'The Irregulars' Is Full Of Sherlock Holmes Connections

- The Irregulars -
'The Irregulars' Is Full Of Sherlock Holmes Connections

There's no shortage of Sherlock Holmes adaptations. From Steven Moffat's popular BBC series Sherlock to Robert Downey Jr.'s Victorian action hero version of the consulting detective, the character is never far from the pop culture spotlight. Netflix's The Irregulars puts a new spin on the Holmes mythos by focusing on the street kids who assist Sherlock and Watson by gathering information no one else can get rather than on the famed crime-solver, but even though he's not the show's primary protagonist, The Irregulars' Sherlock is still strikingly similar to all of your other favorite Sherlocks.

Like Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock, Henry Lloyd-Hughes' take on the character is a violin-playing addict with a love for theatrically explaining his deductions. But The Irregulars' detective doesn't struggle to make interpersonal connections. Instead, he's quite charming — like Downey Jr. — and his greatest downfall is his desire for fame and inability to move on from his lost love.

The Irregulars has wisely taken all of the most interesting bits of Sherlock lore to create a character that's at once familiar and unique. This version of Holmes is fallible and far too broken to actively solve the supernatural mysteries plaguing Victorian London. But he's still recognizable as the world's most famous consulting detective — and it's those sly references to the larger Sherlock Holmes' pop culture canon that makes watching Lloyd-Hughes' Sherlock feel a bit like embarking on a Holmesian Easter egg hunt.

Henry Lloyd-Hughes' Sherlock vs. Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock

  1. Both Hughes' and Cumberbatch's Sherlocks are avid violinists. In fact, the first time The Irregulars introduces its version of the character, he's attempting to play the violin. However, he doesn't put on much of a show since he's high at the time.
  2. In other violin news, both versions of Sherlock play the violin when they're attempting to crack a difficult case.
  3. Both Sherlocks also live for showy deductions, even though they're not always entirely accurate. On The Irregulars, Sherlock tries to impress Bea by deducing the exact brand of tea she brought for him, only to get it wrong (twice). Meanwhile, in the first episode of 2010's Sherlock, the consulting detective shows off his deductive reasoning skills by revealing just how much he knows about John after their first meeting, but John later tells Sherlock he was wrong about one thing: He has a sister, not a brother.
  4. The Irregulars and Sherlock put a fresh spin on the detective's opium dependency issues. Although, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never characterizes Sherlock's drug use as an addiction, modern adaptations tend to go in that direction. Throughout the series, Cumberbatch's detective is a recovering heroin addict who relapses in Season 3, while Hughes' version of the character is incapacitated by his addiction after turning to opium to deal with his grief over the loss of Alice.
  5. If you loved the music cues in the 2010 Sherlock, then listen carefully to the opening theme of The Irregulars: composer Paul Haslinger seems to be riffing on those distinctive, jaunty violin notes.

Henry Lloyd-Hughes' Sherlock vs. Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock

  1. There are lots of similarities between The Irregulars and Guy Ritchie's 2009 film Sherlock Holmes and its 2011 follow-up Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, starting with how ridiculously charming Sherlock is. While the character is often depicted as someone whose brilliance allows him to skate by without any real social skills, both Downey Jr. and Hughes play the detective like he's a rock star. Their Sherlocks are sexy and they know it, which is equally maddening and a blast to watch.
  2. Additionally, both characters are intrigued by the idea of the supernatural, and, as a result, they end up dealing with a secret society obsessed with the occult.
  3. They're true bohemians, who embrace their eccentricities — which makes them two of the more faithful depictions of the character. As Downey Jr. said in a 2009 interview The Wall Street Journal, many of the most famous adaptations of Doyle's work lean too far into stodginess, when the character is actually just wonderfully weird. "He can be a little cocksure and full of himself, but Holmes is also like that freaky roommate everybody has once in their life, that guy who is a math genius but could never pay his part of the rent," Downey Jr. explained. "And at the same time, he has this dedication to doing the right thing to the exclusion of doing all other things. He sacrifices everything so he can become better at what he does."
  4. Romantic relationships aren't foreign concepts to these two Sherlocks. Lloyd-Hughes' version falls hard for Alice, while Downey Jr.'s has a complicated past with the one and only Irene Adler.
  5. A key part of Sherlock's case plays out against the background of the opera in episode five of The Irregulars. Meanwhile, in the second movie, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, there's a super intense moment at the opera house when the detective realizes he has allowed himself to be misled.

Henry Lloyd-Hughes' Sherlock vs. Henry Cavill's Sherlock

  1. The Irregulars isn't the first adaptation to sideline Sherlock in favor of focusing on teenage protagonists instead. In 2020, the Netflix original film Enola Holmes put the focus on Holmes' little sister, just as The Irregulars focuses on the street kids who assist the detective in gathering clues.
  2. In Enola Holmes, Cavill's Sherlock feels as though he's failed his little sister by not being there for her when she was growing up. He also recognizes that she takes after him when it comes to her deductive reasoning skills. Lloyd-Hughes' Sherlock has a similar revelation where Bea and Jessie are concerned, but the story is even more tragic since he failed to protect his daughter and surrogate daughter in the aftermath of their mother's death.

Even though The Irregulars loves subverting the myth of Sherlock Holmes, it's clear there are certain parts of the character that simply can't be left out of any adaptation.

Check out all of our coverage for The Irregulars here.

Images: Netflix; BBC; Warner Bros. Pictures

Join For Free
Sign up for a free account on our new, female-founded site to personalize your feed and get access to our community and conversations.

Discover More