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"He wasn’t born to be an antisocial, difficult boy. I think he’s trying to keep up with Mycroft’s intelligence and it skewed the normal trajectory of childhood play and friendships in order to try and perfect this brain, this ability to retain information."

— Benedict Cumberbatch on Sherlock’s childhood. [x]

"He’s less mad than Sherlock […] So he doesn’t have that drive for colour or glamour. Mycroft just wants to be alone and precise and do all his thinking. No, he hasn’t allowed anyone to get close to him at all — except he’s quite close to his brother."

—  Steven Moffat on Mycroft [x]

"There’s a very interesting dynamic that was exposed and developed throughout the season," Cumberbatch said of the brothers. "They’re in cahoots to some degree."

Sherlock learns, but does his possibly far more brilliant elder brother, Mycroft? Certainly, there was a sweetness to their interplay this season, one which seemed to allude to a change in both men.

[x]

seeamoebe: Do you know more His Dark Materials/Sherlock Fanfictions? I loved that one and now I'm all back into HDM and I need more.

The Republic of Heaven is probably the best known one. I’ve not read all of it, but it’s certainly worth a read.

Clotho Lachesis Atropos is a nice short fic about Sherlock and John, and the daemons.

And here’s Dusky Feathers, a Mycroft-centric chapter, which forms the first part of a larger HDM series.

kiruka-san1: Do you know His Dark Materials? And what do you think would be Mycroft's soul animal aka daemon?

I do indeed! HDM is a fantastic series, and I love its Sherlock crossovers! I have read and adore this amazing fic series by Etothepii. I dabbled in that world myself sometime ago, with this not very good picture set.

I think Mycroft’s daemon would be a lioness. A lioness is proud and strong, but terrifying and predatory. More importantly, a lion is featured on the Royal Coat of Arms.

I can imagine a young Mycroft expecting his daemon to settle as something rather different - a crow or a raven, perhaps, or some other sign of intelligence. The lioness form came as a surprise and told Mycroft something that he had yet to discover about himself.

Full grown, she hides behind his desk - necessarily large and imposing - while he takes meetings with politicians who have simpering lapdogs, pampered Persian cats or serpents for deamons. Just when they think they have got the measure of Mycroft, or think they have the upper hand, she will stalk round from behind the desk to face them, a growl in her throat. They leave terrified.

Oh, more HDMlock please!

Anonymous: Mycroft is supposedly about 7-8 years older than Sherlock. How come he never met other children before Sherlock grew up old enough to meet other children? Surely Mycroft had had experienced "other children"before Sherlock was borned? Their parents seem "normal" so they would've introduced their first son to other kids as toddler, surely? Because if both never seen other kids for sometime-even thought "Sherlock is idiot"- then they did have unusual upbringing after all...

It would be, indeed, very unusual!

Assuming that the house that we saw in His Last Vow was where the boys grew up, their home was was quite rural and remote. This shot, when Sherlock and John leave after drugging everyone, shows what is immediately outside the front doors of the Holmes household:

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There is nothing but green fields for miles around. There may be the odd house dotted in the distance, but otherwise that is idyllic, secluded countryside.

It is equally likely that the canonical Holmes grew up in such isolation too, as it does lend a certain slant to this famous line from The Copper Beeches:

"It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside."

What little we know of Sherlock’s upbringing - a fondness for board games, pirates and a dog called Redbeard, alongside becoming obsessed with the Carol Powers story in the newspaper - seems to indicate that he was, in many ways, both a very normal and a very odd child all at once. This may be due to his parents attempting to normalise him and give him something more akin to a childhood, after Mycroft.

Seven years older, Mycroft was probably born just after his mother ended her academic career. A mathematician who, although a bit scatty, had a brilliant mind, likely chose to home-school her first born son - a step that would have kept Mycroft alone in that remote country house, nurturing an impossibly brilliant mind with mathematical equations and any book he could lay his hands on. This way, he could easily reach age seven without meeting another soul save for his parents.

Mrs Holmes probably home schooled Sherlock too - Mark Gatiss has said he thinks the Holmes brothers were brought up "like hothouse flowers" - and, after some years, she realised that he was gifted in similar ways to Mycroft. She will have wanted her younger boy to be better adjusted than her elder - so was probably the one to encourage him towards pirates and Operation and bought him the dog. But Mycroft will have held real sway over his younger brother’s forming intellect too, with Sherlock constant attempts to keep up with and surpass Mycroft’s unmatchable genius the foundation for more than a little sibling rivalry.

At some point, when Sherlock was old enough to remember, Mrs Holmes had taken the decision that both her sons needed to meet other children, likely realising, from the strange behaviour of her eldest son with his unwieldy genius that even her enormously intelligent second son could not parallel, that it was a mistake to have kept them so isolated and they should make some friends.

It went badly, of course. The realisation that the rest of the world were mostly unbearably ordinary cannot have been an easy revelation for the brothers, and especially not for Mycroft, who was much older and had been long working on the assumption that his incredible intellect was the norm. 

I think this meeting, though, probably gave him a new found appreciation for his little brother, who could almost keep up with Mycroft and, compared to ordinary people was blindingly brilliant. It was this realisation that made Sherlock the single most important person to Mycroft in the world, and his only pressure point.

mugglebornprincess: Remember, though, that in that episode, Sherlock attacked him to distract him from the fact that he had Janine in his room. He wasn't high AT ALL, which Molly proved in the previous scene. If Mycroft had found Janine, he would've known his brother was using her to get to Magnussen. Sherlock was just trying to get his brother out of his flat quickly.

There is that to factor in. Sherlock had to keep Janine from his brother, lest his whole plan be exposed by Mycroft’s quick deductions about his bedroom door.

But Sherlock was high. That’s why Molly slapped him at St Bart’s, because she found drugs in his system. Yes, it was for a case, but Sherlock wasn’t just acting the part of a junkie - Molly detected heroin and goodness knows what else in the samples she took from him.

Although Sherlock may have built up a tolerance to certain substances over the years, he is not wholly immune to the effects of these drugs either. The man Sherlock was in that scene - prickly, volatile, irritable, veering between lethargy and frenzy, folding himself into his chair with his hood up and his expression glazed - is not the man Sherlock normally is.

"Brother mine, don’t appal me when I’m high."

The way Sherlock forced his brother out of his flat was violent and unnecessary. Although time was of the essence, he’s already got his brother away from his bedroom door. He usually drives his brother out of his flat by playing his violin at him - as in The Great Game and again in Scandal - to great effect.

This sort of violence has likely happened before, when Sherlock was using. Mycroft was close to retaliating before John stepped in. It’s just as well that he did!

Anonymous: What do you think mycroft studied at university?

Maths. I think he studied Mathematics, possibly alongside Philosophy, at Magdalen College, Oxford.

I have thought this, even before we were introduced to Mathematical Mummy this series, based on Sherlock’s description of Mycroft in The Greek Interpreter:

"He has an extraordinary faculty for figures, and audits the books in some of the government departments."

Although Mycroft’s capacity as an auditor is later shown to be false, when Sherlock reveals that his brother is the British Government itself, his faculty for figures remains. I imagine Mycroft having a very mathematical and exacting mind. That his mother pursued a similar subject only cements my thinking - I can imagine her gifting Mycroft with equations to calm him, and him wanting to follow in his mother’s footsteps as he grew older. 

Because Mycroft is such an establishment figure, I think Oxford is really the only place for him. He would not have networked much at university, but his fellow students would have remembered him, as that strange man who hung around the pub, drinking whisky and listening to Scriabin, on the evening of the exams, and being so brilliantly clever that it came as such a surprise when he came to be nothing more than a minor government official.

I can’t imagine Mycroft interested in many other subjects, least of all Politics, or PPE, which is commonly studied at Oxford. Mycroft has “no ambition and no energy," and would have never been as happy with a politically-driven career. His rise to power was, I think, incidental, if not accidental.

He could have also followed degrees in Physics or Linguistics for similar reasons, but I think Mathematics feels right in this case.

Anonymous: In the empty hearse, Sherlock said something along the lines of Mycroft not handling a broken heart well. This lead me to believe that Mycroft's either lost or was betrayed by someone close to him. I thought that maybe that was also a reason Mycroft doesn't have 'goldfish'. What did you think about that scene? Also, I thought it was interesting that the writers had the holmes brothers playing doctor instead of chess. Any thoughts?

There’s possibly something in that, although it’s difficult to tell.

Mycroft tells Sherlock that caring is not an advantage, and, in Sign of Three, advises him against getting involved with interpersonal relationships.

M: This is what people do, Sherlock. They get married. I warned you - don’t get involved.
S: Involved? I’m not involved.

The way Mycroft treats other people, and the way Sherlock treated them before meeting John, suggests that they keep people at arm’s length, not because of a lack of empathy, but because they are wary of the emotional fallout.

This could be because Mycroft has experienced this and been hurt in the past - after all, “all lives end, all hearts are broken” - but I’m not certain this quite sits right. The tone of Sherlock’s conversation about goldfish indicates that Mycroft has always been alone. He seems to have made up his mind about normal people when he and Sherlock first met other children all those years ago.

I think we may find out something more about Mycroft’s past in the series to come, but I’m not sure that Mycroft’s aversion to people - an unwillingness to deal with people than is even more pronounced than it ever was in Sherlock - is a product of some past pain or loss. Mycroft is a complex character and, personally, I think he has always chosen to isolate himself, his terrifying intellect disconnecting him from everyone he has ever encountered - even, to a certain extent, from his younger brother. .

But, I think, we are gradually seeing this starting to change. Now he is watching his younger brother make friends and move on in the world, I think we are witnessing the Ice Man beginning to thaw.

A Study in Suits: Series Three, His Last Vow

Here is my much belated final instalment of A Study in Suits! Previous posts in the Study in Suits series can be found here. The suits of the Empty Hearse can be found here, and Sign of Three can be found here.

His Last Vow gave us a lot of Mycroft, a lot of information to ponder, and many more suits to fawn over!

221b Baker Street

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In this scene, he has just come running over to 221b, umbrella in hand, after receiving John’s phone call.

This could possibly become my favourite of Mycroft’s suits. The black and white check is nice enough, but the flush of pink running through the fabric is just lovely. The blue polka dot tie and matching pocketsquare are also wonderful.This suit is typical of Mycroft’s day-to-day city wardrobe, although certainly on the more dandified side. This isn’t something he would wear to a meeting, so it is likely he’s come from the Diogenes, or some other private location.

Mycroft’s Office, The Diogenes Club

The next time we see Mycroft is in Sherlock’s mind palace but, as the Mycroft of the mind palace seems to always wear the same suit, I think we’ll just move on to the next appearance.

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In this scene, we find Mycroft hard at work in his secret office. Lestrade has come to get information regarding Sherlock and his various hiding places across London, but Mycroft barely glances up from his screen, which is focussed on a map of Poland and a mission codenamed ‘Ugly Duckling.’

The light in this scene is very subdued - Mycroft’s subterranean office is not well lit - so it is hard to make out the detail of this suit. It looks very much like the suit he wore to 221b in The Empty Hearse, here. If it is, it is clear that Mycroft tends to save his more stylish suits and showy ties for when he is working from his private office or relaxing in his club.

The Holmes House, Christmas

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And here is series three giving me what I always wanted - more country wear! Mycroft is a traditional dresser - visiting his parents out in the country (that house does seem very rural), Mycroft has changed out of his city suits and into some tweed.I love the red windowpane check in the suit, and the blue silk back of that waistcoat is a thing of beauty. This suit is not the same one we saw when Mycroft was at home in Scandal, but the casual check shirt Mycroft is wearing - with the sleeves rolled up, no less! - is likely the same one.

For Mycroft, this is a very relaxed look. Although he still has his pocketwatch, and his tie and pocketsquare are still co-ordinated, his trousers d not match the rest of his suit. Instead, he looks to have opted for corduroys in a similar shade of green, in deference to the informal nature of Christmas dinner at his parents house. The rolled-up sleeves may even mean he was helping his mother with the cooking!

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When we see Mycroft later in the evening, after being drugged by his brother, he has thrown on a red patterned scarf that it worth mentioning because it’s rather nice. And it is December, after all!

Unknown location, somewhere in the corridors of power

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For his meeting with Lady Smallwood, in which he convinces her to spare his brother prison and send him on a dangerous mission for MI6 instead, Mycroft has returned to his pinstriped suit. The tie is new. The floral pattern is attractive, but the sombre grey fits the tone of the meeting.

As ever, this suit is armour. The charges being brought against his brother are serious and, in trying to help, Mycroft is accused of having “familial sentiment” by Sir Edwin. As ever, Mycroft hides behind the mask of the ‘Ice Man’, a steady bureaucratic presence that makes decisions like these due to pragmatism and not compassion. This suit, a favourite for difficult situations, helps him do that.

The Airfield

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In Mycroft’s last appearance until the next series, we see him escorting his brother on to a private plane.

The overcoat Mycroft is wearing is his Crombie, which was first seen in Pink, and then in Scandal. I’m pleased to see its return. What I am enjoying, though, is the pink patterned tie and pink checked shirt. An unusual choice for Mycroft, but one that goes very well with the royal blue scarf he is wearing in this scene. That is, by my count, three patterned scarves we have seen Mycroft in now - two in this episode and one in Scandal.

Although it is likely a few days after Mycroft had negotiated his brother’s mission, he is still wearing his pinstripe suit - a testament, perhaps, to how difficult he is finding the situation. Under the watchful gaze of the MI6 operatives, he cannot allow himself to say a proper goodbye to Sherlock. He has dressed the part of the proper government offical for good reason.

And that’s it. Mycroft is now off to his tailor, until Series Four. I live in hope of many more beautiful suits to come!