Saturday, April 5, 2014

Is Janine Canonical?

To Sherlock Holmes, Irene Adler was always the woman.

And then came Janine.

It was not that Sherlock felt any emotion akin to love for Janine. For the trained reasoner to admit such an intrusion into his own delicately and finely adjusted temperament would have been to . . . oh, wait, Watson was getting married, that deal was done. And in that chaos came all sorts of unlikely new associates as the detective wobbled about dealing with the potential void: ring-bearers, cloth napkins, and . . Janine.

In one respect, Janine is the BBC Sherlock incarnation of Agatha the housemaid, just as Charles Augustus Magnussen was the modern equivalent of Charles Augustus Milverton. Poor Agatha, the girl Sherlockians have spent decades sympathizing with, proposed to and then dumped by Sherlock Holmes just so he could break into a house. But Janine is so much more than Agatha.

Janine was not only Sherlock Holmes's pawn, but that of the most unexpected schemer of all as well. And she was much more than Charles Augustus Magnussen's housemaid. More telling still was the way she eventually defied her employer by going to his rivals. Here is Magnussen, one of the scariest and most powerful creatures Sherlock Holmes ever faced, and Janine casually screws him over to come up with the cost of a cottage.

I first found myself contemplating Janine today after running across still more 221B Con cosplay photos, and puzzling over how Canonical she was, given her Agatha-based pedigree. But the more I considered Janine, the more I came to a different conclusion. As much as BBC Sherlock went the distance and gave us one of the finest Irene Adlers to ever draw breathe, they took the game one step further and created a second Irene Adler and called her Janine.

"Noooo," one might protest. "Irene beat Sherlock at his own game, she was his perfect clever match, the one woman he could truly find something akin to love for."

And while Irene might have been a match for Sherlock in many ways, were Sherlock a one-shot theatrical romantic comedy, I'd pair her up with Mycroft in the end. For Sherlock Holmes? Well, there's Janine. Why?

Janine is the trickster, the agent of chaos, the unpredictable opponent you can't beat simply because she's up in the grandstand when she's supposed to be on the playing field. She isn't Sherlock's match, she's his opposite number. She's the girl the romantic comedies like to bring in to throw an ordered man's world into wild misadventure. And she's the extraordinary conduct that comes from that hairpin that vexed Sherlock Holmes so, once upon a time.

But then, maybe I read too much into a well done character who found an interesting new connection to the old detective, now young again. Still, I rather liked Janine.


  1. there's a theory afoot that Janine is Moriarty's sister. wouldn't that be fun!

  2. I missed this because I went offline during 221B Con, so let me pass on the epiphany I had there:

    I know that Janine is putatively based on Agatha the maid. BUT:

    Think of a woman.

    A woman who has done something probably illegal, possibly immoral, certainly eyebrow-raising that should not be publicized. There is blackmail involved. Sherlock Holmes will play on this woman's natural reactions to trick her into benefiting his case (for which she is on the opposite side). In the end, though, she will leave the story in triumph, no longer under threat, in possession of security, and having bested Holmes.

    Irene? Not in the 21st Century.


    In Sherlock, JANINE's storyline best fits the template of the canonical Irene story!

    -- Nea