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REVIEW: Sherlock 3×03 “His Last Vow”

Written by Patrick Smith

Warning! Mild Spoilers!

Crikey! That encapsulates my initial response to ‘His Last Vow’, the conclusion of Sherlock Series Three. Quite a ride wasn’t it? If you’ve seen my previous reviews, you’ll note that whilst being thoroughly entertained, I was somewhat tentative about the lightness of touch and tone. I also had a number of questions regarding apparently loose threads in the plot. Well, Messrs. Moffat, Gatiss, et. al., truly had me going. The fun of it is that the same can be said of Sherlock.

From the first frame, the palette is considerably darker than in preceding segments. We’re introduced to Charles Augustus Magnussen, media mogul, mine of secret information and a vile, sinister creep to boot. He is a dark force at the height of his powers, played in suitably oily fashion by Lars Mikkelsen. We see from the outset his masterful knowledge of an individuals’ pressure points. Lindsay Duncan forthrightly portrays the avatar of the honourable english establishment on the ropes and the catalyst for Holmes’ involvement.

The pace from here on is strident; we see Watson’s gleeful respite from domestic bliss, invading a crack house, to discover Holmes in residence. His insistence on being on a case is treated with understandable cynicism, with a fine delivery of righteous anger from Louise Brealey. The curveballs get more dramatic as we progress; Holmes’ fierce assault on Mycroft; Holmes in a whirlwind romance; His subsequent revelation of his motives in this regard, is quite chilling. We’re aptly reminded, with some frequency of Sherlock’ darker aspects, which satisfyingly contrast those on display at Watson’s wedding.

I admit to being utterly unprepared for the revelation that Mary had fooled Watson and Holmes, both. Happily so, in fact! As the layers of the plot unfolded I took much joy from the realisation of the deliberation, the hints dropped and the clues tantalisingly teased at, in earlier installments. And once again, delivered with visual elan and such a complete control of pace, as to be almost breathtaking. Those viewers who like myself, were yearning for harder edge, greater threat and deeper mystery, I suspect were thrilled to bits. I was certainly in awe of Benedict Cumberbatch, whose performance truly delivered on the necessary sense of peril and imminent doom.

I was touched by the manner in which Watson eventually comes to a resolution with his errant wife. Martin Freeman‘s performances are full of appropriate quiet strength and dignity. Still waters run deep, indeed. As it should be, for in the final third we realise that Mycroft’s warnings to Holmes in episodes one and two of the inherent dangers of relationships, whilst seeming to be depressingly prescient, are ultimately proved to be way off the mark. So, Magnussen arranged the bonfire to prove beyond doubt, Sherlocks’ ultimate pressure point; John Watson. Magnussen ‘owns’ Mary, so has neutralised Holmes. Yet Holmes made a solemn vow in “The Sign of Three” that he would protect John and Mary, no matter what. So, whilst the odd feather might have been ruffled amongst the viewing public, his stark solution to the exquisite quandary that Magnussen provided, seemed fitting.

There are many aspects to the manner in which this tale was woven that I could wax on about for pages. This is a masterfully told, compelling tale and a brilliant conclusion to this series, that will reward repeated viewings. The teaser at the end seemed a little gimmicky, yet I enjoy Andrew Scott’s Moriarty to such a degree that it’s hard not to like it all the same. One thing’s for certain; I await Sherlock, Season Four with some impatience.

About the author

Patrick Smith