- "This is how I want you to remember me. The woman who beat you."
- ―Irene Adler [src]
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.
Adler is scheming and manipulative. She uses her profession to gain insight into the top secret activities of individuals and governments. She compiles these on a cameraphone with which she plans to extort the British government. She has significant connections in the criminal underworld, including hiring Moriarty to help her get the most use out of her leverage. Even Sherlock and Mycroft admires her ingenuity. As a dominatrix, she enjoys BDSM activities and is not ashamed to reference these in conversation. Alder can be cold and calculating one minute hot and heavy the next. She flirts jokingly with men like John and Mycroft to prove her dominance over them. She self-identifies as a lesbian, but maintains her attraction to Sherlock.
Irene Alder is a tall Englishwoman in her thirties. She wears her dark hair in a vintage inspired updo, and dons bright red lipstick. She is seen wearing skintight black and white dresses.
Adler and Sherlock have a complex relationship. Her flirtatious interactions are undermined by the fact she engaged with him in the first place to extort the British government.
Mycroft dispatches Sherlock to recover incriminating pictures of an undisclosed member of the Royal family taken by Irene Adler. Disguised, Sherlock attempts to infiltrate Adler’s home but she is expecting him. She appears naked rattling Sherlock and rendering him unable to make deductions. When the CIA arrives and forces him to open her safe, he deduces the passcode - Adler’s bust, waist, and hip measurements. Then, Adler incapacitates Sherlock and beats him into submission, taking the camera phone. While unconscious, Sherlock dreams about the hiker case and she helps him solve it. She reiterates her famous line, “Brainy... definitely the new sexy.”
In the subsequent months, Adler flirts with him over text. Come Christmastime, Adler sends him her precious cameraphone and a body resembling hers appears dead. Sherlock lapses into depression.
Irene reappears seeking Sherlock’s help. He deciphers Moriarty’s plane bombing plan in less than four seconds to impress her. Later, Adler initiates an intimate moment with Sherlock, asking if he’d like to have dinner, but he appears confused and does not reciprocate. When Adler’s plan is revealed to Sherlock via Mycroft, she berates him for believing that she was interested in him, but he exposes her lie, saying her elevated pulse meant she liked him after all. He guesses the password of her all-important camera phone is, “I AM SHER-LOCKED”, and she is forced to flee.
Mycroft receives word that Adler has been executed by Iranian terrorists but it is revealed that Sherlock saved her, suggesting a level of shared sentiment. He keeps her camera phone in his breast pocket, near his heart.
Adler sometimes appears naked in Sherlock's "mind palace" while he is making deductions. She is named as one of Sherlock's 'pressure points' by Charles Augustus Magnussen and Eurus implies she and Sherlock had sex.
During their first meeting, John interrupts Adler's attempt to seduce Sherlock, and is thereafter visibly uncomfortable whenever the two of them are in a room together. He teases Sherlock about his fixation on Adler and jokingly suggests they use 'Hamish' for a baby name. When she is believed dead, John tells Sherlock Irene sought a new idenity from an American witness protection program to spare his feelings. But when she reappears, alive, he accuses her of playing with Sherlock's feelings.
Adler consults with Jim Moriarty on how to properly manipulate Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes.
After Sherlock remarks he can identify Adler from just her body, Molly is rendered slack-jawed with disbelief, and believes the two were in an intimate relationship.
Kate is Adler's assistant and close friend. She consults with her on fashion and is privy to details about Irene's clients. It is also implied she is one of Irene's sexual partners, when Irene comments, "Well, God knows she is used to that". Kate is perceived as easy, given Adler's remark, "Everything works on you".
The character of Irene Adler appears only once in the original canon, in the story "A Scandal in Bohemia" although she is referenced in a handful of other works. She is frequently used as Holmes' love interest 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]
- "A Scandal in Belgravia" is based on A. C. Doyle's story, "A Scandal in Bohemia", which also centres around Adler's extortion of the British government. However, in the novel, Adler sucessfully outwits Holmes.
- The novel version of Adler is also newly married, as opposed to 2010 Adler being a bachelorette interested in Holmes.
- Her measurements are 32-24-34: her breast, wasit, and hip circumference.
- According to Sherlock, Adler was born in the 1980s.
- Sherlock's Mind Palace version of Moriarty tells him Adler would mourn Sherlock's death.