Where does one even begin a discussion of Sherlock‘s Season 3 finale?
With our intrepid detective’s lip-lockin’, bathroom-gigglin’ encounters involving a certain plucky bridesmaid? With Mycroft’s heartfelt show of emotion for brother dearest? With Molly’s absolutely brutal (and seriously pissed-off) triple face-slap of Mr. Holmes?
I mean, all of the above angles sound pretty juicy, and yet not a one of ’em — nor “Sherlock found in a flophouse!” or “Supervillain licks a powerful lady’s face for sport!” or “Everybody passes out from poisoned punch at Christmas!” — can begin to match the Rated W (for WHOA!) plot developments of this particular(ly crazy) installment.
“I will not attempt a linear recap,” I write on the blackboard 100 times. It’s just not possible. Nor can my recountings do justice to the not-entirely-perfect but perfectly riveting “His Last Vow.” So let me instead present a few humble discussion points that we can use as jumping-off platforms to dish the final installment of the British detective series for this calendar year. (How painful is that?)
ESTABLISHING SHOTS | The action kicks off with a government hearing looking into the activities of media magnate Charles Augustus Magnussen (eep! it’s Creepy McGlassesface who so enjoyed Watson’s near death in the season premiere). Dude’s got a mental dossier with the secrets and lies of everyone in the room, and later, we see him use said knowledge to threaten (and tongue-bathe the face of!) Lady Alicia Smallwood (Lindsay Duncan) into backing off. But she, in turn, decides to pay a visit to 221B for help — and that’s where our story begins.
TROUBLE IN SUBURBIA | Back at Casa Watson, we discover it’s been a month since Watson’s seen Sherlock. But when a neighbor lady pops by to tearfully beg for help in tracking down her missing addict son, something stirs in Watson — a need to grab his bike iron and head to the local drug den to play the hero. (Priceless explanation to Mary: “One of them might need help with a tire!”) Who turns out to be in the adjoining mattress, though, but Sherlock (Shazzer?) himself! And so, despite Holmes’ insistence that it’s all part of a case, Watson drags him down to the lab for a urine test — where a very unhappy Molly gets her slap on, and delivers this brutal assessment: “How dare you throw away the beautiful gifts you were born with! And how dare you betray the love of your friends!” Sherlock’s just glad she’s no longer wearing her engagement ring, which sad as it makes me to say, isn’t a big surprise. I mean, she got with Tom during Sherlock’s two-year absence; with him back on the scene, could her new romance really thrive? (Especially when the guy has cockamamie theories about knives made of meat and bone? And he’s not even a sociopath!)
THE CASE (OR THE FIRST CASE, ANYHOW) | Sherlock finally convinces everyone his “relapse” into drugs is part of his case — something he needed to make the papers in his efforts to undo Magnussen. But Mycroft demands Sherlock back away; it seems Magnussen is more useful than harmful to Mother England, and is therefore under his protection. And that results in Sherlock slamming Mycroft into a wall. (Was it just me, or did that sudden jolt of violence feel unexpected almost to the point of unbelievability?) Mycroft makes his exit, but Watson discovers that they’re still not alone: It seems Sherlock’s taken up with Mary’s maid of honor Janine, and she’s apparently familiar enough with 221B to join “Shirls” (gah! the familiarity!) while he’s in the bath! “We’re in a very good place,” Sherlock explains to Watson. “It’s very affirming.” CLEARLY SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE — and not just because, at least to this recapper, Sherlock would never stray from his singular devotion to Watson.
THIS IS WHERE MINDS GET BLOWN | So, OK, get this. Magnussen — who holds the secrets and pressure points of every influential person in the western world at a compound called Appledor — pays a visit to Holmes and Watson at 221B, and proceeds to relieve himself IN THE FIREPLACE. (Only No. 1, thank goodness. Still hideous though.) But yeah, apparently dude has no plans to return the evidence that proves Lady Smallwood’s hubby once had a dalliance with an underage girl. But Holmes isn’t one to just cave to threats, and he’s got a plan of his own. Turns out Janine is Magnussen’s personal assistant, and Sherlock gets past the 14 layers of security leading to the Big Bad’s office by flashing an engagement ring over a black-and-white camera. But when Holmes and Watson get upstairs, Janine’s been knocked over the head, and there’s a hint of Lady Smallwood’s signature scent (Clair de la Lune) in the air, and Sherlock rushes to find her about to put a bullet in Magnussen’s head.
EXCEPT IT’S NOT LADY SMALLWOOD. AND SOMEBODY ELSE WEARS CLAIR DE LA LUNE. AND THAT SOMEBODY IS MARY! AND MARY SHOOTS SHERLOCK IN THE CHEST AND FLEES THE SCENE. AND HOLY *#^@&$ HECK, WHAT IS HAPPENING?
SO LET’S TALK FOR A SEC | I did not see Mary’s secret double life coming. And if some cruel Brit had spoiled me on this plot deet, I’d never have believed ’em. But I do have one little quibble with the way this story arc played out. You see, it turns out Mary became friends with Janine for the same reasons Sherlock started dating her: For access to Magnussen. But if Magnussen is as shrewd as everyone claims, would he ever in a million years have kept on an assistant dating an investigative mastermind like Sherlock? Or who was BFFs with a dangerous woman leading a double life, a woman whose secrets were so dark that she could presumably want to kill Magnussen to avoid their public airing? That just didn’t add up.
That aside, the scenes playing out in Sherlock’s brain in the seconds post-shooting — Molly and Mycroft directing him which way to fall and telling him how to avoid death; a chained Moriarty rushing him like a rabid dog and trying to usher him into the beyond — prove as riveting as Janine’s hospital visit to Holmes was hilarious. “Sherlock Holmes, you’re a backstabbing, heartless, manipulative bastard,” she grins. To which Holmes shoots back, “And you, as it turns out, are a grasping, opportunistic, publicity-hungry tabloid whore.” So, yeah, they’re all good now, especially since Janine made a lot of money off of her false tales of their nights of passion. “Just once would’ve been nice,” she says wistfully, but oh doesn’t she know Shirl is saving himself for Watson? (OK, sorry, I ship those two a little too hard; I’m a Mrs. Hudson that way. But live and let live, really.)
THE CASE (THE REAL CASE) | Mary tracks Sherlock down, or rather, Sherlock tricks Mary into tracking him down, at the facade of a house (“remind you of anyone?” he asks her), where he recounts the ways he should’ve picked up her true identity: The lack of a family or close friends pre-Watson; her ability to recognize a skip code; and way she was able to remember Major Sholto’s room number in a moment of crisis. He gets her to toss a coin in the air and shoot it with unbelievable precision. “That wasn’t a miss,” he says of the bullet she put in him at Magnussen’s office. “That was surgery.” But it turns out John Watson is in the room, too, and he’s heard everything. And in a heartbreaker of a scene, they take her back to 221B, have her sit in the client’s seat, and decide whether or not to take her case. (“But she’s not just a client, no matter how terribly she behaved!” is all I keep saying on the inside.)
LONG RECAP SHORT | Sherlock being Sherlock, there are a lot of overlapping timelines and funny asides and even a new assistant named “Wiggy” who is all kinds of awesome. But in the end, the action culminates months after Mary’s identity is revealed, on Christmas day to be exact. We flash back to the scene at 221B where John, having just learned the truth, seethes over Mary’s betrayal, but Holmes — beautiful, brilliant Holmes — won’t let his BFF off the hook so easy. “You are a doctor who went to war. 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,” Sherlock says. “Even the landlady used to run a drug cartel.” (“It was my husband’s cartel. I was just typing,” Mrs. Hudson huffs back.) But the kicker is this: “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 fell in love with conforms to that pattern?”
Mary, contrite, pregnant and still wanting to save her marriage, slips John a drive with all the information on her murderous, espionage-filled, CIA-agent-turned-freelancer past — and makes one request: “Don’t read it in front of me, because you won’t love me when you’ve finished.” We flash-forward back to Christmas, and the mood is still icy between the newlyweds — Mary pretending to read the book Sherlock’s mom wrote about mathematics, Watson grumbling and stumbling skittishly. But then he tells her he’s made his decision, and in the happiest holiday gift of all, he tosses the drive into the fire. “The problems of your past are your business,” he says, his voice crackling with emotion. “The problems of your future are my privilege.” Damn, he’s romantic!
LOVE WINS OUT…UNTIL | Suddenly, Mary and Mycroft (who just finished telling Sherlock that losing him would “break my heart”) and Sherlock’s mom and dad have passed out. Sherlock, it turns out, drugged them — the better to steal Mycroft’s laptop full of secrets, then trade it to Magnussen for Mary’s file. But when they get to Appledor, it turns out there isn’t a basement of incriminating files. Dude keeps everything in his head — and seriously gets off on the power that brings him. He begins flicking Watson’s face, and then his eye, a psychotic gleam in his eye. When Mycroft tracks his missing laptop to Appledor, he’ll pin the theft on Sherlock and Watson and have no choice but to imprison them for treason — especially since a search of Magnussen’s home will reveal not a single illegal or incriminating document. And it’s at this point, that Mary’s desperate remarks about her target ring clear and true as a bell: “People like Magnussen should be killed. That’s why there are people like me.” And that’s why there are people like Sherlock, too. When Magnussen accuses him of trying to play hero, Sherlock sets him straight: “Oh do your research! I’m not a hero! I’m a high-functioning sociopath — Merry Christmas!” Then BAM! Holmes shoots him in the head at close range as Mycroft observes from a hovering helicopter. “Give my love to Mary,” says Sherlock to his pal. “Tell her she’s safe now.” Maybe not the most fully actualized or best-solved mystery in the Sherlock oeuvre, but certainly a satisfying end to old nasty Mags. (Fast poll: Was the comparison to Rupert Murdoch too overt or just right?)
A DEATH SENTENCE | Sherlock, thanks to Mycroft’s lobbying and Lady Smallwood’s approval, avoids imprisonment, but gets assigned to a six-month undercover stint in Eastern Europe that Big Brother is certain will end in death. But minutes after his plane takes off — following a sweet farewell to John and Mary, and an unsuccessful lobbying effort to get them to name their daughter Sherlock — something shocking happens. Every TV set and screen in England gets interrupted by the same message, and it looks like something out of Sherlock’s near-death experience: Moriarty, gleeful and seemingly very much alive, asking, “Missed me?” Could it be that Holmes isn’t the only one who faked his own death on that rooftop? Stay tuned…
“People were talking other than me? I must’ve filtered…I’ve got Mrs. Hudson on semi-permanent mute.” –Sherlock, being totally honest
“It doesn’t mean I’m not pleased to see you.” –Watson, reassuring Magnussen’s bodyguard after the bike iron in his pocket is discovered during a patdown
“Don’t worry — I’ll keep him in trouble.” –Mary, assuring the mission-bound Sherlock that his BFF will be OK
What did you think of the Season 3 finale? Did you see the Mary twist coming? Did you have any issues with the mysteries or Sherlock’s end-of-episode gunplay? And is Moriarty really alive? Grade the episode in our poll below, then hit the comments with your thoughts!