Tuesday 14 January 2014

Sherlock - His Last Vow

Bow Vow

Sherlock: His Last Vow
Airdate: 12th January 2014

Warning: One big spoiler at the end but I will warn you in the text before this happens.

Well this is an interesting contrast to the other two episodes comprising this third series of Sherlock. Whereas the previous two were trying to keep up the lightning fast pacing and the quick fire dialogue, they both seemed to be suffering from having a lot of padding to them... possibly as a symptom of that very same style of pacing they were trying to maintain.

This third and last episode of Series Three doesn’t suffer from the same problem. In fact, even though it’s crackling along almost faster than the speed of the imagination, it still feels like they’re kinda trying to cram too much into the episode and you maybe feel like you almost want it to slow down a little.


It’s a good episode, though, tying up the arc started in the first of this series (a small arc, to be sure, with such stupidly tiny season lengths) regarding the man behind the John Watson bonfire in the first episode and it also has a kinda “surprise” arc which was almost... again, “almost”... something you didn’t see coming until it happened regarding a new, regular character who also started out in the first of these three episodes. And actually, that sums up the contents of this particular installment quite well...

It’s an episode where there are a lot of what are presumably supposed to be twist revelations throughout but, I’m afraid, one where everything is quite obvious before it’s actually revealed... Sherlock’s girlfriend and why; the identity of the assassin; the mind palace... which is what happens when you plot a convoluted story without enough episodes and years gone by to throw people off the trail by letting them become used to characters over a period of time, I guess.

However, where this one at least scores in that sense, depending on your point of view, is that you don’t see most of the twists until they’re almost upon you... for most, not all, of the episode I was only a few minutes ahead of the game and this is because, I would imagine, that the blistering pace of the editing coupled with the always excellent flair for visual metaphor was entertaining and distracting enough that, apart from the whole “mind palace” thing which is kinda obvious from the start, you’re only five minutes ahead the whole time.

Now, I’m trying to be cagey here because I don’t want to give away the ending to this one for people, but I still need to talk about it so forgive me if it seems like I’m talking around the subject for those who have seen the episode. Holmes' final solution to the problem was not, as some have said, out of character in any way in terms of violent solutions sometimes being used on a problem... these are sometimes required in the kind of milieu this character inhabits (and, frankly, it was an obvious move in this case). However, what is out of character is the fact that Sherlock couldn’t deduce what was really going on, and what his big mistake was, in plenty of time to work out another solution... especially when most of the audience had probably got there before him.

This kinda continues the theme which really hit home in last weeks episode, that they seem to be making Sir Arthur Conan Doyles character a lot less smarter than he used to be (especially after the way they’ve built him up in the last two series’) and a lot more human. I think they really need to be a little more careful here. Holmes should have been on top of things and if they carry on too much in this vein then the audience, let alone some of the other characters, may start to lose faith in him. This is, after all, Sherlock Holmes, the great literary detective, not Inspector Clouseau.

However, as I said earlier, the episode was extremely entertaining, and I was especially happy with this one because it was more in keeping with the tone of the first series in terms of having three very good, even excellent, episodes as opposed to the second series which had an absolutely brilliant opener and then kinda lost its way. So I am really pleased, in general, with this third series.

One other minor criticism of the episode is this though...

And it’s a big spoiler so please do not read further unless you’ve seen this or have no real interest in seeing it...

Like Mycroft, who is only mentioned in four of the original stories, Moriarty is not a regular character in the original source material. He actually appears only once and is mentioned a few more times. That’s it. So the bit at the end of this episode which very much seems to be signalling that Moriarty is not dead and has kinda come to Holmes’ rescue, probably quite deliberately, in that Holmes now seems to be needed and will therefore beat his murder charge, is more or less built on the reputation that this character has had over the years. He’s not a regular character but, since people seem to need a Napoleon of Crime type of counter-point for their heroes in modern day story telling, this is probably a good way to keep people’s interest without actually leaving it on a proper cliff hanger (thank goodness).

I would have to say, though, that I was kinda expecting something like this to happen with Moriarty before long. He is usually depicted as being the equal of Holmes in intellect and so, if Holmes can fake his own death, it should be no problem for James Moriarty to also figure out similar arrangements (and I never did believe that suicide at the end of the last series anyway). But so what... as per usual, the performances in this episode were all great and help make the characters believable, the imagery was fine, the editing and music stunning... etc. A real triumph of a TV show, once more, and veering away from the direction it was taking in the last series, which is a good thing. Looking forward to Series Four, preferably in less than two years though.

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