I had some high hopes for this week’s episode “Paint it Black”. While most of this anticipation was built on the last minute kidnapping of Joan at the end of last week it was also what that kidnapping promised. With heroin in his possession and Joan gone I was assuming Sherlock’s reactions could be dire but we never hear or see of the drug in this episode, instead we’re given the two Holmes brothers working to save Joan.
We begin in three beats. Mycroft gets a call from Joan’s phone telling him of her kidnapping. We see Joan in the abandoned warehouse with her captors as she begins to wake up. She tells them that she isn’t with the police but since she’d been after them that doesn’t help her cause. Then we see Sherlock, alone in the Brownstone and calling Joan. He leaves one message which is mean spirited and then calls again, leaving a message telling her to call him just so he knows she’s safe.
This moment is broken by Mycroft who appears on his doorstep with the bad news that Sherlock can already read on his face. “Something’s wrong.”
The next scene has Sherlock shoving his brother violently against the wall, in a rage about how Mycroft and his idiotic business schemes could have gotten Joan hurt. Sherlock is explosive here and Jonny Lee Miller seems to utilize his whole body to show just how tautly wound Sherlock is.
They’ve been given 48 hours to find a man named Pierce Norman who has an incriminating list of names. When they find this man he will be turned over and Joan will be returned to them.
We realize quickly how hateful Sherlock can be when he’s in a place of vulnerability, calling out Mycroft on his part in this and how he wishes his disease had taken him. It’s a terrible thing to say to anyone and Miller sells the sentiment-proving that there’s layers upon layers of this character left to be discovered.
Despite my complete disregard for Mycroft as a character he does hit the nail on the head when it comes to Sherlock’s feelings. As he says about Joan “I think she is the one you love most in the world”. Those are some powerful words when pointed at Sherlock but consider his actions this episode regarding her kidnapping and tell me they’re wrong. Sure, the love isn’t sexual-it’s not even hinting that way. However he needs her, he wants her around and he enjoys her company as a friend. They’re partners in more than one way and his total contempt for Mycroft for putting her into this position, the vitriol that he spews his way and the ugly things he wishes upon him-his own flesh and blood is put into a lower position due to the high regards he holds Joan at.
He says he can tell Sherlock is afraid he won’t be able to do what he needs to in order to save Joan in time. He admits that he’s much of a substitute for his regular partner but he does know Sherlock and he’ll be able to help in this case by managing to keep him in line, keep him on track until Joan is found.
Lucy Liu directed this week and you can tell in shots like this one that she has an artist’s eye-she allows for lights and shadows to play a part in the story and the way that the two are lit adds to the wonderful scene that Miller and Rhys Ifans play wonderfully.
They’re next is to investigate the man they’re forced to find and they discover through his online gaming habits that he had a secret lover. He is their next stop for information.
Joan meanwhile is getting some great bits. A man who works for her kidnapper is shot on a job and rather than just listen to him bleed out and die she convinces them to let her help. She uses vodka and a pair of box cutters to stabilize him but tells them that if they want their friend to live, he’ll have to be brought to a doctor. Joan is likely the strongest character on the show and this allows us a peak into the sturdy, stead handed mentality of hers. She’s an inherently good person who wants to save lives no matter it be in the consulting detective field or her previous surgical work.
Sherlock and Mycroft have tracked down Normans lover and the man gives them the information they need, including a cabin that they used to frequent. They’re not met with any substantial answers when they arrive and instead are given an increasingly muddled case. They find Norman dead, having been dead for at least a week which would be before Joan’s kidnapping. How do they get Joan back with no one to trade?
It’s always good to see Sherlock utilizing all of his gifts and this episode is particular has his intellect on the front burner along with his instability. He is able to deduce that Norman is a victim who was killed and then framed. They need to find the real person behind the lists.
Joan is force to listen as her captor tells her that Mycroft isn’t the man she thinks he is. He wasn’t forcibly coerced into doing business with them; he came to them for it. She then has to witness more horror as she learns that the man she had stitched up has started to bleed internally and her captors solution is to shoot him dead himself.
The call from Sherlock and Mycroft couldn’t come soon enough.
The Holmes’ have found their suspect and lure him to the Brownstone so Sherlock can do his own version of interrogation. They render the man unconscious and when he wakes he’s strapped to a chair, on a floor covered in plastic and Sherlock is standing before him having reached the point of being unhinged. He’s takes out his tools of torture and tells the man if he doesn’t give up the list he’s going to find his own way to persuade him. Mycroft watches on and tells the man he better listen to his brother or his insanity may take over.
It’s worth mentioning that the last time we saw Sherlock in a similar state was when he had Moran tied up about Irene.
Just thought it was worth a mention about his current psyche. It’s always a nice reminder to see what Sherlock could use his genius for.
They get the information out of him and Sherlock wishes to bring it to the NSA first (who they’d met up with prior in the episode) but Mycroft is against it. Sherlock tells him that he’s not holding out hope on Mycroft’s old friends to keep their word and believes the moment they give them the information the three of them will be killed. He says that if he can’t go to the NSA he’ll at least call the NYPD to help.
Before he can though Mycroft has knocked him out and is going to the meet up with Joan.
This version of Mycroft isn’t doing so well in working his way into my good graces. It turns out that, surprise, surprise, Sherlock was right and Mycroft is double crossed. Meanwhile Sherlock is at the NSA trying to get them to keep a look out for his brother and his partner but they’re unwilling to help now.
Mycroft and Joan are surrounded and despite being certain that they aren’t about to die, I am curious about how exactly they’re about to get out of this mess. My mind went to options such as Joan’s captor fell for her a little and was going to let her live to the idea that Sherlock and the NYPD were going to come for their rescue at the very last moment. I was wrong-obviously- and instead Mycroft spoke three words “Paint it black” and the men about to kill them were shot down. Mycroft turned to Joan, apologized for her having to see that, and tells her that he has a lot to fill her in about.
I don’t know about you, but I think I found the ending a bit anticlimactic. The entire episode was built up to be something huge. Joan is kidnapped, Mycroft is hiding something big and Sherlock is two steps from the deep end. It should have felt that by the episodes end that something had happened but instead we were saddled with Mycroft making heart eyes at Joan.
Which leads me to my second complaint about the ending-it 100% should have been Sherlock there to meet her. Not just because of my own personal preference and not just because the two of them are the driving force of the show but because narratively it made sense with everything that had been done in the episode and dramatically would have been ten times more satisfying. Sherlock spent the episode flipping tables and condemning his brother to death if any harm was to come to Joan.
And the episode ends with Mycroft and Joan? Yeah, I think they missed a pretty significant character moment for Sherlock and Joan.
It was a lot of nice buildup with little pay off. My hope is that next week when truths come out it will help rectify this week’s lackluster ending.