John Watson for the 21st Century

When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave his famous sleuth, Sherlock Holmes a sidekick, he created a tough as nails physician who had the courage and experience to be the friend and moral compass the detective desperately needed. Unfortunately when Sherlock Holmes was to the big screen this noble assistant was made into a buffoon for comedy relief and that is the image that has stuck to Dr. John Watson ever since in the minds of those who never read the source material. But with Sherlock and Watson being brought into the twenty first century a change has happened with the character, John Watson has shifted back to being the tough as nails hero that Doyle intended him to be. Thanks to brilliant recent portrayals by gifted actors; Jude Law and Martin Freeman onscreen, the character has evolved and public perception of him has changed.

Jude Law

Both in Sherlock and the Guy Ritchie films portray John Watson in many ways as a man of the people. Sherlock Holmes may be ridiculously intelligent but his ability to relate to average people leaves a lot to be desired. This leaves his sidekick in the position to be the voice of the average person in many ways. Unlike his detective friend, Watson has held a regular job and has felt concerns over things like friendship and money. In many ways he fills the position of the companion to Sherlock’s Doctor in this fashion.  This is especially in Sherlock where he has personally experienced the economic instability and dread over the war that many in the audience. In Sherlock Holmes Watson deals with the age old dilemma of either, settling down with a woman or continuing the thrill-a-minute life of hanging out with your best friend having adventures.


Despite possessing a strong moral compass there have been times in both the films as well as the television series where Watson displayed an unrepentant dark side.  In the episode of Sherlock “A Study in Pink”, the doctor is confronted by Mycroft who finally reveals the fact that Watson was not traumatized by the horrors of war, he craves it. He proves this later on in the episode by shooting the man trying to kill Sherlock without deadly aim and without a moment’s hesitation. In this past season a bored Watson trying to settle into suburban life did not hesitant to wield a tire iron in an abandoned warehouse with the potential of a fight obviously exciting him.  In the cinematic world, Jude Law’s Watson, shows little to no concern for his wife’s well being in much of,   ; once he is certain she is with Mycroft he ruthlessly pursues Moriarty like a man possessed. In many ways this can be seen as an extension of his medical responsibilities; by gunning down the man in “A Study in Pink” to presiding as the medical examiner in Lord Blackwood’s execution without flinching he his not only curing medical illness but those who are an illness to society in general.