Dr. John Hamish Watson
The deuteragonist of this story. An army doctor who was injured in the war, the series starts with him going to therapy and looking for a flatmate. He becomes one of the first people to appreciate Sherlock's incredible analytical skills, and Sherlock in turn realizes that John's therapist is wrong—he's not having trouble being back from the war because of post-traumatic stress, but because he misses the excitement. John becomes an invaluable aid to Sherlock, especially as his conscience.
- Adaptational Badass: Conan Doyle's Watson was quite the man of action, but this John Watson isn't just Dr. John Watson he's Captain John Watson.note
- Allergic to Routine: As much as he complains about Sherlock's behavior, there's nothing in theory to stop him simply walking away — except, as Mycroft points out, he's nearly as big a danger-junkie himself.
- Aloof Big Brother: Harry is very supportive of John, but he's distant because he doesn't like her drinking.
- Anger Born of Worry: He reacts to Sherlock being alive by hitting him multiple times.
- Badass Adorable: Whether it's shooting a guy dead under improbable odds, sassing back criminal masterminds who've kidnapped him or ordering around CIA agents who have a gun to the back of his head, chances are he'll be doing it in a cardigan. Also is strongly implied to be one of those people who start celebrating Christmas in October.
- Badass Boast: John gives a particularly good one in "The Abominable Bride" when he's getting really tired of Sherlock's drug habits.John: We'll see which of us is a soldier, and which is a drug addict!
Sherlock: You're a doctor.
John: I'm an Army doctor. I'll break every bone in your body while naming them.
- Badass Bookworm: He's an ex-army doctor.
- Berserk Button: Actually punches out the superintendent of Scotland Yard because he called Sherlock a "weirdo," probably partly so he'll be arrested as well and can stay with Sherlock, but the fact that he chose that way to do it says something.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Though a friendly and laid back man, John is still an ex-soldier. He has no compunction about killing someone if they're putting the people he cares about in immediate danger. Lampshaded in "A Scandal in Belgravia":John: Remember, Sherlock, I was a soldier! I killed people!
Sherlock: You were a doctor!
John: I had bad days!
- Blood Knight: John isn't traumatized by combat so much as he misses it. It's rather downplayed, though, since it's not something John is really proud of.
- Sherlock himself comments on these tendencies after Mary is discovered as a rogue intelligence agent and John asks whether or not everyone in his life is a 'psychopath'.Sherlock: You were a doctor who went to war. You're a man who couldn't stay in the suburbs for more than a month without storming a crack den and beating up a junkie. [...] John, you are addicted to a certain lifestyle. You're abnormally attracted... to dangerous situations and people.
- Sherlock himself comments on these tendencies after Mary is discovered as a rogue intelligence agent and John asks whether or not everyone in his life is a 'psychopath'.
- Boring Yet Practical: Prefers to use diaries and cameras to record data instead of bizarre memory techniques. Also prefers to call the police using a phone instead of a gun, and would like Mycroft to call him instead of kidnap him."You know ... I've got a phone. I mean, very clever and all that. But you could just phone me. On m' phone."
- Brains and Brawn: The Brawn, to Sherlock's Brain.
- The Caretaker: To Sherlock, going so far as to ditch his girlfriend on New Year's Eve just to make sure that Sherlock doesnt relapse.
- Cloud Cuckoolanders Minder: To the point where he can't hold down a regular job at a hospital or clinic since looking after Sherlock is his full-time job.
- Combat Medic: He is a military doctor, after all.
- The Conscience: To Sherlock, reminding him what is good or at least how to behave in public.
- Curse Cut Short: Almost every episode. Most memorably in "The Great Game", when he opens the fridge in 221B and finds himself staring at a severed head inside.
- As Series 2 goes on, more of John's curses are left in-episode, mostly to demonstrate that the tone has gotten noticeably darker. He has two particularly PG-13 words in Episode 3.
- Deadpan Snarker: Oh so very, very much. He gets the majority of the most delicious lines of snark in the show. From the very first episode:Mycroft: [about Sherlock, after kidnapping John and bringing him to an abandoned warehouse to simply talk to him] He does so love to be dramatic.
John: Well, thank God you're above all that.
- Distressed Dude: Despite his supposed badassery and Blood Knight tendencies, actually requires rescuing from kidnapping and imminent danger way more than Sherlock. Lampshaded by Magnussen.Magnussen: Look how you care about John Watson. Your damsel in distress.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Frequently. At Buckingham Palace, he gets so carried away imagining that he nearly drops the fine china.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Hamish. He dislikes it so much that Sherlock couldn't goad him into divulging it and only found out by looking at his birth certificate. His middle name becomes a plot point in "The Sign of Three".
- Foil: To Sherlock. An obligatory aspect of his character.
- Friendly Sniper: Once shot a guy through two windows, in another building. With a pistol.
- Genre Blind: To an extent, In The Great Game, Sherlock implies that Moriarty is one of the people who reads Watson's blog. This revelation does not stop Watson from maintaining his blog or putting fairly personal information about him and Sherlock on it.
- Giver of Lame Names: Sherlock is consistently unimpressed with the case titles John comes up with.
- Good Is Not Soft: One of the sweetest people in the series, but dauntless in the face of intimidation, capture or imminent death. And not above shooting a sufficiently bad man.
- Handgun: He somehow managed to keep his service pistol, a Sig-Sauer P226, and is scarily proficient with it.
- Handicapped Badass: Even when being affected by the fear drug in "The Hounds of Baskerville", he's still the one to kill the hound.
- Heroic BSoD: After Sherlock's apparent "death" at the end of Series 2, and later, after Mary's actual death in Series 4.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Sherlock.
- Hospital Hottie: Although he's hardly ever in scrubs.
- Hypocritical Humor: He accuses Sherlock of being a Drama Queen at a critical hour and tells him to just finish solving the case without the theatrics and gloating. Sherlock eventually does so but says John's just as guilty himself, which Mary agrees with.
- If It's You, It's Okay: When he tells Irene he's straight, she implies this about him and Sherlock.
- In Harm's Way: When your best friend is a crime solving sociopath, and your wife is a retired professional killer, you really have no excuse.
Wiggins: Somebody hit me.
- Lampshaded in "His Last Vow":
Wiggins: Just some guy. (stares at Watson)
John: Probably just an addict in need of a fix.
Sherlock: Yes, I think in a way, it was.
- Jumped at the Call:Sherlock: You've seen a bit of trouble too, I bet.
John: Of course, yes. Enough for a lifetime, far too much.
Sherlock: ...Want to see some more?
John: Oh, God, yes.
- The Lancer: The title character's best friend, who is (somewhat) more down to earth, prepared to tell him off, and fills several gaps in his skillset.
- Like an Old Married Couple: Given that many people they know or meet assume John and Sherlock to be a couple and when Mrs. Hudson walks in on them arguing asking if they had a little domestic, I feel this fits.
- Logging On To The Fourth Wall: His blog documenting his and Sherlock's adventures, which is widely read in-universe, can be found here.
- Magnetic Hero: For someone who doesnt go out of their way to make friends, people seem to quickly take a liking to him. At any rate, hes a far more likable hero than Sherlock.
- Married to the Job: He started to catch this from being around Sherlock; none of his girlfriends were able to put up with their adventuring for long. Fortunately, Mary adores Sherlock possibly even more than John does — but it's still unlikely they would have got to the point of marriage had Sherlock not been off the scene for a couple of years.Jeanette: My friends were wrong, you know. You're a great boyfriend — and Sherlock Holmes is a very lucky man.
- The McCoy: The emotional Foil to Sherlock.
- Minored in Ass-Kicking: He's generally known for his equanimity, but if you make him angry, you'll know about it.
- Mistaken for Gay: By Mrs Hudson, Irene Adler, and several of his short-lived girlfriends. At least until he meets Mary.
- Morality Pet: For Sherlock, letting him know whenever he's said or done something "not good". Lampshaded by Moriarty."Oh, [John]'s sweet. I can see why you like having him around. But then, people do get so sentimental about their pets".
- Mysterious Middle Initial:
- In "A Scandal in Belgravia", John H. Watson finally reveals his much-speculated upon middle name: Hamish.
- Which of course lines up with Conan Doyle's canon. For even more speculation, see the pre-season-two debate on DI Lestrade's first name. Conan Doyle only gave an initial (G) which BBC expanded to Greg.
- Nerves of Steel: You'd be amazed by how much he goes through completely terrified and yet keeps his calm no matter what. It's telling that the only time we really see him panic is when Sherlock drugs him with a chemical specifically designed to cause irrational levels of fear, and even then he keeps his head enough to get to the safest place possible and continually report what's going on.
- Nice Guy: John Watson is a decent, friendly and moral human being. Just don't piss him off.
- No Bisexuals: Part of the Running Gag with people questioning his and Sherlock's relationship has him claim how he's "not gay", with neither him or any of the people accusing him taking bisexuality into consideration.
- Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: A variant; John says "Nothing ever happens to me" to his psychologist's suggestion that he blogs everything that happens to him. And then a couple of scenes later, he meets Sherlock...
- The Not-Love Interest: To Sherlock.
- Not So Above It All: Sherlock's Brutal Honesty has rubbed off on him by the time of Series 3.
- Odd Friendship: With Sherlock. He's a military veteran and Nice Guy, while Sherlock is a high-functioning sociopath (moreso initially).
- Only Friend: To Sherlock, at least for a very long time and everyone who knows Sherlock is amazed that he's even managed that much. And as Sherlock almost affectionately points out in "The Hounds of Baskerville":Sherlock: I dont have friends. I've just got one.
- Only Sane Man: Frequently. Especially when Mycroft and Sherlock are yelling at each other and playing tug-of-war with a bedsheet protecting Sherlock's modesty. In the middle of Buckingham Palace.
- Lampshaded dramatically in "His Last Vow" when Sherlock points out John is attracted to unstable, dangerous people, pointing out himself, Mrs Hudson (who formerly worked for a drug cartel and was an exotic dancer) and his own wife, who was a CIA assassin.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: Sherlock's uncanny abilities and intelligence lead people to forget that John is both tough enough to be a soldier and smart enough to be a doctor.
- Pintsized Powerhouse: He is a 5'7"(1.70m), mild-mannered, jumper-wearing killing machine. Once punched Sherlock (6'0 [1.82m] and a badass fighter in his own right), splitting his cheek, then knocked him to the ground and put him in a choke-hold, all the while explaining that it wasn't a good idea for Sherlock to antagonise an Afghan war veteran who killed people when he had "bad days." He is also a very, very good marksman, since he killed Jefferson Hope, and, while tied to a chair at the time, killed the Chinese gangster. Oh, and threatened death on a professional killer when said professional killer grabs Sherlock in a headlock in an attempt to strangle him or snap his neck, which proves that, if you get this gentle soul pissed by threatening his friend's life-he WILL calmly, cooly kill you. The last episode of the second season has him breaking a guy's nose with a single punch, which results in a bloody nose.
- Reaction Shot: John's very good at these.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: John Watson's more emotional Red Oni to Sherlock that is a cold and intelligent Blue Oni.
- Retired Badass: John occasionally reminds people that he was also a soldier in the army.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: In the first episode, a mysterious unidentified man offers him a generous stipend just to report Sherlock's movements. He scorns the notion.
- All the more striking because he has recurring money troubles and is far more interested than Sherlock in any honestly earned money that comes their way.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: John subverts and inverts this trope. You'd expect him to be traumatized given his situation, but he actually misses the danger. His hand shakes when he's not thinking about the war! Hence his enthusiasm to help Sherlock. Even an exploding mine barely fazes him.
- Sickeningly Sweethearts: With Mary. It's implied by Sherlock in this post on John's blog.They're both perfectly acceptable friends in their own way but then they start talking and I wish I really had died.
- Stating the Simple Solution: Does this often, either to be refuted by Mycroft or Sherlock or to demonstrate how averse to common sense the latter can be.
- Straight Man: More down to earth than Sherlock is.
- Throwing Off the Disability: His limp is psychosomatic, meaning that he can lose it when he forgets about it. In fact, he was actually shot in the shoulder, meaning that his leg is completely fine.
- This is a subtle joke at the expense of Conan Doyle, who absentmindedly changed the location of Watson's war wound from the shoulder to the leg between books.
- Tsundere: Towards Sherlock and their odd partnership. He constantly acts like he's being dragged into things by Sherlock when he could be doing something better with himself and says virtually everything that comes out of Sherlock's mouth includes the subtext of "punch me in the face", yet he stays because everything it entails is what he thrives on.
- Undying Loyalty: To Sherlock, shown on several occasions.
- Unfazed Everyman: From who else but himself? He adjusts remarkably quickly to the weirdness that comes with being Sherlock Holmes's sidekick.John: We've only just met.
Mycroft: And since yesterday you've moved in with him and now you're solving crimes together. Might we expect a happy announcement by the end of the week?
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Him and Sherlock. Hardly a moment passes when they arent snarking at each other.
- The Watson: Well, duh. Occasionally Played for Laughs."How— oh, never mind".
- Also lampshaded by Magnussen in "His Last Vow":John: I don't understand.
Magnussen: You should have that on a t-shirt.
- Also lampshaded by Magnussen in "His Last Vow":
- Weirdness Magnet: Sherlock implies he's naturally attracted to this, although only unconsciously. Mary agrees.
- What the Hell, Hero?: If Sherlock's getting one of these, chances are good that John will be the one lecturing him, and chances are that he'll be the only one Sherlock will even try to listen to. Turned around on himself in Series 4 when John's own upstanding character takes a nosedive; having a text-based affair after his wife has recently given birth and beating his best friend to a bleeding pulp. Rather sweetly Subverted in that Sherlock doesn't give him a chastising speech but is warmly accepting of John's flaws.Sherlock: It's not a pleasant thought, John, but I think from time to time we might all just be human.
John: Even you?
Sherlock: No. Even you.
- With Friends Like These...: With Sherlock and cranked Up to Eleven in "The Hounds of Baskerville" when Sherlock drugs John and then locks him up in a lab to conduct an experiment that involved scaring the crap out of John, a war veteran who still suffers from nightmares and flashbacks related to the battlefield. It's surprising that John didnt at least take a swing at him afterwards.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Violence against women seems to bother John. He's notably guilty about Soo Lin's death in "The Blind Banker", becomes noticeably distressed at the crying woman in "The Great Game", and while he had no problem punching the Superintendent of Scotland Yard for calling Sherlock a "weirdo", he ignores Sally Donovan rubbing it in that Sherlock was not to be trusted.