Sherlock 3.3 finale review – His Last Vow
The season 3 finale entitled “His Last Vow” has finally reached America and it does not disappoint. This episode is definitely better than the self-aggrandizing season opener and a bit grander in scale than the second of the three. Cumberbatch finally tones it down for this episode and gives us some mystery solving, although not in the traditional sense. There’s no detective parading around finding clues. Instead, we get a retelling and modern interpretation of the Charles Augustus Milverton story written by Conan Doyle, turned on its head. The names are changed and the Master Blackmailer is made into a German called Charles Augustus Magnussen, but the tale is essentially the same with a few additions. Of course, that’s where the problems lie.
Sherlock is enlisted to retrieve some letters from Magnussen, the Master Blackmailer, by a client. While facing off against Magnussen, Holmes discovers that not only are there no letters to retrieve, but Magnussen is using his own “Mind Palace” technique against him. Yes, perhaps the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard of is exaggerated by extreme lengths. We’ve learned in the past that Sherlock has a “Mind Palace”, or store of memories where he can go to retrieve literally anything anytime. The Master Blackmailer has employed the same concept. So when Sherlock and Watson show up to retrieve the blackmailing documents, Magusssen informs them that there are no documents. There is only information stored in his head. This is, of course, ridiculous.
Beyond the fact that the concept of a “Mind Palace” is entirely unrealistic, the character of Magnussen has no proof of his blackmail. Watson and Holmes question him about this and Magnussen retorts with a good point. He doesn’t have to prove anything. He just has to print it, which assumes any news media would want his tales that have no proof or source in the first place. This aside, the idea of the media as the ultimate blackmail threat is perhaps the best revelation given in this episode. There is nothing else more brilliant than this.
The destruction and “revelations” surrounding the character of Mary are disappointing. To perhaps give Holmes and Watson a more personal stake against Magnussen, we are told the Master Blackmailer has “information” somewhere in his mind about Mary’s past as a CIA agent and rogue assassin. Of course, that’s all it is. Okay, so what right? Magnussen doesn’t reveal how he knows all this, but he remembers it all by just sitting in a sparse little room to “concentrate” and threatens people with his power of memory. I wish I could do that. I can’t even remember what I had for lunch yesterday, much less telephone numbers, addresses and other intricate details about others. Perhaps my blackmailing attempt would go something like this:
“So Mary, you either do what I say or your past will come out! Ha ha!”
“All of it! All your assassinations!”
“Uhh, well that first one was damning!”
“Where was that again?”
“Uhhhh, I’ll have to look that up! But nevermind! It was damning!”
“I’ll be going now.”
Sherlock compounds his mistake by stealing one of Mycroft’s laptops in order to use it to barter with Magnussen. I’m not sure why he’s even bothering because the guy can’t prove a darn thing. Mycroft and the government then come running and Sherlock is forced to kill Magnussen, lest Sherlock be sent up the river for stealing government property or something. The believability of this episode just stretches everything so thin that I was just sitting there smirking the whole time. Sherlock Holmes can’t just be an intelligent scholar anymore with a perchance for facts, he’s got to be some psychotic with a “Mind Palace”.
The episode ends with Magnussen’s death and Sherlock being sent away on a suicide mission, which he is recalled from four minutes after it begins. This is amusing, as he is still on the plane when Mycroft calls him for help when Moriarty begins broadcasting threats. Yes, that Moriarty: the guy who shot himself by sticking a gun in his mouth. Of course, there’s an easy explanation for this and one I was even guessing at while sitting there smirking.
Moriarty’s return has been invented by Sherlock Holmes. In order to save himself from the suicide mission, Sherlock has re-invented his old arch-nemesis so that Mycroft will have to call him back for “help”. This is really the only way I see it working. Unless the gunshot through the head was another complicated ten-part ruse, that’s the answer. If it is another complicated twenty-part retcon double-switch, I will really rip this show in my next review.
All in all, I would have to say that this finale was alright. Good and bad. No self-aggrandizing. That’s good. The destruction of Mary’s character. That’s bad. I suppose I could take or leave the concept of the Mind Palace, but this episode was bordering on extreme unbelievability for a while there. Mary shoots Sherlock to save him? Say what? Yes, you’ll be scratching your head at that one too. In the end, I will continue watching to see if Moriarty does truly show up again, but I doubt it. This looks like just another ruse, as the show tries to out-think itself and be more clever for cleverness’ sake.