Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Inevitability of Morcroft Holmes

Pondering the assorted Holmes parents that recent Holmes-inspired television have given us, one finds some very different uses those characters have been put to. In BBC Sherlock, the pair start as comic relief, a shockingly normal-seeming set of folks who spawned two very different human specimens. In CBS's Elementary, however, the father of Sherlock is both the unseen figure who pushes Watson at his son, and, later, the character that adds challenges to the cast for a season.

It's been a while, and in my head, I keep wanting to call Elementary's Papa Holmes "Morcroft Holmes" even though his name is really Morland Holmes. Why?

Because that's basically who he is.

Having spent their Moriarty card on an Irene Adler twist with an actress who had a much more successful series to dedicate her time to, and then used up Mycroft Holmes as a not-bright restaurateur who sleeps with Watson, Elementary needed someone like the originals of both those figures to fill a twin void. 

Morland Holmes, played by John Noble, comes in as one of those vaguely-defined figures of wealth and power who has influence far beyond those of ordinary mortals and some very shady aspects. He's not government, though he influences government folk. He's not a crime boss, though crime seems to swirl around him. His lack of distinct definition gives him deus ex machina powers, and those, combined with his strained familial relationship, almost makes him the Eurus Holmes of Elementary.

Morland is Mycroft, Moriarty, Eurus, and Stamford . . . and yet he is none of them, even actively refusing to rule Moriarty's empire. He is a Swiss army knife of a character, and in the final season he may become the Mary Morstan as well, meeting his end as a shocking twist. Especially if Elementary's true Moriarty finds her way back for a final appearance.

To leave the mystery genre for a moment, Morland reminds me most of the sort of characters X-men comics liked to create back in the 1990s, Like Apocalypse or Mr. Sinister. Morland loses a certain humanity we can relate to in his large role as a vague plot device. Netflix's Daredevil series works very hard to give their all-powerful Wilson Fisk mastermind enough character development to keep him grounded even as he pulls strings of a ridiculous level of power. I may be missing something in Morland that is a little harder to escape in Fisk's character development, but then again . . . .

Morland Holmes is probably not destined to go down in Sherlockian legend as Sherlock Holmes's father going forward, simply due to that role he fills. When you have a full-fledged Mycroft and a useful Moriarty, he isn't really needed. (And it may, as I mentioned, be the death of him in the last run.) But for Elementary, Morland definitely has a place.

And I hope Morland gets to explore that place one more time as the series winds down, just to see what else he's got in him.  You just never know with that guy.   

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