Review: Sherlock “His Last Vow” SPOILERS

Ah it’s been two weeks, time for “Sherlock” to return to its regularly scheduled hiatus. Yes our three episodes every two years has flown by and before it has even aired in the United States, the Sherlock fandom is already in mourning for the cleverest show on television. Well, when I say cleverest, I really mean, mostly the cleverest unless compared to itself. Because there in a nutshell is the BBC’s “Sherlock’s” biggest competition: itself. And with the final episode of series, “His Last Vow” where we finally get to properly meet the new villain, Charles Augustus Magnusson, you feel that competition keenly.

The Boring Baddie

To start, in many ways “Sherlock” fans biggest fears have been met: nothing can top the utter insane genius of Andrew Scott’s Moriarty. After facing the ultimate bad guy in all Arthur Conan Doyle lore, everyone else just seems a bit boring. Played by Lars Mikkelsen, Charles August Magnusson is a very effective bully. He’s a sexual predator giving you the creeps licking his victims, literally pissing on Sherlock’s hearth (the heart of the home?), and generally being untouchable, even by the likes of Mycroft Holmes. He’s the bully who has something on absolutely everyone, and therefore is seemingly unstoppable. But despite being a dick, I found it exceeding hard to either care about him or find him very memorable. He’s the ultimate blackmailer but he keeps no hard evidence– it’s all in his mind palace (which explains why we’ve seen so much of Sherlock’s this season) which I would think makes him a bit of a crap blackmailer? He can have nasty dirt on you and run it in his papers, but he can’t prove it, can he? Even at the end, when we find him flicking John repeatedly in the face with Sherlock unable to do anything about it, I just wanted it to be over. It’s a far cry from when Moriarty was on screen and doing devilishly naughty things, you couldn’t take his eyes off him. And at the end of “Reichenbach,” I think we were all just as sad to see him go as we were to see Sherlock nose-diving off a roof.

The Lying Wife

But this series wasn’t really about the villain, was it? No it was all about the heart of a detective and those who reside within it – namely his best friend John Watson. Over the first two episodes, we were sure something was coming for Mary, and in particular that her death was imminent. Creators Moffat and Gatiss being the trolls they are would hardly let something so obvious happen, and instead we discover that Mary is an assassin. She did CIA wet-works before going freelance to the point that she could end up in jail for the rest of her life. Hmm, decidedly not boring. When we see her pointing a gun at Magnusson’s head, I personally cheered. Our John Watson wouldn’t have a boring wife, now would he? But then the plot thickens and she shoots Sherlock. I admittedly gasped and rapidly got VERY excited. I personally wanted it all to end with John having to shoot his own wife and Magnusson would end up as a decoy villain. Sadly as Sherlock lay dying and visiting his own mind palace (the best scene in the whole episode I might add) he sees Moriarty in his mental basement (foreshadowing much?) singing “It’s raining, it’s pouring, Sherlock is boring,” and then the rest of the episode followed accordingly. Mary had reasons for keeping secrets and shooting Sherlock, and being the “high functioning sociopath” he is, Sherlock likes her even more. What’s a little friendly fire between friends, eh? And because Sherlock forgives her and understands she tried not to kill him with the shot and that she did it to protect John, he convinces a ragingly pissed off Watson to do so as well. After all John himself was getting bored in his suburban marriage and he misses the battlefield, so of course he’d have an assassin for a wife. There’s a touching scene in which John chooses to not care about her past and move forward with their future, and a large number of “Sherlock” fans equally cheered and went, “wait, are we seriously going to have a baby in Sherlock? Weren’t they supposed to croak?”  I’ll admit to being disappointed, adding a child to the show will make it seem far too much like a sitcom dynamic, and frankly I just don’t tune in for the family values.  I’m skeptical that will come to fruition, but at the least they’re going to drag it out into the next season. On the upside – more of the badass Mary Watson and the fantastic Amanda Abbington.

The Dynamic Duo

John and Sherlock’s friendship seems both disjointed after the heartfelt “The Sign of Three” and yet very much in keeping with it. Sherlock’s disappeared into a drug den for a month and John is pining for his best friend and a little adventure. When he goes searching it out for himself and finds a very changed Sherlock  – high, with a girlfriend (just watch John’s face throughout that entire scene), and having gotten rid of his chair (think Sherlock missed his friend much?)– he’s not pleased. He’s jealous, he feels left behind (a great mimicry of Sherlock at the end of the last episode), and while he makes a token protest that he’ll go “clueing for looks” with Sherlock, he’s there with bells on as soon as Sherlock asks. Once Sherlock is shot, he’s also extraordinarily on top of things (for John) and realizes rather quickly that his own wife did it. He’s full of rage at the duplicity of his wife, but as with all things, he follows Sherlock’s lead and ultimately forgives her. Meanwhile, Sherlock is not only upholding “his last vow” to protect and be there for the Watson family, he’s once again sacrificing everything to protect John. Last season he jumped off a roof for him, and this season he shoots Magnusson square in the head, in front of too many witnesses to cover it up, all to make Mary, and therefore John, safe. When he’s dying from the bullet wound Mrs. Watson gave him, we’re in his mind palace, he’s succumbed to the fear and pain, he’s flatlined in the hospital, and the thought that John is in danger makes him fight his way back to life. His own brother exiles him to Eastern Europe to an assignment they both know will kill him within six months, and instead of telling John, he leaves him laughing. For a narcissistic sociopath, Sherlock sure is full of unfathomable loyalty, devotion, and selflessness for his best friend.

The Elephant in the Room

As mentioned above, the biggest drawback to “His Last Vow” was that when push came to plot, Magnusson was dull and we found ourselves wishing Moriarty was busy “Staying Alive.” We had a lovely season focused on beautiful character development that had most “Sherlock” fans terrified at the angst that would be coming to us in the final episode. Theories were rampant that Mary and baby would die, that Mycroft might eat it, or that Sherlock was going to go off the rails. But after the climax of “Reichenbach” everything felt a bit anti-climatic. Mary was interesting as a normal person and even more so as an assassin, but was far too quickly forgiven to invest the viewer in that conflict. Sherlock sacrificed everything again for John, they parted with a handshake, and he was back within four minutes from exile. No wonder when they’re allegedly saying goodbye for forever John admits he doesn’t have a clue what to say– if his friend can come back to life, I’d hardly believe a little exile would keep him away for long either.

And isn’t that the feeling fans are left with after the episode? Well, where do we go from here? For a show that has mostly based itself on the friendship between John and Sherlock, they’ve both already killed for each other, Sherlock’s “died” twice for him, thrown away his reputation and freedom for him,  professed they’re best friends and love each other… what could they say on top of that? The big bad wasn’t that bad, John’s settling in (again) for domestic bliss with his assassin wife and daughter on the way, and Sherlock’s off to exile and death (again). Yawn.

And the writers knew it, so what could possibly rally the crew  once more with feeling?

The one, the only– the incomparable Moriarty. All hail Andrew Scott.

I don’t know if it will be the real Moriarty, or how the hell he survived being shot in the head, or how they’re going to get rid of Mary & Baby (here’s hoping she’s tied to Moriarty? I love the idea of wicked Mary), or how they’re going to make an old villain seem fresh, but we know that the game is…something. And at some point in time, Series 4 will have us all screaming.

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View Comments (3)
  • I get the feeling that Moffat and Gatiss are giving us all the goodies as it were up front because there is a strong possibility that at the end of each season, we may not have another – its just that Benedict and Martin are so in demand now that the chances of all of them (including the integral supporting cast – Mrs Hudson, Lestrade, Molly) being able to do another season grows dimmer as time passes. I am sure they all WANT to do more but getting everyone together is going to be a logistical nightmare. Still, we can wish can’t we…..:)

    • I know, it’s such a blessing and a curse that they’re both so popular. However it’s fantastic to see how they’re all so on board for keeping the show going – they’re as committed to it as we are!

      – Katie

  • Andrew Scott is such a tough act to follow..he personified evil whereas i found Magnusson rather wearisome…but agree with another fan that it seemed extraordinarily clumsy that the solution to this villain is for Sherlock to shoot him…i love BC to bits but reckon Martin Freeman will be up for another BAFTA for supporting actor…his reactions throughout were impeccable….except maybe for the last scene when he was saying goodbye to his best friend who basically gave it all up for him and his wife and unborn child…he seemed very neutral…guess we can’t have every season end with him completely anguished and shattered.

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