"Where does that leave us then? What would you like to talk about?"
In the past, we've discussed the nature of Elementary's Sherlock, and how his empathy helps to set him apart from other incarnations of the character, which tend to have a very limited sense of respect for other people, let alone a personal connection or a sense of intimacy. Elementary's Sherlock didn't exhibit empathy right away; it's been a part of his recovery, which figures into his growth as a character. The relationships and the willingness to share have to be earned—both in Sherlock's eyes, as a man who's concerned about being hurt and falling into drugs again, and as an aspect of his identity.
It's why his speech during his addiction meeting at the top of the episode, about whether or not he should have been born in a different time, was so important. He was sharing feelings, and he was doing it in a space that he considers safe, a space that even Joan isn't part of. (However, I don't doubt that he's relayed some version of that speech to Joan at one point or another; he was admitting to a weakness, and that's something that Sherlock knows Joan can understand and accept, such are the levels of their friendship.)
It's why Mycroft's sudden appearance at the meeting was so rattling for Sherlock. He loathes Mycroft on any number of levels, and he certainly doesn't want his estranged brother to know his weaknesses, even though Mycroft would very much like to earn that place in Sherlock's life. So it was fitting, then, that the episode began with a speech and ended with a query of what, exactly, they could discuss.
What was lovely about "The Marchioness" was how it earned that bookend through the case of the week. Having Mycroft show up with a challenge would've been fine enough, I suppose, but adding Mycroft's ex-fiancée, Nigella (Olivia d'Abo, being all d'Abo-y), to the mix gave the situation an extra bit of urgency. I say urgency because Sherlock was all too eager to expose Nigella as a fraud, and thus to prove that Mycroft's renewed faith in her was undeserved. The situation had a personal element to it that isn't always present your run-of-the-mill murder case.
So as Sherlock, Joan, and Mycroft worked the mystery, we got to see Sherlock try to work out his own feelings. Certainly his opinion of Nigella didn't change—he was just downright abusive toward her, and no one really called him on it—but Mycroft and Sherlock spending time with each other offered an opportunity for the pair to get reacquainted. Whether it was through their verbal sparring about clichéd life awakenings through trials and tribulations—"A lot of people may go through the same thing, but it doesn't make it less real. It's like addiction in that sense, I imagine."—or Mycroft's attempt to connect with Sherlock through his profession instead of on and emotional level, we saw Mycroft try just about everything he could think of to bond with his brother, and Sherlock finally had to relent, as even he knew Mycroft's actions were not ill-intended.
Of course, this didn't stop Sherlock from behaving like a complete git for much of the episode; he's still a raging egomaniac, after all. In addition to his contemptible attitude toward Nigella, he was downright childish about Joan and Mycroft having slept together, from his inquiries as to how each of them was in bed to his question of whether their tryst would continue so he could schedule his day around it. It was petty, thinly veiled passive-aggression on his part, but it was also in keeping with Sherlock's need to compartmentalize things. It's why he struggled to put it in a context that made sense. He hates Mycroft, but he likes Joan and sees her as a protégé, ergo Joan should also hate Mycroft. Sherlock is still learning empathy, so little fits like this one—or his solving of Joan's falafel cart case last week—are to be expected.
I'm not crazy about them being coddled, though. I'm all sorts of happy that Joan and Mycroft had sex, because I want her to have the life outside the world of deduction she's striving for. I think I even let out a little cheer as they finally confirmed it—but, sigh, I definitely wasn't thrilled that Joan's response to whether or not they should explore a relationship was to ask if it would complicate things with Sherlock. It was an incredibly selfless thing they both did, and it came from a place of caring about Sherlock and wanting him to rebuild his relationship with Mycroft, but I still shook an angry fist at my screen after seeing them... cave to Sherlock's antics, as it were. Still, I take solace in the fact that the relationship door likely isn't completely shut, and that one day Sherlock's Single Stick (TM) will one day poke Mycroft in Joan's bed.
But it was all in service to get to that last scene, where Sherlock found himself thawing out a bit. Certainly Mycroft lowering the boom on Nigella helped matters, but I also like to think that Sherlock realized that if Joan can like Mycroft, then maybe his brother isn't so horrible after all.
– Oh. Right. The case itself. It was good. I liked the horse-breeding aspect, which gave it a nice spin, but it did sort of cause the episode to sag just a smidgen as Sherlock and Joan sorted out El Mecanico's fingerprints. The episode needed its twist in the case, I guess.
– "I'm in the peerage." Okay so, yeah, maybe Nigella's worth a couple of insults.
– "And I imagine they’re awash in severed hands."
– D'Abo's appearance reminded me of her wonderful turn on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, where her character, Nicole Wallace, has interestingly turned out to be a prototype of Elementary's own blending of Irene Adler and Moriarty.
What'd you think of "The Marchioness"?