His Last Vow
|"His Last Vow"|
The fictional "Appledore" inhabited by Magnussen (actually Swinhay House)
|Episode no.||Series 3
|Directed by||Nick Hurran|
|Written by||Steven Moffat|
|Produced by||Sue Vertue|
|Featured music||David Arnold
|Cinematography by||Neville Kidd|
|Editing by||Yan Miles|
|Original air date||12 January 2014|
|Running time||89 minutes|
"His Last Vow" is the third and final episode of the third series of the BBC Television series Sherlock, which follows the modern-day adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The episode was first broadcast on 12 January 2014, on BBC One. It was written by Steven Moffat and directed by Nick Hurran with music composed by Michael Price and David Arnold. The episode is a contemporary adaption of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short story "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton".
In the episode, Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and John Watson (Martin Freeman) take on a case about stolen letters. This leads the pair into conflict with villain Charles Augustus Magnussen (Lars Mikkelsen), a character which was introduced as the main villain of series 3, whom Sherlock despises. Holmes and Watson try to get Magnussen arrested, but their attempt fails and they confront him at Appledore, Magnussen's home.
On its first broadcast on BBC One, the episode received 8.77 million viewers, a 32.1% audience share. Although this was a drop from "The Sign of Three" and "The Empty Hearse", it became the most tweeted-about single episode of a drama series in the UK. The episode received critical acclaim, and Mikkelsen's performance as Magnussen, in particular, was praised. For their performances in the episode, Cumberbatch and Freeman both won the Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie, respectively. Moffat also won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special for his work on the episode.
John Watson, whose wife Mary (Amanda Abbington) is now visibly pregnant, finds a dishevelled Sherlock, under the influence of drugs. John attempts to force him to rehabilitate, but Sherlock insists that he was undercover for a case. Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) realises that Sherlock, on behalf of a senior member of the government (Lindsay Duncan), is trying to take on Charles Augustus Magnussen (Lars Mikkelsen), a newspaper owner who blackmails people, and warns him not to. Magnussen visits Sherlock to intimidate him and refuses to enter negotiations over the stolen letters.
John is also baffled to find Sherlock is now in a relationship with Mary's bridesmaid, Janine (Yasmine Akram), until he learns that Janine is Magnussen's personal assistant and the liaison a ruse. With her help, Sherlock breaks into Magnussen's apartment, where he is shocked to find Mary holding Magnussen at gunpoint. Mary shoots Sherlock, who harnesses all his mental powers to stay conscious. He is taken to hospital, where Mary warns him not to denounce her. John nonetheless begins to suspect something.
Sherlock runs away from the hospital and arranges a confrontation with Mary, who confesses to having a past as a secret agent and assassin with which Magnussen is blackmailing her. Sherlock deduces that she intentionally shot him in a non-lethal spot and called an ambulance. She says she is desperate to keep John in the dark as she loves him. John, however, witnesses the conversation and is left in turmoil. Sherlock tells John that he observes John's addiction to danger and that John was most probably attracted to Mary because of her hidden past. Mary gives John a memory stick containing information on her, marked with her true initials A. G. RA., telling him the contents will destroy his love for her. After not viewing the memory stick for a few months, John decides to destroy it without reading it and, to her relief, to love Mary regardless. While the couple spend Christmas with the Holmes brothers at their parents' home, Sherlock takes John to meet Magnussen at his property, Appledore, which Holmes believes contains Magnussen's blackmailing archive. During their confrontation, Magnussen explains his purpose in putting pressure on Mary was to arrive at Mycroft via John and Sherlock.
Sherlock offers to buy Magnussen's information on Mary with the state secrets contained in Mycroft's laptop, which he has stolen. He, however, is aware that Sherlock is setting up a trap: security services looking for the laptop will raid his vaults, find their contents and arrest him as a blackmailer, thereby vindicating Sherlock and John. However, Magnussen victoriously reveals that this plan can't work because Appledore's vaults don't physically exist. Instead, they are his Mind Palace. By giving Magnussen the laptop, Sherlock and John are now guilty of attempting to sell government secrets and can be imprisoned for high treason, whereas Magnussen remains legally untouchable. When Mycroft and the police arrive, Sherlock shoots Magnussen in the head, realising it was the only way to free them and everyone else from his power.
Mycroft convinces the government to spare Sherlock a trial and, as an alternative punishment, press him into a highly dangerous mission in Eastern Europe. He is, however, recalled within minutes when TV screens all over Great Britain are hacked to broadcast a loop of a static image of Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott) asking "Did you miss me?"
Sources and allusions
The plot is primarily drawn from the original short story "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton", the titular Milverton being a blackmailer adapted into the character of Magnussen. In both stories, "Appledore" is the name of the antagonist's vaults, and, in both, Holmes becomes engaged to an employee of the villain to gain access. Both stories culminate with Milverton/Magnussen's death, although in the original story Milverton is killed by one of his victims.
The title of "His Last Vow" is a play on the title of "His Last Bow", the final Sherlock Holmes story chronologically. The title is not explained within the episode, but is a reference to dialogue from the previous episode, "The Sign of Three", in which Sherlock makes his last vow to always be there for John and Mary Watson. The plot of the episode is unrelated to the short story, although there are allusions present. The original story sees the detective having retired to keep bees in a Sussex cottage and, in the episode, Janine mentions that she is planning to buy a Sussex cottage from which she will remove some beehives. In the closing dialogue of the episode, a story Mycroft told Sherlock about "the East wind" during their childhood, is similar to a speech from the original story.
Mary reveals her true identity in what Sherlock calls "the empty house", an alleyway hidden behind what are apparently the fronts of two houses in Leinster Gardens, in the "house", Mary thinks Sherlock has tricked her by positioning a dummy of himself at the end of the alley: in "The Adventure of the Empty House" a dummy is used to fool assassin Colonel Sebastian Moran in an empty house. The letters A. G. RA. seen on the memory stick are Mary Watson's actual initials, in The Sign of Four, the first original Holmes story to feature Mary Morstan, the Agra Treasure is a main focal point and cause of dispute, and in the same story Bill Wiggins, a drug addict in "His Last Vow", is one of the Baker Street Irregulars. The allusion of Mary Morston, wife of John Watson having had a previous life with a previous identity deliberately kept secret from her husband echoes the life of Mrs Elsie Cubitt in The Adventures of the Dancing Men where she had a previous life she deliberately kept secret from her husband and client of the story Hilton Cubitt. The opening sequence, in which John travels to a drug den to retrieve the son of a family friend and finds Sherlock as well, is derived from the opening of "The Man with the Twisted Lip".
In July 2013, it was announced that Danish actor Lars Mikkelsen would star as the main villain of the third series of Sherlock. Mikkelsen first appeared in a non-speaking cameo appearance at the end of "The Empty Hearse". The portrayal of Magnussen was described by Steven Moffat as "terrifying". Mikkelsen was suggested for the role by producer Sue Vertue and recorded an audition video for the production team in which he urinated in his barn. Mikkelsen was starring in a film set in East London at the time and had picked up a London accent, so he had to "re-Dane-ify" his accent.
Moffat and Vertue's son, Louis Moffat, played a young Sherlock in two scenes and Benedict Cumberbatch's real-life parents, Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham, reprised their roles as Sherlock's parents from "The Empty Hearse". Steven Moffat has commented that Sherlock "runs on nepotism".
Steven Moffat confirmed that the cliffhanger, the return of Moriarty, had been planned as far back as series two, when he discussed the plan for Moriarty's character with actor Andrew Scott. However, he joked that he was as surprised as the viewers to see Moriarty return, noting that it is impossible to fake shooting oneself in the head. Scott appeared in a short post-credits scene talking to the camera, both firsts for the show. Moffat has commented that viewers will have to wait "years" to see the resolution of the cliffhanger.
Gatiss and Moffat had considered adapting the character of Charles Augustus Milverton for some time, considering him to be a "brilliantly realised" villain. Moffat viewed Magnussen as Sherlock's "intellectual mirror" and a "unique baddy", and stated that he fell in love with him. The character of Magnussen was originally conceived as an American retaining the name of Milverton, but Moffat changed both his nationality and name when Mikkelsen was cast. He found the name Magnussen on a website of Danish names, looking for one that resembled Milverton, the name of the original character from Doyle's short story. Gatiss noted that the character is a "fascinating new place to go" due to his differences from Moriarty. When Mikkelsen received the script, he stated that that his first impression was that it was "the best script I've ever read". Contrasting Magnussen to Moriarty, Cumberbatch stated that he was "so chilling because of how real he is, how normal he is", and that he is "not driven by a mad, chaotic joker's energy that Moriarty has".
On the introduction of young Sherlock, Moffat noted that it was the logical course to take after the introduction of the Holmes parents: "Once you've got the parents in and you've got the sibling rivalry and stuff, people start to think, 'well what was young Sherlock like?' You just want those things, you want to see those things, it's part of updating it."
Director Nick Hurran had previously worked with Steven Moffat on several episodes of Doctor Who, including the fiftieth anniversary special. Abbington noted that he was a "very hands-on" director.
Filming for "His Last Vow" began on 29 July 2013. Some filming was in Cardiff, and part in Leinster Gardens, where houses 23 and 24 were shown to be mere façades. Scenes set at 'Appledore', Magnussen's house, were filmed at Swinhay House in Gloucestershire, owned by Sir David McMurtry, boss of Renishaw engineering.
Broadcast and reception
The last Sherlock episode of series 3, "His Last Vow" was first broadcast on BBC One on Sunday 12 January 2014 between 8:30pm and 10:00pm GMT. Overnight, the episode was watched by 8.77 million viewers, a 31.9% share, which was down from 9.2 million (33.8%) for the opening episode of the series, "The Empty Hearse". However, when final ratings were factored, it increased to 11.38 million, the same as "The Sign of Three", but still down from "The Empty Hearse". The episode was later repeated on the digital channel BBC Three on Friday, 17 January 2014 from 9pm GMT.
The British Board of Film Classification gave the episode a 12 certificate, for "moderate violence, drug references and one use of strong language". The episode was released in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray Disc with the other episodes in the series ("The Empty Hearse" and "The Sign of Three") on 20 January 2014.
"His Last Vow" received critical acclaim, with Louisa Mellor of Den of Geek saying that the episode was "as good a finale as Sherlock's ever had", with a very strong plot. Mark Jefferies of The Mirror called the episode "easily the best yet in this run", with a "fascinating" plot. He also praised Mikkelsen as "brilliant". Josh Wilding, also writing for The Mirror, said the episode "was in many ways the best episode of Sherlock yet" and called it "simply one of the greatest TV shows of all-time", giving it 5/5. Caroline Frost of the Huffington Post called it a "fitting finale to the series, with writers and actors all saving their best for last", despite the third series' "patchy" performances. Serana Davies of The Telegraph called the episode "the best of the lot" and gave 4 out of 5 stars, calling Moffat "the superior Sherlock writer". Although her review was mainly positive, she questioned whether the programme had become "a little vain, rather a show-off". Lucy Mangan of The Guardian said the episode was "perfect", and a "ceaseless flow of wit, invention and intelligence", a sentiment echoed by Ellen Jones of The Independent, who stated that it contained "intelligence, humour and obscure fanboy references galore" which "delivered the goods". She went on to state that it is "enough detail in this episode to justifying watching it again and again, once weekly, until series four". Chris Harvey of The Telegraph praised the "beautifully done" conclusion of the episode featuring Moriarty, saying it was "very playful, very neat. And very unexpected". Sandipan Deb, writing in Indian newspaper Mint, was positive about the episode, calling it "the best" episode in the series, and praised its "stunning twists and turns, its thrilling upending of what we have known about the characters for a lifetime, an emotional depth not seen before, and its clever throwaway references to the Canon". Deb also praised the "uber-cool cinematic technique", singling out the moment when Sherlock has been shot and falls to the floor as an "extraordinary leap of the imagination and cinematic bravura". However, it was stated that the writers were "influenced by the zoned-out Holmes films directed by Guy Ritchie".
However, Neela Debnath, also of The Independent, said that the episode was "trying far too hard and is coming across a tad foolish", and consequently "failed to hit new heights". Despite this, she did praise Mikkelsen as Magnussen, calling his performance "sterling". Jeff Jensen of Entertainment Weekly took issue with Sherlock killing Magnussen at the end, instead of outsmarting him, viewing it as out of character: "He [Sherlock] had the smarts to brainstorm more inspired solutions to the problem of Magnusson [sic], and the seasoning to resist a degrading one". An article in the Daily Mail penned by Tom Kelly, claimed that the episode was symptomatic of the BBC's "left-wing bias", arguing the episode's villain, Charles Augustus Magnussen, was portrayed as a capitalist, foreign-born newspaper baron, with similarities to Rupert Murdoch. Media commentator Roy Greenslade contextualised the criticism by suggesting the BBC, rather than Sherlock, is the Daily Mail 's "real enemy". The episode angered fans as it had removed the woman who, in Doyle's story, had shot Milverton. After the airing of "His Last Vow", Moffat and Gatiss said in an interview with Empire Cinemas:
Moffat: Also, if you read [The Adventure Of] Charles Augustus Milverton, Dr. Watson in the opening paragraph tells you that he's about to tell you a porkie. He says, 'I even now must be very reticent.' I think what Doyle is hinting at is that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson sat in Baker Street and said, 'Right, we're going to have to go and kill him, aren't we? That's the only way we can do this.' So they break in, kill him, and then Dr. Watson writes up a version of the story that puts the murder [on someone else].
Gatiss: They're hiding in their burglar masks behind the curtain, and this random woman comes and shoots Milverton in the face and then grinds her heel into his face. It's odd, isn't it? So I mean really, it's just an extrapolation of saying, 'Well, he probably did it, I think.'
Moffat: If Sherlock Holmes decided that somebody should die, he would kill them. I don't think he'd have any problem with that.Gatiss: He regards Milverton as a sort of plague, something that should be eradicated.
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, writing in The Daily Dot, said that the removal of a female character was "An unfortunate occurrence that neatly fits in with Moffat's track record with female characters in both Doctor Who and Sherlock", Baker-Whitelaw goes on to question whether Mary could have killed Mikkelsen, instead of "playing right into the hands of fans who believe Moffat is a misogynist who writes all of his female characters into the same corner", and questions whether Moffat is indeed a misogynist.
Steven Moffat's writing, said Emma Dibdin of Digital Spy, is "a few degrees colder than his colleagues'", which helped the episode go back to the "cerebral, mystery-driven tone some viewers have been left craving". Paul Jones, of the Radio Times, praised Moffat's "grand, filmic episode", whilst Daniel Krupa, writing for IGN, said the episode was a reminder of "just how brilliant Sherlock [...] can be".
"His Last Vow" was nominated for several Emmy Awards and several Critics' Choice Television Awards. At the 4th Critics' Choice Television Awards, the episode was nominated in four categories. At the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards, "His Last Vow" won seven Emmys, the most for any TV programme.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipients and nominees[a]||Result|
|Critics' Choice Television Awards||19 June 2014||Best Movie||"His Last Vow"||Nominated|
|Best Actor in a Miniseries/Movie||Benedict Cumberbatch||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries/Movie||Martin Freeman||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries/Movie||Amanda Abbington||Nominated|
|Primetime Emmy Awards||25 August 2014||Outstanding Television Movie||"His Last Vow"||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie||Benedict Cumberbatch||Won|
|Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie||Martin Freeman||Won|
|Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special||Nick Hurran||Nominated|
|Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special||Steven Moffat||Won|
|Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special||Julia Duff & Kate Rhodes James||Nominated|
|Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie||Neville Kidd||Won|
|Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special||Sarah Arthur & Ceri Walford||Nominated|
|Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special (Original Dramatic Score)||David Arnold & Michael Price||Won|
|Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or Movie||Yan Miles||Won|
|Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special||Doug Sinclair, Stuart McCowan, Jon Joyce, Paul McFadden & Sue Harding||Won|
|Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or Movie||John Mooney, Howard Bargroff, Doug Sinclair & Peter Gleaves||Nominated|
- When recipients or nominees are given as a person, they were credited specifically for their contribution to "His Last Vow".
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- Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Complete Sherlock Holmes. Simon & Schuster.
- Liew, Tim (10 January 2014). "Sherlock: His Last Vow – 11 spoiler-free finale teasers". Metro. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
- Mellor, Louisa (12 January 2014). "Sherlock series 3 finale review: His Last Vow". Den of Geek. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
- Mellor, Louisa (14 January 2014). "Sherlock: His Last Vow Q&A with Steven Moffat, Amanda Abbington, Lars Mikkelsen". Den of Geek. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
- Jeffery, Morgan (29 July 2013). "'Sherlock' casts 'The Killing's Lars Mikkelsen as new nemesis". Digital Spy. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
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- "Interview with Lars Mikkelsen". BBC. 11 January 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
- Walker, Danny (13 January 2014). "Sherlock: Steven Moffat casts son Louis in gripping final episode of the series, His Last Vow". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
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- Wilding, Josh (13 January 2014). "Sherlock verdict: His Last Vow was in many ways the best episode yet". The Mirror. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
- Frost, Caroline (12 January 2014). "'Sherlock: His Last Vow' Review – Benedict Cumberbatch Finds Fitting Finale Villain In Lars Mikkelsen". Huffington Post. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
- Davies, Serena (12 January 2014). "Sherlock, season 3, episode 3, review". The Daily Telegraph. The Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
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- Deb, Sandipan (30 January 2014). "After 'Sherlock', 'The Musketeers'". Mint. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
- Debnath, Neela (12 January 2014). "Sherlock 'His Last Vow' TV review: A disappointingly desperate finale". The Independent. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
- Jensen, Jeff (3 February 2014). "'Sherlock' goes 'Man of Steel': Should heroes have a license to kill?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
- Kelly, Tom (13 January 2014). "Sherlock's new press baron foe and more evidence of Left-wing bias". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
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- Baker-Whitelaw, Gavia (18 January 2014). "'Sherlock' wrote a female character out of a classic story, and fans aren't happy". Daily Dot. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
- "Murder by Death". Empire Cinemas. p. 17. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
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