"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.
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:
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.
Sherlock: This is low tar.
(A Scandal in Belgravia)
Mycroft: This isn’t agreeing with me. I’m going in.
Sherlock: You need low tar. You still smoke like a beginner.
(His Last Vow)
I think we have evidence here that Mycroft is a little more than a casual smoker.
Mycroft didn’t just buy some cigarettes to offer his brother during the morgue scene in Scandal - he picked up his own cigarettes, his low tar cigarettes, probably out of his desk drawer.
Mycroft seems to smoke - and, indeed, drink - in times of high stress, be it worrying about his brother or enduring tiresome Christmas dinners.
In Vow, it appears that Sherlock has returned the favour, and Mycroft is smoking Sherlock’s brand.
on naming the Holmes Brothers
I agree that this Whole type of speculation at this point is headcanon - but I’ll try to begin from what we know:
First of all Mycroft and Sherlock like their names - sure they’re weird, different, but they relish in being different so their name also becomes their badge, the first barrier telling people ‘we are not like you’. Second: Sherlock has more ‘normal’ names (William and Scott) - in fact, Sherlock is his middle name and yet that’s the one he employs. I’m not too shocked by the fact, given that I myself go by my middle name. Third: even if their parents did give them some unusual names, their mother seems to wish to ‘normalize’ it in conversation (Myc, Mycey - but also ‘my boy’) so if they have traditional names she might’ve wanted to use those ideally or originally.
Here’s my speculation. ‘Mycroft’ is actually a surname (you can look it up, both in England where it has its origins and in the US) and the only known case where it’s been used as a Christian Name is in Mycroft Holmes. Now, it’s not uncommon for first sons to have their mother’s maiden surname as middle or first name. (one famous fictional case: Fitzwilliam Darcy). We know Mrs. Holmes gave up on her career for her family, and we know how much Mr. Holmes idolizes, admires, and loves her. Naming Mycroft after one of the pieces of his wife’s identity she had to shed for her family (her surname) is maybe something Mr. Holmes really wanted to give her back. So we have Mycroft, with the peculiar name his mother tries to normalize.
Then we move on to Sherlock - who actually has two more names. One could assume his mother might’ve wanted to have him go by William given her reticence to use Myc’s full name, we’ll never know. THIS is what I’ve decided my purely fictional head!canon will be:
there’s a common story I’ve heard from many of my friends who have (or are) considerably older siblings. Their parents, to make the elder child feel more included in the joyful arrival of the young usurper that is to be their sibling, invite them to participate in the naming of said child or choosing how to call them. So now say we have baby ‘William Sherlock Scott’, they introduce him to seven years old Mycroft, and he decides to use Sherlock. William and Scott are so simple, and child-Mycroft already knows he’s special, different, and he wants his brother to share that same distancing from common folk. The moment he chose to say ‘Hi Sherlock’ to that infant, instead of ‘Hi William’, he basically recognized in this baby someone he could relate to, someone he could interact with, and who was allowed to be his protégé.
I really like your headcanon for this. I can absolutely image the precocious seven-year old Mycroft picking the name Sherlock for his baby brother!
Anonymous: Hello :) was wondering if you thought Sherlock's comment about Mycroft & OCD was a throw-away line or if you think Mycroft is OCD?
I think it was just a quick little way to draw attention to how alike and simultaneously how unalike the Holmes brothers are. Mycroft always unconsciously corrects the door knocker, but Sherlock always, unconsciously, pushes is back out of alignment. We saw him do it and not notice it as he walked through the door to 221b.
Mycroft, canonically had the “tidiest and most orderly brain.” He craves order in the same way that Sherlock craves disarray. They are, in so many ways, different sides of the same coin.
Mycroft: Perhaps there was something in the punch.
Sherlock: Clearly. Go and have some more.
Do we think Mycroft knew this was going to happen?