Warning: This review contains spoilers from the episode.
For a show that consists of three 90 minute episodes per series, it is truly fascinating how excellent the quality is behind each of them. Sherlock “His Last Vow” concluded series 3 on the highest point possible and will leave fans screaming for more; they will no doubt be demanding a date for the start of series 4, too. However long that may be, it is worth the wait, especially with the episodes continuing to retain the brilliance that the show has continued to deliver ever since we first watched it on TV (or the BBC iPlayer).
The episode opens with a select committee talking to a figure by the name of Charles Augustus Mangnussen (Lars Mikkelsen). During the hearing, he begins to twiddle with his glasses, revealing that he can discover the information behind each member and their so-called “pressure points”: This serves as a way for him to manipulate certain individuals through blackmail. I had continued to ask this question throughout my reviews for the two previous episodes: “Will there be a villain who can replicate the presence that Moriarty brought?” By the end of the episode, I was certainly reconsidering my statement, but during it, I thought they had found this in Mangnussen. The actor who was behind the character really captured my imagination from the moment he began talking, and when I discovered that this was Lars Mikkelsen, the brother of Mads, who is currently on NBC’s Hannibal, it was no surprise that Lars blew me away by his performance. He certainly stood out as one of the highlight from this episode, bringing Sherlock that villain which it’s continued to look for in the absence of Moriarty – you heard me correctly, in his ‘absence’, I’ll explain more later on.
John Watson (Martin Freeman) begins his own investigation in the episode following the disappearance of his friend’s son. Forcing his way into the building where he expects his friend’s son to be, and proceeding to ‘sprain’ the arm of homeless individual – later revealed as Billy – John finds more than what he was looking for: This includes an undercover Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch). The structure for this entire episode was executed to perfection, with the plot, writing, and acting continuing to reiterate why Sherlock is a show that everyone must watch. Let us not deny that there are some terrible shows out there, and when a show like this comes along and offers the finest 90 minutes per episode, why would you not be watching Sherlock by now?
When the two of them return to Baker Street, we find Sherlock has moved John’s chair, saying how he couldn’t see the kitchen and there was the opportunity for him to change the place around. The narrative from “The Sign of Three” and “The Empty Hearse“ was much stronger in emphasizing the division in their relationship, but this episode doesn’t revolve around that theme principally due to a stronger plot.
The segment continues with a hilarious exchange between John, Sherlock and Janine: The latter being the bridesmaid from “The Sign of Three” and Sherlock’s new female friend (you know what I mean, *wink,* *wink*). When Mangnussen turns up at Baker Street, he continued to reiterate, in my opinion, why he was so integral in making this episode phenomenal. When he and Sherlock are in the same room, the tension in the air can be cut with a knife, as it made me feel so uncomfortable with the fact that anything could happen next. I watched the episode on iPlayer which allowed me to find some amusing names that popped up under Sherlock’s pressure point: These included John Watson, Irene Adler and Jim Moriarty. And again, Mangnussen really filled that void which I had been asking for since Moriarty’s death in series 2.
When Sherlock and John decide that it’s a clever idea to break into Mangnussen’s office, this was one of the best moments from the episode. Sherlock – through a range of dynamic cuts and camera work – demonstrates to John how he will break into the office. His relationship with Janine is explained, as she is Mangnussen’s personal assistant and Sherlock offers us a hilarious scene where he manipulates her by proposing. The plot twist that was revealed during this moment and it would shock any Sherlock fan, especially with how we were fed all the information through the previous two episodes. Mary had already broken into the office with the intention of killing Mangnussen (we are unaware of her motive at the time). This breaks off into the most superb segment of Sherlock I have ever witnessed: Sherlock is shot by Mary; this leads to a freeze in time and a scene which features Molly, Anderson, and Mycroft, in which they make Sherlock consider the course of his next action if he is to survive. This breaks down every logistic, from how he should fall to what he needs to consider with his injury. Building on the sibling rivalry, Mycroft continues to test his brother, which includes Sherlock being shown as a child when he speaks to him, almost as if he considers him to be the same helpless and ‘stupid’ little brother. When Sherlock enters shock, it becomes even more interesting with an almost limbo-like scene which sees the return of Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott) – who is also a highlight whenever they have him on-screen.
The episode has the strongest plot of the entire series and plays to all of its strengths. Retaining the humor which Sherlock is renowned for, this includes a segment featuring Janine selling her relationship with Sherlock to the papers; Sherlock increasing the morphine to fuel his drug addiction; and when Sherlock escapes the hospital, a discussion with several people pointing out his hiding locations.
The Holmes’ household is a brilliant little feature, blending together the humor that Sherlock is loved for with a few serious and surprising twists. Both Mycroft and Sherlock share a cigarette outside of the house, only to be interrupted by their mother who catches them in the act, resulting in an amusing exchange from the pair. Mycroft also expresses how he wouldn’t want to lose his brother, but remains in character and delivers it in the same patronizing tone. Sherlock drugs everyone in the house with the help of Billy’s chemistry skills, revealing that he struck a deal with Mangnussen when he escaped from the hospital, offering his brothers laptop for the files he has on Mary.
Again, when these two actors and characters were in the same room, it had me completely on edge. Sherlock discovers that Mangnussen’s glasses are nothing more than ordinary spectacles, with him not realizing that he can do something which he has continued to use in this series: His ‘mind palace’. Mangnussen reveals there are no secret rooms where he keeps his documents stored on everyone, but rather he has his very own mind palace, containing all the information he’ll ever need on someone. With a Sherlock that is truly broken and baffled by how he’s been duped, this is exactly the nemesis we’ve been looking for to rival the sociopath. Eventually, Mycroft arrives with the swat team – tracking the device on his laptop – and Sherlock kills Mangnussen, burying all the information he holds on John’s wife.
“Did you miss me?” Yes I did, Moriarty! This was truly the moment which caught me completely off guard and concluded one of the best Sherlock episodes so far. When Sherlock is on his way out of the country to start his exile, the theme song begins and it cuts to credits, only to break off and return to the episode. From Lestrade to Molly to Mrs. Hudson, the TV screens around them flicker and changes to a figure who we all believed to be dead: Yes, Moriarty is back; bringing his “miss me?” messages across every screen possible. This forces Mycroft to bring back his brothers plane from an exile which lasted 4 minutes. The question I continued to ask: “Will there be a villain who can replicate the presence that Moriarty brought?” Looks like it was answered for me and I cannot wait for Sherlock series 4.
With the final episode of the series delivering more than the expectations I had hoped for, Sherlock fans will be pleased to have the show end on such a fantastic point – I think they will also be disappointed that it has finished, again. With so much to talk about, something which will keep Sherlock fans on the forums for months-on-end (similar to the previous finale), it’s safe to say that this ended on an incredible episode. Sherlock “His Last Vow” was an excellent way to finish off the TV series after 12 days and rightly deserves its Grade A+.
You can find “His Last Vow” here on the BBC iPlayer – for the third and final time, I recommend that you watch it in HD.