John Watson: The man, the woman, the mouse
Sherlock Holmes is one of the most recognizeable characters of all time. He's been portrayed 254 times on television and film, making him the most-adapted character of all time. But what about his faithful sidekick? As the character that chronicled almost all of Holmes' adventures, John Watson's perspective is essential to the story. He's been reimagined as a modern war veteran, a retired female surgeon, and a bumbling mouse (those are only a few examples).
Portrayals of the character vary widely, but there are of course a few traits that remain the same.
Even when Sherlock is making a nuisance of himself, Watson is there. When there's danger or villainy to be thwarted, Watson never leaves Sherlock's side. The characters have a friendship that has weathered countless struggles, devious criminal masterminds, and of course all of Holmes' eccentricities. It's a continuous element of every adaptation.
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Holmes in possession of a brilliant mind must be in want of a Watson." Isn't that how the saying goes?
Not a genius, but Watson is no slouch
An essential part of the Holmes-Watson friendship is their partnership. They may not be equals in all things, but they value one another. Yes, Sherlock is the detective, but Watson's skills have been important to the resolution if cases plenty of times. In the original stories, Holmes called Watson "a conductor of light." Watson is a foil for Sherlock, a way for the viewer to relate to the story. But as a character Watson is not passive.
Together, they become more than the sum of their parts.
Watson is funny
Someone has to have a sense of humor. John's sass is a subtle thread connecting every version of the character. When Holmes is behaving in an unreasonable way, Watson is there for relief. The character grounds the story in reality by offering a believable response to the sometimes impossible-seeming Holmes. Watson filters the story for the audience by acting as the character we most relate to.
Watson is our entry point into the world of Sherlock Holmes.
In some versions you are!
I think it's amazing that so many of the character's qualities have proven to be transferable, despite how different each adaptation is. I know I didn't look at some of the other major Watsons (Jude Law of course), but I feel like we'd find the same qualities there as well? Does anyone have a favorite version?