Yeah, I know lots of people feel this way, so I thought maybe I’d compile a list of my thoughts/explanations.
1. ACD says it’s cool. You’ve probably read the quote before, but just in case, here’s Doyle’s thoughts on recreations of Sherlock: "You may marry him, murder him, or do anything you like to him."
2. Sherlock is the most oft-portrayed movie character in history. And every retelling is different. It has to be! Otherwise it’d get boring. Moffat and Gatiss know this. They show a tremendous amount of respect and love for the original stories, yet have already proven they enjoy putting their own twists on the tales.
3. They also slip in a whole lot of tributes to The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, the film which they claim is a “template” for this show. And I’m not just talking about how Gatiss says he loves the way Holmes “falls in love with [Watson], but it remains so desperately unspoken.” They also modeled Mycroft’s character on the Mycroft in TPLoSH. And if you watch the film, you see lots of other similarities. One is that Irene Adler (who most certainly is not a lesbian dominatrix in canon!) has a storyline quite similar to TPLoSH’s Gabrielle.
My point is, the Sherlock in TPLoSH is canonically gay, and this film was their template. And while it’s true that he never admits his feelings to Watson, that’s just one film. This show consists of, to date, nine film-length episodes. Plenty of room and time to expand on that. (And they will. The film’s a template – a guideline. They aren’t just going to simply rip it off; it’s a starting point.)
4. Moriarty’s gay and into Sherlock. That’s about as big a departure from canon as Irene’s profession. It’s not subtext, it’s text. Hello, sexy. We were made for each other. The flirting’s over…Daddy’s had enough now! James Moriarty is gay and has some serious serial killer-hots for Sherlock in this show, which is a massive, massive departure from the original stories.
5. Mary Morstan and Sebastian Moran are combined into one character. At least, I feel like the evidence is overwhelming that this is what the writers did (though I will of course concede that we can’t be 100% sure until we learn more about her past). However:
- In canon, Mary is introduced in The Sign of Four and Moran is introduced in The Empty House. In the show, Mary is introduced in The Empty Hearse, along with a villain we barely see named Moran. Throughout the entire episode, Mary’s last name and Moran’s first name are never uttered – and this wouldn’t be the first time the writers have had fun with name play. It’s a clue.
- In The Empty House, Sherlock fools the crackshot assassin Sebastian Moran into shooting a dummy in an empty house in order to catch him. In the empty house in His Last Vow, Sherlock fools the crackshot assassin Mary Morstan by using John as a “dummy” for himself in order to “out” her skills.
- In The Empty House, it is revealed that Sebastian Moran threw rocks down on the ledge at Reichenbach Falls where Holmes and Moriarty fought it out. This would tie in nicely with the theory that Mary used her sniper skills to help Jim fake his death in The Reichenbach Fall. (After all, we know there’s more to her secret past than simply being an assassin, as she said so in His Last Vow.)
Even if all of that is a massive coincidence, even if the writers decided to waste the name of Moriarty’s most famous henchman on a one-off villain we barely see in TEH, the fact is Mary’s character in this show is still the biggest departure yet from canon simply by being an assassin.
John Watson is married to an assassin. James Moriarty is gay and in obsessive love with Sherlock Holmes. The writers took a left turn off the original storyline tracks quite awhile ago. They’re taking us someplace new.