"Art in the Blood" wasted little time in getting right to a version of the point: Mycroft is an asset for MI-6—"a clearinghouse" for the intelligence agency, as he's remarkably good at sorting through and retaining secrets and information. So Mycroft used his restaurants and himself as a way to go undercover and gather intel on global underworld dealings, and he managed to fool Sherlock into thinking he was just a lazy lout. However, as with many things involving Mycroft, that idea was simultaneously true and inaccurate.
The lazy lout part isn't true, of course; based on everything we've seen so far, Mycroft is hardly lazy. It would take an extreme amount of energy and effort to keep up that kind of charade, to always be choosing your words and actions so carefully. The challenge was even visible in Rhys Ifans's performance during that scene in the kitchen: Suddenly, his Mycroft went from a soft-spoken stammerer to a man with a sharper edge and hints of smugness. He had fooled his arrogant jerk of a brother, and there was some measure of satisfaction to be had in such a feat.
Of course, even that turned out to be a performance. As it turns out, Mycroft left MI-6 some years ago, and only agreed to come back to protect Sherlock from prison time after Sherlock, during his high-as-a-kite period in London, unknowingly helped a terrorist operation by carrying a package to and fro. Mycroft's continued work with MI-6 has all been for Sherlock's sake; he's been paying off his little brother's debt while his little brother is none the wiser.
If there's a real Mycroft Holmes, it very well could be the man who relayed all of this to Joan in his apartment. Here was a guy who'd sacrificed his life for his brother's sake, to protect Sherlock so that Sherlock could continue to do good by solving the unsolvable. No smugness, no regret. Mycroft now lives with the burden of a good deed that went unnoticed and unrewarded, that almost put a woman he apparently cares deeply for in mortal danger.
If you can believe any of that.
I'm not saying I don't, as the acrobatics necessary to get us to this point—a redemptive storyline of sorts for Mycroft—ring true for me. Mycroft's fingerprints on the weapon that killed Arthur West, the bipolar former MI-6 analyst who had stumbled onto a potential mole, were a transparent attempt to toss all that sudden honesty into question, and thus could very easily be dismissed as a red herring. That Sherlock saw it as a frame-up is what gives me a bit of hesitation, and has me weighing the possibility that Elementary is playing us in the same way that Mycroft is playing Holmes and Watson.
Consider: You get roped into a role you were apparently finished with in order to protect your brother. You see a way to achieve some degree of revenge and contentment by selling state secrets and manipulating your brother into clearing your name, only to reveal—[insert evil laugh here]—that it was all part of your dastardly plot to get back at him for ruining your life in the first place.
I don't really think that's the angle Elementary will end up going with, but given the twists and turns this particular narrative thread has taken, and our entry into the world of spies and moles, it's all too easy to fall victim to trying to anticipate a twist by over-thinking it. The show has, at the very least, done a good job of laying the groundwork so that it's at least a possibility, should the writers decide to use it in next week's finale. I don't know how well I'd receive if it they did go this hypothetical route—it'd depend entirely on how it actually played out—but I already feel predisposed against it because I think the last thing the Mycroft story needs is one last twist.
However, would such a twist stop the show from shaking up its status quo a little bit? Joan's declaration that she's ready to move out of the brownstone wasn't a real shock, as the motivations for it don't feel as fully fleshed out as they might've been. This season has made a few small advancements with Joan's personal life, from one-off friends to her attempt to see men from a dating website, but she's never expressed all that much dissatisfaction with the current arrangement prior to Mycroft's return to New York two episodes ago.
At the risk of sounding like I'm hemming and hawing about this, on some level, I'm okay with it not being fully developed. Yes, I think I would've liked to see more frustration from Joan, but hey, she's a grown woman dealing with a man who has very little respect for other people's boundaries. It's a remarkably adult and self-aware thing to say, "I need a room for a life outside of this, us, what we do." That sort of rationalization is something we don't often see from television characters, who often have to contort themselves to justify staying in their prescribed places to keep the narrative chugging along.
But Mycroft turning out to be a villain (or getting a killed, which is another possibility, I suppose), would be just the thing to possibly send Sherlock into a drug spiral. And a Sherlock drug spiral would be just the thing to convince Joan to stay in the brownstone, albeit in a Season 1 capacity as a sober companion rather than in her Season 2 role as a partner in crime-solving.
– I kept waiting and waiting for Marion, Arthur's ex-wife, to be revealed as the culprit. Maybe she set up Mycroft. That's the theory I'm going with, if it's not this Juliam Afkhami fellow.
– "I saved your bother's life, too." "I'll let that slide."
What did you think of "Art in the Blood"?