RF

Interesting one, this one. I don’t think Mrs Hudon’s comment was quite that barbed. Her intention was, obviously, to chastise Mycroft for putting Sherlock and John in a dangerous situation. I can’t imagine that she knows Mycroft very well and, like John, thinks of him only as Sherlock’s overbearing big brother. She probably didn’t realise that she was touching on something very close to Mycroft’s heart.

Mrs Hudson: It’s a disgrace, sending your little brother into danger like that. Family is all we have in the end, Mycroft Holmes.
Mycroft: Oh shut up, Mrs Hudson.

Mycroft is usually so polite, genteel, refined and sophisticated, even when threatening mild-mannered army doctors in the middle of warehouses, negotiating with scheming dominatrices or torturing criminal masterminds. His unassailable calm is a part of what makes him so threatening, so dangerous. It is so unlike Mycroft to be rude to anyone - apart from his brother, which is a whole other matter.

So what brought Mycroft’s defences crashing down like that? What made a man, who can stare down his enemies with a smile, snap at a pleasant little old lady?

Mrs Hudson is like a surrogate mother to Sherlock and John, and this scene sees her very much in this role - fussing over her boys, bringing them breakfast and scolding Mycroft for putting them in danger. Mycroft himself is quite obviously uncomfortable and displaced by the situation - he is standing separate from them all - they are gathered round the table, while he is stood by the fireplace - and he has kept his coat on. Watching his brother, seemingly his only family, secure among the urban family he has built for himself will obviously have an unsettling effect on Mycroft.

So, when Mrs Hudson says, “Family is all we have in the end, Mycroft Holmes!”, in that tone of voice, using his full name, as if chastising a child, he is not going to be able to keep his cool. I think the history between the brothers is as unbeknown to Mrs Hudson and John as it is to the viewers, so she doesn’t realise that she has just made a statement that will be extremely provocative to a man who cares very deeply for his brother (something that this episode went out of its way to prove.) Mycroft, who is already feeling off-balance due to the dynamics of the room, understandably snaps and tells her to shut up. Mycroft, a man in control of every situation, one of the most powerful, respected and feared men in the country and a master of subtlety and grace, can be knocked off-balance by one thing alone - his brother.

John and Mrs Hudson look shocked, affronted, as if they can’t believe it of Mycroft. Sherlock’s expression is slightly different - not at all surprised, despite his anger as he reprimands his brother.

Sherlock’s next line in this scene has been a bit contentious in the fandom, some seeing it as a joke, some reading a deeper meaning. I fall into the latter camp, as there are very few throwaway lines in this series. After shaming Mycroft into apology, Sherlock turns to Mrs Hudson and, half-jokingly, tells her “Although do, in fact, shut up,” which suggests, to me at any rate, that he understands what pushed his brother over the edge. Sherlock knows how Mycroft feels about family, even if they are both terrible at expressing those feelings, and knows that he doesn’t need any more blame for his missteps.

Mrs Hudson, like the rest of us, doesn’t quite understand the complicated relationship that exists between the Holmes brothers. They bite and scratch at each other, but neither want to actually do serious harm to the other - and each knows when the other has been deeply hurt, and attempts to remedy it. Their personalities do not allow for much familial sentiment, but it is there, underneath their protective, guarded layers.

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