"This is how I want you to remember me. The woman who beat you."
―Irene Adler [src]

Irene Adler, professionally known as "The Woman", was a brilliant dominatrix who has an apparently romantic attraction to Sherlock Holmes.[1]

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, in which she had an affair with both sides.

She is brought to Sherlock's attention 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 does not want money or power for the pictures, Sherlock is tasked in getting them back. She is using them, and other information on her mobile phone, for her 'protection'.

She is presumed dead, with the only information on her given by Mycroft Holmes, mentioning that she was captured by a terror cell and beheaded.

A flash back at the end of the episode shows that when she was about to be executed by the terrorist, she sent a goodbye text message to Sherlock. We then hear the distinctive text message alert that denotes a text message from Adler to Sherlock (she set his phone to play a recording of her earlier in the episode) coming from behind her. The executioner is revealed to be Sherlock in disguise and the two battle their way out, presumably successfully.

Adler next appears in "The Sign of Three" as a figment of Sherlock's mind palace whilst he is attempting to solve the Mayfly man case.

Whilst John is watching Sherlock at the end of "The Lying Detective", Sherlock receives a text message with the distinctive Adler alert sound. John hears it and figures out that Adler is still alive and correctly guesses that it's Sherlock's birthday and that that's why Adler sent the text.


Irene Adler is manipulative, devious, enigmatic, and clever enough to even give Sherlock Holmes a run for his money. She stalls Sherlock on a number of occasions, leading him to false conclusions. 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.

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; as he never replied, she only flirted at him. 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.[1]

She claims that brainy is the new sexy and that she likes detective stories. She also told John that she was gay,[1] though her attraction to Sherlock indicates that she may be fairly flexible.


Irene Alder is a beautiful woman in her thirties, with long, curly black hair usually worn up and pale skin. Her measurements are 32-24-34.


Sherlock Holmes

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 password (which Irene explains to be '[her] life') 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. She tells him that a disguise is always a self-portrait, stating that Sherlock is delusional and believes in higher power (in Sherlock's case, himself). After a few minutes, he offers her his coat, though this seems more for Watson's benefit than his own.

Shortly after, members of 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 by adding a personalised ringtone of a woman sighing erotically whenever Sherlock receives a text from her). While passed out, Sherlock dreams about the hiker case, revealing the solution through Irene. 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.

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 are looking for baby names. Irene smirks and Sherlock does not respond to the jibe, although he seems puzzled by it. Later, Sherlock deciphers Moriarty's seating plan code for Irene in less than four seconds. This happened during the time when she moved to kiss him on the cheek.

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 was not 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 could not, in the end, decline).

Adler attempts to flirt with Mycroft after Sherlock when she boards the Bond air jumbo jet.

Despite their cool demeanours towards one another, Sherlock deduces that Irene has fallen for him due to an elevated pulse and dilated pupils, and uses that knowledge to figure out the password to her phone. Later on, Mycroft tells John that she has been put into a witness protection programme in the United States 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 has 'died' before, Mycroft says he was more thorough and only Sherlock could have duped him this time, whom they both thought could not 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 is 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 realize 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. The text, albeit short, reveals her love for Sherlock, as contacting him was the last thing that she thought she would do on this earth prior to her rescue.

Irene apparently has a habit of cropping up in Sherlock's "mind palace" as he is making deductions when she appears (nude) and caresses his face as he mentally evaluates a group of female suspects.[2] She is told to, "Go away, I'm working," by Sherlock. This suggests she may appear in his mind palace at other times.

Irene is named as one of Sherlock's 'pressure points' by Charles Augustus Magnussen.[3]

It is revealed at the end of "The Lying Detective" that she and Sherlock continue to text. In "The Final Problem", Eurus requests Sherlock play 'him', not Bach. He responds by playing the music he wrote whilst in mourning for Irene, known as 'Irene's Theme' or 'The Woman'. From this Eurus deduces that Sherlock has had sex. It is not explicitly confirmed, but it is implied that he had sex with Irene Adler as she is the person he wrote the music about. Sherlock neither confirms nor denies this.

John Watson

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 Moriarty

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

Mycroft Holmes

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

Molly Hooper

The two never meet on screen, but once Molly finds out that Sherlock is able to identify 'Irene' by her body, and sees him x-raying her phone, 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 is 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'.


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.


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


  • The main difference between "A Scandal in Belgravia" and "A Scandal in Bohemia", the story it is based on, is that in the story Irene is noteworthy for outwitting Holmes whereas in the TV episode, they stalemate; Irene tricks Sherlock into foiling a government plan for her and Moriarty, only for Sherlock to deduce the passcode to her camera phone when she tried to blackmail Mycroft and the government with it.
  • 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".
  • Her measurements are 32-24-34.
  • According to Sherlock, she was born in the 1980s.
  • When Sherlock is in his Mind Palace with Moriarty, he tells Sherlock that should he die, Irene would mourn for him.



  • Sherlock and Irene


  1. She only appears in Sherlock's mind palace.
  2. Mentioned only; sends Sherlock a message


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Moffat, Steven (writer) & McGuigan, Paul (director). (1 January, 2012). "A Scandal in Belgravia". Sherlock (2010). Series 2. Episode 1. BBC One.
  2. Thompson, Steve; Moffat, Steven; Gatiss, Mark (writers) & McCarthy, Colm (director). (5 January, 2014). "The Sign of Three". Sherlock (2010). Series 3. Episode 2. BBC One.
  3. Moffat, Steven (writer) & Hurran, Nick (director). (12 January, 2014). "His Last Vow". Sherlock (2010). Series 3. Episode 3. BBC One.
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