Answering All the Questions…Sort Of: A Review of Sherlock: His Last Vow

So, I really didn’t care for the first episode of Sherlock Series 3, if you remember. The second episode was better and far more enjoyable, but still flawed. It was flawed in that, while I loved the non-linear style the story was told in, it took too long to actually find a focus.

How did the third episode fare? Much better. From the start we actually have case–a direction and purpose for the rest of the episode. And then the plot starts getting more and more complex, layers being added that don’t feel superfluous to it, but rather essential. That’s probably what I liked best about this episode–it had the direction that the last two lacked, and still managed to be complex and different.

The plot centers around Sherlock’s attempts to take down Charles Augustus Magnussen, a blackmail artist. Magnussen has extensive files on everyone, and is able to coerce them into obeying his will using the information that he has. In essence, it’s not so much a mystery as it is Sherlock attempting to find a way to indict him.

From the start, the characters in this episode are great. As the plot progresses, there are some fascinating character revelations that really caught me off guard. Plot-lines are tied up, but not in the way I expected them to be. Yet through it all, the characters never act according to the plot, they always act according to who they are.

That’s a problem this series has consistently had. The characters, be it Sherlock, John, or anyone else would take the actions the plot needed them to take instead of the actions their characters would take. Situations felt contrived because of this, and the connection the audience had made was broken. In this episode there are few, if any, instances of that. Instead, the connection to the characters is strong, the characters are consistent with themselves, and the plot flows along smoothly.

If there’s any hiccup, it’s that one of the twists seemed to be building to something, and then it just ended. Now, here’s the interesting part. This particular twist was disappointing, but it was disappointing because a character acted consistently with himself. That means that there is a loose strand, but that we’re ultimately satisfied. It’s a weird feeling, and I’m not sure what I think about it. I do want to know how this twist would have payed off, but at the same time recognize that the character did act consistently, and don’t feel “let down” because of it.

But perhaps that’s just realistic. In reality, we don’t get all the answers all the time.

Maybe that’s also the best thing about this episode. Instead of trying to give us all the answers like the first episode did, this one is content to simply tell a story. Sure, there are loose ends, questions left unanswered, and motivations that aren’t entirely clear. But at the end of the day, it was a fun story and a good one. I for one am looking forward to next series.


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