- "I'm smarter than everyone I meet, Watson. I know it's bad form to say that, but in my case, it's a fact."
- ―Sherlock to Joan [src]
Sherlock Holmes is a former police consultant for the NYPD. Holmes relocated to New York City from London after a drug binge and currently lives in Brooklyn in a brownstone house with Joan Watson, who assists him on cases and was formerly his sober companion.
Holmes was sent to boarding school by his father at age eight. He tells a story about how he was physically and mentally bullied by a fellow student. When questioned by Joan Watson about the validity of this story, he only replied, "I was sent to boarding school." Holmes also stated that he "would trade his father for a Tic-Tac". ("Child Predator")
With Irene Adler in London
It is revealed in the episode "Flight Risk" that Holmes used to be involved with a woman named Irene. It is later revealed that she was murdered and her death prompted Holmes' descent into drug taking. His drug taking becomes out of control and he eventually enters a drug rehabilitation program in New York City.
When Sherlock and Watson first meet she asks him what happened to him in London before his fateful drug relapse. He brushes her off, saying that, while she may attempt to make meaningful connections with him through gaining his trust, he does not make meaningful connections. He then asks her why she is smirking. She answers, "Because now I know it was because of a woman."
It was Irene's death that brought on Sherlock's drug abuse nine months before the beginning of the series. His relapse was complete and ruthless. On presumably the night of Irene's death Sherlock showed up very high on the doorstep of his friend, Alistair. Alistair later confides to Joan that, while most of what Sherlock said that night was entirely incoherent, he did mutter the name "Irene" in delirium, continually through the night.
When Sherlock learns that Joan now knows of Irene from Alistair he is at first furious, insisting that she has no right to the details of his personal life. When visiting Sherlock's old rehabilitation center, Watson speaks to a groundskeeper named Edison. He had kept some of the effects that Sherlock had left behind, just in case he ever came back for them. Among these is a letter from Irene. However, Watson resists the urge to read the letter and instead returns it to Sherlock, who promptly destroys it, insisting that he'd left these things behind because he did not want them. Finally, at the end of one of their cases, in the evening, as Joan is about to go to bed, Sherlock offers up one piece of information; "She died. We were quite close. I did not take her passing well".
No more is said on the matter until the appearance of the ruthless London serial-killer Sebastian Moran (going by the alias, M.), who seems to have followed Sherlock to New York. While the PDA scramble to find this killer before he strikes again, Sherlock admits to Watson that when M. was last sighted in London Sherlock had fallen too far into drug abuse to be of any use to the investigation. Now, however, he is eager to do what was right – help the Police find and capture the madman. This, however, is a lie, as he later confessed that it was M. who murdered Irene, and Sherlock has no intention of helping the Police find him. Rather, he will find M. himself, torture, and eventually kill him.
Sherlock already has Moran tied up and is about to execute his revenge, when he rushes to confess that he is not a serial-killer, but a hired assassin. He never touched Irene. Rather, if anyone could have killed her, it must have been M.'s mysterious employer, on behalf of whom he was working. "M." does not stand for Moran, but for Moriarty.
New York City
Holmes breaks out of rehab on his final day of treatment, and meets Joan Watson, who was hired by Sherlock's father to be his sober companion. It is shown, through his actions, that he has anger management issues and a quick temper. He is also shown to not be a fan of baseball.
In episode "Flight Risk", Watson receives an invitation from Sherlock's father, that he is in town for business and wants to have dinner with them. Watson tries to convince him to go, but he says that his father is maker-breaker of promises, has no intention to go because "daddy never shows". And in this episode we meet Alistair, Sherlock's friend, who reveals that he was involved with a woman named Irene. In the next episode, after being asked by Watson who Irene is, he avoids her through the entire episode, not almost speaking to her. In the end he says that Irene had died and that he "didn't take her passing very well".
Sherlock's own humanity, and failings as a human being, were graphically brought home to him when James Dylan attempted to shoot him and instead caused serious, and potentially career-ending, injury to Marcus Bell. At first, Holmes' rationalism provided him with a shield, a means to avoid acknowledging responsibility for what happened to Bell, or accepting that it arose from his own manner of dealing with Dylan. In speaking to Alfredo Llamosa, Holmes declared that he had fully reviewed every single one of his own actions and interactions in the matter and that, from a "cost-benefit analysis" standpoint, each and every one was correct. Nevertheless, Holmes himself, in an attempt to improve his understanding of the need for social skills and awareness, takes on the role and responsibilities of a sponsor in his recovery group, and acknowledges to his own sponsee how much Alfredo, and the process, have helped him, and strives, in his own limited way, to become the next link in the chain by helping another towards sobriety. ("Tremors", "Internal Audit")
Holmes has developed numerous coping mechanisms to help with his addictive urges and the stresses which can inflame them, from beekeeping and single-stick fighting to erotic correspondence and the baking of Yorkshire puddings, the last of which Watson observes he only does when he needs to calm down. ("The One Percent Solution")
Sherlock is supremely intelligent; his intelligence gives him great powers of observation and deduction. He would constantly note small details and could combine those details to make accurate, but sometimes bizarre, deductions. In "The Leviathan", he was able to find out the true identity of Le Chevalier, a master thief who was considered by some to be a myth, as he had never been caught or even seen. His skill was so great that he was recommended by Captain Gregson himself as the "finest investigator he'd ever known" to Canon Ebersole when their COO went missing.
Sherlock's intellect also gives him a rather accurate memory, which he practices constantly by watching several TV channels at once and repeating the lines of one each. An example of this was in "The Long Fuse", when he was able to recall what show said a certain phrase by recalling what was on the other six screens.
Sherlock also has an acute sense of smell. In "While You Were Sleeping", he was able to tell by smelling a chair at a murder scene, that the murderer was a seated woman, although no one else could smell anything on that chair. In "The Long Fuse" he used tennis balls to try to match the smell of a bombed office and ultimately succeeded in discovering the mixture.
Another useful skill that Sherlock is great at is psychological manipulation. He has been shown to be able to trick or intimidate people into doing what he wants, usually leading them into a trap. In "The Rat Race", he used this three times: once during the meeting with the Canon Ebersole executives when he was able to convince them to give him 12 times his normal rate, once when meeting Martin Rydell when he intimidated him into telling of his relationship with Peter Talbott, and once when held captive by Donna when he convinced her into writing a text to Joan from his phone, which she immediately knew was not from him and led to Donna's arrest.
Sherlock is also multilingual; he knows how to speak multiple different languages. In "The Rat Race", he was seen speaking Mandarin Chinese to a man on the phone. Also, in "One Way to Get Off", he spoke Russian to a Russian woman trapped in a man's basement. It was also implied in "Dirty Laundry" that he spoke, or at least understood, French and Farsi, as he heard men speaking both languages on a video and immediately called Captain Gregson after hearing what they said. It was confirmed in a later episode that he does in fact speak French when he spoke French to a man on the phone. He has also shown to be able to speak using several different accents, including an American accent and a New York accent. He's also been able to speak using a lisp.
Sherlock has also been shown to be rather skilled at lock-picking, which he also constantly practices through several different exercises, from picking padlocks to handcuffing his arms behind a chair. In "The Rat Race", he was able to pick the handcuffs that he was put in using just a paper clip.
Aside from lock-picking, Sherlock is also skilled at breaking through security systems in general. He's been shown practicing getting past security systems in cars with his sponsor. His expertise at breaking through security systems was apparently so infamous that he was asked by the head at Casterly Rock Security to test how someone could break into a presumably impenetrable bank vault, although he was not able to do so.
Sherlock has demonstrated a skill in Martial Arts and unarmed combat. However, he seems to prefer using sneak attacks and whatever he can get his hands on to take down his opponents. When he confronted M, he subdued him with a baton. When Howard Enis went for a gun, he used a single stick to disarm and beat him. And he took down Donna Kaplan using her own tazer.
It was revealed in "Dead Man's Switch" that Sherlock is ambidextrous, in that he favors both his left and right sides equally. Because of this, he is a rather skilled tattoo artist, as he has done many of the ones he currently has and occasionally touches them up
Joan Watson is initially employed by Holmes' father to act as his sober companion and help him stay clean from drugs. Initially Holmes does not want her help but he slowly opens up to her. Watson gets dragged into Holmes' investigations and Holmes decides he is going to train her in his techniques with Watson becoming his partner in his investigations. Holmes and Watson slowly become closer moving from a more professional status to being colleagues and friends. After they have dealt with Moriarty together, Holmes shows his appreciation of Watson by naming a new species of bee after her, the Euglassia Watsonia. When Joan was kidnapped, Mycroft commented to Sherlock, "I think she is the person you love most in the world," which the younger Holmes didn't deny.
Captain Thomas "Tommy" Gregson
Sherlock first met Thomas Gregson just after 9/11, when Gregson was sent to Scotland Yard to check out their anti-terrorist division. Although they are occasionally at odds with one another, they have both revealed that they have a great deal of respect for each other; when Holmes witnessed the death of Charles Milverton, he swiftly went to ask Gregson for advice given the complexities of the situation, stating that Gregson was a man whose investigative abilities he respected and admired. Gregson trusted Holmes and his investigation skills enough to give a witness a sketch artist, which Marcus Bell thought was a mislead, saying "If (Sherlock)'s wrong, he's wrong, but I wanna know he's wrong." Watson believes that the Captain is "the closest thing (Sherlock) has to a friend."
While Sherlock generally finds women boring and only useful to satisfy physical needs, for him, "Irene was different." As Joan Watson observed, he was in love with her. After Irene Adler was revealed to be Moriarty and put in jail, she and Sherlock remained in contact with each other, sending letters to one another. This regard extended to Watson, with Irene electing to have Elana March killed for attempting to assassinate Joan (an effort which killed her boyfriend Andrew Mittal).
Relationships with women
Holmes tells Watson when they first meet that he finds sex "repellent" but that his brain and body "require it to function at optimum levels, so I feed them as needed". When Watson asks him whether a woman who has just left got him high he replies "about six feet high" and the shot cuts to a view of a pair of handcuffs. ("Pilot")
Morland Holmes is the father to Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock has a strong dislike for his father. Sherlock believes that his father never cared for him, and is duly confused when the man himself shows up after his relapse.
Mycroft Holmes is the estranged brother to Sherlock who, years ago, had a falling out with his brother. Sherlock's reunion with his brother happens by accident when he returns home to 221B Baker Street, only to discover that his father has gifted the home to his brother, Mycroft. Sherlock believes that Mycroft is a lazy, unaccomplished man. While Mycroft gives as good as he gets, he is also trying to mend fences with his brother. Unlike other versions of Holmes, Sherlock does not seem willing to acknowledge Mycroft's cerebral superiority.
It can be argued that Sherlock has a soft spot for the poor or lower middle class. This was first shown in "The Rat Race", when he deduced that a man who was on a date with a woman at Villa Pacri, one of the most expensive restaurants in the city, had saved up to go to lunch there so he could propose to her. Sherlock decided to order the most expensive bottle of champagne the restaurant had and send it over as "congratulations or condolences." This was also shown in "Snow Angels", when new phones that were stolen was found and being sold by a homeless man. As thanks for helping them out, Sherlock gave the man money, advised him that the people in the neighborhood that they were in would pay even more than he was charging for the phones, and ultimately left the phones with him.
- "Attic theory. I've always believed the human brain is like an attic: storage space, facts, but because that space is finite, it must be filled only with things one needs to be the best version of oneself. It's important, therefore, not to have useless facts: the natterings that comprised your support meeting, for example, crowding out useful ones."
- ―Sherlock to Joan [src]
- "My observational skills are second to none."
- ―Sherlock to Joan [src]
- "When you've eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth."
- ―Sherlock to Joan [src]
- "I just have one question... What kind of name is Sherlock?"
- ―Joan speaking about Sherlock [src]
- "There's something you got to try to understand. Guys like him, they walk between the raindrops, they don't get wet. People like you do. People like his ex-girlfriend do."
- ―Gregson speaking about Sherlock [src]
- "My first instinct was to kill you. Quietly. Discreetly. But then, the more I learned about you, the more curious I became. Here, at last, seemed to be a mind that... that rivalled my own, something too complicated and too beautiful to destroy... at least without further analysis."
- ―Moriarty to Sherlock [src]
- "You should know, Captain,I usually cheer the end of any marriage. As an institution, I think it's outlasted its usefulness by quite a large margin."
- ―Sherlock to Gregson [src]
- "That's me, Watson. Joke machine."
- ―Sherlock to Joan [src]
- Ben Garrett: "How'd you do all that?"
- Sherlock: "I was bitten by a radioactive detective."
- ―Sherlock talking to a witness on how he makes his deductions.[src]
- Throughout the show, Sherlock is shown to keep and study bees as a hobby. In the original short story "His Last Bow", Sherlock Holmes has retired to the Sussex Downs to keep bees.
- In the summer of 2011, Danny Boyle created a National Theatre production of 'Frankenstein' in which Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller played the creator and monster and alternately changed nightly. Both actors then went on to play another Victorian creation -Sherlock Holmes-, both set in the present day, albeit on opposite sides of the Atlantic.
- Neither Jonny Lee Miller who plays Sherlock nor Lucy Liu who plays Watson had ever read a Sherlock Holmes book before securing roles in the pilot.
- The character David in the series 3 episode of Sherlock, "The Sign of Three", bares a resembelence to Johhny Lee Miller's Sherlock Holmes appearance.