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Sherlock: 303 “His Last Vow” Finale Spoiler-Free Review

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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.

9/10

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  • A_Persom

    I like the frenzied nature it adds on to the drama of the episode.

  • HAL likes cheese

    Well, Channel 9 in Australia hasn’t got its act together and given us a release date. I can’t hold out any longer – I’ll be watching these episodes online.

    • Deus Ex Machina

      Here here!

    • rena

      Oh! I only realised now you’re Whovian Down Under. Eek.

      • HAL likes cheese

        Crikey, I’ve been discovered!

        • rena

          Your description gave you away.

  • Ilidia Manuela Da Silva

    can’t wait to see it

  • 4th Jack

    9/10? So, it’s as good as The Sign of Three? I hope it’s better. I think the scoring is a bit wrong, or too bias. The Empty Hearse got 8/10. I would have given it a 7 (or, if I was cruel, maybe even a 6?). Then I would give Sign of Three a 7.
    The reason why I say this is that the past two episodes weren’t worth an 8 or 9. They were still really, really good. Great even. But they aren’t worth that sort of score.
    I know everyone is going to attack me for saying this. It’s only my opinion. The reviewer is allowed theirs as well. I know that. But I don’t think they were worth that score. I think it’s bias. I think the reviewer is trying to appeal to the fans good will, by giving it a higher score. Or that could just be their opinion. (But I highly doubt that, seeing as though these episodes were no where near the standards of Series 2) Despite all this, I have still enjoyed Series 3.

    • ShalkaDoctor

      It’s all subjective. Your version of “great” clearly differs from Cult Fix’s. They just liked TSOT more than you. Doesn’t make anyone right or wrong or biased.

      • 4th Jack

        Yeah, I suppose you’re right. I just thought it seemed unlikely, that’s all. I don’t think The Sign of Three is deserving of a 9. Past series reviews of Sherlock on this website have been given that score. I couldn’t understand why, as TSOT episode was so far from the previous Sherlock quality. But, like you said, it’s their opinion. And everyone is entitled to their own.

    • http://cultfix.co.uk/ Cult Fix

      For the record personal ranking would be:

      3. The Empty Hearse
      2. The Sign of Three
      1. His Last Vow

      The scores are meaningless really when trying to compare. It’s all good TV.

      • 4th Jack

        Agreed. I’m sorry if my comment sounded a bit off. I was rather angry when I was writing it. My apologies. Thank you for the reviews as well. I’ve checked the site regularly and they’ve always given such detailed, and interesting information.

      • Greg Chipman

        Why do people give scores? It distracts from the actual review.

    • Maisie

      Everyone’s a critic

      ;)

  • M Lynn Walker

    I think this reviewer is underestimating the fans. We know which character and something about Magnussen’s hold over that character and what is going on. The clues are certainly there to be picked up.

    • http://cultfix.co.uk/ Cult Fix

      Are you basing this off the books? Because it doesn’t follow that exactly. Certain things are, certain things are completely different.

  • David Havers

    So which character dies in the episode that;s what i want to know,. Not long to wait to find out.

  • http://yoshfiction.weebly.com/ Christopher Chant

    Thanks for the review! =)
    I have no clue what is going to happen, but that’s how I like it.

  • http://cultfix.co.uk/ Cult Fix

    Ah OK fair enough. Not really been keeping up with hardcore fan speculation, so what transpires came as a genuine shock. Well, how it all plays out still will even to the hardcore I think.

  • Calebxy

    So this episode is really, really dramatic? Like The Rechenbach Fall? Excellent!

  • joncon95

    A big cameo for fans? Ah I can’t wait. Who could it be?

    • DalekOswin

      Moriarty, oh god please let it be Jim :D

  • DalekOswin

    Very clever :) I’d picked up on the telegram and the Liar thing but none of the other stuff

  • rena

    And also how did Mary know the number to Major Sholto’s room?

    • adam_148

      I imagine she asked the receptionist.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EM0kOiKp5sY EternalDoctor

    Brilliant review! I’m now immensely excited for the episode, despite not being entirely won over by the previous episodes.

    I do think that the sentence regarding ‘a shocking twist about one of the characters’ was an uncharacteristic part of a spoiler-free review though. It has already set my mind buzzing and, come Sunday, the revelation will be dampened for whoever of us who guessed it right. Others may not agree with this criticism, but I just felt it needed to be said.

  • The War Braden

    “So just how on earth is… [spoiler redacted]?” – Please be that Moriarty is somehow alive, I love Andrew Scotts performance so much.

    “The shocking twist about one of the cast members.” – I’m guessing this is referring to CAM’s telegram to Mary in SOT, has she been blackmailed into getting close to John, or even Sherlock?

    Big cameo treat for fans, well that could be either Irene Adler or Moriarty, both are possibilities.

  • Gunslinger19

    at the beginning of this series I wanted moriaty to stay dead, but now I miss him so much I think iv changed my mind.

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