This review contains spoilers.
2.22 Art In The Blood
“Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms.” The Adventure Of The Greek Interpreter, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
So which is it? Is Mycroft Holmes an MI6 mole or framed asset? Was his return to MI6 precipitated by his insolvency or by his little brother’s imminent prison sentence? Is he tinker, tailor, soldier or spy?
Spy is a given after the revelations of the past two episodes, which saw the arrow swing wildly around Mycroft’s character dial from hero to villain and back again before appearing to settle on ‘wronged man’.
Just as it seemed that Sherlock was piecing together the evidence to convict his brother (he’d already wished Mycroft dead, why would he hesitate to have him charged for suspected murder?) instead he arrived to warn him that he was being framed. Sherlock’s evidence must have pointed to a set-up, because after all of the episode’s shilly-shallying with the elder Holmes sibling’s character, there was no reason for Sherlock, or us, to trust Mycroft.
Which is why it was frustrating to watch Joan, who’d given Mycroft a deserved ticking off just hours before, capitulate in record time and wind up back in his bed. Even if his latest version of events – the one in which he saved a heroin-addled Sherlock from a lengthy prison sentence on terrorism charges by returning to British Intelligence – is correct, after all those lies, why on Earth would Watson believe him? Being charitable, you could say her expertise in lie-detection convinced her of his honesty, but not much about Watson and Mycroft’s chemistry-free romance inspires charity.
Much better was Elementary’s series of brittle exchanges between – as handler Sherrington calls them – “the Holmes boys”. An entertaining volley of insults from opposite ends of the kitchen table followed Sherlock and Mycroft all the way to the show’s more faithful version of the original Diogenes Club, a plush palace for misanthropes to retire to. (All that talking though, what bad form).
If, as I suspect it will, Mycroft’s story about the deal he made to protect Sherlock turns out to have been the case, that puts the MI6 chef firmly in the ‘good guys’ corner. While Mycroft being a white hat makes sense for the character, it remains something of a disappointment that with just one episode of this season left, we’re yet to meet a proper end-level boss.
The likelihood is that Sherrington, or possibly Sir James Walter – a namesake of The Adventure Of The Bruce Partington Plans, the Doyle story that partially inspired this episode, and to whom we were briefly introduced at Diogenes – will either be sniffed out by Sherlock’s traitor-detecting nose next week and revealed as the mole, a revelation unlikely to elicit much response from us as we’ve barely got to know either.
Unless a spectacular twist is planned for the finale, finding out that Mycroft’s shady phone call earlier in the season was only to do with getting Sherlock out of New York so he didn’t disrupt his Corsican Mafia surveillance there was another let-down. Many must be the New York villains who would benefit from Sherlock Holmes being off the scene, but he appears to get by without much threat from anyone. Predictable as it might have been, I was half-hoping for Moriarty to be at the root of it all. Her presence has been sorely missed this season.
Wonderful as Natalie Dormer is in the role, might it not have been better for the series to have cast an actress with fewer commitments elsewhere? It’s difficult not to feel that Elementary’s writers are hamstrung by her busy schedule and it’s throwing the show out of whack.
If this reads as though the episode was a disappointment, it isn’t supposed to. The case of Arthur West’s missing arms was an intriguing one and the insight into Sherlock and Mycroft’s relationship was satisfying to watch, even if the latter’s relationship with Watson was anything but. The cast was reliably strong, the action diverting, the humour entertaining, and the nods to canon more frequent than usual (“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance observes” coming from The Hound Of The Baskervilles, for one.)
For a penultimate season episode though, the revelations seemed to come at the wrong moments, dissipating tension where it should have been built, flitting around to keep us guessing but to no great effect. With any luck, next week’s The Grand Experiment will give us something momentous, which is just what Art In The Blood didn’t quite provide.
Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, Paint It Black, here.
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