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Spoilers below.

As its title suggests, "Blood is Thicker," the latest episode of Elementary, places family relations front and center, though the title also has a more literal application, in this strong if somewhat predictable episode. Director John Polson returns to helm his fifth episode; the last one he directed was the season opener, "Step Nine," which introduced Mycroft Holmes (Rhys Ifans), also a key character in this episode. Bob Goodman writes his first episode for the show, adding some twists to Holmes's family relationships.

The episode begins with Sherlock (Johnny Lee Miller) and Mycroft sparring on the roof, engaging in singlestick. While this might initially seem like evidence of rapprochement, however--two brothers bonding in time-honored masculine combat (Holmes even comments on brothers hitting each other as a well-established instance of family bonding)--by the end of the episode, more sinister undertones emerge. The developing closeness, it seems, is illusory, with Mycroft's unknown ulterior motives suggesting that the "play" of combat masks a far more real antagonism. Indeed, both men wear masks during their sparring, further suggesting the concealment theme. holmes's innovation of using an egg as the target on the mask, to ensure a hit is unequivocally acknowledged (the broken egg being irrefutible evidence), hints at the underlying fragility of their relationship--especially given how food is used as a recurrent thematic motif in this show.

The murder plot begins with a bang, literally, as a body plummets from a third-story apartment to land atop a delivery van. The victim turns out to be the estranged daughter of billionaire computer/technology guru Ian Gale (guest star William Sadler). Gale has reconnected with his daughter after paying her mother off decades ago to get rid of her. hor him, money mattered more than blood. Conveniently for Gale, the reconciliation coincides with his heart transplant surgery and his concomitant need for a blood donor who shares his unusual blood type. Here we see the literal implications of the title, as the estranged daughter has literally bled for her father to try to help heal him--and will not earn a hefty inheritance for her trouble. However, while this might look like a motive for murde,r it is merely a red herring. We also see here a family dynamic reminiscent of that in the Holmes family, with its own fraught parent/child relationship; Holmes, too, is estranged from his father, but he's far less willing to close the gap, even for money.

But the family complications extend beyond this ostensibly altruistic but selfishly motivated reconnection, albeit in a predictable way. The murderer is all too obviously Gale's wife Natalie (guest star Margaret Colin); we can figure this out, if for no other reason than the recognition factor, Colin being an actress with a long pedigree. The twist is that the victim, Hayley Tyler (Kersti Byran) is really only collateral damage, murdered to obscure the fact that the real target is Ian Gale himself, being murdered by his wife in order to inherit his vast fortune upon his death. Blood is again literally important, as the means of murder is a rather elaborate scheme to create antibodies by injecting Hayley with a piece of Gale's original heart, having her blood produce antibodies to attack this foreign body, and then injecting that blood back into Gale so the antibodies will attack his new heart, thereby making the transplant fail and killing him. I have no idea if this could really work, but it feels a lot more like a murder mystery plot twist than a plausible method of murder. Nevertheless, it does extend and complicate the episode's playing on the dark side of family, the relevance of which to Holmes begins to emerge by the end of the episode.

The primary thrust of the episode in relation to Holmes is to address again the complexities of his relatrionship with family. Mycroft reports that their father wants Holmes to return to London, even intimating that Holmes senior may cut off Sherlock financially should Sherlock refuse. Mycroft seems genuinely interested in reconciling with his brother and helping smooth over the family's past dysfunction. For his part, Holmes is led to consider what he really desires, which leds to a to a stong scene with Watson (Lucy Liu), in which Holmes acknowledges that he has been able to thrive in New York thanks to the support system he has there; the almost pathologically self-sufficient Holmes is becoming increasingly able to recognize the value of "family." In his case, however, blood is not thicker than water, as it is Holmes's surrogate family--Watson, Gregson (Adian Quinn), "even
Bell" (Jon Michael Hill), as Holmes rather amusingly puts it--that have genuinely benefited him. Once again, we have a strong scene between Holmes and Watson as his slow process of emergence develops.

Sadly, it would seem that Holmes's family is possibly as dangerously dysfunctional as the Gale family (perhaps a storm looms for Holmes, as it did for Ian Gale), as we learn by the end of the episode that Mycroft has in fact been lying to his brother. Holmes senior has not been trying to get Holmes back to London; Mycroft is trying to manipulate him back there for reasons unknown, and the episode ends with Mycroft telephoning an unidentified party to report his failure. all we can be sure of is that he has called someone in the UK, as he begins with the international code 44. What is going on here remains to unfold in subsequent episodes, but it seems possible, perhaps even likely, that Mycroft is going to emerge as a major antagonist for Holmes. Was he calling Moriarty? Lestrade (who we met in th efirst Mycroft episode)? someone else we have not yet met? Only the future will tell. I confess a degree of disappointment (though no real surprise) with this development. I'd much prefer to see their relationship heal than to see the show give us what amounts to a pretty hoary cliche of the betrayer close to home. Will Mycroft try to murder Sherlock, as Natalie murdered Ian? Let's hope not!


Who do you think Mycroft is calling? Do you think he's going to become a big bad? How did you like the episode? Let me know in the comments!

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