As the third series draws to a close, it would appear that some of Sherlock’s less than reputable behaviour is rubbing off on John Watson. When listening to his neighbours tale of woe concerning her drug addicted son, Watson shows a similar lack of empathy we’ve come to expect from the great detective himself. Of course Watson will never be able to predict or understand Sherlock’s actions, particularly when he appears as one of the addicts in the same crack house. And that was just one of the many surprises that followed in “His Last Vow”.
Once being dragged back to Baker Street after getting his latest fix, Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his faithful partner Doctor John Watson (Martin Freeman) are hired by Lady Smallwood (Lindsay Duncan) to investigate her blackmailer and dark shadow over the British Government, Charles Augustus Magnussen (Lars Mikkelson). Whilst Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss) highly objects to Holmes’ investigation, Magnussen poses an incredible challenge to the detective in the deerstalker hat that brings Holmes into committing treason in order to stop him. Not only are Holmes and Watson at their wits end with this case, tensions arise between the newly wedded Watsons when John discovers Mary’s (Abigail Abbington) dark and chequered past.
With Moriarty out of the picture, show creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss decide to introduce another infamous adversary from the classic Conan Doyle novels, Charles Augustus Milverton (aka Magnussen). Where Moriarty was the opposite to Holmes, Magnussen is clearly the opposite to Sherlock’s brother Mycroft. With similar levels of intelligence about the British Government as the older Holmes child, Magnussen has none of his etiquette: he takes a piss right in the middle of Holmes and Watson’s apartment. Nevertheless, Magnussen’s intellect, levels of deduction and personal mind palace make him a sinister adversary not to be messed with. Clearly, “knowledge is owning”.
Whilst dealing with Magnussen constantly outwitting him and Mary’s hidden past destroying Watson’s hopes for normality, Sherlock showcases new depths to his character. On the one hand, the reappearance of Sherlock’s parents emphasises his similarities to his estranged brother Mycroft, such as how they both hide their cigarettes from their mother. On the other hand, Sherlock is shown as physically vulnerable where even the great detective could not prevent himself from being shot leading to his life flashing before his eyes and his younger self as well as other people from his life guiding him through shock and near-death. Even Jim Moriarty pops up in Sherlock’s mind to convince him “Death’s not too bad. No one interrupts you here”. But much like the finale of series two, Sherlock shows us all that he is no way near the title of hero but is just as dark as his psychotic adversaries where he goes to extreme lengths to defeat Magnussen.
Although it was not as shocking as Sherlock jumping off a building to his death, this episode had plenty of surprises to keep all us Cumberbitches entertained and whilst we are teased with the idea that Sherlock and Watson will never see each other again after the events of this episode, a post credits scene makes it clear an old enemy is returning that requires the dynamic duo to remain in Baker Street. Three guesses who it was? The hint being that if one sociopath could fake their death, so could the other.