Sherlock S3 Finale: ‘His Last Vow’ – Review

A finale that keeps you guessing?

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Last week’s episode received a mixed reception with its abundance of soppy sentimentality, but it paved some solid groundwork for His Last Vow as new villain, media mogul Charles Augustus Magnussen (played chillingly brilliant by Lars Mikkelsen) decides to rattle Lady Smallwood (Lindsey Duncan) with a bit of blackmail. After her creepy encounter she calls in Sherlock to help retrieve the documents Magnussen has on her husband.

Sherlock knows Magnussen as the Napoleon of blackmail who is somewhat protected by Mycroft. Magnussen is a seedy villain who manipulates people through information and humiliation. He’s a mind bully who plays on his victims weaknesses for his pure sadistic enjoyment. During the episode he licks Lady Smallwood’s face, taunts John by flicking his face, (if ever someone deserved one of John’s punches it was then) and he urinates in Sherlock’s fireplace (which is technically Mrs Hudson’s). What a disgusting creep we all bellow.

Unfortunately, Sherlock’s weakness is John – and Mary is John’s weakness – so Magnussen has a nice little roundabout to exploit with his Appledore of knowledge (plenty of Murdoch references in the episode), which reveals unsurprisingly Mary’s isn’t who she says she is! As Sherlock deduced in episode one: she’s a liar. To be exact a foreign (stretching credibility to the maximum there) security services assassin on the run, forced to take the identity of a dead woman. Mary intends to kill Magnussen to protect her marriage and from John finding out, that is until Sherlock stops her. With John not far behind she shoots Sherlock to make her getaway.

As with any Moffat script it’s a mixture of complete genius and utter WTF moments. But here we swerve back to genius again with Molly, Mycroft and the great surprise addition of Moriarty all appearing in Sherlock’s vivid mind palace helping to give him best chance of survival; Or in the case of Moriarty goading him with letting John down and “You’ll love death, Sherlock.” Meanwhile, Amanda Abbington pulls off Mary’s rollercoaster of emotions with ease as she unwittingly confesses her past to John as he comes to terms with realising he chose a wife who conforms to what he likes: danger and unpredictability.

There were plenty of shocks, who expected Mary to actually shoot Sherlock? Mycroft showing concern and affection for his brother. Benedict’s parents once again appearing in the episode. Also Magnusson’s glasses were not Google glasses or part of his ‘library’ – admittedly I fell for that one. But the most shocking of all, is Sherlock has a girlfriend! Well kind of… coincidentally, Janine (Yasmine Akram), the bridesmaid from the Watson’s wedding just so happens to be Magnussen’s PA. Using this to his advantage Sherlock even proposes. He’s like a totally different character. Of course it’s all a ruse as we know Sherlock to be an asexual character. It did seem a bit too out of character though. Sherlock has always used his mind to influence and get close to those that he needs to. He’s not needed to use sex or baths together to get what he wants. If anything he would see that as beneath him to succumb the such a human emotion even if it is pretend. Sherlock can be direct, tactless but not usually intentionally hurtful. Despite her own aspirations Janine was quite hurt. Akram was a great playful addition but I’m still hoping for Molly and Sherlock. Molly slapping Sherlock and telling him off for abusing his “beautiful brain” was a definite highlight. Word to the writers more Molly (Louise Brealey) is a must for S4.

The finale (which oddly was set at Christmas. Why the BBC chose not to air it at Christmas is baffling) revealed the sting in the tail – there is no grand library. Like Sherlock, Magnussen stores all his information in his own mind palace meaning they have no way of taking away his power. In order to save his friends, without flinching Sherlock shoots and kills Magnussen.

For those who believe Moriarty is the shows best-ever villain? The writers have decided to play with us a bit. Is Moriarty (Andrew Scott) still live? And if so, how did he survive shooting his brains out? That’s the question Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are hoping will keep viewers entertained with endless speculation til series 4. After the “how did he do it” ending of series 2: The Reichenbach Fall, the third series (depending on who you ask) hasn’t quite maintained the story but has continually maintained the production values. However, despite this, Sherlock is still one of the best drama’s on TV and one of the few that truly and unapologetically makes the audience think and question it. Which for me is brilliant. BBC give us more drama’s like this!

Most of the episode was thrilling and full of action followed by a slightly disappointing ending. “Did you miss me” yes Moriarty I did. However bringing you back feels a bit of a cop-out. As the third episode proved he’s already in Sherlock’s mind palace, let’s keep him there and bring in some more truly mind twisting villains. It wouldn’t surprise me if Sherlock, Mycroft (or even John and Mary as a thank you) pulled off a bit of computer trickery to create a legitimate reason to bring the sleuth back to amaze us again.