SPOILER WARNING: If you haven’t watched the final episode of this season of Sherlock, please do so before reading this.
His Final Vow
This season of the BBC’s Sherlock has been an interesting one, focusing mainly on the consulting detective learning how to interact with the “real” world. Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis are two of my favorite writers currently working in television, running two of my favorite shows. One of them is Sherlock which they created together, and a little show you might have heard of called Doctor Who. Together they have created some of my favorite TV moments over the past several years, and the conclusion to this season of Sherlock is no exception.
Charles Augustus Magnussen
The final episode of this season revolves around this man who, on the surface appears to be a wealthy publisher of newspapers. Below the surface he is much more, described by Sherlock as “the Napoleon of blackmail” knowing “the critical pressure point on every person of note or influence in the whole of the Western world, and probably beyond”. Magnussen has created a repository of the sensitive and dangerous information anywhere in the world, and none of it is on computers.
At first I was more than a little worried that this was going to be a fairly run-of-the-mill blackmailing story, perhaps kicked up a couple of notches, but it soon becomes clear that this is anything but.
The first twist to this blackmailing story comes as Holmes and Watson break into Magnussen’s private office to steal back some embarrassing letters that belong to a government official. As they enter they spot Magnussen’s secretary knocked out on the floor. John stays with her to monitor her vitals while Sherlock goes upstairs to Magnussen’s apartment above his office. Upon arriving, Sherlock finds an assassin dressed in black holding a gun to the newspaper magnate’s head. It’s Marry Watson.
The scene that follows is nothing short of genius as Marry shoots Sherlock, and he has only a few seconds to control how he reacts. We see him enter his “mind palace” as he did in season two’s “Hounds of Baskerville” to access information he placed there just for this event. It is a truly impressive scene, both in concept and execution.
In the following scene Sherlock tricks Marry into confessing that she has a past that must never come to light, and Magnussen has all of this information. The trick is that she confesses it all in front of her husband, the one person she couldn’t let find out. There’s a touching scene following that happens on Christmas day at Sherlock and Mycroft’s parents home in which John tells Marry that he doesn’t care about her past, it’s their future together that matters to him.
Sherlock brokers a deal with Magnussen to see his vaults and all the secrets he has on everyone in exchange for Mycroft’s laptop containing highly classified information pertaining to national security. Once they arrive at Magnussen’s home, called Appledore, they learn that there are no vaults. There are no files. Everything that Magnussen has accumulated is stored in his mind, in his own “mind palace”. Knowing that Mycroft’s laptop has a GPS locater and the cavalry will soon arrive, things escalate quickly. Sherlock has stolen government secrets, and because there are no real files at Appledore to hand over to the government, he will be arrested and Magnussen will go free, continuing to blackmailing people, including John and Mary. Sherlock has to make a decision as to what to do.
Did You Miss Me?
As punishment for his actions at Appledore, Sherlock is going to be sent to do some undercover work in Eastern Europe that will very likely see him killed within six months. John and Mary say their farewells on the tarmac just before Sherlock boards a private jet. The exchange between John and Sherlock gives you the feeling that they may not come back for a fourth season. Both Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have been increasingly successful in their careers. Couple that with the fact that the BBC doesn’t make money the same way American TV studios do, they don’t need to keep the show going.
Just minutes after the jet has taken off every screen in the United Kingdom flicker and begin playing a loop of audio of the words, “Did you miss me?” with a single image: the face of Moriarty.
In this review I have described just some of what happens in what I feel is possibly the best episode of Sherlock we’ve ever seen. I haven’t gone into a fraction of the details of what makes this a great episode of a great show. You need to see it to truly appreciate just how good it is. I look forward, as I always do, to a new season next year with more great episodes. There was an article written recently that posited that NBC’s Elementary has surpassed Sherlock and is now a better show. I bring this up only because I have been watching both from the beginning, and I believe that both have strengths and weaknesses. The style of each is unique despite the shared source material, and good in their own right. Sherlock takes the original premise of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories and sets them in modern day, and adds a twist. NBC’s Elementary has taken a far different approach, choosing to not only set the stories in modern day, but making Watson a woman, putting greater emphasis on Holmes’ drug use, and a few other twists that are absolutely unique that I won’t go into just in case you’ve not seen it yet.
I started reading Sherlock Holmes stories when I was a kid, and I’ve always been a huge fan of almost anything to do with them. I believe that both shows have their merits, and thanks to the fact that BBC’s Sherlock only run three 90-minute episodes a year, I don’t think we have to worry about over saturation. There is room for both, and for me personally, you can never have too much Sherlock Holmes.