Season finale review: ‘Sherlock’ – ‘His Last Vow’

Senior Television Writer
02.02.14 63 Comments


“Sherlock” season 3 just concluded airing on PBS, and I have a few thoughts on the finale coming up just as soon as I lick your face…

In my advance review of the season, I noted that the premiere spent too much effort trying to outdo two years of speculation about how Sherlock survived the fall, that the new season as a whole was more self-aware (or perhaps, more overtly comic) than previous ones, and that this concluding episode was by far the most satisfying of the three.

That said, I still had some issues with “His Last Vow, particularly the resolution of it. (Earlier, I had been annoyed with the whole fake engagement gambit, which seemed too casually cruel even for Sherlock, though the notion that his girlfriend didn’t care – and that he, as Sherlock Holmes, understood her well enough to know that she wouldn’t – mostly waved that away.) That Holmes is placed against an opponent he can’t outwit, in a circumstance where deadly force is the only solution, is the entire point of the story. But it seems incredibly foolish of Magnussen to put himself in a position where a bullet to the head would solve all of Sherlock and John’s problems. Yes, he’s incredibly arrogant, but if the idea is that he’s an example of what happens when Sherlock’s specific gifts are used for evil rather than good, than he still wouldn’t be dumb enough to let that happen.

And beyond that, it all felt a bit like the climax of “Man of Steel,” in which a situation is contrived in which our hero has no choice but to take deadly action that goes against the things that have defined the character for decades. When “Sherlock” is at its best, you can’t see the hands of Moffat or Gatiss manipulating people and events to get the desired result. Here, I could, even as I found Magnussen (played by Mads Mikkelsen’s brother Lars) a very compelling villain to that point, and as I enjoyed the great new complexities of the Watson marriage now that we know Mary’s true identity.

But Magnussen’s dispensed with, and the apparent return from the dead of Moriarty (which I assume will be much more complicated than that, and hope will involve the return of Irene Adler) lets Sherlock off the hook for his murder. And now we wait to see how long it’ll be before the schedules of Cumberbatch, Freeman and the creators can line up again long enough to make three more episodes. I found this season more disappointing than not, and yet the talent on hand, and the great bond between our two heroes, remains so strong that I’ll still be happy to return to 221B Baker Street whenever the next opportunity presents itself.

What did everybody else think, of both “His Last Vow” and season 3 as a whole?

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