Sherlock

Season 3 Episode 3

His Last Vow

41
Aired Sunday 8:00 PM Jan 12, 2014 on BBC
8.6
out of 10
User Rating
223 votes
17

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

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Sherlock must deal with Charles Augustus Magnussen, the most detestable of all criminals: a blackmailer.

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • The BBC seems to have a message for Rupert Murdoch

    9.5
    Who'd have thought that a Scandinavian media magnate blackmailing political dignitaries as a pastime would be a compelling villain in a programme of Sherlock's calibre? Well, brownie point if you did, but that's not what matters. Instead, it's that "His Last Vow" managed to make me look forward to the return of Sherlock again after the third series only had me coming up with more and more imaginative synonyms for 'disappointment' thus far.



    The affable mister I was alluding to goes by the name of Charles Augustus Magnussen and makes no bones about him having the characteristics of a wanker by his licking a woman's face to compare the taste and smell of her perfume and his mistaking the mantelpiece in Sherlock's flat for a lavatory. Sherlock and John start the investigation rolling, the episode gets gripping, the game is on. But around the 30-minute-mark, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss interrupt the extravaganza to bring you Mary shooting Sherlock. Excuse me for a moment, while I go ramming my head against a wall in utter bafflement of what has just happened.



    Assessing this composedly, such a radical turn of BLOODY HELL, WHAT THE ACTUAL @$#*%! WAS THAT?



    Ah hem, now, let me try that again: such a radical turn of events can easily fall into the category of surprise for nothing but surprise's sake, and I wasn't immediately convinced by Sherlock's latest tricking its viewership. However, with the help of flashbacks and mind palace visits, screenwriter Moffat quelled my confusion and scepticism and instead transformed it into admiration. In fact, I have come to consider it one of the most impressive about-turns in recent television history, making way for an astonishing jaunt to Sherlock's subconscious and the nearly perfect second half of this episode.





    The ingenuity of Sherlock also lies in cuts as the one from John, Mary, and Sherlock's fiery encounter at Leinster Gardens to Christmas at the Holmeses', where Mycroft's got some brilliant comments on his brother's recuperation and proves that he would basically be Sherlock if his score on the prick/charmer scale were just a little more balanced. Apart from the fine writing that one has been able to bank on even at the programme's shoddiest moments, "His Last Vow" leaves many enigmas behind, something Gatiss and Moffat have evidently been fond of since creating "The Reichenbach Fall".



    The mysteries aren't as colossal as faking a death, but there is no lack of small ones: was Sherlock really taking drugs or was Molly helping him yet another time to persuade John, Mary, Mycroft, and most importantly, Magnussen into believing he had? Has Sherlock taken Anderson into his employ, seeing as he's part of the 'drug bust' in 221B Baker Street, appears in his mind palace, and leads Mary to him? What's the story behind the third Holmes brother Mycroft so casually references at the end of the episode?



    Such burning questions will probably make the wait for Sherlock's comeback sometime in 2016 quite a bit tougher than it were if the only plot point remaining unresolved after this series had been the name of John and Mary's offspring (I'm still advocating Hamish, by the way). Providentially, the programme demonstrates all of its quality before vanishing for yet another immoderately long hiatus, making use of an enjoyable villain that provides a welcome contrast to the psychopathic Moriarty, the ideal blend of suspense and humour, and an outstanding screenplay.



    And if you haven't hurriedly turned off your television as soon as the first notes of Sherlock's theme were heralding the closing credits, you will have also had the pleasure of seeing one of the programme's best sequences of all time, a character resurrection making the transitory deaths of Gandalf, Harry Potter, Neo, Ethan Hunt, Lois Lane, and, yes, even Sherlock Holmes look like loo breaks: Jim Moriarty is alive. After two unsatisfactory episodes that lacked Andrew Scott's unequalled portrayal of Sherlock's nemesis, I'm beginning to think that he may be the only reason for Sherlock being as superb as it is.



    My detective scribblings:

    - With blokes like Bill, addict or hipster is hard to determine.

    - I wonder if for Janine, it's also 'Charlie Magnussen' and 'Jimmie Moriarty'.

    - The viewers who believed Sherlock's relationship with Janine know him about as well as Lestrade does (taking Sherlock's 'Help!' text seriously in the previous episode).

    - Am I alone with discerning a resemblance between Sherlock's father and Mr Rogers?

    - What good are the 'porn preferences' in Magnussen's archives if none of Sherlock's characters chalk up an 'abnormal' on it?

    - Sherlock isn't punished for killing someone due to him being related to a senior government official who deems him 'needed'. That is either a subtle hint at corruption or profoundly slipshod writing.

    - Again, a cliffhanger is resolved at the end of the series already. Again, it feels bizarre.moreless
  • Did you miss me?

    9.5
    How is Moriarty not in the episode MVP poll? He was clearly it!
  • blackmail, heartbreak, and mental palace

    9.5
    What. An. Episode. I didn't dislike the wedding one, like many people did, it seems, but this one was clearly the best of the season. It had everything : superb acting from all the actors, especially Martin Freeman, a chilling villain, a really griping "mental palace" sequence, great one-liners from Sherlock and Mycroft ( as always ) ... For a character who started as a complete jerk, you could feel Sherlock's care for Watson, and Mycroft's for him ( kid Sherlock was a touching idea ). The only thing I can complain about, and that's minor, is that Lestrade didn't have much to do, as he did all season long. "Reichenbach fall" is still is the best episode of the show, but this one is really close ...

    And yeah, we DID miss him, but I'm still not buying he's alive ...moreless
  • Did you miss me

    10
    I can't begin to say just how much I love this show. It always leaves me speechless. I love the Mary character. So many turns in this fantastic show. This is truly tv at it's very, very best. Benedict and Martin are two of the most finest actors. I wish the series were a little longer. The wait for the next season is always a killer. Truly, truly a fine show. This ranks at the very top of my short list and It is going to be hard to wait until season 4. Somehow I just knew we hadn't seen the last of Moriarty..moreless
  • Baddest bad of and Magnussen was pretty awful too

    10
    I really can't think of anything I didn't absolutely love. This episode had it all: maze-like twists and turns, CRAZY awesome character development, so many absolutely heart-wrenching scenes (the "break my heart" Sherlock/Mycroft scene, anyone?!), and some of the coolest visual tricks (Sherlock's mind palace. I am SPEECHLESS) I've ever seen in television.



    The scene in front of the fireplace between Mary and John at Sherlock's parent's house made me feel like I was getting punched in the heart. I love the idea that Mary has added this completely new dynamic; she's like the baddest bad dude of them all, dangerous like Sherlock because of her ability to justify terrible behavior in service to a greater good (shooting Sherlock, wanting to kill Magnussen). But it is why John and Sherlock love her.



    This is devolving into a stream-of-consciousness review, but whatever. Truly, well done everyone. Every time I think these actors and creators couldn't make me love this show more, they up the ante. Can't wait for season 4.moreless
Lars Mikkelsen

Lars Mikkelsen

Charles Augustus Magnussen

Guest Star

Amanda Abbington

Amanda Abbington

Mary Morstan

Guest Star

Lindsay Duncan

Lindsay Duncan

Lady Smallwood

Guest Star

Una Stubbs

Una Stubbs

Mrs Hudson

Recurring Role

Rupert Graves

Rupert Graves

DI Lestrade

Recurring Role

Mark Gatiss

Mark Gatiss

Mycroft Holmes

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (2)

    • During the final scene, while in his car, Mycroft is holding his phone in his bare hand when he gets the call about Moriarty. However, when he steps out of the car, still on the call, his hand is gloved.

    • Trivia: According to Magnussen's data, Mrs. Hudson's maiden name is Sissons, she's a semi-reformed alcoholic, and a former "exotic dancer."

  • QUOTES (22)

    • Charles Magnussen: Facts are for history books. I work in news.

    • John: You can't come, you're pregnant.
      Mary: You can't go, I'm pregnant.

    • Mary: What is that?
      John: It's a tire lever.
      Mary: Why?
      John: Because there's a load of smackheads in there, and one of them might need help with a tire.

    • John: I'm asking you if you've seen Isaac Whitney and now you're showing me a knife. Is it a clue?

    • Sherlock: (noticing that he and John are alone in the cab) Hang on--weren't there other people?
      John: Mary's taking the boys home; I'm taking you. We did discuss it.
      Sherlock: People were talking... none of them me... I must have filtered.
      John: I noticed.
      Sherlock: I have to filter out a lot of witless babble. I've got Mrs. Hudson on semi-permanent mute.

    • Molly: (slapping Sherlock) How dare you throw away the beautiful gifts you were born with? And how dare you betray the love of your friends? Say you're sorry!
      Sherlock: Sorry your engagement's over. And I'm fairly grateful for the lack of a ring.

    • Mycroft: If you go against Magnussen, then you will find yourself going against me.
      Sherlock: Okay. I'll let you know if I notice.

    • John: It's for a case, you said?
      Sherlock: Yep.
      John: What sort of case?
      Sherlock: Too big and dangerous for any sane individual to get involved in.
      John: You trying to put me off?
      Sherlock: God, no. I'm trying to recruit you.

    • Sherlock: Now, Magnussen. Magnussen is like a shark. It's the only way I can describe him. Have you ever been to the shark tank at the London Aquarium, John? Stood up close to the glass. Those floating flat faces, those dead eyes. That's what he is. I've dealt with murderers, psychopaths, terrorists, serial killers. None of them can turn my stomach like Charles Augustus Magnussen.

    • Sherlock: If I was to use this card on that lift now, what happens?
      John: Well, the alarms would go off and you'd be dragged away by security.
      Sherlock: Exactly.
      John: Taken to a small room somewhere and your head kicked in.
      Sherlock: Do you really need so much color?
      John: It passes the time.

    • Janine: Sherlock Holmes, you are a backstabbing, heartless, manipulative bastard.
      Sherlock: You, as it turns out, are a grasping, opportunistic, publicity-hungry, tabloid whore.
      Janine: So we're good then?
      Sherlock: Yeah, of course.

    • Mary: Do you own this place?
      Sherlock: Umm, I won it in a card game with the Clarence House Cannibal. Nearly cost me my kidneys, but fortunately I had a straight flush. Quite a gambler, that woman.

    • Sherlock: Get me some morphine from your kitchen, I've run out.
      Mrs. Hudson: I don't have any morphine.
      Sherlock: Then what exactly is the point of you?!?

    • John: No, I have a better question--is everyone I have ever met a psychopath?
      Sherlock: Yes.

    • John: You. What have I ever done, hmm? My whole life... to deserve you?
      Sherlock: Everything.
      John: Sherlock, I've told you, shut up.
      Sherlock: No, I mean it. Seriously. Everything, everything you've ever done is what you did.
      John: Sherlock, one more word and you will not need morphine.
      Sherlock: You were a doctor who went to war. You're a man who couldn't stay in the suburbs for more than a month without storming a crack den, beating up a junkie. Your best friend is a sociopath who solves crimes as an alternative to getting high. That's me by the way, hello. Even the landlady used to run a drug cartel.
      Mrs. Hudson: It was my husband's cartel, I was just typing.
      Sherlock: And exotic dancing.
      Mrs. Hudson: Sherlock Holmes, if you've been Youtubing...
      Sherlock: John, you are addicted to a certain lifestyle. You're abnormally attracted to dangerous situations and people. So is it truly such a surprise that the woman you've fallen in love with conforms to that pattern?
      John: But she wasn't supposed to be like that. Why is she like that?
      Sherlock: Because you chose her.

    • John: The problems of your past are your business. The problems of your future are my privilege. That's all I have to say, that's all I need to know.

    • Sherlock: A dragon slayer. Is that what you think of me?
      Mycroft: No. It's what you think of yourself.

    • Mycroft: MI6. They want to place you back into Eastern Europe. An undercover assignment that will prove fatal to you in, I think, about six months.
      Sherlock: Then why don't you want me to take it?
      Mycroft: It's tempting. But on balance, you have more utility closer to home.
      Sherlock: Utility. How do I have utility?
      Mycroft: Here there be dragons.

    • Sherlock: Coming?
      John: Where?
      Sherlock: Do you want your wife to be safe?
      John: Yeah, of course I do.
      Sherlock: Good. Because this is going to be incredibly dangerous. One false move and we'll have betrayed the security of the United Kingdom and be in prison for high treason. Magnussen is quite simply the most dangerous man we've ever encountered and the odds are comprehensively stacked against us.
      John: But it's Christmas.
      Sherlock: I feel the same. Oh, you mean it's actually Christmas. Did you bring your gun as I suggested?
      John: Why would I bring my gun to your parents' house for Christmas dinner?
      Sherlock: Is it in your coat?
      John: Yes.

    • John: I don't understand.
      Charles Magnussen: You should have that on a t-shirt.

    • John: I still don't understand.
      Charles Magnussen: And there's the back of the t-shirt.

    • Charles Magnussen: There's nothing to be done. Oh, I'm not a villain. I have no evil plan. I'm a businessman, acquiring assets. You happen to be one of them. Sorry, no chance for you to be a hero this time, Mr. Holmes.
      Sherlock: Oh, do your research. I'm not a hero. I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Merry Christmas! (shoot him dead)

  • NOTES (3)

    • The episode won seven Emmy Awards Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie, Outstanding Music Composition For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special (Original Dramatic Score) Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for A Miniseries or a Movie, Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie - Martin Freeman, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie - Benedict Cumberbatch, and Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special.

    • International Airdates:
      US: February 2, 2013 on PBS

    • This story was loosely adapted from the short story, The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, first published in October 1904.

  • ALLUSIONS (0)

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