Moffat: Also, if you read [The Adventure Of] Charles Augustus Milverton, Dr. Watson in the opening paragraph tells you that he’s about to tell you a porkie. He says, ‘I even now must be very reticent.’ I think what Doyle is hinting at is that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson sat in Baker Street and said, ‘Right, we’re going to have to go and kill him, aren’t we? That’s the only way we can do this.’ So they break in, kill him, and then Dr. Watson writes up a version of the story that puts the murder [on someone else].
Gatiss: They’re hiding in their burglar masks behind the curtain, and this random woman comes and shoots Milverton in the face and then grinds her heel into his face. It’s odd, isn’t it? So I mean really, it’s just an extrapolation of saying, ‘Well, he probably did it, I think.’
Steven Moffat, Empire Interview
…Are you kidding me, Moffat and Gatiss?
For those who aren’t familiar with the original ACD stories, “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton” is one of the coolest, badass-lady-kicks-ass stories in canon. And here they’ve just decided that the only way that’s possible is that Watson was lying to us.
To recap the story: Holmes and Watson break into Milverton’s estate with the intention of removing the letters that Milverton has on their client, Lady Eva Blackwood. Upon breaking in, they pick the lock of the safe where Milverton keeps his letters for blackmail, and then hide behind a curtain when Milverton himself comes in. Milverton sits down in his chair and reads some legal papers for a while, and then a woman comes to the door, and it becomes evident that the two of them had prearranged this meeting. Milverton understands the woman is a maid who is prepared to sell letters that will incriminate her mistress.
It turns out, though, that the woman is actually one of Milverton’s victims; that he sent the letters he had on her to her husband, and it came as such a shock to the husband that he died of a broken heart. Furious and determined that Milverton will never victimize anyone else the same way again, the woman shoots Milverton and grinds her heel in his face.
At the time, Watson reports, he and Holmes have no idea what the woman’s identity is; at the end, Holmes has an epiphany and the story ends with Holmes showing Watson this:
"…a shop window filled with photographs of the celebrities and beauties of the day. Holmes’ eyes fixed themselves on one of them, and following his gaze I saw the picture of a regal and stately lady in Court dress, with a high diamond tiara upon her head. I looked at that delicately-curved nose, at the strong little chin beneath it. Then I caught my breath as I read the time-honoured title of the great nobleman and statesman whose wife she had been. My eyes met those of Holmes, and he put his finger to his lips as we turned away from the window."
So, let me get this straight. We have Watson telling us a completely believable story where a female character has agency for once and takes care of her own problem (and everyone else’s) by getting rid of Milverton, with perfectly good reason seeing as he’s been blackmailing everyone in town. it makes total sense that he would have shitloads of enemies and that someone would stand up to him eventually, especially if they had nothing left to lose as this woman does, and somehow that’s unbelievable? The only explanation is that Watson must have been lying to us? I’m not saying he would admit it if he and Holmes did commit murder, but the fact that he provided us with an alternative that gives us a woman with agency and an interesting, mysterious backstory makes me think that’s not the case. (Also, I take issue with Moffat’s reading of Holmes as someone who would be totally okay with murder and then letting Watson publish a story about it, but that’s a different post entirely.)
Combined with the fact that Moffat took the joy of Irene Adler beating Sherlock Holmes away from us (and then added insult to injury by having him save her as a damsel in distress), I am just too furious to speak right now. The man is apparently incapable of writing a female character with agency, who steals the spotlight away from Sherlock Holmes, ever. I can’t believe people still claim the man does not have any issues with sexism and misogyny. I absolutely cannot understand it.
Oh, I’d have loved to have your commentary, but I went blind with rage reading the Moffat quote.
The Milverton story is one of my favorites because it is so thoroughly about justice and the rights of victims and survivors. Gatiss called the victim/survivior “some random woman”. This is such a perfect example of the monstrosity that is this kind of ‘everyday’ misogyny.
I LOVE the Milverton story too and this makes so fucking angry that they would fuck this up. Moffat literally has NO respect for the source material all he sees is what he wants to see
SORRY, WHAT WAS EVERYONE SAYING ABOUT THIS SHOW BEING SO VERY CANON?!
UGH. This is REPULSIVE. No respect at ALL for the actual Doyleian canon.