Coventry: Sherlock’s Love Life Takes a Lesson from WWII
You know what’s never sat well with me? If Sherlock is coded so thoroughly as gay from day one, why are his actions toward John and Irene in A Scandal in Belgravia so confusing? Why did he start to text her? Why did he completely ignore John when he tried to have a conversation about his love life? Why was Sherlock playing his part so well at that fireplace when he took Irene’s pulse? What would have happened if Mrs. Hudson hadn’t interrupted them? It took me until this moment to realize the Coventry strategy wasn’t only reserved for Mycroft’s Bond Air situation – it’s how Sherlock dealt with both Irene and John after their reveal at Battersea.
You see at this point in time, Sherlock has no idea how to read when a woman is into him. Molly came dressed to impress at the Christmas party but Sherlock had no idea it was for him. He missed Molly asking him to coffee in episode one, as well. He knows compliments work on her, but he doesn’t know why. He learns all of this in A Scandal in Belgravia. More importantly, he breaks Irene Adler’s code. Not her cell phone code with “SHER” – he breaks her military strategy. But he can’t let anyone know he’s figured it out. Coventry all over again. The wheel turns, nothing is ever new.
So he hides and sees this:
Irene admits she’s been flirting this whole time even though she’s gay. You can take this as truth or not, but the end result is the same. She is using a certain strategy to get to Sherlock Holmes. She’s texting him relentlessly and she’s interested in one specific thing.
Sherlock is watching this play out. He’s accidently listening in to both of their strategies. Considering Irene said “Well, I am. Look at us both.” we can understand this to symbolize a classified military meeting where they’re talking strategy. The same strategy. You think they just used the terms “going into battle” and “battle dress” on a whim? No, no. This whole episode is about wartime strategy. And Sherlock has just broken the German code.
Look at him here. He knows their strategy. He knows their code, but he can’t let them know he knows. That would have him win the battle but lose the war.
This is why he ignores John completely here:
And changes his tactics here:
This is why he goes through the motions here:
Not only is he deducing her actual pupil dilation and heart rate, he’s playing into her hand so she doesn’t know he’s broken the symbolic code. At the fireplace is where he even announces the Coventry conundrum and military strategy amidst a barrage of “Have you every had anyone?” and “You might be hungry”. These two motivations happen at the same time for a reason: to tell the audience he’s playing into her hand to not lose the war.
If Mrs. Hudson wouldn’t have come home, Sherlock may have kissed her. Nothing farther than that, of course, we see in episode nine his fake feelings for women on cases have limits.
The reason most heteronormative viewers don’t see this playing out is because the writers of BBC Sherlock have figured out our code – and they’re pretending to not know it to win the war. The wheel turns, nothing is ever new.