A new villain reveals himself in the final installment of Sherlock‘s third series. Has our dynamic duo finally met their match?
Let’s bitch it out…
‘His Last Vow’ is a treasure of an episode. I had my gripes about last week’s offering, but all that whining was pretty much silenced this week. This episode felt like feature film, with an excellent balance of character development, emotional depth and heart-pounding action. It made me wish that other television series would emulate this kind of quality. Not only did we get an intriguing story that’s unique and contained within the episode, we also get wonderful callbacks to the preceding two episodes this series, and also developments from series prior. As stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman continue to skyrocket to international fame, I think we may have to accept that Sherlock is more likely to live on as feature film form rather than its current episodic format.
But until then, let’s deal with the revelation of the big baddie that has been behind this series’ dastardly deeds. We’re formally introduced to Charles Augustus Magnussen (Lars Mikkelsen) who presents himself as a master-blackmailer, easily recognizing weaknesses in everyone he meets. It’s no secret that Magnussen is the yin to Sherlock’s (Cumberbatch) yang, representing what our brilliant detective might turn into with the right amount of corruption. Magnussen is a great follow-up nemesis to Moriarty (Andrew Scott) as he’s totally upfront with his evil deeds in contrast to Moriarty’s slow-reveal head games. I quite enjoyed the battle of wits whenever Sherlock and Magnussen interact, the tension escalating with each meeting. Magnussen even pees in Sherlock’s fireplace without batting an eyelash! The brazenness of it all is delightful. Magnussen’s treatment of Watson (Freeman) is also extremely well played with the final moments in Magnussen’s mansion being the most noteworthy (c’mon those t-shirt lines were golden).
It’s also revealed that Magnussen was the one behind John’s kidnapping that was hastily dealt with in ‘The Empty Hearse‘. Although the follow-through still feels rather clunky (he did it to witness Sherlock’s devotion to John in order to add another of Sherlock’s vulnerabilities to his mind bank) ultimately all of the business with Magnussen offers us significant character development on our leads, which makes it all worth it. The events involving Magnussen are extremely well paced, taking the time needed to develop the character. Even though he was essentially introduced in this episode, he felt lived-in, like one of Sherlock’s long-time foes. I found myself completely forgetting that this was an episode of television I was watching instead of a proper film.
And Mary (Amanda Abbington) – what an amazing revelation we have there. Just as we’re denied the truth behind Sherlock’s faked death, we don’t really have a picture of who Mary is (we’re not privy to the past which she believes is so damning) but we do know that she’s betrayed John most severely – and that’s all that matters. The revelation that Mary is Magnussen’s initial shooter isn’t entirely a surprise, but the fall-out manages to shock and titillate, brilliantly bridging what we’ve learned in the series’ previous episodes. Mary’s admission of guilt to Sherlock and John (in shadow) is an amazing scene, followed by another display of excellent performances once John formally confronts her in 221B. Freeman sucker punches you with genuine emotion and heartbreak. Furthermore the direction of the scene is definitely worth a note as it further complements all the intense emotions at play.
Of course, when it’s said and done, things are wrapped up a little too neatly: John forgives Mary, Sherlock kills Magnussen (making him a problematic murderer!) but apparently gets pardoned because everyone needs his help when Moriarty has returned in the episode’s final seconds. At the end of the day ‘His Last Vow’ is an excellent close to an overall excellent series. A fourth series is a very strong possibility according to showrunner Steven Moffat, but again, due to the rising celebrity of Cumberbatch and Freeman, it might be a long time before we see Holmes and Watson again. Still, this third series, viewed as a whole, provides enough satisfaction to hold us over until whenever that may be.
- Once again, the comedy is right on point. The whole charade with Sherlock and former bridesmaid Janine (Yasmine Akram) is absolutely hilarious. I was just as gob smacked as Watson when he first discovered that Sherlock might actually have a girlfriend. True to form, it was a fake-out, but an extremely well played one. Equal comedic points goes to Bill Wiggins (Tom Brooke) as the drug addict who becomes one of Sherlock’s allies and a strong comedic presence at the Holmes family Christmas.
- The entire sequence involving Holmes’ inner monologue once Mary shoots him is also noteworthy. It’s incredibly slick and stylish, but still managed to show the depth of Sherlock’s character. I also enjoyed Andrew Scott’s cameo as Moriarty just when Sherlock is on the brink of death – it was just a brilliant sequence.
- I’ve never known what to make of Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) – always thinking he has some corrupt hidden agenda. Nevertheless, his line to Sherlock, “Your loss would break my heart” seemed completely genuine. It surprised me how touched I was after hearing it.
What did you think viewers? Were you satisfied with the last episode of Sherlock for what will likely be a long time? Do you think Moriarty is really back, or is there another sinister villain behind it all? Do you think John and Mary have a chance to make it, or will Mary’s past and her betrayal prove impossible to overcome? Did Molly really end her engagement? Will she ever have her chance with Sherlock? What do you think will happen in series four if/when we ever get one? Let us know your theories in the comments below.
Sherlock has ended its third series, with series four yet to be confirmed by the BBC. But fear not, with strong ratings and the appropriate amount of buzz, there’s a very good chance Sherlock will return (but likely not until 2016).