I’m frustrated over this episode. I thought it was the best episode of the season by a long shot but, but, the ending annoyed me quite a bit.
The episode starts out strong, with our two leads, whom we often find grounding the show. Joan is back at the Brownstone and safe, if not shaken up, and Sherlock walks in, sees her and rushes to her only to stop short and assess. Jonny Lee Miller portrays Sherlock’s absolute relief perfectly, it’s as if his entire body sags just a little bit after being so high strung while Joan’s been missing and Lucy Liu is as assuring as always, warmth in her voice as she tells him she’s okay. It’s a beautifully executed scene that lays the groundwork for how painful a later encounter between them is going to be.
The next step is confronting Mycroft who tells him that the MI6 isn’t there for him because he is English Intelligence and he has been for years. Sherlock doesn’t understand how he could have kept that type of information from him and more importantly, how Sherlock wasn’t able to deduce it for himself.
Mycroft points out to him that it’s not like they’ve had ample time together over the years.
With no time to rest, Mycroft tells Sherlock that they have a meeting they have to attend regarding the special intelligence unit he’s a part of and that it’s one they’re obliged to go to. When they arrive Mycroft realizes to his annoyance that Sherlock was called in for a mission, rather than for a meeting on how to move forward in secrecy after the recent events. They want Sherlock to look into a man named Arthur West who used to be a part of the MI6 but was forced to leave after his mental health began to deteriorate. However, West continued to chase ghosts after he was out of work and after contacting them recently about a new hunch, was killed shortly after. He wants Sherlock’s help. Intrigued, Sherlock agrees to help despite his dislike of the agency.
Readers Note: Arthur West is a character from the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” which was the second and last appearance of the Mycroft Holmes character.
Sherlock arrives back at the Brownstone and in the first of a few surprisingly tender moments he asks Joan if she’ll be okay accompanying him on the case considering all that’s happened. She goes with him because sitting and stewing won’t help her.
They hit up the morgue but are lead to more questions when they find the suspect with his arms having been amputated by a missing party.
To gather more insight Joan goes to the scene of the crime while Sherlock goes to visit Arthur’s ex-wife Marion (played by Emily Bergl who plays Sammy on Shameless). When he gets there she tells him and Bell that she had still been in contact with Arthur but that her current boyfriend was the jealous type so she tried to keep it discreet. She’s a tattoo artist, he notes, and then asks if Arthur had been into tattoos as well and she says she guesses not.
The question seems bizarre until Sherlock leaves and asks Joan to look at Arthur’s apartment and see if there’s any tattoo care there and there is. Sherlock has deduced that Marion had used UV ink to tattoo information onto Arthur’s arms—which is why they’ve been stolen: to either retrieve or eliminate evidence.
Marion arrives at the Brownstone later to confirm those suspicions and tells them that she couldn’t divulge any other information later since she believes she’s being followed. They allow her to stay the night to stay safe.
In one of my favorite scenes of the episode, Mycroft approaches Joan and tries to apologize and she shuts him down immediately. She tells him no to any apology, no she’s not okay, and no she doesn’t want to try and rekindle anything no matter how much time they take. She says that no matter Sherlock’s faults she always knows where he’s coming from and she knows she can always believe in what he tells her. She doesn’t know how she could ever trust Mycroft. She tells him that both she and Sherlock deserve better than him.
It’s amazing and empowering and it’s a scene I’ve wanted from Joan’s character to have for a while now. Liu brings enough fire to her words along with the right amount of levity. She’s angry, but she isn’t being irrational. She is in charge of what happens to her and she doesn’t need anyone coming in to mess it up. Due to this scene and the one earlier with Sherlock it’s one of the best examples of the range Liu has in her arsenal.
Of course this moment is upturned when a few scenes later Joan announces to Sherlock that she needs to move out. He believes she’s making rash decisions based on her recent heightened state of emotion but Joan tells him otherwise. She tells him that she’s been thinking about it for a while and knew there would never be a right time with him. She tells him she loves what they do and she loves their partnership but she can’t just be her work—it might be enough for him but she needs a personal life as well.
Noticeably hurt by this he leaves and we see him the next morning meeting with the MI6 consultant. He tells him all he knows and also turns down an invitation to work for them full time. Sherlock is told that while part of the Scotland Yard he’d been followed by Arthur who found him exceptional and despite everything that’s happened he still believed in his judgment. Sherlock turns him down as well as the rest of the case and he tells him that his brother along with the people he works for have caused enough upheaval in his life.
Joan meanwhile has gone to Mycroft’s to find out some information on a side case and while there finds out that Mycroft’s whole involvement with the MI6 was to cover for Sherlock after he made a massive mistake while addicted to drugs as he worked at the Scotland Yard. This apparently changes everything to Joan and they talk about how they both have worked to look after Sherlock and then they kiss. Because that isn’t weird.
At the police station Gregson gives Sherlock the copy of prints on the gun that killed Arthur and he recognizes them and at home confirms they’re his brother’s.
Suddenly we’ve cut back to Joan and Mycroft (or at least two people who appear to be Joan and Mycroft since they seem wildly out of character) who have jumped into bed together after bonding over their mutual need to protect Sherlock…And now are talking about how to be happy they’ll just have to ignore him and his annoyance with their relationship.
Does this strike anyone else as odd?
Here’s my main problem with the Mycroft and Joan pairing: it came out of nowhere. There is zero justification for why they would be together. We weren’t given any build up, there was no ground work, no flirtation or established chemistry. We were told that they slept together once. We were told that they still had an attraction for one another. We were told that they can make it work as a couple.
We’re being told every single thing about this relationship and being shown nothing in return. For onscreen couples to work they need chemistry and Rhys Ifans and Lucy Liu simply don’t have it. Liu has it with just about every other member of the cast and still these two just don’t jell. I get why the writers would put them together—there’s a number of reasons. There’s the idea of putting Joan as close to the Sherlock character as possible, there’s the idea of two characters with similar intellect hooking up being appealing, there’s the need for drama between Joan and Sherlock.
There’s a lot of reasons behind this plot device, the problem is that the show runners have yet to prove them successful yet.
However, as I said, it proves successful in the end due to the drama it ignites. Sherlock rushes to Mycroft after realizing that his brother’s fingerprints were on the gun used to kill Arthur. He runs in and finds Joan in bed with him and despite her questioning ignores her to tell Mycroft that he believes he’s being set up as the mole in the MI6.
That excellently sets up the season finale airing next week in two senses. One: Mycroft will be the big case and him being on the run will add a bit of excitement to the case as a whole (no matter my disdain for the character) and two: Sherlock and Joan are going to be at a crossroads concerning their relationship in a manner that’s yet to be explored.
With the finale next week I’m curious about how all of this will be wrapped up, or if it won’t be wrapped up and instead we’ll be left with an open storyline ready to be revisited in season three. Tensions will be rising between the three, Joan and Sherlock in particular, and with Joan moving out, Mycroft in trouble and Sherlock’s precarious mentality, how can everyone be okay with only an hour left of story telling this season?
Crossing my fingers for a happy ending now.