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Characters: Sherlock Holmes
The characters of the Sherlock Holmes novels and 2009 film series.

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     The Books 

Sherlock Holmes

  • The Ace: In the eyes of Watson and Scotland Yard.
  • Always Someone Better: To Inspector Lestrade and, to an extent, the rest of Scotland Yard.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Recent incarnations have made this even more obvious, with the suggestion of Asperger's Syndrome. He may also suffer from some form of bipolar disorder.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Contrary to popular belief, Holmes never actually says, "Elementary, my dear Watson" in the original books; the line came from Basil Rathbone in the 1939 film, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
  • Berserk Button: Comparing him to a fictional detective, or attempting to harm Watson in front of him.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: One of the originals.
    Watson:I dont think you need alarm yourself, I have usually found that there was method in his madness.
    Inspector Forrester:Some folk might say there was madness in his method.
  • Cane Fu: Holmes is quite the singlestick player.
  • Catch Phrase: "It is simplicity itself" and "You know my methods", as well as occasionally referring to an absorbing case as, "not entirely devoid of interest."
  • Celibate Eccentric Genius
  • Celibate Hero / Chaste Hero: All the Ho Yay aside, Holmes seems more asexual than anything else.
  • The Chessmaster: Holmes becomes this sometime in the middle of each story, except in "A Scandal in Bohemia", when he was beaten at his own game by a woman, Irene Adler.
  • Clothes Make the Legend: Even though neither the deerstalker or cape were actually featured prominently in the stories and only ever appeared once in Sidney Paget's illustrations, it's hard to imagine Holmes without them. Future adaptations have missed the fact that the Deerstalker hat and the Inverness coat were both country wear, something that a respectable gentleman would never wear in the city.
  • Genius Slob: Watson recounts that Holmes normally leaves everything but his mind untidy.
  • Genre Popularizer: Arguably the character that jumpstarted the detective story.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: It's even lampshaded by a character in Sign of Four that Holmes would have had quite a career in the ring.
  • Gray Eyes: The only way (besides height) to distinguish that he and Mycroft are brothers.
  • Great Detective: The great detective. He may not have been the first of his kind, but he set the standard for every single detective to come.
  • In the Blood: According to Holmes himself, his observation and detective skills are hereditary, as he and his brother both possess them.
  • Invincible Hero: Surprisingly averted in "A Scandal in Bohemia" and "Thor Bridge", while in "Five Orange Pips", Holmes mentions that he has been defeated four times.
  • Master of Disguise: Not even Watson can identify Holmes when he's assumed another identity.
  • Never Found the Body: At the end of "The Final Problem", with good reason.
  • Nice Hat: One of the most iconic: the famous deerstalker cap. Not that he actually wears it that often.
  • Non-Idle Rich: Holmes says that his ancestors were country squires, and he still managed to pay the bills while trying to establish himself as a detective. It's later said that he could have purchased 221B Baker Street outright from Mrs. Hudson. After The Great Hiatus, he also bought out Watson's old practice as an inducement for his old friend to move back in with him.
  • Not So Stoic: Has a moment of this in "The Man With the Twisted Lip" that concludes with a Big "WHAT?!". Other moments are sprinkled sparingly throughout the stories. One of the more famous among the fanbase (particularly Holmes/Watson fans) is Holmes's reaction to Watson being shot in "The Three Garridebs".
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Holmes will sometimes use this to his advantage when interrogating a suspect.
  • Private Detective: Or to use Holmes' precise words, "Consulting Detective".
  • The Quiet One: Whenever someone relates to him a case, Holmes is reservedly quiet (signifying that his calculating mind is in action) and after the client(s) leave, Watson notes that Holmes will normally sit for a few hours in his armchair and go over the case.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: During his first meeting with Moriarty in "The Final Problem", he is fingering the trigger of a gun inside his pocket. Moriarty points out the danger of this and remarks that he expected Holmes to be smarter than that. And then there's the fact that he shot a patriotic insignia into the living room wall with bullet-marks.
  • Sherlock Scan: Holmes' trademark. He can tell a lifetime's worth of information about a person by just looking them over for a few moments which, of course, normally leaves everyone else in the room baffled.
  • The Stoner: Holmes is a regular cocaine user, at least until Watson gets him to drop the habit.

Dr. John H. Watson

  • Flanderization: Over time, incarnations of Watson made him obese and rather bumbling, despite the fact that Watson is portrayed in the stories as of around Holmes' build and extremely intellectual (he is a bit slow compared to Holmes, but virtually everyone is as well). Recent adaptations have rectified this.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Holmes.
  • The Lancer: To Holmes.
  • Love at First Sight: With Mary Morstan, almost instantaneously.
  • Official Couple: With Mary Morstan at the end of The Sign Of The Four.
  • The Stoic: Mary seems to have died sometime between Holmes's disappearance and return. Watson doesn't talk about it and Holmes doesn't press the issue, implying that he probably maintained a stiff upper lip despite his loss.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Sort of; the stories are told from Watson's point of view, but they focus on Holmes' adventures.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Holmes sometimes accuses Watson of being this; adaptations occasionally toy with this aspect of the Holmes legend.

Inspector Lestrade

  • Flanderization: Lestrade is quite subdued when placed alongside Holmes' quick wit, but the Universal films in the 1940s turned him into The Ditz. This was ironically inverted as time went on, since in The Hound Of The Baskervilles Holmes declares him to be "the very best of the professionals." In "The Cardboard Box", Holmes also praises Lestrade's tenacity, which is what enabled him to come as far as he has at the Yard.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Takes the credit for many of Holmes's successes and gets glowing reviews in the press.
  • The Rival:
    • Tries to be this to Holmes, but is ultimately too slow to pull it off.
    • Has this with Inspector Gregson as well.

Professor James Moriarty

  • Affably Evil: He politely waits for Holmes to write a farewell note to Watson before the final showdown.
  • Always Someone Better: He's almost as good as Holmes, but not quite. For all Moriarty's skill, Holmes remarks that there are limits to his intelligence. At some point, he made a very small, but ultimately fatal, error that allowed Holmes to bring down his entire empire.
  • Animal Motifs: Holmes describes the "reptilian" way that Moriarity moves his head. He also compares Moriarty to a giant, malevolent spider, sitting at the centre of a web of crime, aware of even the slightest touch on its threads.
  • Badass Bookworm: According to Holmes, Moriarty's book The Dynamics Of An Asteroid ascends to such high levels of mathematics that it almost boggles the mind.
  • Determinator: A villainous example. Holmes described Moriarty as "inexorable" in chasing the detective across Europe, caring more about revenge than his life in his last rush at the detective.
  • Evil Counterpart: To Holmes.
  • Evil Genius: Credited by Holmes himself as "a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker." His scientific literature is peerless, and his genius in crime is what takes Holmes so long to catch him (and hard to escape him).
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: Moriarty was created to kill off Holmes in "The Final Problem", but became much more popular as time went on.
  • Gray Eyes: Another attribute he shares with Holmes.

Mycroft Holmes

  • Always Someone Better: Zigzagged. Mycroft is indisputably better than Sherlock when it comes to analytical skill. On the other hand, Sherlock outdoes Mycroft when it comes to determining how to tactically approach a case. When the title character of "The Greek Interpreter" asks Mycroft to help him with a case, Mycroft's first act is to put an ad in the newspapers asking for the number of the cab that picked the interpreter up. All this does is make the criminals realize that the Greek interpreter ratted them out.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Even Holmes admits that Mycroft is better in observation and reasoning than himself, but says that he would not make a good detective, since he lacks the energy and ambition to apply these skills as anything more than a hobby for his amusement.

Irene Adler

Warner Bro Films

     Both Films 

Sherlock Holmes

"The game is afoot!"

A bohemian scientist and eccentric detective-for-hire.

  • Adaptational Wimp: Unexpectedly, despite the film's notorious increase in action scenes over most adaptations. While the movie's version gets into a lot more fights and makes more gratuitous use of martial arts, he lacks the original's prodigious strength and often needs to use his cunning as much as his skill to stay just ahead of his opponents. Conan Doyle's Holmes was a skilled enough boxer and martial artist to never need to stoop to combat pragmatism, preferring Good Old Fisticuffs, and was able to beat an extremely skilled boxer in a fair fight.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Asperger's? ADHD?
  • Cursed with Awesome: Sherlock's eponymous Sherlock Scan apparently has no figurative off-switch as shown in the restaurant scene in the first movie, and is explicitly called a curse by him late into the second.
  • Dating Catwoman: Played with as Irene's alignment is ambigious. He also counts as the Batman to Irene's Catwoman.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Is shown in the sequel happily drinking formaldehyde despite Watson pointing out it's highly toxic.
  • Lack of Empathy: Toyed with, but ultimately downplayed. Holmes appears to be interested in solving problems and stopping criminals mainly because he enjoys the challenge, and he also admires and respects the cunning and intelligence of the main villains in both movies despite the nature of their crimes. However, he also specifically points out to Blackwood that he wishes he could have caught him sooner in order to save innocent lives, and to Moriarty that he finds his scheme to be both impressive and horrific. Furthermore, while he has a lack of tact, he's also quite devoted to keeping his friends and companions safe.
  • Large Ham: Most beacuse his facial expressions and his gravely voice complete with a fake English accent.
  • Mad Scientist: Always tests his drugs on poor Gladstone.
  • Manipulative Bastard: A Nice Guy version.

Dr John Watson

"Ive been going over my notes of our exploits over the past seven months. Would you like to hear my conclusions? I am psychologically disturbed."
Played By: Jude Law

  • Bash Brothers: With Holmes.
  • Berserk Button: Harming women in general tends to piss him off, as he demonstrates in the very first scene with Blackwood. Also, don't harm or threaten his fiancee/wife Mary. Don't harm or threaten Sherlock Holmes either. This is your last warning.
  • The Watson: Downplayed, as Holmes and Watson have both hit their prime after long experience. Watson is himself a decent investigator, though not naturally inclined to be as such.

Irene Adler

"Ive never been in over my head."
Played By: Rachel McAdams

  • Adaptational Badass: In the books, she was nothing more than an unusually clever opera singer who happened to get her hands on a compromising photograph, and was smart enough to prevent Holmes from stealing it back. Here's, she's a full-on professional thief and a Femme Fatale who's able to best Holmes in a fight and has outsmarted him on two previous occasions.
  • Back for the Dead: she briefly appears in the sequel's opening scene, only to be killed off by Moriaty.

Inspector Lestrade

Played By: Eddie Marsan

"In another life, Mr. Holmes, you would have made a excellent criminal."

  • Demoted to Extra: In the sequel. In fact, he's only briefly seen a couple of times towards the end.

Mary Watson (ne Morstan)

Played By: Kelly Reilly

"It does seem a little far-fetched, though. Making all these grand assumptions based on such tiny details..."

Mrs Hudson

Played By: Geraldine James

"What will I do when you leave, doctor? He'll bring the whole house down!"


  • Butt Monkey: He's Watson's dog, and as a result he keeps being injected with paralytics and potentially poisoned a lot by Holmes. Lampshaded in A Game Of Shadows when Watson shouts at him to stop killing his dog.
  • Not Quite Dead: A result of several of the compounds he's injected with.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Holmes really did kill Watson's bulldog in A Study In Scarlet, though that dog was so old and infirm that his owner would have put him down soon anyways.

     Sherlock Holmes 

Lord Henry Blackwood

"You and I are bound together on a journey that will twist the very fabric of nature."
Played By: Mark Strong

  • The Dreaded: His influence is so strong that he causes rioting outside Parliament in the final scenes.
  • Evil Brit: Averted. He is evil, but being British has nothing to do with it. Everyone here is British except for Robert Downey Jr.
  • Evil Plan: Fakes his own death to convince others that he has supernatural dark power and assassinate Parliament.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Invoked but he can only fake it.. He talks the talk and uses the imagery, but his "powers" are nothing but smoke and mirrors. Though that reoccurring crow and those prophecies coming true are a bit suspect.
  • Jack the Ripper: It's implied he could be him or at least have something in common.
  • Karmic Death he faked a formal execution by hanging and then inadvertently hanged himself.
  • Knight of Cerebus: The movie seems to turn into an horror genre everytime he's present.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: An odd number of coincidences could be seen as repercussions of his dark magic, and there's this crow that seems to be following him.
  • Villainous Breakdown: When he's about to fall off the bridge, he loses it, shouting for Holmes to cut him loose.

Lord Coward

Played By: Hans Matheson

"How terrible is wisdom, when it brings no profit to the wise."

  • Genre Savvy: To his credit, he tries to kill Holmes when he has the opportunity, but Holmes is just too good for him to kill.
  • Meaningful Name: I'm surprised they didn't call Lord Blackwood Lord Jerkass.
  • Obviously Evil: Maybe someone wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but c'mon, Lord Coward?

Sir Thomas Rotheram

Played By: James Fox


Played By: Robert Maillet

"Cours, petit lapin, cours."

Ambassador John Standish

Played By: William Hope

     A Game of Shadows 

Professor James Moriarty

"The laws of celestial mechanics dictate that when two objects collide, there is always damage, of a collateral nature."
Played By: Jared Harris

  • Abstract Apotheosis: He chides Holmes for expending such energy trying to take him down, when there are a hundred other warmongers hiding in the woodwork — so what's the fuss?
    "You're not fighting much as you are the human condition."
  • Adaptational Badass: Unlike Holmes or Watson, Moriarty wasn't noted to be a man of action. The movies gives him an extensive boxing background.
    • In Doyle's original version, Moriarty was more or less blackballed following a scandal at his university. He was "compelled" to relocate to London, where he held a job as an army coach (a sort of private tutor) despite his obvious mathematical brilliance. In the film, however, not only is Moriarty at the height of his academic prestige, he' s an advisor to nations, as well.
    • Heck, even his credentials have seen an upgrade. Classic Holmes mentioned Moriarty's former base of operations being one of England's "smaller" schools, possibly Leeds. Now it's Cambridge.
  • Always Someone Better: In the finale, Moriarty demonstrates that he has this same ability, and stays one step ahead.
  • Ax-Crazy: A rare cold-blooded and collected one.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: His entire criminal scheme is working like one.
  • Badass Bookworm: Of the pure evil kind.
  • Badass Grandpa: Well, he's wrinkled and his hair is graying and thinning, so he looks almost past retirement age. But he moves like a man half that.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: He actually arrives to set up WWI before probably dying at the Reichenbach Waterfalls. True, it doesn't happen at the right time as he intended, but it's still a victory.
  • Berserk Button: Don't question this nutcase's sanity. Or simply don't spoil his plans.
  • Boxing Battler: Relies on straightforward boxing techniques when fighting, in comparison to Holmes' modified Bartitsu fighting style.
  • The Chessmaster: Chess motifs at the climax.
  • Combat Pragmatist: In their final confrontation, his strategy is very simple: he brutally and repeatedly attacks Holmes' wounded shoulder.
  • Faux Affably Evil: He's quite polite, he's also a sociopathic mastermind who was planning and actually set up the conditions for WWI.
  • For the Evulz: You can see a look of pure fiendish glee when he tortures Holmes on meat hooks.
  • Genius Bruiser: Was Cambridge's boxing champion in his youth.
  • He Looks Just Like Everyone Else: Part of his redesign from the first movie, where he was an ominous, shadowy figure. When you see him in the sequel, he's obscured by the shadows of some blinds. But he pulls them back to look at Irene face to face, and we are introduced to... an ordinary man. An ordinary Moriarty who manipulates, tortures, and kills untold numbers of people without a second thought.
  • Hero Killer: After killing Irene. Every time he runs into one of the main cast, he either kills or horribly injures someone.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Moriarty is on the same level of Blackwood. Or even worse.
  • Lack of Empathy: Holmes quickly writes him off as "morally insane", a neurological term of the day. Basically, his mind is sound, his methods totally insane.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Seriously, witness his fight against Holmes. The man moves like a bullet.
  • Loves the Sound of Screaming: He wears a soft, contented smile while dangling Holmes from the ceiling on a meathook, and even sets up a speaker system to broadcast the sounds throughout his factory.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Moriarty orchestrated the theft of Blackwood's radio wave device, which he likely puts to use with his bombs.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The German-speaking, Schubert-loving mathematician is plotting to assassinate a foreign diplomat at close-range and blame the Anarchists for it. Things don't go quite according to plan... But Moriarty assures Holmes that there are many more men like him. Although it's a German diplomat he intends to have killed.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: After Holmes reveals that he's utterly ruined his organization, the final battle is waged... in his imagination. Holmes thinks he can just paste this nerd in the jaw and be done with it, but Moriarty instantly recovers and clamps on Holmes' bad arm like a cobra. It's downhill from there.
  • No Sell: Sherlock's fight analysis/planning is useless against him because Moriarty can think as fast and fight even faster. They both conclude in their Sherlock Scans that Moriarty would tear Holmes a new one (in part due to Holmes' injury).
  • Oh Crap: His expression when Holmes tackles into the waterfall below. He just can't believe this gumshoe has beaten him in a matter of weeks.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: War with Germany is inevitable - that's why the British government will always come to Moriarty's aid in the end. They need arms dealers like him.
  • Sore Loser: How does Moriarty react to Holmes completely checkmating him? He threatens to kill Holmes and then find a creative of endings for the Dr. and Mrs. Watson. Though he's very cordial as he says it.
  • Tranquil Fury: Sherlock didn't foresee this, and as such had no real advantage over Moriarty in their fight.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: To everyone except Holmes and his allies, Moriarty is a kindly and respected professor of mathematics at Cambridge University, and a personal friend to the Prime Minister. The British government even invite him to the peace summit, not realising that it's Moriarty's fault France and Germany are at each other's throats in the first place.
  • Villainous Breakdown: An extremely subtle one, more to do with his actions than any expression or anger. His rage is restrained, but he makes the decision to go all-out on Holmes. And then that goes out the window after Holmes pulls off his Taking You with Me Heroic Sacrifice. His facial expression as he plummets to his death is of impotent rage.
  • Villainous Friendship: Type one with Colonel Moran.
  • Villains Out Shopping: He takes time out of his villainous schemes to feed the pigeons and attend a performance of Don Giovanni.
  • War for Fun and Profit: Utilizing a variety of shell companies, the Professor is arming France and Germany for the war to end all wars. He's also buying bandages to patch everyone up (at considerable cost, no doubt), so Moriarty is going to profit one way or another.
  • Visionary Villain: Moriarty foresaw the rise of the war economy, and is angling to occupy the ground floor.
  • Wicked Cultured: Has an appreciation of Opera, particularly the work of Schubert, which he sings during the torture scene. Also, attending Don Giovanni right before the Meinhart shooting.
  • Worthy Opponent: Holmes admits respect but can barely hide the great hate he feels towards him.
  • You Cannot Kill an Idea: He barely bats an eyelash when Watson derails his plans, because the framework he put in place still exists. War will come, and it will become a business.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: To the point where it's odd that anyone agrees to work with him. You have to wonder what Moran's pension plan is.

Madame Simza Heron

Played By: Noomi Rapace

Simza is a tag-along protagonist to Holmes and Watson. Holmes runs into her when he intercepts a letter that was intended to go to Moriarty.

  • Action Girl: Though she's a bit outclassed, she nevertheless is far from helpless. It really does well in her and Holmes's fight with the Cossack assassin.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Doesn't look tarnished after the Heilbronn shootout and chase.
  • Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: Simza and her brother counted as these a long time ago, but she managed to get out of the job, while Rene was blackmailed into working for Moriarty.

Mycroft Holmes

Played By: Stephen Fry

"Good evening, Mrs Watson. I'm the other Holmes."

Sherlock's elder brother.

  • Almighty Janitor: Mycroft is indispensable to the British government, even though no one knows what he exactly does.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Finds nothing wrong with walking around naked with his butler and other men, but is taken aback at the notion that women (i.e. Mary) are creatures to be admired. He even tries to hit on her using this logic, but it fails spectacularly.
  • Ass in Ambassador: The government must really need him if they invited this streaker to Switzerland.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Nudist, unsocial, lazy, brilliant, Mycroft is clearly something a weirdo, much like his brother.
  • Handshake Refusal: He doesn't shake hands as Watson finds out.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Walking stark naked in a casual way around his house, which his servants don't even bat an eye at.
  • OOC Is Seriousbusiness: Watson knows something important must be going on if it forces Mycroft to miss an appointment to dine on potted shrimp at the Diogenes Club.
  • The Stoic

Colonel Sebastian Moran

Played By: Paul Anderson

  • Bad Boss: Shoots one of his own men to get a clear shot at Watson whilst sarcastically "warning" the man to back away far out of earshot. Then later, when Sherlock and company attempt to make an escape, he tells the commander of several mooks that if he fails to kill or capture them, he'll be killed for his failure.
  • Berserk Button: He takes exception to people who try to harm Moriarty.
  • Cold Sniper: Moran uses both a poison dart gun concealed in a walking cane, and a good sniper's rifle.
  • Colonel Badass: He's one when shouting orders to the German soldiers in the train yard during the Heilbronn shootout.
  • The Dragon: To Moriarty.
  • Evil Counterpart: To Watson.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: He can hit a target at a 650 yards range with a 7-8mph wind, a feat which Watson claims could only have been reliably pulled off by about half a dozen men in Europe. He proves pretty good on the fly, too, taking a crack shot at Watson with a rifle he scooped up while running and missing by only the slightest degree, and later shooting a Gypsy from a fair distance while suffering from a bullet wound himself.
  • Kick the Dog: He shoots a random German soldier who happened to be standing in front of Watson, sarcastically "warning" him to move while lining up his shot.
  • Oh Crap: Has one when he realizes that Watson is pointing a cannon at him.

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