This is the third attempt at writing a blog about last night’s final episode of BBC Sherlock Series Three – His Last Vow. I just can’t decide what I really felt about it, hence the epic re-write as negatives and positives jostle for supremacy.
Let’s start with the positives. This was by far my favourite episode of the series and marked a triumphant return to the style and pace of the first two series which I loved so much. Here we have the team doing what I think they do best – making slick, fast-paced edge-of-your-seat TV drama which looks great, is superbly acted and blends together the personal/character development aspects with gripping action.
Lars Mikkelsen was simply magnificent as Magnussen/Milverton and acted everyone else off the screen – (yes that even includes you Mr Cumberbatch). He was fantastically creepy (that’s a compliment) but in a really controlled, understated way which was even more menacing as a result. It was completely convincing that Sherlock was repelled by him, just as he was in the canon. It was a really interesting re-boot of the original Conan Doyle story of an evil blackmailer and his victims. Here we really did have a thoroughly absorbing Milverton elevated to uber baddie status – The Napolean of Blackmail. Bravo!
Use of the canon in this episode was extremely well thought out and lovingly done. We didn’t just get name dropping and vague snippets of this-and-that. We had Wiggins, we had Watson going to a drug den to rescue a friend and finding Holmes there too (as in Man With Twisted Lip) but they made this fit their own story very well. We had Magnussen’s lair named Appledore and Holmes dating his PA to gain access, just as in the original when he courts Milverton’s maid to get inside Appledore Towers. But in this modern version, she’s far from just a victim and gets revenge by selling the story to the press. She is the delightful Janine from John and Mary’s wedding and gets some cracking lines which she delivers faultlessly. I think she’s a great character, full of sparkle and wit. I hope we see more of her in the future. We also get an empty house, an East Wind coming and too many other canon refs to mention.
But I’m sorry to say that I’ve still got negatives. I don’t want to have them but they just won’t go away. Sometimes I think it just went too far.
I can’t warm to Mary at all. I know other people have loved her and it’s all just a matter of opinion but I can’t. And I don’t think that’s because of any fault on Amanda Abbington’s part, it’s more an issue with the writing and directing of her character. Something I’ve learned from all the reviews, comments and reactions to Barefoot is that less is more. You do have to be careful not to make a character too extreme. And I think that’s exactly what they have done with Mary. She’s clever, a fantastic shot, an ex CIA agent turned rogue assassin who’s killed loads of people but still manages to be a loving wife and generally all round nice person. I knew she would have a hidden past and I knew that Magnussen would find it and blackmail her but I didn’t think it would be something so extreme.
There was a jolt in the narrative too, a strange time-shift when suddenly it’s Christmas Day and they are all round at Sherlock’s parents playing happy families. John and Mary haven’t spoken about the whole ‘Oh by the way I used to be an assassin and have killed loads of people’ thing, and then he decides its fine. That’s nice of him – personally if I found out Husband was ex CIA etc I’d march him straight home and argue it out there and then. I’d want to know everything like, ‘But you walk out the room when something nasty happens on Eastenders, how the hell did you manage to shoot people?’
I prefer Janine to Mary. She’s warmer, livelier and has that nice balance of being ordinary but extraordinary – like Molly Hooper.
I think the mind-palace thing is now completely over-used. Even Magnussen got in on the act.
Husband thinks there’s far too much Mycroft in the show and I see his point. In the canon, he doesn’t appear very often and he’s fat and lazy. Here we have him popping up all over the place in helicopters, on treadmills etc like some sort of James Bond. And yes, Husband did fall asleep again after about half-an-hour. Never a good sign, as demonstrated by his sudden sleepiness during Whitechapel and Ripper Street which have both now been axed.
And so it’s all over until Messrs Cumberbatch and Freeman can synchronize their diaries again. For me the series has been a bit of a curate’s egg but as Husband observed this morning: ‘Well at least it’s stopped you moaning about Elementary’. Thank God I married a Sherlockian, (and not an ex CIA agent turned assassin), who else would put up with all this?