‘Sherlock’ Season 3 Finale Review: ‘His Last Vow’

Published 1 year ago by , Updated February 3rd, 2014 at 5:48 am,

Sherlock Charles Augustus Milverton ‘Sherlock’ Season 3 Finale Review: ‘His Last Vow’

[This is a review for Sherlock season 3, episode 3. It contains SPOILERS.]

After a rather slow start (and middle) to the season, it’s gratifying to announce that the game is definitely back on in Sherlock‘s season finale. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ wit and humor is on top form as John and Sherlock work to pry more than one client from under the boot heel of blackmail, but what really holds “His Last Vow” together is the introduction of a new villain: Charles Augustus Magnussen.

Lars Mikkelsen puts in a chilling, twisted and brilliantly repulsive turn as Magnussen: media mogul, the “Napoleon of blackmail” and the only man that Sherlock has ever truly hated. Magnussen has built a fortune and a terrifying amount of power through his talent for locating people’s pressure points, and as “The Last Vow” begins we find Sherlock deliberately putting himself in Magnussen’s firing line in order to get close to him.

That’s a polite way of saying that John, after a short separation from his best friend, finds him crashed out in a smack den and looking a little worse for wear. Sherlock’s drug addiction has been alluded to in previous seasons, and it’s both surprising and a little disturbing to witness him relapse deliberately for the sake of a case. There’s no time for twelve-step meetings, however, as an attempt to break into Magnussen’s office and steal blackmail documents brings Sherlock face to face with an unpleasant truth: Mary Watson, née Morstan, is actually an ex-assassin who has been lying to John since the day she met him.

Mary Morstan in Sherlock His Last Vow ‘Sherlock’ Season 3 Finale Review: ‘His Last Vow’

At first this felt distinctly like an “out” for John’s marriage and the challenges it might have presented to his crime-fighting hobby, but instead of removing Mary altogether it actually proves to be a rather brilliant way of reconciling the two aspects of John’s life. Having John take Mary back after finding out that she shot his best friend is a very tough pill for viewers to swallow, but between the writing and the performances by Martin Freeman and Amanda Abbington this delicate issue is handled convincingly.

It’s also difficult to stay angry at Mary when Charles Augustus Magnussen is hanging around and making everyone else in the world seem nicer by comparison. Mikkelsen’s performance is truly enthralling, both understated and shockingly nasty, and Magnussen feels in every way like a worthy foil for Sherlock: a stark embodiment of what similar gifts might have been used for in different hands.

In fact, the only thing that’s disappointing about Magnussen is his death, which felt a little anticlimactic and raises the question of why none of the blackmailer’s bodyguards bothered to check if either of his visitors was carrying a gun. Hiring an amateur security detail is false economy, kids.

Sherlock His Last Vow ‘Sherlock’ Season 3 Finale Review: ‘His Last Vow’

Although introduction of such a dastardly villain and a high-stakes storyline might leave less time for some of the funny character moments that the writers have indulged in during the past two episodes, ‘His Last Vow’ actually reveals a great deal more about its central players than a trip to the pub or a game of Operation might have done. Of course, Magnussen’s Terminator-esque HUD that displays the bald details about everyone he meets plays into that, but what’s most interesting of all is finding out what everyone’s pressure point is, and how they react to having it flicked.

“His Last Vow” is undoubtedly the best episode of this season, and some might consider it the best episode of the series so far. Moffat’s penchant for slightly over-the-top melodrama is tempered by a healthy dose of dry wit and the performances of Sherlock‘s excellent cast, and despite some of the shocking events that take place the episode still feels nicely grounded.

As for the ending… well, we needed to have something to talk about while we wait for season 4.


Sherlock season 3 premieres on PBS with ‘The Empty Hearse,’ on Sunday January 19th.

Follow H. Shaw-Williams on Twitter @HSW3K
TAGS: Sherlock
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  1. Um,this sucked. I mean, wow, it wasn’t good at all. When you have to alter the entire way established characters would react just to achieve a plotline, you are pushing an agenda. And Martin should have resisted the urge to get his woman a job. Let me ask you this–in the show’s canon, what happened to the last person who pointed a gun at Sherlock, in John’s presence? Um, yeah…

  2. I know it’s fiction and one must suspend belief, but how does “the most dangerous man on the planet” allow someone to walk into his lair with a loaded weapon? He doesn’t have them frisked? He doesn’t have some sort of metal detector? What about his security personnel? Seemed a little stupid for such a brilliant man with a mind castle to not check them for weapons.

    • I guess the only logical thing is that he’s too overconfident

  3. I wonder whether his glasses will be somehow salvaged/exploited in Season 4!

    • Did you actually watch the whole episode? The glasses are NOT SPECIAL.

  4. This is horrible.

    Predicitible from the beginning. Of course we knew he was dating her for some other reason. Of course mary was something she wasn’t and Yuo are kidding me..the most powerful man in the world doesn’t frisk people who come into his home….even though he did when he went to sherlocks home? Huge plot hole there..nice. And Sherlock doesn’t tell Watson about not drinking the tea until after he goes back inside? Cause he knew he wouldn’t have a drink of anything?

    And does anyone on this show REALLY die? I mean come on. This is becoming laughable. That anyone says this show is the best on tv is kidding themselves. Have you watched PSYCH? cause its essentially the same show..but the writing is better because they don’t kill characters and then bring them back again..Or game of thrones. the writing is good enough where you can kill main characters and still go on with others..We know Sherlock can never die, neither can watson and apparently neither can anyone else (moriarty).

    its becoming Days of Our lives and i am done.

  5. I watched this episode 3 times, mostly by accident, finding it on TV when I was sitting down watching TV, surfing channels. By the 3rd time, I got all of the jokes, even the so suttle ones. This is a funny show, but it is also quite a drama. So what if Sher & Watson weren’t searched for guns. It’s just a TV show. Is there anything else you’d rather watch instead? Probably not. This is a great show, and we need more than three episodes every year or so. Plz do more next year. BTW, the last 45 minutes of this episode was just none-stop entertainment. If you missed a word, you missed a lot. Watch it again if you can. PB in DC

    • Dude, you need to learn how to spell. And yeah, it is just a TV show, but one of the important factors in the QUALITY of a show like this is its believability. When you have glaring errors in realness it makes the show harder to buy into.

  6. i believe holiday is not only about having a great time but it is a great time for TV and movies. Thanks for sharing the time schedules.

  7. Oh man. I just realized that at the end of season 2, Moriarty’s only play is to kill himself. And in the season 3 finale, Sherlock resorts to using brute force. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, that both times they felt outsmarted and used guns.

  8. The best episode of the series so far??? Are you ****ing serious???

    This entire season is just too much. It makes the show so unbelievable it gets boring. Seasons 1and 2 were brilliant but this is ridiculous. How someone can destroy their own creation like that is beyond my understanding.

    • You are SO right. After seasons 1 and 2, I really couldn’t wait for season 3. But after season 3, I don’t know if I’ll watch anymore.

    • I agree. Unbelievable plots, Marry shooting Sherlock makes no sense at all, almost killed him but there is no consequense, only tons of understanding from Sherlock, and it is all John’s fault that he’s got a killer wife. And Sherlock turned into a murderer is unacceptable!
      I love the first two seasons, season 3 is a disappointment, and the finale is rediculous.

      • Mary actually DID kill Sherlock. That’s one of the reasons it was laughable when Sherlock told Watson that Mary could have killed him, but chose to put the bullet somewhere nonlethal. If she HAD put the bullet somewhere nonlethal, why did Sherlock actually die? SO DISAPPOINTING.

  9. Initially, I’d come to thinking that I was the only one disappointed by this episode. It focused more on comedy and melodrama than on what the show should focus on which is Sherlock being a DETECTIVE. In this entire episode, there really was no case. It was the same with the episode before it, and the first episode of the season was, in my opinion, kind of lackluster. I feel like Moffat’s just trying to please the Johnlock fangirls and sacrificing a good storyline and plot twists (that are genuinely unexpected) and actual detective work to do so. I hope it gets better next season.

  10. The thing about the character Sherlock Holmes that has always been so extraordinary was that he ALWAYS outsmarted everyone. The bad guys. The good guys. Everyone. Except perhaps Mycroft. At the end of S3:E3 Sherlock being outsmarted and outmaneuvered then resulting to violence- watch S1:E1 when he’s talking to the cabbie at the end of the episode. Its a bit disappointing but maybe we’ll findout if it was justified in S4?
    Also, Moriarty in that little hacked commercial? He may not really be back at all…. We didn’t see him in the flesh or have him clearly stating that he was back. It could be a hoax by either of our Holmes boys to save Sherlock’s neck…..
    At any rate, this is the most stimulating show I’ve found yet. Can not wait for the 2015 special and then S4 in 2016!