Sherlock the television series is an alluring combination of both wit and elegance, especially the finale of Series 3. It is one you will want to watch again to savour its nuances and special moments.
Don’t read any more if you haven’t seen it yet.
In The Final Vow Sherlock our Byronic hero, with his trusty Belstaff coat on, comes up against the evil mind of Charles Augustus Magnussen (Lars Mikkelsen), a self appointed king of blackmail and particularly repellent media mogul, that Sherlock considers the most dangerous man on earth.
There is no doubt blackmail is one of the most heinous crimes one person can commit against another. It goes right to the heart and essence of our humanity – our emotional well-being.
Sherlock Holmes believes such an act outside the bounds of morality and vows to take Magnussen down.
He also needs to fulfill his vow, given on their wedding day to his friends John Watson and Mary Morstan, that he will save them ‘by any means’, especially when they become enmeshed in Magnussen’s evil games.
Gone is the tender hearted gooey showy Sherlock, who revealed his sunny side at John Watson’s wedding.
In his place is the old Sherlock, the steely determined mature man who appears much colder and more calculating than his colleagues.
Is he back to his manipulating ways, especially with Janine the bridesmaid?
She has been living in at Baker St it seems – although we are not sure what has really gone on behind his bedroom door? It’s all innuendo.
Dating Janine purely and simply to gain access to Magnussen’s office isn’t really a moment of crowning glory for Sherlock Holmes, even if it is lifted straight from the ‘holy canon’ of the holy scripture as written by Conan Doyle.
So the ambiguity around Sherlock’s virginity will still keep simmering right along.
The story of Magnussen is loosely based mostly on one of the original fifty six Sherlock Holmes novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), in which he has been hired by a débutante Lady Eva Blackwell to retrieve compromising letters from a blackmailer.
In contemporary creators Moffat and Gattis new take on the case the Lady in question is not young, but a seasoned member of the British government, many of whose members Magnussen seems to be manipulating.
This includes the Prime Minister whom he has been logged as visiting regularly.
No one can prove a thing let alone the lady, who has become Magnussen’s most dangerous enemy by questioning him in an open hearing.
Penetrating the underground vaults sited way down under his house in the picturesque English countryside, where Magnussen has reputedly hidden documentary records, seems to be way beyond the police or MI5.
It’s a conundrum, until Lady Blackwell realises that only Sherlock and his great mind will be able to work out what to do about it.
Meanwhile Watson our favourite adrenalin junkie is back from his honeymoon. He’s settling predictably into married life with Mary.
She is indeed pregnant with their first child, making those observations of Sherlock’s at the wedding true at least.
Watson is also taking in patients as a GP and basically, after a month or so of such routine tedium, is completely bored out of his mind.
Emerging from sleep one morning he finds a tearful neighbour pounding on the door seeking help, wanting her son rescued from a ‘drug den’.
Watson decides he will ride to the rescue. Mary becomes his accomplice at the wheel of the car, where she stays while he forces his way into the house to find the boy, predictably in a spaced out place and take him home.
With his army training Watson easily takes down the poor lost soul who answers the door and heads into the house to find the young man he’s come to rescue.
He is not at all prepared, or amused when a figure lying on a mattress nearby says “oh, hello John didn’t expect to see you here”?
Watson hasn’t admitted it yet to himself yet, but he sorely misses being with his fabulous friend and their adrenalin packed life together.
It’s easy to tell he really misses the danger, the days of yore and thrill of the chase, when he and Sherlock dashed the streets of London in pursuit of evil.
He loved it when they sat in the living room upstairs at 221B Baker Street on their comfy chairs interviewing clients, choosing and solving the most exciting and promising of their cases
Mary ends up taking the unhappy soul home, as well as the lost son from next door.
The unhappy soul has a sprained wrist thanks to her husbands intervention, and the neighbour’s son well his head is in a land all of its own.
John Watson takes Sherlock to ‘pee’ in a jar for Molly to prove he’s not taking drugs, which doesn’t pan out so well. Molly admonishes Sherlock and gives him what he likes, a few hard face slaps.
And so the game begins…
Watson feels compelled to call Mycroft into the fray.
As usual he does not know or realize what wheels he has been responsible for putting in motion, which cannot end well for anyone, let alone his best friend Sherlock.
What will Sherlock do to keep his final vow to protect his best friends and, at what cost?
John is far more indignant Sherlock has moved his comfy chair from the living room, than to keep track of just what is going on around him.
While he’s out of focus the rest of what is actually happening appropriately scares us to death and leads us into believing perhaps Sherlock is a high functioning sociopath after all.
The journey we go on throughout this whole episode however proves he isn’t and that Sherlock really does care. So while not what we would classify as normal, he’s human after all.
Sherlock has re-affirmed what his brother Mycroft, another arch manipulator has warned him previously, caring is not an advantage’.
Evil is as evil does. Enter Mary.
She’s really what this episode is all about.
Sherlock misread the warning signs, dismissed his gut instinct that told him when her first met her, she was a liar.
So who is she? And what would she have to lie about? Is she another victim of Magnussen?
Transforming from the sweet natured girl John loves into a stone-cold assassin is a big challenge, but actress Amanda Abbington rises to the occasion brilliantly.
While we are left to imagine her previous occupation and highly placed connections through hints and innuendo, we can guess whom Mary in her other life worked for. Seems she was a gun for hire.
She sells the idea well too that she can be a killer without also being a monster.
She has to, because it is Mary that shoots Sherlock in the chest to bring him down when he goes to confront Magnussen and outrages everyone, especially John when he finds out that his wife is really an ex -assassin. However this only happens after Sherlock has made a miraculous recovery.
John won’t admit he’s really impressed to find out he has married someone who thrives on danger much like himself. We’re not that surprised, after all she is the woman of his choice and danger is his secret middle name so his instincts must have been spot on even if he didn’t realise it.
Up until Mary came along Sherlock was the one who really understood this very special trait of his seemingly ‘affable’ friend.
The storyline is all about Magnussen seeking to manipulate Mycroft through Sherlock via John via Mary.
You have to keep you’re head and heart alert as you follow a huge variety of twists and turns in the plot.
Over flashbacks during the episode we also start to understand the sort of hold Mycroft has over Sherlock. This started as a little child with Mycroft was always bullying him into submission to get his way.
John and Mary spend time with Sherlock and Mycroft’s super kind parents at Xmas time, a role played by Cumberbatch’s real parents.
This meeting highlights the distress he felt as we flash back to his childhood.
It’s hard to get your head above the fact that whatever your age distancing yourself is the only true defense mechanism that can be employed to keep everyone you love safe, which has why Sherlock has tried so hard to keep Mycroft out of his life.
John naively bringing him back into it is a disaster.
Mycroft is so important a personage in the government with tracking facilities at his fingertips that one wiff of wrong-doing and he turns up like a bad penny.
The problem is that he sees Magnussen as an ‘asset’ while Sherlock seems him as a liability, giving us the opposing points of view. How do we decide?
In the past Sherlock has always planned and mapped out in his head what is to happen so he can keep ahead of the game. It’s the survival technique he invented to save himself as a child as anyone who has been bullied would understand.
The shock of finding out the lovely Mary is indeed the liar he thought she was means that her bullet suddenly entering his chest is shockingly devastating for Sherlock, as indeed it is for us all.
All in a few seconds before he loses consciousness, Sherlock has to work out how to fall to the ground if he wishes to give himself the best chance of not dying.
The scene that plays out is inventive, clever and very disturbing.
The scenes with Magnussen are equally so.
Danish actor Lars Mikkelsen is indeed nauseating in his invasion of people’s space.
Indecorously getting up far to close and personal to those he’s intimidating is positively squirm inducing stuff.
He pees in Sherlock’s fireplace insulting his host as well as the British.
He is positively vile as he licks Lady Smallwood’s face to prove his control over her. It sends shivers right up and down your spine.
However it is his attempt to take John Watson down, by flicking his face with his fingers over and over while Sherlock looks on, that is positively unnerving.
Sherlock’s been waiting for Magnussen to summon him to his famous house in the country to see its legendary vaults. And this happens at Xmas and Watson tags along for the ride.
This allows Sherlock to discovers the truth that is no real documentary evidence, no hidden library vaults and that all Magnussen has is a giant mind for retaining information
This is a game changer, one paving the way for Sherlock to act swiftly.
Magnussen does not foresee how his final act of bullying John will go down.
His surprise and ours is complete when Sherlock swiftly assassinates him.
Sherlock has kept John and Mary, who has been completely forgiven by both Sherlock and John, safe. He has been true to his final vow.
We can draw parallels for Sherlock and Mary in this final showdown as far as Watson is concerned. John was drawn to them both in the first place for the same reason; the danger factor and he’s loyal to a fault to them both.
Sherlock is surrounded by people who love him and whom he loves in return. This is expressed overall in this series.
Even Mycroft whose bullying ways are about controlling everyone really deep down loves his brother and endeavours in his own way to protect him.
Sherlock’s punishment is to be sent into exile by the British government somewhere in ‘Eastern Europe’, where we are led to believe he probably won’t come back from.
Mycroft has engineered this, rather than see his brother charged with cold blooded murder.
John and Mary are there to wave him off as the small private Jet taxis onto the runway.
Is this really the end for our hero, the creators could have so easily ended it all here?
The final music is playing, Sherlock is on the plane and leaving forever.
The game has really become far too seductive, the fans far to expectant, the players much too loved and the potential scenarios far too alluring for it to end here.
So how can it be really happening we ask as the jet takes off into the skies?
Then a call comes in for Sherlock from Mycroft as Moriarty’s smiling face suddenly appears all over London at once on giant video boards… and his creepy voice says…
“Did you miss me”…over and over again…
… and the plane suddenly banks, turning back and landing again so the conversation can and will begin all over again. Perhaps the ‘east wind’ will finally blow after all?
Series Three has had mixed reactions and reviews.
What everyone has agreed on is that Sherlock via Moffat and Gattis is indeed clever and, that it takes much more than a moment to appreciate its intoxicating blend of delicious dialogue, gut wrenching characterization, popular culture and canon references. It helps too to have seen the previous series.
Mary being more than what she seems and having a baby was a total departure from ‘the all important canon’ of Sherlock Holmes.
So if Moriarty is back how will the new creators cope with his particular brand of evil? Will she and the baby become targets?
We do know by now that nothing is really elementary, so let’s hope we all don’t have to wait too long to find out.
Moriarty the dragon is back Sherlock. We need you to be the chief dragon slayer and secure the future of the world.
After all you are a super hero on every level Sherlock, not just one wearing lycra thank heavens, you’re far too stylish for that!
“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”*
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014
*The Sign of Four – Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Series 3 – Episode 1 – Sherlock, Series 3 – Watson’s Grieving Ends, He’s Back
Sherlock Series 3 – Episode 2 – Sherlock, Series 3 – Watson’s Wedding, The Sign of Three