Sherlock: His Last Vow

Sherlock: "The east wind takes us all in the end."

Whereas episode one rattled along at breakneck speed, with episode two applying the brakes and focusing more on character development, tonight's offering was a patchwork of twists, traumas, fake-outs and surprises. How many of these surprises represent reality, I'm not yet certain. With the gap between series approximating the lifespan of a geriatric spider, I dare say we'll have ample time to wonder.

In 'The Empty Hearse' both 'liar' and 'secret' flashed up in Sherlock's word clouds. If only he'd paid more attention, maybe he wouldn't have got shot. When you add this to his other mistakes -- from his misplaced certainty that Mary wouldn't pull the trigger, to his theory that Magnussen's Appledore Project was some kind of futuristic Google Glass (instead of a near clone of his own mind palace) -- then this was a pretty dire night for Sherlock deduction-wise. Shooting Magnussen was the only thing he could do. His plan had spectacularly fallen apart. Or had it?

Is Moriarty really alive? Secretly, I'm hoping he did somehow manage to cheat death, but is it possible that Moriarty's TV address was all a part of Sherlock's plan? The TV broadcast used a manipulated image of Moriarty's face -- Sherlock could easily have faked that. Mindful of the fact that killing Magnussen might ultimately be necessary, and knowing that MI6 would almost certainly send him to Eastern Europe for his efforts, what better way to save himself than to manufacture a national threat which only he could save them from? This would certainly mitigate some of Sherlock's uncharacteristic deductive cock-ups.

It's also possible that an unknown third-party is responsible -- someone who wants Sherlock alive and back in England. Someone seeking revenge, perhaps. (Moriarty's brother?) But whether Moriarty's lives or not, I'm glad that we got to see Andrew Scott again. Moriarty's at his best in short bursts, and his appearances throughout the episode were perfect. I'm glad there's a mechanism in place which can be periodically used to bring him back. Without Moriarty's presence, Sherlock would almost certainly have died. His demented taunting was exactly what Sherlock needed to focus his strength and live. Obviously, Holmes is a man who takes his vows seriously. At the end of last week's episode he promised to be there for John and Mary no matter what, and tonight he honoured that promise.

In 'The Adventures of Charles Augustus Milverton', Holmes formed a relationship with a woman (to the point of becoming engaged) in order to defeat the eponymous villain. In that story Milverton's housemaid was consoled by 'a hated rival' -- in tonight's tale Janine sold her story to the newspapers and scored a cottage in the Sussex Downs. How times have changed. Watson's face on seeing Janine come out of Shezza's bedroom was an absolute hoot. He couldn't believe his eyes. It's freakish to see Sherlock behaving like a real boy. I liked that Sherlock was absolutely fine about Janine's betrayal and vice versa. There was no animosity between them, just a sadness that there couldn't have been more honesty.

This was a terrific episode for the Watsons. I've always assumed John's army flashbacks were an unwelcome side-effect of service, but rather than being haunted by them, they evidently represent an excitement and danger that his life as a doctor is sorely lacking. He even managed to piece together Mary's involvement through Sherlock's reluctance to reveal who shot him, the return of his chair to Baker Street, and Mary's perfume. Mary being an assassin I did not see coming. It was obvious something was going to happen to her -- the seasons are too short to introduce new characters for nothing -- but I wasn't expecting that. I was expecting her to die. When she shot Sherlock, I swore out loud. From that point on the episode was a tense, meticulously plotted, descent into failure.

In 'The Sign of Four' the Agra treasure was the focus of the story. In tonight's story A.G.R.A. was Mary's initials. I'm not sure I'd have burned that USB stick. I do love that John forgave her, but I'd have been tempted to see exactly what I was forgiving first. What happens if she had a history of murdering husbands? Or doctors? Or doctors who are also husbands? Regardless, Watson's forgiveness and Mary's relief at not losing him against a backdrop of Holmes family festive bliss, was worth the price of admission alone. In fact, all of the scenes chez Holmes were perfect. Mrs Holmes catching Sherlock and Mycroft smoking outside, and Sherlock shopping his brother immediately, was just priceless -- as was Mycoft's uncharacteristic expression of affection towards his brother. Christmas truly is a time for miracles.

Charles Augustus Magnussen was such a creepy villain: driven, calculating, superior, needing to control and manipulate everyone and everything. His penchant for eye flicking, face licking and fireplace pissing was just bizarre. (Apologies to any face flickers, face lickers or fireplace pissers out there.) It's like he had no concept of personal space -- or maybe he did and just loved to violate it. I liked, too, that he had no complex agenda beyond control. Like Sherlock, he lived to outsmart his opponent. Unlike, Moriarty, he was no killer, although he was more than happy to be the architect of the occasional death. I haven't seen Lars Mikkelsen since Borgen, but I thought he nailed Magnussen's sinister determination perfectly.

A lot of people unhappy with the explanation proffered in 'The Empty Hearse' were expecting further elucidation on Sherlock's escape tonight. As I said in my season première review (a whole 12 days ago), I think the explanation we got then is all we're likely to get. It was plausible, if unspectacular, and I don't see what's to be achieved by dragging out an answer across several seasons. Unless, of course, Sherlock's escape is somehow tied in with Moriarty's return. Assuming he has returned. Now that would be a story and a half.

Bits and Pieces:

-- Mrs Hudson's pressure point was marijuana. Watson's was Mary and Harry, his alcoholic sister. How long before she makes an appearance, I wonder?

-- So Molly has broken up with Tom? The status quo had been restored.

-- Was Sherlock wincing as a result of Janine turning off his morphine, or at her threat to destroy the bee hives?

-- I get a bit peeved at how the show throws around terms such as 'psychopath' and 'sociopath'. Do any of them really fit the description?

-- A low key reference to Mycroft and Sherlock's elder brother, Sherrinford?

-- Re: Moriarty post-credits... how do we explain that? Footage from before his death atop St. Barts? Digital manipulation? Or was this particular visual treat purely for the viewers at home and had no continuity with the TV footage pre-credits?

-- More Bill Wiggins please.

-- The middle section where Sherlock got shot was absolutely gripping. Beautifully shot, superb accompanying music, mesmerising visuals, and lots of Mycroft being Mycroft. Oh, and slaps from Molly. Perfect.

-- I'm not sure we can blame Watson entirely for his choice of bride. He didn't know she was an assassin. Not even Sherlock realised that.

-- According to Mycroft, Sherlock's trip abroad would result in death, yet Sherlock chose not to reveal his fate to John. That really got to me.

Quotes:

Sherlock: "I'm undercover."
Watson: "No you're not."
Sherlock: "Well I'm not now."

Wiggins: "All right, Shezza?"
Watson: "Shezza?
Sherlock: "I WAS undercover."
Mary: "Seriously, Shezza though?"

Sherlock: "Hello Redbeard. They're putting me down too now. It's no fun, is it?"

Janine: "Sherlock Holmes, you are a heartless, backstabbing, manipulative, bastard."
Sherlock: "And you, as it turns out, are a grasping opportunistic, publicity hungry tabloid whore."
Janine: "So we're good then?"
Sherlock: "Yeah, of course."

Sherlock: "That wasn't a miss, that was surgery."

Mrs Holmes: "Mikey, is this your laptop?"
Mycroft: "Upon which depends the security of the free world, yes, and you've got potatoes on it."

Watson: "Why is she like that?"
Sherlock: "Because you chose her."

Watson: "The problems of your past are your business. The problems of your future are my privilege."

Watson: "Is Mary Watson good enough for you?"
Mary: "Yes. Oh, my god, yes."
Watson: "It's good enough for me, too."

Watson: "You can mow the sodding lawn from now on."
Mary: "I do mow the lawn."
Watson: "I do it loads."
Mary: "You really don't."
Watson: "I choose the baby's name."
Mary: "Not a chance."
Watson: "Okay."

Watson: "But it's Christmas."
Sherlock: "I feel the same... oh, you mean it's actually Christmas?"

Mary: "Don't worry, I'll keep him in trouble."
Sherlock: "That's my girl."

Sherlock: "To the very best of times, John."

8 comments:

sunbunny said...

Definitely my least favorite episode of the season (although I adored the first two, so it's hardly a low bar). I actually had a lot of problems with it, the biggest being the fractured timeline. It worked very well in "The Sign of the Three" because it added to the humor and made sense for the wedding speech context, but here it felt unnecessary and made the episode feel unfocused.

I hadn't even considered that the Moriarty thing was designed (by Sherlock or someone else) to get Sherlock back to England. Great thought! My current theory is that before he died Moriarty set up an elaborate game for Sherlock in the wild chance he survived their last game. I don't know how I would feel about Moriarty being alive. He's such a terrifically fun character it would be great to have him back, but, on the other hand, if both he AND Sherlock survived Reichenbach it really diminishes the events of that episode.

I attribute Sherlock's less than stellar performance in the Mangussen case to his recent relapse. I liked that we got to see more of Sherlock's addiction and drug problem. It's been referenced before but never really been dealt with in a meaningful way.

Cute parallel: In "A Study in Pink," Anderson volunteers to search Sherlock's flat for drugs in order to get him in trouble. Here, he does the same to help him. :)

migmit said...

My only real problem with that episode is Sherlock's shooting of Magnussen in the end. That was OOC. Not OO Sherlock's C, he totally had to shoot, but the thing is, John had to do it sooner. We even know that he had a gun on him.

Raide Ortega said...

About Moriarty:

There's definitely something up with this, and I don't think it's something as simple as him faking his death too. Though, we can't really discount that, as Moriarty is basically a bizarro mirror of Sherlock, and, well, Sherlock did it...

But going into the realm of the completely ridiculous (because why not), I have a couple theories on his sudden reemergence.

Both of them are centered around this one fact: We haven't actually met Moriarty. Yet.

Because that is how he liked to operate, right? That was his modus operandi during the Great Game, and from what we know about him, he moved entirely through cat's paws and, well, people with dynamite strapped to their chests reading off computer screens. At one point, he blew a woman up for the tiniest description. It doesn't really make a lot of sense that he'd just casually reveal himself to Sherlock in a swimming pool. That he'd risk all of his plans just to play a game. He was very much ready to murder Sherlock at the end of that episode just to keep his secrets, until he was distracted. "Well, he was crazy," you say. "And that's not the point. All he wanted was to find a challenge, and he found that in Sherlock. From then on, Sherlock is all that mattered."

Right, right, right. Again, that's plausible, and outside the realm of demented fan-theories, probably correct. But I'm being a demented fan here, so keep reading and try not to laugh to hard.

Anyway, back to Moriarty. The simplest theory, and most likely (from a demented fan standpoint): The man we saw actually WAS an actor.

"Well duh he's an actor, this is a TV sho--"

Shut up smartass. Anyway. Actor. A very /good/, very /convincing/, and very /intelligent/ method actor. Maybe crazy, maybe just leveraged (Magnusson would love that, huh) into it. It'd have to be pretty outstanding leverage for him to just decide to kill himself out of spite, but I digress. The hypothetical real Moriarty gave him instructions, gave him methods, told him what to do, what to say, and he acted as Moriarty's... well, as his Watson. His human face, his intermediary. Maybe the only person who actually knew his identity. The hypothetical real Moriarty would be a much more calculated person with a goal and a purpose, not a bored thrill junkie essentially in it for "teh lulz." Someone with a wealth of knowledge, much like Sherlock, except from a position of authority - because, you know, they're the same, but opposites. Sherlock is "good," Moriarty is... not. Sherlock is essentially a glorified PI, so Moriarty would have to be someone of import and repute. Someone infinitely more dangerous than either the cat's paw "Moriarty" or Magnusson. Someone infinitely more understanding of the one lesson Magnusson taught us - knowledge is power. A professor, perhaps...

(That's part of the reason for this theory, by the way. Gatiss and Moffat might take the original stories and twist them, invert them, turn them on their head, but they essentially stay true to the canon. Or at least, they acknowledge it. Ad unless I am brain-dead [possible] there was no mention, anywhere of Moriarty being a professor. Didn't look halfway old enough. I thought that was extremely weird. And really, killing him in the second season? And then setting this Magnusson chap up as a Bigger Bad? Revealing him, younger than anyone expected, as a guy who we thought was a throwaway extra meant to demonstrate just how mean Sherlock was to Molly? I dunno. Just seems a little too... irreverent, for lack of a better word.)

(Also, beside anything resembling the point, isn't it funny how both Moriarty and Magnusson ended up with a bullet in the brain?)

The second theory keeps a lot of the stuff from the first, with one minor but significant alteration: It was, in fact, Moriarty.

Raide Ortega said...

"Oh, now you're just being stupid--"

I said shut up. Anyway, Moriarty is supposed to be a mirror of Sherlock. One of the overwhelming traits of this Sherlock incarnation is his inferiority complex where Mycroft is concerned. Wouldn't it make a certain amount of sense - as you touched upon in the review - if this version of Moriarty also had a similar complex? Constantly in the shadow of a smarter, more sophisticated, more /goal-oriented/ older brother? Wanting to prove himself on his own terms? Wanting to add more unnecessary question marks? Except whereas Mycroft essentially gives Sherlock a wide berth (so long as he's not causing an international incident), the hypothetical older (Professor?) Moriarty doesn't give his brother an inch. Uses him, controls him, and ultimately, discards him. A bizarro mirror of /Mycroft/, rather than Sherlock, never getting his hands dirty, controlling his resources from the safety of a computer desk, far away from any actual conflict. More like the stories, in a way, but different. You know, like the show has done to pretty much everything.

Anyway, this didn't really fit anywhere up there, but part of my reasoning for this was that I feel like they used Moriarty up too quickly in the beginning. Involving him right from the start, and then killing him. Too quick to reveal, and too quick to leave. And now bringing him back just feels... odd. Maybe it's a trick. But maybe there was a plan all along. And those are my two best stabs, somewhere up in that pile of rubbish. Just a thought.

Raide Ortega said...

"Wouldn't it make a certain amount of sense - as you touched upon in the review - if this version of Moriarty also had a similar complex?"

Oh, you didn't actually mention that in the review. You just said something about Moriarty's brother. Well, I got a lot of mileage out of that idea, didn't I?

Josie Kafka said...

What an interesting episode. Going into this episode, I wondered if we'd get yet another fractured narrative, and we sure did. I like fractured narratives for the most part, but three episodes in a row--hmm. At what point does messing up the plot's timeline start to be a coy trick to cover up for a lack of genuine suspense?

That question sounds nastier than I want it to, since I've really enjoyed this season.

One huge highlight for me was the shot from Mycroft's p.o.v. of Young Sherlock surrounded by riot police. What an excellent way to finally humanize Mycroft, the rubbish big brother. I do love the visuality of this show and the way it so clearly isn't just (in Joss's words) "radio with faces."

Thank you for another wonderful season of Sherlock reviews, Paul.

William Russell said...

I absolutely loved this season. Loved Mary. Loved her and John together. Loved Sherlocks parents. So many twists and turns. So much brain joy. Also Sherlock is for all intents and purposes owned by M-I6. That should be interesting.

Heather said...

Paul:
Can you believe I just finally watched this. That's the lamest of the lame. ANYWAY. Love your review. Really liked this Sherlock... Totally agree Magnussen was a different creepy weird ultimately insanely cruel villain. Lots is set up for the future... Plus, Mary is a girl after my own heart. (A girl assassin!)