Sherlock Series 3 Review “His Last Vow”

Beware, here lie spoilers for the final episode of Sherlock’s third series, airing on BBC1, so click away if you’d rather watch it blind.

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After two years of patient waiting and wondering, has this third series of Sherlock been worth it? While some have had criticisms regarding it’s self-referential indulgences and apparent glee fan-baiting that largely excludes a wider audience, but what ‘His Last Vow’ shows us more than anything is that Sherlock is being made primarily to entertain us, and not to impress or enlighten us as has been the tendency to think. We don’t know all of the answers (and there are some we probably didn’t want to know) but didn’t we have fun anyway?

In the end, it doesn’t matter if it all makes sense – as Anderson realised in the premiere – and Moffat and Gatiss are out to create nothing more than top-notch telly that provides rare watercooler moments in an age of viewer disparity. That’s the beauty of Sherlock – it makes a fan of the casual viewer, so familiar is the character and the adventures he embarks on. Each section of the audience, from Conan Doyle fans, to the Tumblr crowd and your laidback Sunday night viewer can enjoy an episode of television on an almost equal level, so tightly plotted, entertaining and occasionally touching it is.

I wanted to get my position clear from the start, because it feels as if the backlash has begun this year. ‘Jump the Shark’ is a phrase that has been used more than once in criticism and general chatter about the show and, while it might be a different show this year than we’ve seen before, I don’t think the alterations have made it worse per se. If anything, this final episode solidifies everything the writers had done to Sherlock and his friends, rather than cruelly reverse it like I had predicted, and the ending saw John especially learning to survive without the comfort of his friend at his side. It’s a stark contrast to what we had to deal with two years ago, not least because of the essentially happy ending.

That’s the change that supports the other changes to Sherlock’s character as, although our titular detective has become almost warm and fuzzy and willing to express his love and admiration for Watson at regular intervals, the relationship has actually become less swooningly intimate than it was. We’ll note that, when Magnussen listed his way to Mycroft through Mary, it was only Sherlock who had his partner as a pressure point. I can’t give enough praise for the fact that Sherlock has managed to introduce a female character to the show who has not only married one of a much-loved central pair, but also managed not to die horribly or be made a villain (Supernatural writers, are you watching this?!).

The second biggest twist of the night (we’ll get to the first in a bit) was Mary’s secret identity, of course, and, although I was shouting furiously at my telly when Mrs Watson turned around, by the end I was thrilled we’d got away with it. The show isn’t silly enough to waste such a fantastic character on a cheap twist like that and, instead, Mary’s wicked past has integrated her even more into the crime-solving fold. While we might not want her to be the third wheel on Sherlock and John’s future capers, it’s nice to know that she can be a bad-ass when she wants. Her connection with Sherlock as well as John was neither an accident nor a waste, as he understood immediately that her motives towards the two of them were more or less pure.

Which leads us into Sherlock’s mind-palace, which got a much trippier outing than we saw at the wedding last week. It might be a silly plot-device, and one I’m not entirely sure worked in terms of Magnussen’s defeat, but my god it makes for stunning television. Mycroft’s goading reducing him to a child; Molly’s advice on which way to fall; Moriarty’s disturbing presence – it all served as character development in a moment that, in other shows, would have been pretty simple. On the flipside, Magnussen’s villainy was intentionally overstated throughout the episode, and this mystery and subsequent reveal worked to make the end both believable and illustrative of Sherlock’s faults. He would never be fooled by something clever, after all.

And now, we wait. Who knows how long it’ll be before we see the payoff for that glorious stinger, ending the third series of Sherlock with a fakeout much like it started. Finding a way to reunite Sherlock and Watson at the beginning of the fourth series would have been repetitious and, though some will undoubtedly shout their criticisms even louder now that Gatiss and Moffat have brought back Andrew Scott’s Moriarty (starring in two of these three episodes, was he gone long enough for us to miss him?) for another go at our hero, the rest of us are too busy rejoicing.

What did you think of the episode? Are you happy about Moriarty’s return? Did Mary have you fooled? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.