Let’s talk about Mycroft.
Mycroft Holmes is the most powerful man in the world. He’s the kingpin of the British Empire, the grandmaster who holds all the pieces. His authority is utmost; his power, unquestionable. But the show is called ‘Sherlock’, so often we miss the little hints left to us by the BBC about the real battle going on in the background.
We’ve been shown time and time again the little ways in which Mycroft rules the world. He has a foothold in all the terrorist communities, knowledge of treaties, threats and conferences that a ‘minor government official’ such as himself should have no way of knowing, and a special place in Buckingham Palace reserved just for him. But these sometimes not-so-subtle reminders of the absoluteness of Mycroft’s power aren’t the only hints we get that there is a much bigger picture still to be alluded to. To demonstrate this, let’s take a look at ‘The Reichenbach Fall’.
This episode was considered a deeply emotional and dramatic turning point for the series- Moriarty was declared dead, Sherlock faked his own suicide, and John was left to fend for himself for a number of years. But what this episode also did was show Mycroft’s hand in the Sherlock-Moriarty showdown. The exchange between the two brothers- LAZARUS and LAZARUS IS GO- was an interesting choice for the writers to make. In this scene, we have to key players- Lazarus, and his all-mighty helper. Let’s take a look at Lazarus to begin with.
The biblical meaning of the Jewish name ‘Lazarus’ is ‘God is his helper’. In the New Testament, Lazarus was a man from Bethany raised from the dead four days after his passing by Jesus, who brought him back to ease the grief of one of his close friends. A ‘Lazarus’ is also the term given to patients who come back to life after being declared medically dead.
Now back to the rooftop- the two roles the brothers have fallen into for Sherlock’s fake death are characterised by the tale of Lazarus and how he was brought back to life to the incredulity of the onlookers. Sherlock is Lazarus, the medical miracle who comes back alive and well after his supposed passing, and this fits the BBC’s portrayal of Sherlock’s penchant for drama and love of being in the spotlight. But if Sherlock is Lazarus, then who falls into the other role, Lazarus’ helper? Mycroft of course.
In this scene, Mycroft has cast himself as the benevolent God who assists the lowly man as a demonstration of his power. Now, this could be easily ignored if all the other evidence didn’t knock you over the head everywhere you looked- the fact of the matter is that Mycroft has a god-complex a mile wide. And he has every reason to. If the man who could destroy whole countries at the touch of a button didn’t have some sort of power problem going on, I’d question if he was human and criticise the makers for poor writing. But as it is, this seeming omnipotence that Mycroft possesses has caused him to lose touch with reality, and this is what he has Sherlock for.
Sherlock was the younger brother always getting into trouble for being where he shouldn’t because his driving curiosity moves him to do things Mycroft can’t even begin to comprehend. But this trait of his is what makes him such an excellent detective, while Mycroft will always be the one telling all the pieces to move without caring how they do it, as long as they get it done.
As such, this most likely what drove Moriarty to target Sherlock at the beginning of his more publicised exploits.
We’re going to move onto Moriarty now. His part in this mess is a lot more convoluted than first appears, and a few key aspects of his personality are the reason for this. First of all, Moriarty isn’t crazed with power- he’s obsessed with it. He wants the world to be in his palm, he wants to show off his authority to satisfy his own insane needs. He wants a challenge, he wants to take the world and uproot it just because he can.
And he always wants more.
Maybe, at the very beginning, it was all about catching Sherlock’s attention to try and break things up a bit, but he got bored of that pretty quickly. “We’re alike, you and I. Except you’re boring. You’re on the side of the angels.” It was Sherlock’s genius that first attracted him, but his need for power pushed him to move onto bigger fish.
Moriarty wants to prove that he can challenge Mycroft’s authority. That’s why he broke into the Tower of London- sure, it was an amusing idea to get Sherlock’s attention, but it wasn’t just that, was it? No, he was proving that Mycroft’s carefully crafted chain of command was flimsy against his own insanity. He was proving that he could destroy the sanctity of Mycroft’s power with the snap of his fingers. “In a world full of doors, the man with the key is king.” And that man used to be Mycroft.
'Sherlock', on first sight, appears to be about the battle between consulting detective Sherlock Holmes and his friend John Watson, and criminal mastermind James Moriarty. But in reality, the true battle doesn't even involve the main character. 'Sherlock' is about the development of a great man into a good one, with his older brother and arch-nemesis battling it out in the background.
But this can’t really be seen for most of the series because the hints are so subtle, and Mycroft doesn’t even enter the game until late.
So what we’ve got so far: Mycroft is identifying as God, Sherlock’s just Moriarty’s entrée, and really the whole show is a lie. But we already you knew that anyway, so moving back to Mycroft.
If, following the Lazarus analogy, Mycroft is identifying as God, then Moriarty can most likely best be compared to Lucifer, the Morning Star who rebelled against the absolute authority of his Father. This allows us to interpret ‘the side of the angels’ in a whole different way.
Moriarty wasn’t referring to those fighting for justice, the truth-seekers and law-enforcers- he was referring to Mycroft’s side, the network just as big, if not bigger, than his own.
The Angels and the Demons- two armies led by the most dangerous men in the world.
But this war is just a background to the main story arc, Sherlock’s own. Why, you ask? Surely an epic battle between two of the world’s greatest masterminds would be magic for ratings? It’s because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle didn’t care about the heavenly war between God and Satan- he cared about Lazarus, the humble man whose life was changed when he died and was brought back. Conan Doyle’s portrayal of a Sherlock Holmes, a man whose intellect was rarely surpassed but still had things to learn, was an underlying feature in the original novels that Moffat and Gatiss respected.
That’s not to say that there’s nothing coming for the Mycroft-Moriarty head-off though- Magnussen was just a flash in the pan, and Moriarty coming back when he did after Magnussen’s defeat was a sign that he’s here to stay.
On that rooftop that changed everything, Moriarty recognised that Mycroft had finally stepped in. When Sherlock overcame his near-crippling pride to ask his brother for help, it was a signal that the older Holmes brother was ready to bring their war to light.
I don’t know what the new season will reveal about this particular power struggle, but I do know one thing- the game is most certainly afoot.
Wow. I never considered any of this, haha.