WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD
Well, if anyone was complaining about episodes 1 and 2 of this new series of Sherlock, I trust the season finale shut them up good and proper. What a brilliant end to this season’s sleuthing fun… and with yet another tantalizing cliffhanger to keep us all hanging on until season 4 to boot.
As anyone who’s been reading my reviews of Sherlock can tell, I’m a tad biased when it comes to this program, in that I absolutely love it and can, as yet, see no wrong in it. Benedict Cumberbatch continues to go from strength to strength in his characterization of the famous detective, with Martin Freeman’s Watson the perfect counterbalance.
Moaners finally got their wails answered this week when Holmes found himself face to face against a pitiless evil genius, Charles Augustus Magnussen (based on the villain from the tale of the same name, Charles Augustus Milverton, itself the basis for this episode of Sherlock), a foreign media mogul with too much influence and a prodigious memory, which he uses to store all sorts of incriminating information in order to blackmail the rich and powerful and bend them to his foul will. If that isn’t enough, Magnussen’s memory is aided by his own mind palace – just like Sherlock, he has a place inside his head, an infinite set of rooms, in which all information is catalogued and archived.
Apart from the obvious parallels to the Murdoch empire, which serve to make the character nasty enough, Magnussen is also, like Sherlock, a high-functioning sociopath with no compunction about following societal rules. He’s also an arrogant bully boy, swaggering about as though untouchable – the moment when he pisses in Sherlock’s fireplace is pure disdain but nothing in comparison to the simple malevolence of forcing Watson to let him flick his face in order to protect Watson’s wife.
His Last Vow had everything. And that includes the comedy that many have been bemoaning. Sherlock’s parents are back – wonderfully – and, even more precious, at the beginning of the episode we are invited to the spectacle of seeing Sherlock in an apparently full-on sexual relationship with the maid of honor from the last episode. In true Holmes fashion, however, he’s just using the poor woman to get closer to Magnussen, who she works for. A fact which makes Sherlock just as cold and deplorable as Magnussen if you think about it (although he did exactly the same thing in the original Charles Augustus Milverton). Still, she gets her revenge, which is something, by making a pile of cash selling her story to the newspapers.
Probably the highlight of this episode though is when Sherlock gets shot and retreats inside his mind palace to find out how best to survive in the three seconds of real-time he has before he hits the floor – three seconds of course being a lot longer by the mind palace chronometer. Awesome stuff.
I suppose most shocking of all, though, is how Holmes finally solves the Magnussen problem. With seemingly no other way out, no other way to protect Watson and his wife, Holmes plain shoots Magnussen dead. He murders him, an unarmed man, in cold blood. We can all see how, in Holmes’ mind, it was the logical thing to do, but still…
Anyway, as punishment, he’s basically sent into exile by his brother, on a mission almost certainly destined to end in Sherlock’s demise. Except, just at the last minute, in one of the best cliffhangers ever, the plane he is on is recalled and Holmes told to return. England is in danger again. England need Sherlock Holmes because it seems, impossibly, that Moriarty is back!
Until next year.