Irene Adler

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Name: Irene Adler (married name, Irene Norton)
Occupation: adventuress
Relationships: Godfrey Norton (husband), Sherlock Holmes (respected adversary)
Fandom: Sherlock Holmes
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Irene Adler is one of the most notable female characters in the original Sherlock Holmes canon.

Sherlock Holmes (Granada)

Sherlock Holmes (Granada) she is portrayed by Gayle Hunnicutt.

"A Scandal in Bohemia" was the first episode of the first series of Granada Holmes. The portrait of Irene is kept in Holmes' desk and appears in a few more episodes.

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

In the 2009 movie Sherlock Holmes she is portrayed by Rachel McAdams (also of Slings & Arrows.) In this film she has divorced her husband and is "Irene Adler again." She and Holmes have a more romantically tinged relationship.

Sherlock (BBC)

Irene Adler, portrayed by Lara Pulver, was introduced to the BBC adaptation of Sherlock in a starring role in the season two episode, "A Scandal in Belgravia," after which she was only occasionally mentioned or shown on-screen again. In this version of the story, her character is adapted as a dominatrix under the professional name “The Woman,” and she provides the episode’s conflict. She identifies herself as gay, though she performs her work with non-women clients as well and by the end of the episode has fallen in love with Sherlock.

Like her ACD counterpart, Irene engages in a battle of wits with Sherlock, and is the only woman to get to him.

Irene is sometimes seen by fans as one of the Moffat Women, women characters written by Steven Moffat who are perceived to have similar personality traits and sexist portrayals.[1][2] Similarly, her feelings for Sherlock are felt by some fans to erase her professed homosexuality.[3]

Many fans have analyzed Irene as a mirror to both Sherlock and John Watson; the former due to shared physical and behavioral characteristics, and the latter due to their ambiguous relationships to Sherlock, as highlighted in the exchange between Irene and John:

JOHN: You... flirted with Sherlock Holmes?
IRENE: At him. He never replies.
JOHN: No, Sherlock always replies, to everything. He’s Mr. Punchline. He will outlive God trying to have the last word.
IRENE: Does that make me special?
JOHN: ...I don’t know. Maybe.
IRENE: Are you jealous?
JOHN: We’re not a couple.
IRENE: Yes you are. There... [text to Sherlock] “I’m not dead. Let’s have dinner.”
JOHN: Who... who the hell knows about Sherlock Holmes, but for the record, if anyone out there still cares, I’m not actually gay.
IRENE: Well, I am. Look at us both.

“A Scandal in Belgravia,” BBC Sherlock, Season 2, Episode 1

There is little consensus in fandom about the extent of Sherlock’s canonical attraction to the Woman, and whether this was romantic, sexual, and/or purely intellectual in nature.[4][5][6] These discussions can be confused by the canon ambiguity of both characters’ sexuality, and fans’ own interpretations of them.

In fandom, she is most frequently shipped with Sherlock, under the ship name “Adlock.”

Sherlock: Meta/Analysis


In Elementary, Irene was Sherlock's ex-lover who is thought to have been killed by a serial killer called "M." She is later found alive, apparently being held captive by Moriarty. It is revealed that "Irene" actually is Jamie Moriarty, who assumed the identity to seduce Sherlock and distract him from his investigations. Irene/Moriarty is portrayed by Natalie Dormer.

Russian TV

This article or section needs expansion.

Sherlock Holmes (2013 TV Series)

Irene Adler (portrayed by Lyanka Gryu) has a love affair with Sherlock Holmes.[7]

Example Fanworks

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.





In other fannish media

  • Sophie Devereaux dresses up as Irene Adler for a costume party in S5 of Leverage.
  • The first patient in the first episode of House, M.D. is named Rebecca Adler. In S5, James Wilson tells a story about a patient named Irene Adler that Gregory House saved and then fell in love with, but the story is apparently not true.
  • There is a Marvel Comics character called Destiny, whose real name is Irene Adler. She is the lover of Mystique and adoptive mother of Rogue.


  1. ^ “stop telling me that either of the new interpretations of Irene Adler are progressive”, tygermama, Tumblr, 5 June 2014.
  2. ^ Irene Adler: how to butcher a brilliant woman character, blog post from “another angry woman”, 1 January 2012.
  3. ^ response to: “what if Irene Adler’s phone code…”, pennypaperbrain, Tumblr, 1 March 2014.
  4. ^ On Irene in the Mind Palace, themissadventurer, Tumblr, 23 June 2016.
  5. ^ thoughts on Sherlock’s attraction, madlori, Tumblr, 12 February 2014.
  6. ^ Meta on “Isn't Sherlock at least attracted to Irene's naked body in a SiB?”, inevitably-johnlocked, Tumblr, 12 May 2016.
  7. ^ Sherlock Homes (2013 TV Series) on Wikipedia