Elementary Gets Its Own Irene Adler: Natalie Dormer Set for Guest Role

Just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in.

That’s been largely my experience with CBS’ Sherlock Holmes adaptation Elementary – the two of us have certainly had a yo-yo sort of relationship. I expected to hate it. I did not. I love Jonny Lee Miller’s performance as Holmes. I don’t really believe in Lucy Liu’s Watson. I like some of the secondary characters. The generic mysteries of the week are dreadful, but on the rare occasions the show has actually attempted to use the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle cases as inspiration – the episode featuring the introduction of Sebastian Moran, for example – it’s actually quite interesting. The show rarely uses the Conan Doyle stories as inspiration.

My internal back-and-forth on this issue is rather extensive.  But, Elementary’s managed to hook me at least through the end of their first season, now that they’ve cast one of my favorite actresses as Holmes’s former flame Irene Adler. British actress Natalie Dormer has officially joined the cast for a three episode guest run – you’ve probably seen her as Margaery Tyrell on Game of Thrones or Anne Boleyn on The Tudorsand she is basically perfect for this part. Well, played show. I (reluctantly) tip my hat to you. 

The issue here, though? In the Elementary-verse, Irene Adler is actually dead. She was murdered – apparently by Moriarty – well before Holmes ever came to America, and we’ve never seen her onscreen. As a female who watches a lot of television, I have deep and complicated problems with the whole issue surrounding “fridging” one of the only legitimate female characters from Holmes canon before we’ve ever even met her (and I say that as someone who basically hates the entire mythos surrounding Adler), but I’m mostly just deeply curious to see how they handle this particular incarnation of The Woman. And also whether I’m right about Adler’s death being some sort of massive fakeout in the first place.  

“We're moving to the next chapter in our show – and in some ways, to a previous chapter in Holmes' story,” said executive producer and creator Rob Doherty. “Irene Adler is perhaps the most pivotal relationship in Sherlock's life, and I can't think of an actress better suited to the challenge than Natalie.”

At the moment, it seems as though Dormer’s role is merely to appear in flashbacks, beginning May 9 and continuing through the show’s two-hour season finale on May 16. Other than the whole “actually quite dead” bit, we know little about Elementary’s Adler, other than her status as the only woman Sherlock ever loved or some such rot. (Eyeroll.) However, Dormer is a fantastic actress and well versed in playing women with complicated personal agendas, so I’m hopeful that this means she’s going to do something interesting with the character. Is it bizarre that after Guy Ritchie’s professional thief/temptress and Steven Moffat’s dominatrix, I rather hope this particular incarnation of The Woman perhaps just does flower arranging or runs a Girl Scout troop? Probably.

Miller tweeted a photo of himself and Dormer on set and they are pretty adorable together: 

If you couldn’t tell, I’m making another run at trying to make my relationship with Elementary work and have been marathoning recent episodes during morning trips to the gym. Thus far, it’s been a bit improved by bleary-eyed early morning viewings (what that says about it is up for debate), but we’ll see how it goes. Thoughts? Are you still tuning in to Elementary? How do you feel about Dormer’s casting or the Irene “twist” in general?