A Sherlockian Synopsis – Sherlock: Season 3, Finale “His Last Vow”

February 2, 2014

Based on the title, we knew this episode was going to be intense, but was I the only one taken aback by just how intense it was? It seems all the character development in the preceding two episodes was leading up to this explosion of a finale.


Charles Augustus Magnussen Vs. The Western World
I’ve never seen a calmer interrogation subject. Magnussen appeared almost zen-like as he placidly responded to the parliamentary committee’s inquiries. If anyone was getting heated, it was the government officials questioning him.

Later that evening, once the inquiry had adjourned for the day, Magnussen approached Lady Elizabeth Smallwood and threatened to make public erotic love letters her husband had written to a (unbeknownst to him) fifteen-year-old girl over thirty years ago. As a show of ownership, Magnussen then proceeded to lick the side of Lady Smallwood’s face.

Can you feel my skin crawling through your computer screen? Because it most certainly is! Sherlock compared Magnussen to the flat-faced sharks at the aquarium, a decidedly apt description. I don’t know what they did to make him appear so, but even his waxy, pale skin looked positively piscine.

No one she knows through official channels would dare tackle Magnussen so Lady Smallwood headed to Baker Street…

Jonesin’ – Funny Meeting You Here
Not having seen Sherlock for a month and clearly itching for a fight, John volunteered to retrieve the neighbor’s son from a smack den. Flopped on the mattress next to Isaac’s is none other than John’s old buddy Sherlock. John managed to pick up not only Isaac, but Sherlock or “Shezza,” and his new protégé Bill Wiggins.

Despite all Sherlock’s protestations that he was doing this for a case, John was having none of it and brought him to Bart’s so that Molly could drug test him. The test results were not to her liking so she gave him what for. Sherlock, as is his custom, was unmoved by the display and instead delivered rather un-heartfelt condolences on the dissolution of her engagement.

Sherl & Mike
John’s intervention didn’t stop with the drug testing. He also phoned Mycroft, who, in turn, invited Anderson and The Empty Hearse to search Sherlock’s flat. Mr. Holmes didn’t take kindly to this at all and once again insisted his purported drug habit was for a case.  After Mycroft threatened to open his bedroom door, which as he noted, is never shut, Sherlock abruptly sat up and cried out for him to stop. Mycroft pressed Sherlock on what case could possibly require him to exhibit such behavior. Sherlock responded by stating simply, Magnussen, Charles Augustus Magnussen.

Don’t appall me when I’m high!

Mycroft, after allowing various expressions of horror and alarm to pass over his face, turned to Anderson and his cohorts and, in very careful measured tones, let them know what would happen to them if they ever mentioned hearing that name in this context. Once they cleared the room, Mycroft turned to Sherlock and John to warn them against taking on Magnussen. This went over even less smoothly than the drug habit accusation – Sherlock pinned his dear brother to the wall and twisted his arm behind his back. It would certainly seem Magnussen has earned the moniker The Napoleon of Blackmail if even Mycroft Holmes is protecting him!


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Janine, Janine
Having cleared the apartment, Sherlock went to have a bath, but not before warning John to stay out of his bedroom. John, of course, padded towards the bedroom, but before he could reach the door it opened and Janine emerged wearing nothing but one of Sherlock’s button down shirts.

John, stunned as the rest of us who hadn’t seen the preview first, watched as she comfortably floated about the kitchen, asking after “Mike” and “Sherl.” Taken aback by this sight and Janine’s expression of familiarity, John incredulously made coffee while Janine joined “Sherl” in the bathroom. (And from the sounds of splashing, the tub as well!)

Once Sherlock was bathed and dressed, he was eager to discuss Magnussen, but John was beyond distracted by the news of Sherlock having a girlfriend and any explication of a newspaper man controlling the western world via black mail flitted over his head like passing rubbish as he inquired about Janine further. As trite as it seemed, I could identify with John. I was flabbergasted as well – were Sherlock and Janine really going to have dinner with John and Mary? This must be for a case! John didn’t jump to that conclusion, but I don’t think I’m reaching when I say I think most of us knew a Sherlock called Sherl is still a Sherlock, and there was no way Sherlock seriously had a girlfriend. But I digress –

Sherlock explained to John that Magnussen has acquired the “Alexandrian Library of Secrets.” It’s called Appledore, which sounds to me like some amalgamation of the Apple Store and Mordor, and from the architecture it would appear I am not far off! Appledore exists only as hard copy, in vaults under the house, making it safe from would be hackers, though perhaps not from fire. Why has no one tried to burn that house down? I guess we can assume the vaults are thought to be fireproof.  (Check out the real-life Appledore.)

Wait, Sherlock Holmes has a porn preference?!

Up Against the Shark Tank
Magnussen slithered into Baker Street, ostensibly to negotiate the return of the letters to Lady Smallwood, but it is more likely he came to display his power over Sherlock. Poor Mrs. Hudson was so shook up she couldn’t even announce his name. She flattened herself against the wall and averted her eyes as he passed by her. A frightening reptilian creature he was.

Magnussen made himself right at home, flipping through Sherlock’s papers and reading his pressure points as if on a screen. Again that name came up – Redbeard, which threw Sherlock off for a second before he attempted to refocus the discussion onto the matter of the letters. Magnussen disregarded Sherlock again and inquired after the bathroom. After being informed of the state of the bathroom by his security guard, Magnussen opted to relieve himself in the fireplace. (I may have to re-evaluate my own housekeeping skills after this episode. I always thought Sherlock’s flat was pleasantly cluttered, but three characters in the first twenty-five minutes have asserted otherwise.) Magnussen was dismissive of Sherlock and in fact the entire United Kingdom, but at least Sherlock is housebroken!

Magnussen departed shortly after this little display of power, but not before taunting our twosome further with a glimpse at the letters in his pocket. Sherlock found this gesture to be the most telling and deduced from it that Magnussen was ready to make a deal.

Human Errors

Human Error
Later that night, Sherlock and John met at Magnussen’s office building. Armed with a key card, Sherlock broke into Magnussen’s office by intentionally corrupting said card and then using it on Magnussen’s private lift.  The corruption triggered an alert to Magnussen’s personal assistant, which in this case, at this time of night, was Janine.

And how did he get her to buzz him up? With a marriage proposal of course! At this point it became clear to John that Sherlock’s newfound relationship was a farce. By the time they got to the office, Janine and a security guard were splayed out on the floor having been knocked out by blows to the head.

Sherlock also discovered Magnussen’s seat was still warm and a scent of Claire-de-la-lune in the air – Lady Smallwood’s perfume — a scent also worn by Mary, as John pointed out. Sherlock raced up the stairs to find Magnussen being held at gun point. He deduced this was Lady Smallwood, but the woman who turned to face him was none other than Mary Watson.

Sherlock offered to help her defend herself against whatever Magnussen has on her, but she declined his offer with a gunshot to the chest.

I’m Laughing, I’m Crying, Sherlock is Dying
Sherlock went into his mind palace and a cast of characters, including Molly, Anderson, Mycroft and RedBeard, his beloved dog that was put down when he was a boy, showed up to help him survive.  But it was Moriarty that motivated him to get up again with the warning: John Watson is definitely in danger.

Oh, Redbeard! Who else is crying? *sniff sniff* source: moriarty.tumblr.com

Sherlock awoke in the hospital and his first word was Mary. She paid him a visit to order him not to tell John it was her that shot him. He followed her instructions, for the time being.

Janine also stopped by to show him the newspaper headlines (not featured in Magnussen’s papers fortunately): Shag-A-Lot Holmes, 7 Times a Night in Baker Street, and, my personal favorite, He Made Me Wear the Hat. She ascertained Sherlock’s ruse and took her revenge to the media. Well-paid, she bought a cottage in Sussex Downs (an allusion to the house Holmes retires to in Conan Doyle’s The Empty House). Janine further chastised him for lying to her, remarking, I know what kind of man ya’ are, but we could’ve been friends. If Sherlock had chosen instead to be honest with her, would they have solved crimes together as she flirtatiously suggested at the wedding?

There’s Something about AGRA
Thoughts of Mary and concerns for John prematurely propelled Sherlock out of his hospital bed. John and Lestrade arrive at the hospital to find Sherlock having disappeared, and they set out looking for him. Mary was the only one who thought to question Anderson, who naturally knew where Sherlock would be hiding since he followed/stalked him one night.

Back at Baker Street, Sherlock left clues for John in the form of his returned chair with a bottle of Clair-de-la-lune beside it. And then his phone was ringing and it was Sherlock…

Meanwhile, Mary found Sherlock, or rather he found her. Bill Wiggins handed her a mobile phone as she rounded the corner at Leinster Gardens. Sherlock then led her, as he had been doing all along, to 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens. This address is just a façade, painted windows and no doorknobs, built in the 1860s to give the steam engines a place to vent off without creating an unsightly display for the neighborhood. Sherlock felt this was a fitting location to expose Mary’s façade and projected her face on the front of it to add, as he put it, a touch of drama.

Sherlock revealed everything he knew about Mary: the real Mary Morstan was stillborn in 1972.  This Mary acquired that identity five years ago, an easy enough task for the kind of person who can recognize a skip code and has an extraordinarily retentive memory. He then compelled her to demonstrate her marksmanship, which she accomplished by flipping a coin into the air and shooting straight through it. Thereby proving to Sherlock that if she truly wanted him dead he would have been dead a week ago.

Unfortunately for Mary, the dummy she thought Sherlock had used to trick her (like the dummy the original Holmes used in Conan Doyle’s The Empty House) was revealed to actually be John, who heard everything, so they headed to Baker Street to sort it all out.

John was understandably upset, but Sherlock interceded before Mary could respond by insisting that Mary is the way she is because John chose her.

You’re a man who couldn’t stay in the suburbs for more than a month without storming a crack den and 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.

John still didn’t appear ready to accept Mary as his wife, but he agreed with Sherlock that she was now their client. The three took their seats and Mary handed John a flash drive with her initials on it – A.G.R.A., an allusion to the Agra treasure Jonathan Small was caught stealing in Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four. The drive contained all the information on Mary and she admonished John not to read it in front of her, so he put it in his pocket.

Sherlock went on to tell them what he has deduced: Mary was, or is, an intelligence agent, her accent is currently English, but he suspects she is not and that she is on the run from something. Mary used her skills to disappear, but Magnussen knows her secrets and she befriended Janine in order to get close to him. Mary informed them that the stuff Magnussen has on her would put her in prison for life.

Mary was confident in Sherlock’s assessment that John chose her, an assassin, for his wife because it’s what he likes, but she remained perplexed as to why Sherlock was helping her. Sherlock went on to explain how he believed she had saved his life.

She could have killed Magnussen and Sherlock and then left. Instead, she incapacitated Sherlock long enough to negotiate his silence and merely knocked out Magnussen because she couldn’t murder him on the night Sherlock and John broke in since it would make John a suspect. Additionally, Mary phoned the ambulance.

A Very Holmes Christmas – Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
John thought that Sherlock invited him and Mary to his parents’ house for the holidays so they could illustrate a positive example of married life. The surroundings may have provided an ideal setting for John to forgive his very pregnant wife, but Sherlock’s motivations are never as simple and mundane as all that. With the help of Bill Wiggins, Sherlock drugged his parents, Mary and Mycroft so that he and John could be helicoptered to Appledore. (I know it would be easy to blame Mycroft’s expression of brotherly love on the punch, but I prefer to consider it genuine. In vino veritas! And that goes double if it’s been laced with something, right?)

Sherlock made a deal with Magnussen – trading Mycroft for a trip to Appledore.He brought his brother’s laptop to Magnussen’s house thinking he could entrap him, but an ever-calm Magnussen had already figured that out. And when he said, forgive me but I already appear to have it, Sherlock mistook the meaning. Magnussen doesn’t need Mycroft’s laptop because he already owns Mycroft. Mycroft’s pressure point is Sherlock, Sherlock’s pressure point is John and John’s pressure point is Mary. As long as Magnussen has Mary, he has Mycroft. It’s six degrees of ownership and he is winning! Inasmuch as Sherlock is never predictable, Magnussen is never so literal as requiring a material object in order to own something or someone.

This, of course, was brilliantly illustrated as Magnussen opened the door to the Appledore vaults. Appledore is nothing more than a glowing bright white room, empty save for a chair. Appledore is Magnussen’s mind palace. (Remember at the beginning when Sherlock struggled up the spiral staircase from the depth of his mind palace and a few shots later we saw Magnussen descend the spiral staircase into Appledore? Ah, we should have known! He did tell us he had an excellent memory…)

If this mind palace thing keeps catching on, it’s going to put a lot of storage facilities out of business! Not to mention Dropbox accounts! He doesn’t need proof; he just knows things. And being a newspaperman he can print whatever he knows. He informed our disheartened duo that they would be figuring prominently in tomorrow’s paper – trying to sell state secrets to Magnussen! Tsk tsk!

I thought the licking he gave Lady Smallwood’s face was repulsive, but watching Magnussen flick John’s face while a dejected Sherlock looked on was downright painful, so you can hardly blame Sherlock for what came next. And did Magnussen even lose sleep over causing Lord Smallwood’s suicide? I highly doubt it! Sherlock kept his vow, his promise to protect John and Mary, by obliterating Appledore once and for all with a gunshot to Magnussen’s head.

An East Wind is Coming
Mycroft managed to avoid having his brother incarcerated by negotiating a deadly MI6 assignment for Sherlock in Eastern Europe. Knowing he will probably be dead in six months, as Mycroft has warned him, Sherlock shared a touching goodbye with John Watson. Who needs “I love yous” when you have “Sherlock is actually a girl’s name”?  C’mon John, if not Sherlock, then how about Sherly for a girl’s name?

His exile lasted a mere four minutes. Our old friend Moriarty is back and as Mycroft predicted, there will always come a time when we need Sherlock Holmes!

Sherlockian Sequiturs

“Facts are for history books; I work in news.” – Magnussen

“Well I’ll tell her that our entire relationship was a ruse to break into her boss’s office. I imagine she’ll want to stop seeing me at that point, but you’re the expert on women.” – 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?” – Sherlock

“Am I happy too? I haven’t checked” – Mycroft

“Don’t be absurd. I am not given to outbursts of brotherly compassion. You know what happened to the other* one.” – Mycroft

*Could this be Sherrinford??