The concluding half of our two-parter is actually just the middle act of a multi-episode arc that likely closes out our season, as we find out how Mycroft’s nefarious connections to the French mafia ties into Joan’s abduction . . . or do we? (Hint: no, no we do not) The brothers attempt to secure the safety of their mutual friend through a little B&E action and impromptu kitchen-table autopsy, and Sherlock loses his crap completely and flips not one but two tables, as well as going on a technology-smashing spree. What don’t you understand about this? They’re not part of his system! He’s an adult! His dad is not a phone! (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
The unfortunate truth of this episode is that is almost wholly facile and textual, with both the A Plot and the B Plot being completely connected to the immediate events at hand: Joan’s abduction. On the plus side, it’s an engaging hour of television, but that’s largely because Johnny Lee Miller and Rhys Ifans have fantastically palpable chemistry and their characters possess a great (if contentious) rapport that they’ve continued to develop throughout this second season, in which I would argue Mycroft may as well have been the third lead, his infrequent appearances aside. His relationship with his brother and the ulterior motives behind Diogenes with regard to the mysterious voice on the other end of his phone have been the major arc of this season, and it very much appears this storyline will carry us into the finish line, as there are only two episodes left. So yes, the good news is we’re moving the macro-arc of the series along swimmingly, but here we do so at the loss of substance and meaningful character interaction.
Joan spends almost the entirety of the episode in francophonic captivity and interjects herself all up in their business by playing doctor to a gutshot henchman. I love Lucy Liu in this show, but every actor has a successful range and their stronger attributes, and Liu’s are not in playing ultra-serious urgent types, which unfortunately this subplot asks from her frequently. She ends up sounding like a corny medical drama soap opera, and it’s just not her finest moment. She’s much better suited to being the breezy and laconic straight-woman to Miller’s fastidiously twitchy Sherlock. The script this week doesn’t give her much to work with, honestly, and she has almost zero character moments to expand upon. In short-form drama being a hostage is a fairly reactionary role to play, and there’s not many who would do much better written into the same role Liu plays here. Joan’s kind of a square, a normal, and she reacts to being held for ransom much the same way. It’s bland, but Liu is doing what she can as the Lady Maguffin; blame the writers here.
No, the little bits of character development parsed out to us this week are entirely between Sherlock and Mycroft, who are forced by circumstance to team up and solve the mystery of who killed the guy who was supposed to be the ransom for Joan. Sherlock specifically gets some great moments this week that hearkened back to his dealings with the late Sebastian Moran (specifically the meet-cute between Shirley’s screwdriver and Moran’s spleen) as he goes apey on Mycroft for being a spectacularly bad brother and boyfriend in one fell swoop. Rarely do we see our boy lose his cool, so the frequency that he does it here puts striking emphasis on how much Joan has come to mean to him; the great news is that we get a smattering of moments where he acknowledges this aloud, and in this Mycroft is put on his heels and unsure how to deal with his emotionally-charged sibling. Extra kudos goes to Miller here, as he ties beautifully his character’s stiffness into just the fragile façade that holds back a torrent of seething rage. Even in the moments where Sherlock allows himself an iota of pleasure in seeing his brother successfully employ his own deductive intellect, you never feel like at any point in the episode he’s ready to forgive Mycrof such a grave trespass.
The plot involving Mycroft and his hidden conspirator thickens as the episode barrels on. The elder Holmes admits to Sherlock that he was involved with the French mobsters, but he had no part in the kidnapping of Joan. Mycroft entered into partnership with the frogs to finance his restaurant, but they kept exerting their leverage (as mobsters are wont to do) until they had him in the current position of life-or-death subservience. The key plot twist here comes once the two Holmeses obtain the suitable ransom for Joan’s safe return; Sherlock advocates to inform the NYPD, as he is sure the only result of paying the ransom is a quick murdering at the goons’ hands — but Mycroft has other plans. He tazes Sherlock unconscious, and then makes the exchange himself. Which works out okay, because before the mobsters predictably crawfish on their deal and bring out their murderguns (which they do), Mycroft very, very slickly says aloud the code phrase, “Paint it Black,” which causes all the horse-eating surrender monkeys to come down with a sudden case of bulletitis fatalis, as a squad of British black-ops agents pop out of nowhere and light ’em up like Guy Fawkes Day. So . . . yeah. Mycroft has some pull, non? He definitely isn’t just a smarmy restaurateur, that’s for sure. But who is the British voice on the other end of his phone that wants Sherlock back in London so badly? MI-6? Scotland Yard? Torchwood?
God, I hope it’s Torchwood.
Next week, the penultimate episode of Season 2, featuring the reveal of Mycroft’s mysterious nature. I love that there’s a crime procedural on CBS that I actually enjoy watching. It’s such a weird thing to experience. Hit me up in the comments!