Wow, what n amazing episode! In some ways, the movie reminded me of Skyfall. Sherlock is faced with a new menace, Augustus Magnussen. After the character was briefly seen at the end of "The Empty Hearse," we are finally introduced to Sherlock new foil. Despite not matching Sherlock's greatest adversary, Moriarty, he was nevertheless a worthy adversary for Sherlock to defeat. Skipping straight to the shocking reveal that Magnussen's "Appledore Vaults" is actually his Mind Palace, that was unexpected to say the least. However, the twist was not without heavy foreshadowing and clues. Sherlock's Mind Palace has been given an expanded importance this season and how it is shown was also given a boost with the bigger budget. Possibly Sherlock's greatest mental asset turning out to the thing that ultimately defeats him was nice twist. Obviously though, Magnussen's is not as smart as Sherlock because he did not see all of the options. Sherlock killing Magnussen was the only viable option he could have taken if he wanted to save John and Mary. That scene left me speechless for a few minutes. But, that was not the only shocking twist of "His Last Vow," Mary turning out to be a former agent was utterly unexpected. The first time Sherlock read Mary with his "Sherlock Vision," you could see "Liar" among the many words floating around Mary, which I noticed when watching the episode. However, what I did not expect was that being a "Liar" was an important aspect of the plot and that her secret was so big. While many might disagree, "His Last Vow" is one of the best works of television I have seen since "The Reichenbach Fall," but it might actually be even better than that masterpiece of television. It is nearly perfect with only one discernible flaw, which I will discuss later.
Oh yes, how could I forget that Sherlock has a girlfriend? Well, not anymore. My first reaction to Sherlock and Janine being together was: "What the heck! Well, maybe Sherlock is human after all." Of course I figured that he is only using her for some purpose, which turns out to be gaining access to Magnussen's office, but the scene, and John's reaction, were priceless nonetheless. Also their interaction after Sherlock wakes was great!
The only negative that I can find in the episode is Sherlock's Mind Palace when he is shoot. The scene was drawn out too long. Sure, Sherlock can think incredibly fast, but what happened in that scene bordered on science-fiction. Even though Andrew Scott's cameo as Moriarty was cool, his scene in particular was far too drawn out, and it began to loose its effectiveness towards. However, the earlier sequences of the scene were wonderfully stylistic and unique. It made you feel as though you were inside Sherlock's mind, presenting the audience with a surreal experience.
Mycroft's mentioning of dragons that Sherlock needed to slay, seemed like a vague reference to Cumberbatch playing Smaug, although it was an important metaphorical meaning to the story.
Nearing the end, I felt that splitting Sherlock and John up once again was unnecessary, especially since rebuilding their friendship after several more months apart because of Mycroft's mission. Thankfully however, a metaphorical Dragon for Sherlock to slay has appeared so that he can redeem himself in the eyes of his superiors. Moriarty's returning message, "Did you miss me," was a fun way to give Sherlock a reason to come back, particularly since the world now knows that Moriarty was behind the plot in "The Reichenbach Fall" episode, not Sherlock. My only concern with season three is that Moriarty might actually come back through some kind of Moffat magic or time-travel, which will hopefully not happen. My hope and guess is that this Moriarty scheme is something that he either setup to happen from beyond the grave, or one of his subordinates set it up.
The Good: Jaw dropping plot twists, Cumberbatch is always the best, Freeman is particularly strong in the episode, Legitimately emotional moments, Mind-bending Mind-Palace trip, Strong mystery, Perfect ending, Strong drama, Magnussen was a worthy adversary, Perfect comedic timing, Smart and witty dialogue, Epic scale, Sherlock has a girlfriend, Magnussen flicking off Watson, Shocking reveals, Superb stylistic direction,
Mystery: 10/10- The mystery in "His Last Low" had more to do with the over arching mystery of Mary, as well as the "Appledore Vaults," both of which were executed perfectly. Trying to deduce Mary's motivates was an intriguing angle that was resolved effectively. To clear things up for anyone that was confused, Magnussen was blackmailing Mary, which is why she almost killed him. My only question about the episode is who is the other Holmes brother that apparently died? I have read that fans of the original source material theorized that there was another Holmes brother, even if he was not actually named.
Characterization: 9.9/10- After two episodes that placed a heavier focus on character development, seeing an episode that is more focused on the mystery and the plot was a refreshing return to the norm. However, that is not to say that the characters did not receive development, to the contrary, Sherlock had some good brotherly bonding with Mycroft, and Mary was further developed as character. Her backstory was interesting and it took some unexpected turns. The scene where Watson and Holmes listen to Mary case was brilliant, positively brilliant, "You are a client Mary, that is what you are now." Wow, what a perfectly executed scene. The revelation that John subconsciously desires danger and excitement, which is why he loves Mary and why he befriended Sherlock. Even though that is an interesting direction for the character, I am not sure if that makes sense as to why he loves Mary since she was basically a normal person when before he discovered her secret.
Acting: 10/10- Martin Freeman gave a standout performance in the episode. His scene as he portrays Watson's struggle after discovering that Mary lied was amazing. It was perfect. Saying that Benedict Cumberbatch is perfect as Sherlock is getting a redundant, but it is certainly true. Mark Gatiss continues be excellent as Mycroft. Amanda Abbington's performance as Mary Watson was even better than in past episodes as she is given more material, and her natural chemistry with Freeman remains. Lars Mikkelsen plays a rather fun and suave villain, albeit one that resembles a Bond villain a little too much. Cumberbatch's real life parents reprise their roles as Sherlock's parents, and they are rather good in the role. Also, Louis Moffat, Steven Moffat's son, plays the younger version of Sherlock and he actually looks surprisingly like Cumberbatch.
Soundtrack: 10/10- Is there any more that can be said about Sherlock's fantastic score? It is fantastic as always.
Direction: 9.9/10- Being that my only minor compliant with the episode is that the Mind Palace scene dragged on a bit too long, the direction or editing of those scenes could have been a bit better. Despite this, the rest of the episode's direction was as strong as usual.
Humor: 9.5/10- "His Last Vow" focused more on a serious plot than the previous episodes of the season, but that is not to say it was without humor because there were many humorous moments throughout the series. Not only was Sherlock and Mycroft's exchange outside their house an excellent character moment, it was hilarious! Mrs. Holmes exclaiming "Are you two smoking!" and Sherlock quickly replying "It was Mycroft!" was both a funny moment and a great representation of how brothers normally act, which is always a pleasure to see. Also Sherlock and Mycroft's lines, "You're loose would break my heart," with Sherlock responding, "How the h*ll am I suppose to say to that!" were, again, superb.
Relative Rating: 10/10- "His Last Vow" might be the best episode yet.
Overall: 10/10- Overall, "His Last Vow" blew my mind! With tons of logical plot twists and turns, the episode always kept me guessing, and it presented some truly amazing dramatic scenes. The episode was amazing! And remember, "I'm not a psychopath, I'm a high-functioning sociopath; do your research. Merry Christmas!"
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