, of course, to Irene Adler, an adventuress (which could be understood to be synonymous with courtesan at the time) with whom the great detective tangled in a little matter involving a scandalous photograph involving the King of Bohemia. It usually surprises people that A Scandal in Bohemia is Adler's only appearance in the Holmes canon as written by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, because her legacy, like that of Moriarty, has far surpassed her original appearance and made her into the stuff of fanfiction. In large part that's because she's one of the only women in the Sherlock Holmes stories and 99% of fanfiction is (in my experience) romance, so she's pretty much the only real option. But it's also because Irene Adler does what many other of Holmes' opponents cannot do, and that's crawl under the detective's skin. She is, like Professor Moriarty, one of his greatest villains.
So it really was only a matter of time until she'd show up in Moriarty the Patriot, and I have to say, her introduction makes for a very nice hook for the second cour. We also get Mycroft, Sherlock's older brother, which is a lovely bonus. I personally feel somewhat prescient in that – as I mentioned in reviews for the first cour, Mycroft's entry into the scene coincides with Albert Moriarty's new line of work for the British government. (When they'll tell us the name of the department, which is heavily implied in the source manga, remains to be seen.) Albert actually gets the most screen time of the three Moriarty brothers this week, with the focus much more heavily on Holmes and Watson (and Irene), but the letter Albert slips her at the end of the episode certainly seems to indicate that the mastermind will have some sort of use for her later on. I admit to hoping that there will not be any sort of romantic geometry set up between Holmes, Adler, and any Moriarty brother, because, well, I guess I don't think it's needed. Time will tell, I suppose.
Production-wise there are a few changes from the last time this show graced our screens. Most striking is actually on Funimation's part: Mrs. Hudson has become Miss Hudson in the subtitles. Whether this happened because they suddenly saw the scene of Irene and Miss Hudson confronting each other with hairpin jabs about their singleness is up for debate, but it definitely comes across as a little strange if you were used to the other form of address. (Or the novels.) In terms of the art itself, women's clothing has definitely gotten more historically accurate for the period between 1889 and 1892 (going by Conan-Doyle's publication dates), although I'm annoying enough to feel the need to point out that we should see the petticoats of the girl whose bloomers we catch a glimpse of. Also, how is Irene able to swim in a tight-laced corset? (And where is Sherlock's undershirt?!) Perhaps more troubling is how badly Irene and Kate would smell after a dip in the Victorian-era Thames. Also, I think we saw her nipple in the bathtub…? That's neither here nor there, but certainly interesting, since anime usually goes out of its way to hide them.
Irene Adler is shaping up to be an interesting character, all canonical Holmes facts aside. Her history is that she's an opera singer from New Jersey, and her last name would suggest that she's also Jewish – both things that might have made her life much more difficult in late 19th century Europe. (And America, for that matter.) That means that she very likely had to struggle to attain the level of success that she has, and being a sought-after opera star – even though that entailed being willing to sleep your way to the top to a degree – is an impressive achievement. It is not, however, a bankable one in terms of eventual retirement, which could easily lead her to having to stand on her own two feet in ways unthinkable to other Victorian women. We catch glimpses of this Irene Adler throughout the episode – when she doesn't hesitate to save Kate and tell her the hard truth about her ambitions without saying to give them up, when she turns the tables on Sherlock Holmes (indicating she's done her homework), and even in the fact that she's able to put a group of powerful men, including Mycroft Holmes, in a position to be wary of her. She may be, as the Victorians would have put it, no better than she should be, but this Irene Adler is a bit like W.M. Thackery's Becky Sharpe (from his novel Vanity Fair) in that she will fight against the idea of who and what she's “supposed” to be. Clearly her skill at cross-dressing is going to be a major asset; the question is for whom she'll use it. Mycroft? The Moriarty brothers?
Personally, the answer I'm hoping for is “herself.”
Moriarty the Patriot is currently streaming on Funimation.