Doc On The Box – Sherlock – His Last Vow

So when last we saw them, John Watson was happily married to Mary and Sherlock was doing his “Jon Pertwee at the end of The Green Death” impression. We catch up with John as he decides to rescue his neighbour’s son from a crack den. By the way, he hasn’t seen Sherlock for a month – that’s not going to last much longer.

Sherlock HearseSherlock has been retained to retrieve important information… oh, just read the blog post of The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, replacing his surname with Magnusson, to get a feel for the first thirty minutes or so to get a feel for the first half hour or so of the episode (which admittedly added a bit of urination). But on the half-hour mark… things change. A lot.

So, we have Sherlock’s third arch-villain. After Moriarty – dead , Irene Adler – missing, we now have the ultra-creepy face licking (and flicking) Charles Magnusson, newspaper tycoon and keeper of secrets. And possibly more than a match for Sherlock.

Which ties into the short story as well – Holmes takes fairly desperate measures to deal with Milverton in the story – in fact, he accepts that he cannot stop Milverton, just save his client, but ultimately matters are taken out of his hands. But here…

… a good friend of mine just tweeted me that isn’t Sherlock supposed to solve crimes? In the past, when he has been outsmarted, it turned out to be a master-plan of his. Here, he seemingly is outsmarted and has to do something spoilery to resolve matters. In fact for most of this episode, Sherlock is playing catch-up, but by making Sherlock react to everything, rather than being one step ahead, it seemed to me to take a little away from the character. I didn’t really get a sense of the character’s frustration at being powerless and I definitely didn’t get much of a feeling that anyone thought he’d done anything wrong at the end of the story.

But having said that, there were some wonderful parts along the way. John and his tire-iron, Magnusson’s improvised bathroom, the fake-out with Magnusson’s SPOILERS that completely suckered me (as I think it was supposed to), Magnusson’s playground bullying of John and the fabulous trip to Sherlock’s mind palace. And how cool was it that SPOILER saved Sherlock’s life in exactly the same way that the Master saved the Doctor in Caves of Androzani… oops, that’s two Doctor Who references in one blog. Whoops.

Oh, and who’s last vow? Didn’t hear anyone making any vows…

Overall, I really enjoyed the episode – as I’ve enjoyed each episode this series – but I do hope we can perhaps concentrate more on the crime and mystery-solving aspect of the show next time. I assume that given there is only going to ever be a small number of episodes at a time, each has to be something special now, but standalone non-arc episodes, like The Hounds of Baskerville, would be appreciated by this viewer.

And then the ending… I loved the idea of the four-minute exile but it’s going to be a long wait for Series Four.


  1. Just waiting for this to download, so I haven’t seen it yet, but isn’t the vow Sherlock’s from the end of the previous episode? Didn’t he talk about his “first and last vow to protect Mary and John” or something like that?


      • I agree. I could have done with a little less time in the padded cell in Sherlock’s mind palace in exchange for connecting the dots a little more thoroughly. Not because it was hard to follow, but because I like it when things are watertight, and I felt that scene ran a bit long.

        For example (SPOILER), I was surprised that they didn’t reference the telegram clue from the wedding episode. That’s really the only clue that absolutely confirms that SPOILER has a link to Magnussen, rather than just being, say, a person of above average acuity and memory skills with an interest in cryptography.


  2. I haven’t been reviewing the series because I wanted to see all three episodes, to have the story in some kind of context. Especially those weird bits from episode 1 where nobody agreed just what the heck was going on.

    Now, how on earth have I been able to see this series? Well… let’s just say I have my methods, Watson.


  3. I thought it was pretty fabulous, without taking anything away from what you said of how they have changed the tone of the show this season to make it less about investigating and more about the way the characters feel about each other – three years in that is probably a) inevitable and b) a good thing – but yes, now that they’ve got it out of their system … and thanks for the Doctor Who references! Really amused me as they hadn’t occurred to me at all but you are quite right … It will be great to re-watch these as the close proximity of the UK broadcast has emphasised how tightly knitted together in terms of plot and theme (the emphasis on the mind palace really pays off here).


  4. I enjoyed it, but I do think the ending is problematic. Sherlock did a very serious thing, and while the reasons were understandable*, it seemed right (both morally and narratively) that there should be consequences. The ending surprise sets up for the next series, but I think it severely undercuts the moral dilemma at the centre of that final sequence.

    *I say “understandable”, but only because we’re naturally biased towards the heroes in stories, even if they are unlikeable. Did Magnussen really deserve that? We were shown him being horrible, but were we shown him being criminal? Yes, he boasted about it, but people often exaggerate their own influence. And even if he was as evil as everyone said, what about [OTHER CHARACTER]? I’m not sure [OTHER CHARACTER’S] crimes are necessarily any less severe than Magnussen’s. It’s not a simple ethical situation (which is great!), but it was swept under the carpet for a joke and a tease.


  5. OK, full disclosure now: I just wasn’t happy with series 3. Here’s what I ended up posting to a discussion group:

    Did anyone catch the last episode of SHERLOCK? I must confess I was rather disappointed with it. The first half hour was an excellent retelling of the adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton… and then, the episode takes a bizarre twist for the very worst. Sherlock makes the Noble Sacrifice (I’m really sick of seeing these) and does something utterly reprehensible and under the worst possible circumstances. On the bright side, it ends with an intriguing teaser for the upcoming series.

    But I must admit series 3 was overall kind-of a disappointment. Having waited so long, the series ended up being hyper-kinetic and over-stylised, trying to disguise its shoddy pacing with these visual flairs. For instance, there’s a particularly absurd bit in the last episode at about the 35-minute mark, and the sequence lasts well over 5 minutes, long outstaying its welcome.

    I’m not saying it’s terrible — and I rather liked “The Sign of Three”, although that plot took *forever* to start. But after the heights of the second season, we’re right back to the mixed-up and not-quite-sure-where-we’re-going series we got in season one.

    Anyone else wonder why on earth Moran wasn’t around more? There was a really neat, sneaky reference to the hypothetical Sherrinford Holmes, but my guess is this is being saved for a future series. For all the delightful moments like that, you have absurd scenes like the extended visit to Holmes’ “mind palace” that disguises the lack of plot. It’s terribly frustrating: you know the show has got *something*, but it doesn’t seem to want to use that something more often.

    Speaking of which, why do Holmes’ biggest enemies have names that start with M? Moran, Moriarty, Milverton, (arguably) Mycroft…

    I’m actually genuinely surprised to say this, but I would say season 2 of ELEMENTARY has been much more consistently entertaining than season 3 of SHERLOCK.


    • Good points but may I add a comment on the last bit, tweeted by the writer Jonathan Morris. Elementary is a detective show, Sherlock is a show about a detective. For better or worse, they’re not the same beast at all.


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