TV Review: Sherlock – His Last Vow

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Sherlock’s Series 3 closer, His Last Vow, takes a U-turn in quality from its counterparts and might be the show’s low point with an unsettling future in front of it.

What the hell just happened? The show had been so comfortable reveling in its characters and discovering new depth to them, but they decide to go all in on plot this week, and it’s not a very good one. The conclusion of this episode is that there is no tangible end game to the story, there is literally nothing to it. Magnussen is a creepy character, and an interesting one, played effectively by Lars Mikkelsen (yes, he is related to Mads), but they so halfheartedly try to make him a ‘big bad’ that he feels neutered of any real threat.

All this and I haven’t even mentioned the reveal that Mary is actually some ex-spy type who wants to get Magnussen as much as Sherlock does. The fact that they play her up as a villain for a moment betrays so much of the good faith they’ve built up for the character and while they redeem her and Watson’s relationship in the end it’s very problematic that I didn’t buy either of these paths for the character.

The plotting to explain all of the twists and reveals have never felt as labored for the show as the lengthy backtracking that worked so well for “The Sign of Three” felt almost unbearable this week. The show walked a fine line when it came to its structure this year and it might have finally collapsed in on itself here. The show has tons of exposition, a given with a character like Holmes, but it has never been as boring or forced as it is in His Last Vow.

There were many interesting avenues the show could have ran with early on, Sherlock’s dependency history or getting deeper into Holmes’ undercover work, and instead they dive head first into a stretched thin plot. Character moments are glossed over, interesting developments are all a ruse and never has the character of Holmes felt this inconsistent in the series. Something changed in Sherlock this season and that didn’t really bother me till this episode. He is capable of anything, where before he was limited by his social retardation and while I am happy to see him grow out of that phase I couldn’t get on board with the new lengths they took him in this episode. They clearly state Sherlock is ex-MI6 in this episode, opening him up to be a Bond-esque spy of intrigue based on that agency’s pop-culture legacy, but I hope they don’t continue on this possible path of being a borderline super hero. I want Holmes to grow, but in a realistic way from the grounding of this character the show has established.

I did ultimately like where the show got to with its conclusion, Sherlock having to execute his foe as the only means of beating him, but Magnussen’s is such a non-factor that there is no impact. Making matters even worse is the fact that his banishment from John, the greatest punishment that could be handed to Sherlock, is completely forgiven at the ending appearance of, possibly, Moriarty. Really, we are going there, again? The final couple minutes of this episode were borderline appalling as the show seemed to shrug its shoulders and say, “Fuck it, let’s just go back to the well and create a world with zero stakes whatsoever.”

Severely disappointed by His Last Vow, Series 3 was riding so high before delivering my least favorite episode in the show’s history. Everything that was making the show great took a backseat to nonsense and the note that the Series ended on does not leave me excited, in the slightest, for Series 4. Of course I will be back, but I hope the show re-grasps the limits of its characters and stops feeling the need to make everything so shocking and more.

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One thought on “TV Review: Sherlock – His Last Vow

  1. Thank God someone else feels the same way. I can’t go anywhere on the net without hearing how “perfect” the episode was.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the first two episodes of the season, this finale left me ridiculously underwhelmed. While I liked the idea of Sherlock having no other way out of the scenario but to kill a rather annoying character (from the characters’ perspective, I kinda dug him), I felt like the execution of the big reveal was not only clumsily handled, but already done before.

    Sherlock spends the entire episode trying to find out the secret behind the “Big Bad’s” technological superpower, only to find out it was all a charade at the end? How is that not the exact same synopsis of “Reichenbach”?

    Now, there were plenty of moments that I LOVED. The first scene with Jennine (I’m sure there’s some fancy British way to spell that name, but that’s how I spell my cousin’s so nyeh) was comedy gold. Martin Freeman’s facial expressions are so subtly astounding that I was in tears laughing. Hell, even the second scene with her at the hospital was hysterical.

    I liked the idea of Mary being a CIA assassin as well, but again felt the execution was very clumsily handled. Shooting Sherlock and nearly killing him just to keep her secret from Watson seemed a little overkill. She should have known Sherlock well enough by that point to have said, “Don’t tell Watson and I promise I’ll explain everything later.” would have sufficed as Sherlock would have been so intrigued by the mystery of it all he would have gladly played along.

    He called it “surgery” and “life saving”, but he most certainly flat lined. She DID kill him. What could she possibly think would make John hate her more?

    “Hey, I used to be an assassin, but I gave all that up and genuinely AM in love with you and want to have this baby of ours and leave that life behind.”

    OR

    “Hey, I used to be an assassin, but I gave all that up and genuinely AM in love with you and want to have this baby of ours and leave that life behind, so to do so I murdered your best friend to keep it from you after you just got him back after grieving for two years.”

    Hell, I don’t even see that big of a problem with finding out my wife was a hot spy suit wearing CIA wet work operative. I don’t see Watson, being the adrenaline junkie he is, giving two craps either. How could he NOT find that hot? If anything, the only thing he should have really been mad about is the fact that she shot (and killed, even if only for a moment) his best friend.

    Yet somehow, he never really brings that up. He seems more upset that she lied about who she was, despite having good reasons to, than near-fatally wounding his partner and friend.

    Not to mention that the scene where Watson finds out about her was extremely reminiscent of Holmes finding out that Adler was still alive in that warehouse. Plus, what if he was wrong about her needing his help and shot “him” and ended up killing John?

    Then there’s the obvious questions. Why would Mycroft take a laptop will all the secrets of Britain to his parents’ house for Christmas dinner? Did John really not talk to his pregnant wife for months? Where was all CAM’s security for the entirety of that last scene? Why didn’t they search John?

    People have been saying on the interwebs that Augussten knew about the gun but didn’t care because it showed how powerful he was.

    Horses**t.

    Then, not only do we get robbed of a heartfelt goodbye from two friends who may never see each other again by literally having the plane turn around two seconds after it takes off, but we get robbed of a brilliant character death by having Moriarty reappear.

    I know a lot of people are thrilled about the “return to form” by having Sherlock kind of regress and Moriarty returning, but I for one LOVED the character development that was evident all season long.

    So much so that for a brief moment, I genuinely thought Sherlock DID want to date Jennin…Geani…Jeanean….the hot bridesmaid, at least up until she left and his smile turned to “serious face” in half a second flat. But it’s a testament to what they’ve done with Sherlock this season that having a girlfriend didn’t seem all that crazy.

    I love Moffat, I truly do, but I feel like he’s slipping from the greatness he achieved two years ago with Season/Series Five of Doctor Who. Near the end of Season/Series Six, you could feel the missteps along the way, and while I still enjoyed it, Season/Series Seven was kind of a let down in a lot of ways.

    I just watched the episode for a second time hoping to like it a little more, and while I DID, I still have to put this episode in the same category of “The Blind Banker” as one of those episodes I tell my friends to skip if they’re hesitant about getting into the show.

    I’m anxiously awaiting the next season/seri-yougetitbynow, because I trust Gatiss’s episode and Thompson has totally redeemed himself for “Banker” with “Reichenbach” and “Three”, but I am certainly nervous about Moffat’s next episode…

    …and that’s a shame, because Moffat is the name that made me start watching this show in the first place.

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