He’s mind-bogglingly smart. He has a flair for the dramatic. And people turn to him for solutions of problems that have dire national consequences. If brainy is the new sexy as Irene Adler says (and I’m not going to argue with someone who uses a riding crop with such panache) then it is no wonder I’m developing a deep admiration for Holmes. No, I’m not talking about Sherlock, as ahem ‘admirable’ as his black curls, well-cut coat and ability to pull off a bed sheet is. I’m talking about Mycroft.
In the original books Mycroft is described as cleverer than his younger brother but corpulent and unwilling to do any legwork. In the BBC’s ‘Sherlock’ series though, Mycroft comes into his own as a somewhat more suave and sinister figure. (And certainly cuts a slimmer shape in the form of Mark Gatiss). I think this is particularly noticeable in the second season.
In the first series Mycroft is a more comic figure because the feud between the two brothers seems more absurd, their interactions limited to a fraternal battle to establish which is cleverer and who caused their mother more grief. While the Bruce-Partington plans, plans of national importance that should have highlighted Mycroft’s high standing, seem to be of such little concern to Sherlock and of absolutely no interest to Moriarty that it thus undermines Mycroft’s own importance.
In the second series though, and in ‘Scandal in Belgravia’ in particularly, Mycroft stands out as a force to be reckoned with. His sharp rebuke of his brother in that shadowy plane of the dead is striking and cuts deep at the foundations of our blind faith in Sherlock’s cleverness. We wince with Sherlock. And this downgrading of Sherlock’s status as infallible and building up of Mycroft’s pedestal is just compounded by Irene Adler tossing Sherlock aside to deal with his brother and by Mycroft revealing the cases Sherlock dismissed were in fact, in part, relevant to this current case. Mycroft’s superior intelligence and importance to the Government and the state of the nation is starkly shown.
Even more interesting is the fact that Moriarty is vying to get Mycroft’s attention, which Mycroft makes an offhand comment about once Irene Adler has him by the proverbial balls. Compare this with Sherlock’s obsession with Moriarty and finding him. The fact that Mycroft can’t appear to get rid of Moriarty, like he’s an annoying toddler trying to get his attention, puts Mycroft into a superior position to his brother. Note also that Moriarty’s nickname for Mycroft, the ‘iceman’ is significantly more respectful than his name for Sherlock ‘the virgin’.
Mycroft’s importance is also touched upon in ‘Hound of the Baskerville’ when Sherlock steals a security pass off his brother that gains him access to one of the most secure military bases in England. Again we see Mycroft is no pencil pushing middling civil servant. And there is something delightfully amusing and respect-inducing about Mycroft’s bored, slightly irritated texts to his brother once he realises Sherlock is the one infiltrating Baskerville. It is amusing to see what is essentially a high-level security breach just appearing to be another incident in the growing file of ridiculous spats between the brothers. While respect is earned for Mycroft because his lack of concern indicates he has far more important things to think about and hints he probably already knows the answer to Sherlock’s investigation. If the infiltration of a high-level security base doesn’t bother Mycroft, you have to admit with respect, however grudging, that Mycroft is a very big cheese.
Admittedly, Sherlock tricks him into believing Irene Adler is dead and Moriarty uses Mycroft to help bring down Holmes’ public image but Mycroft is only human though, and just as it wouldn’t do for Sherlock to be perfect, it wouldn’t do for Mycroft to be perfect either. And I will be very surprised, anyway, if we don’t find Mycroft has a hand in Sherlock’s miraculous survival at the end of the second season. Let us never forget, right at the start of the first series, Sherlock calls Mycroft the most dangerous man he knows. I say amen to that and look forward to the third series with much anticipation.