Sherlock: 303 “His Last Vow” Finale Spoiler-Free Review
Cult Fix was lucky enough to attend the preview screening of Sherlock’s finale on Wednesday. Here’s our spoiler-free verdict.
It’s fair to say that Series 3 of Sherlock has been the most divisive and certainly split the fandom. Some have been frustrated with the move away from the big cases and the focus instead on the characters. If anyone is hoping for a more ‘back to basics’ episode with the finale then you’re not really going to get that here. Having said that, this is easily the closest to previous series episodes. Naturally comparisons to The Reichenbach Fall are inevitable, an episode seen by many as the pinnacle of Sherlock. His Last Vow doesn’t reach the same heights but it is a very good attempt.
This episode sees Sherlock up against a new formidable foe in the form of Charles Augustus Magnussen. He’s not your traditional moustache-twirling villain though. Magnussen’s power is information and blackmail. He knows just how to exploit Sherlock and everyone around him and who he is close to. This isn’t Sherlock’s only concern though as there’s also some revelations from his past that will come back to haunt him and a very unexpected threat he (and the fans) have missed all series.
Moriarty is a hard act to follow, but Magnussen is definitely up there with the best of them and performed with scene-stealing relish by Danish actor Lars Mikkelsen. He really has a disturbing presence and several of his actions make your skin crawl. Mikkelsen must have been taking lessons from his real-life brother in the superb Hannibal. Magnussen’s best scene comes towards the end when he shows his hand and plays a little ‘game’ with Watson in a tense showdown that can only end badly.
The nature of a spoiler-free review means we can’t talk about the shocking twist about one of the cast members. Let’s just say you will never see this one coming and it brings out some big performances of our key players. Look again through the first two episodes, the clues were there all along (as the episode is keen to show you through flashback).
The humanising of Sherlock continues and this finale pushes it the furthest yet. Early on when we see a side to Sherlock quite unlike any other. Cumberbatch will also be breaking some Tumblr fan’s hearts, but remember, appearances can be deceiving. It’s not just Sherlock though who has transformed this series – Watson proves here more than any other he’s far more than just a comic foil. This could very well be Martin Freeman’s best performance on the show.
The show is known for its stylish visuals and the finale certainly doesn’t disappoint in that regard. One stunning scene takes up deeper into Sherlock’s mind palace then ever before, with secrets from Sherlock’s past revealed and a big cameo treat for fans. There’s lots to admire visually throughout though.
If there’s one problem with the episode it’s the frenzied nature. As with a lot of Steven Moffat’s work this episode is absolutely packed with ideas and it zips along at a frenetic pace, with twists and turns along the way. There’s sometimes so much happening that it can be tricky to keep up at times and take stock of it all. It leaves you all a little breathless. This means that much of the supporting cast don’t get much of a look in (Mycroft aside). Guest star Lindsay Duncan is also wasted, despite her superb pre-credit scenes.
As with all finales so far this one ends on a cliffhanger. The denouement pulls out one last trick that will leave everyone incredibly excited by the prospect of what lies ahead. Come Sunday night fans will be talking about the ending as they were two years back and this time they’ll be asking, “So just how on earth is… [spoiler redacted]?” Time to rewind that scene again…
So sadly that’s it for another series and it’s likely we’re in for another incredibly lengthy wait. A bitter pill to swallow after such an thrilling ending.