His Last Vow (Sherlock 3×03) (rewatch)

On the first watch, the out-of-the-blue-twist concerning Mary totally overshadowed the episode climax so that I only vaguely remembered the actually pretty good villain, portrayed by Putin, no Petrov from House of Cards Lars Mikkelsen (hope he doesn’t get typecast as villains like his brother even though both embody them very aptly).

After the introduction of our villain, Charles Augustus Magnussen, the “Napoleon of blackmail”, who was also responsible for abducting John two episodes ago, we see a funny sequence of John trying to find a friend’s son in a drug house and also encounters Sherlock, sleeping out his high. After that, Sherlock is reprimanded by pretty much everyone as the theme of drug abuse and addiction is handled more seriously than before. Magnussen pays him a visit and literally pisses on Sherlock’s hospitality, letting shine through he knows about Redbeard. We later learn it is Sherlock’s childhood dog, who was put down.

Then Watson is baffled by his wife’s bridesmaid Janine’s presence in Baker Street, obviously having stayed overnight with Sherlock. This scene, in which Watson does not (want to) comprehend her presence, is hilarious, especially when juxtaposed with Sherlock’s nonchalance towards this topic. As Sherlock continues to talk about the case, Watson repeats a single word mentioned several sentences earlier, which is a genuine source for humor. We later find out that, obviously, this has all been an act to get into Magnussen’s office but I have to praise the writers for the fresh and nice idea that the woman who seems to fall for this has ulterior motives herself.

And then we come to the jaw-dropping moment of this season. Although it comes pretty much out of nowhere, it doesn’t feel like a twist for a twist’s sake (at leats not for long). The well-concealed hints in the previous two episodes and its organic inclusion in the Magnussen case make it effective. It makes Mary’s character more interesting and also gives John’s character even more depth as he unconsciously likes a perilous lifestyle and attracts danger. Mary is apparently a secret agent and wants to kill Magnussen for he has incriminating evidence on her concerning past missions. And she shoots Sherlock.

The sequence in which Sherlock extraordinarily attempts to not pass out with his mind palace action was very intriguing as we see characters speaking to him in his mind. Unfortunately, therefore it never had me worry about Sherlock’s life but that is typical problem with protagonists.

Going on, I enjoyed Magnussen as a villain. He’s very cold and calculating, self-confident (one might even say arrogant, but without being careless) and has put on an amazing façade. The reveal that the archive is in his mind palace was very strong after Sherlock’s nice deductions. Sherlock killing Magnussen is consequential and is also a sign of his dedication to John’s happiness for he can no longer blackmail his wife.

The cliffhanger for season 4 with the return of Moriarty has me interested despite feeling a bit ridiculous. But as The Abominable Bride suggests, it is just a digital return.

This episode is a very entertaining and suspenseful season finale with some awesome deductions and nice character work between Sherlock and John with the incredibly hard decision to tell John about Mary’s true identity, which demonstrates his deep care for John yet again.

45v5 (almost made it to 5/5 but it’s not quite as strong as Sherlock’s best episodes)


© by BBC, image from their website

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