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?
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.
Sherlock: "I'm undercover."
Watson: "No you're not."
Sherlock: "Well I'm not now."
Wiggins: "All right, 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: "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."