Continuing with the thirty days of Sherlock thing, today I’m supposed to talk about my favorite character. I should probably be talking about one of these two:
They are, after all, the heart of the show, and I could write a treatise on why I love either of them. However, I suspect I’ll be talking about them quite a bit. So instead I want to say a word about another series regular: Mrs. Hudson.
In the books she’s really just their housekeeper and never gets much attention so far as I can remember. In the show, however, Mrs. Hudson is a force to be reckoned with. The first thing we learn about her is that she and Sherlock have some kind of special relationship: her husband was sentenced to death in Florida, and he helped her out – by ensuring the execution. This is considered a favor between them. She’s about the sweetest old bitty you could ever imagine, not a mean bone in her body, so you know she had justification for wanting her husband dead. The unspoken situation here, whatever it is, speaks to her strength, not her weakness.
If you want strength, consider this: she is Sherlock !@#$ Holmes’s landlady. She takes his skull away, reacts to him shooting up the fancy wallpaper with a mild “I’m putting this on your rent, young man,” and is only mildly squicked to find disarticulated thumbs in a baggie in his fridge. When Jawn snaps at her in a PTSD fit she doesn’t coddle him or react in kind; rather, she empathizes because she has a hip, then proceeds to make him a cup of tea. (Just this once, as she’s his landlady and not his housekeeper, dear.) Mycroft Holmes may be the British government and capable of manipulating the Korean elections, but he isn’t allowed to tell her to shut up. Not only does Sherlock trust her to guard the Woman woman’s mobile phone, when she’s attacked by armed ruffians she uses womanly tears as a shield and sneaks the phone out in her dress. Fooling not only them but John in the process.
She also doesn’t bat an eye at the idea that Sherlock and John might not need an extra bedroom (after all the next-door neighbor has “married ones”). She just wants them to be happy, both because she genuinely cares about Sherlock and because she really does see people as who they are and accepts them at that level rather than needing them to conform to some expectation she has. She’s an older woman; it’s not unreasonable to think she has some niggling thoughts on this kind of thing, but they pale by her drive toward hospitality and supporting the people in her life.
To Mrs. Hudson, pi is a rational number.
The wonder of all this to me is that she does this without leaving her matronly position behind. She is the mistress of 221B, able to go toe to toe with Sherlock, Watson, Lestrade, even Mycroft – but she doesn’t have to become a power-player to do it. For all of the traditional gender norms she inhabits, her character doesn’t strike me as sexism or stereotyping; she owns that world. She could easily pass the Bechdel test if she interacted much with other women.
At the end of the day, I think Sherlock has it about right. Without Mrs. Hudson at 221B, London would fall. Which somehow just seems right.