Monday, February 10, 2014

Sherlock 3.03: "His Last Vow"

“But she wasn’t supposed to be like that. Why is she like that?”

As is general the case with “Sherlock” season finales, “His Last Vow” certainly packed a punch. Like the other two episodes of this season, “His Last Vow” examined the relationship between Sherlock and Watson. We learned that Watson is Sherlock’s pressure point/weakness (although we already kind of knew that). The episode introduced a new villain, media mogul/ blackmailer Charles Augustus Magnussen. The very end of the episode also marks the return of a previous villain. As I predicted back in my analysis of “The Empty Hearse,” there is definitely more to Mary than meets the eye, and in this episode, we learn some of what that is. I do wish we could learn some of the details of Mary’s past, but the events of this episode make me think that unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.

As I mentioned, the focus of this episode is Charles Agustus Magnussen. He’s a smarmy media mogul with a blackmailing habit. He sort of reminds me of a super exaggerated version of Rupert Murdoch (not saying Murdoch has blackmailed anybody, but there was that whole phone tapping scandal). The actual basis for the character is from an original Conan Doyle story, however. Which makes Conan Doyle remarkably prescient. Or perhaps this sort of media mogul has been present throughout history. Early on in the episode, we see how Magnussen expertly works the information he has on certain high ranking British officials. It appears that information about everyone he encounters flashes up on his glasses, but there is actually more to that visual than meets the eye. For some reason, Sherlock has decided that he needs to take down Magnussen. This is much to the chagrin of Mycroft, who believes that drawing the attention of someone like Magnussen is more trouble than its worth.

As part of his investigation into Magnussen, Sherlock has taken to visiting a crack house. We later learn that Sherlock hoped Magussen would think he had a drug habit and find that to be tempting blackmail bait. Watson hasn’t heard from Sherlock in several months, so he’s understandably shocked to find him at the crack house while on a mission to retrieve a neighbor’s son. Sherlock insists that he was just trying to work on his case and hasn’t actually been using, but nobody quite believes him, even after a clean drug test. He’s clearly hiding something in his flat. Watson soon figures out what that something is. Apparently Sherlock has been dating Janine, a friend of Mary’s he befriended at John and Mary’s wedding. All is not as it seems, though, of course. Janine is Magunssen’s assistant, so dating her is extremely convenient for Sherlock. Janine seems to realize this though, and doesn’t mind.

The centerpiece of the early part of the episode is a sequence where Sherlock and Watson try to break into Magnussen’s office. Their ransacking is interrupted by none other than Mary, though. Sherlock goes up to Magnussen’s inner office when he hears a nose, and he finds Mary, in full assassin garb, with a gun pointed at Magnussen’s head. Clearly there is more to Mary than meets the eye, and Magunssen knows the details. Mary shoots Sherlock and knocks out Magunssen before escaping. There’s an elaborate bit where Sherlock goes into his “mind palace” to figure out how to survive the shooting. He works out the best way to fall and how to keep himself from going into shock. It’s kind of a disturbing sequence, especially if you think about what is going on in Sherlock’s body as he’s doing all this thinking.

Sherlock basically gets to the hospital just in time to be saved. We later pick up the action on Christmas. Sherlock, Mycroft, John, and Mary are all at Sherlock and Mycroft’s parents’ house, and there’s quite a lot of tension. From what I’ve heard, the parents Holmes are played by Benedict Cumberbatch’s actual parents. I must say that Benedict’s father is just plain adorable. There are some great scenes where he talks with Mary and they discuss who is the sane one in their respective relationships. Anyway, through some flashbacks, we learn that Sherlock struggled a bit with how to let Watson know that his wife is a crazy assassin. Things have been understandably tense between John and Mary since John found out that Mary shot Sherlock. Back when he first found out, Mary gave him a thumb drive containing everything about her real identity. She thought that when Watson read it, he wouldn’t love her anymore.

One of the real showpieces of the episode is where Watson finally confronts Mary about her past once and for all. He’s got the thumb drive in his hand, and Mary thinks he’s going to let her have it. Instead, John tells her that he doesn’t need to know about his past. He just cares about their future. He’s still pissed off at her, but he wants to try and make things work. He also burns the thumb drive. Mary is thrilled with this. I, however, was not thrilled. I would like to have learned more about Mary’s past, and I felt like this was kind of a cop out. There isn’t much time to celebrate, though, as Sherlock has drugged everyone but himself and Watson. A helicopter arrives to take them to Magnussen’s super secret blackmail lair. Supposedly he has vaults filled with hard copies of the evidence he has against the rich and powerful.

Sherlock’s got Mycroft’s laptop, and his plan is to catch Magnussen trying to buy the laptop from him. That laptop contains state secrets, of course, which could get Magnussen in a heap of trouble. Sherlock is also hoping that gaining access to the vault of blackmail evidence will ensure that he and Watson don’t get into trouble for taking the laptop from Mycroft in the first place. There’s just one very large problem. There is no physical blackmail evidence. Apparently Magunssen has his own “mind palace,” and all his dirt on everyone is in his head. What we thought was a projection from Magnussen’s glasses is actually just his thought process. Interesting twist, Moffat. Mycroft and his spooks are soon on the scene in force, and Sherlock and Watson are about to be charged with treason. Magnussen wants to control Sherlock, Watson, and Mycroft through his knowledge of Mary’s past, but Sherlock doesn’t want to let that happen. He shoots Magnussen in cold blood, right in the head.

Mycroft has to pull some strings to keep Sherlock out of jail. Sherlock has to agree to go on an undercover mission to Eastern Europe. Mycroft predicts Sherlock will last about six months before being killed, but Sherlock agrees to it anyway. Sherlock has a heart to heart with Watson before leaving, because, of course, he thinks he’s never going to speak to Watson again. Sherlock’s plane has barely taken off, though, when the game changes completely. All television screens in the UK suddenly show the face of one James Morriarty, who just keeps saying “Miss me?” It felt like a very “Doctor Who” season ending, with the villain taking over the airwaves and a teaser for what our heroes will be up against next season. I think that bringing Morriarty back opens up a lot of interesting possibilities for next season. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another two years to get that next season!

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