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15 January 2014 @ 10:55 am
Sherlock 3x03, His Last Vow -- episode review  
Finally, this is my "His Last Vow" review, full of swearing and spoilers. Anyone is welcome to debate it, because if I missed something I want to know and I want to understand what the fuck was going on in this episode.

So I said that His Last Vow reminded me of Doctor Who's recent writing (or shall I say, "trainwreck"). Tumblr user claudiaboleyn describes pretty well the kind of frustration that is spawned from Moffat's fuckery on Doctor Who and I wanted to share it with you:

"Steven Moffat’s idea of an exciting teaser/plot goes rather like the following scenario:

It’s Easter and many excitable children are led into a massive beautiful garden decorated with Easter-y things like gorgeous little fluffy chicks and rabbits. Moffat announces that there is to be an Easter egg hunt, and that the children ought to start looking now, because every chocolate egg is hidden somewhere in plain sight! So the children rush off in every direction and search the garden.

Two hours later they return looking a little disheartened and say they haven’t found any yet, to which Moffat cackles and declares they’re all ‘idiots’, they haven’t been looking hard enough, and should look again.

They do so, and find nothing. It starts to rain and after four hours the game is no longer enjoyable. In fact, they’ve quite lost their taste for chocolate.

They return to him once again, damp and tired and without any chocolate to their name.

To which Moffat announces the eggs were never in the garden to begin with! They were all in the house, and also weren’t actually eggs, they were chocolate coins! Also the door to the house was locked so the children couldn’t have got in anyway, and looking in the garden when they were obviously in the house made them all fools!

He pats himself on the back, laughing, and trots inside to eat all the chocolate coins while the children cry in the garden and get rained on for the remainder of the day."


That's kind of like what The Empty Hearse felt for me, and I hope next season of Sherlock (what with the big reveal at the end of the episode and all) won't turn out to be more of the same shit. I'm tired of it, TBH.

berylia summed it up more succinctly when we watched the episode together:

"Moffat is Magnussen, he keeps flicking us in the face and we all have to endure it for the good of Sherlock."

So anyway, on to His Last Vow; the good, the bad and the ugly in bullet points:

The good stuff:

-I ship Wiggins/Molly, I think they would be super awesome together

-Literally the only thing that made this episode worth watching was Moriarty. Everything that had to do with Moriarty, those were the best bits (yeah I loved that scene where Sherlock gets shot and tries to escape death. I'm still not convinced that Mary *had* to shoot him, but, whatever). TBH and as stupid as it might turn out, yes I missed Andrew Scott's Moriarty and yes I'm glad to have him back. If it's true. If it turns out to be another "clever" Moffatian mindfuck, screw it, I'm out. I'm tired of being strung along and disappointing pay-offs that don't make any sense. I don't care about Moffat's mind-palace and the awesome could-have-been stories he has in there, I just want something tangible, some good story to sink my teeth into. Is that too much to ask? I do think Moriarty's death came way too early, and I did want to have seen more of him before his last bow (see what I did there?). But I don't want Moffat to turn Moriarty into his own private little Dalek that he can bring back willy-nilly when things get too dull and they realise they have no stakes and their story is shit. Ah, man, I don't know. I just want him back, I don't care, I just want to FEEL something again, be excited for my favourite show again. I love Moriarty and his time with us was way too short.

-Ah and we've had a Mystrade scene FINALLY!!!!!

This is what I wrote about it on tumblr:

No but guys listen
-Lestrade was on the phone with Mycroft so he has his number — also he phoned him right away
-Lestrade was in Mycroft’s SUPER SIKRIT OFFICE the one where the only other people we saw there were Sherlock and Anthea (and I guess it has to be a super protected place since Mycroft brought Sherlock fresh from Serbia and still dead to the world in it). Remember he has another office that doesn’t look like this one where he received John in The Great Game (we can assume that other office is the “official” one, the “minor position in the British government” one). SO Lestrade is ALONE is Mycroft’s SUPER SIKRIT OFFICE, he knows where it is and Mycroft trusts him and feels comfortable enough to have Greg in it and probably have Greg bent over the desk as he fucks him too
Basically what I’m saying is

The bad and/or utterly baffling stuff:

-uuuuugggghhhhh did we REALLY have to do the whole River Song thing with Mary again? Mary could have been cool and badass and awesome without being a super secret agent with super awesome marksman skills; Magnussen could still have something to hold over her and she could have killed him herself in the end. Like, Mary could have grown up on the streets or could have been a runaway teen and done some shady things to survive. I mean she could have been a simple HUMAN BEING. But then we wouldn't have had the "you're only attracted to psychopaths John" line with Moffat AGAIN throwing the word around without fully understanding its meaning.

-So, about the plot and Magnussen: dude, no. I don't buy that a guy who has everything in his head can actually blackmail anyone. It's super dumb. And flicking John in the face in answer to his "I really don't understand" doesn't actually answer anything, it's a diversion not a logical explanation. If you go up to someone and say "hey this woman killed someone you loved look it's all in my head" that person can and will call you a liar if you don't have proof to show them. Like... idk it's so fucking dumb that I can't even wrap my head around how someone would think this is a logical and acceptable plot twist that would work in a universe that is similar to ours.

Plus Magnussen does have tangible proof he fucking SHOWED Lord Smallwood's letters to Sherlock so why all the mind palace bullshit?

Finally -- okay, you have everything in your head, that's great, man, good for you. How about I KILL U? Problem goes away. As Sherlock so helpfully demonstrated. But, er. Why hasn't this happened before? Why hasn't anyone thought of that before Sherlock? It seems the most logical solution to anyone's problems with Magnussen. And just how rubbish is Mycroft's secret service if they can't bring down an individual who holds sensitive secrets that threatens the well-being of the state and just lock him away in a cell? (You know, kinda like what happened... WITH MORIARTY????) It's not like the guy has a loving family that will worry about him... Like, okay, maybe Mycroft didn't know CAM had it all in his head (again, so stupid... so stupid...) so once Sherlock learns it, there's absolutely no reason for Sherlock to do the dirty work himself. Just fucking send Anthea to kill the guy in his sleep, or better yet, send Mary after she's delivered the baby; find a baby-sitter, let Mary put a bullet in the idiot and she'll be right back in time to breast-feed little Shezza. Or just send a team of men in black, whatever, my point is: WHY all the drama queen with the helicopter and the gun and shit? It's not like there were journalists all around you -- it's just Mycroft and his minions. What the fuck is wrong with you? I kept shouting "what the fuck? What the fuck?" as I was watching that scene, and then Sherlock has to go in exile because... Because Mycroft can't tell his own men to shut up and then bury the story? There was nothing emotional behind the exile thing because it didn't have to happen. There was no danger, no dilemma, no NEED for all that.

Look, Mycroft can threaten complete peasants of planting evidence in their computers in order to get them to keep chtum:


IN THE SAME FUCKING EPISODE. This isn't Doctor Who, you can't claim that continuity is difficult when there's 50 years of canon behind you! This is just ONE episode, why can't you do continuity right in the span of an hour and a half??

But let's pretend Mycroft cannot spirit Magnussen away just like that because "democracy" or Magnussen is too important as a media tycoon or some shit... well I believe Mycroft can forge any fucking excuse under the sun (he's MYCROFT, he's supposed to be CLEVERER than Sherlock) and then plant evidence on the guy if he gets too annoying, why couldn't he? It's not like he's the most ethical character ever, he filled a whole plane with dead people for the good of England once for fuck's sake!

And he totally CAN spirit someone away just like that, even someone important, he did it to FUCKING MORIARTY like, Moriarty is a criminal, maybe juste maybe you actually risk MORE abducting and arbitrarily imprisoning a guy like that, especially with Moriarty's web that's supposed to be so dangerous that Sherlock has to take it down himself. Magnussen doesn't have a web like that, only people who hate his guts and would be very glad indeed to see him locked away somewhere.

OR here's how the scene could have unfolded:

MAGNUSSEN: So basically there's nothing tangible everything's in my head and I can blackmail anyone, muahahahahaaaa

SHERLOCK: Cool story bro, except now I can blackmail you right back.

MAGNUSSEN: Hell's bells and buckets of blood! How so?

SHERLOCK: I suppose people didn't take action against you because they didn't know that everything you have against them was only in your "mind palace"... But what would they do if they knew? If I told them, I'd just have to sit back and see who murders you first, fucknuts, I wouldn't even have to touch a gun. You see, THIS IS WHY BLACKMAILERS ACTUALLY NEED REAL MATERIAL TO BLACKMAIL WITH. Now get the fuck out of my face.

And finally:

-Mrs Hudson's only "pressure point" is marijuana? BITCH SHE RAN A DRUG CARTEL DO YOUR RESEARCH

You know what? After all is said and done, I love hiatus. I love this fandom, I love its theories, I love its crack, I love its art, manips, vids, meta, fanfictions that are so much better than the original material. Yes there are crazy annoying people in it but those people would be crazy and annoying with or without the show, whereas what the fans express as love (and not hate) in this fandom is unique and beautiful and to me shines better and brighter than anything else in the world.
And now I can say I probably enjoy the hiatus between each season more than I enjoy the show.
I love you, Sherlock fandom, and this is all that matters in the end.

P.S.: and you, Mystrade shippers, are the most ADORABLE shippers this side of the galaxy
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on January 15th, 2014 11:37 am (UTC)
Wow. To be honest - I really enjoyed the episode as I was watching; I felt like it was a great return to the original style of season 1, it wasn't all campy like Empty Hearse, and it felt good that Mary was different to the typical portrayal of her as the epitome of domesticity. But now that you've pointed out all these plot holes, they're glaring at me, and I can see that beneath all the polish and prettifying, there are some huge problems with the way this ep was written. Wow.
sevenswellssevenswells on January 16th, 2014 09:43 am (UTC)
And that's what I got from only one watch too, if I watch it again I'm pretty sure I can find even more. Plot holes don't matter to me as long as there's sufficient emotion (Reichenbach has MASSIVE plot holes but I couldn't think about them through my tears) but in this case the plot holes undermined the emotion because it felt the drama happened for no reason.
And they had two years to come up with solid stories, I don't understand how there was absolutely no one to point out that nothing about that ending made sense. I do believe there was an easy solution to come up with something better.
But then again the Doctor Who fandom has had a lot of problems with Moffat's writing recently, with convoluted plots that went nowhere and wobbly characterization; I thought Sherlock had been spared so far maybe because he cared about Sherlock more than Who and he actually spent time writing one good Sherlock episode and pissed away the Who episodes... but now I can say that he's just an empty well; he doesn't have any stories to tell, only formulas to apply and "you know what would be cool?" scenes loosely strung together with non-logic.
Oh, well.
il advint qu'un beau soir;falling_voices on January 15th, 2014 05:05 pm (UTC)

Ding ding ding ding.

The plot completely fell apart at that point. That's probably my biggest beef with this episode — Moffat pulled an ASiB again and only used the actual, original story for the first half hour or so, and only as a foundation for his own shitty intrigue. It was just plain bad mystery writing, imo.
sevenswellssevenswells on January 16th, 2014 09:49 am (UTC)
Yep. Nothing else to add.
Adena Kaiba: Sherlock & John  & Mycroft & Gregory.adena_kaiba on January 15th, 2014 06:21 pm (UTC)
 photo tumblr_m3ybk42GPj1qac3ya.gif

I was pretty angry after watching it, there were so many things that were illogical or plain stupid I didn't know where to begin, and yet, the list was actually even longer than I thought O_O
Thanks for pointing them out, the more I read your posts, the more I understand why I'm so fucking angry watching this episode.

 photo tumblr_m4fc5jbhOC1r5fb0k-1.gif
sevenswellssevenswells on January 16th, 2014 09:58 am (UTC)
Dude, believe me when I say I can find even more illogical shit if I bothered to watch the episode again.
As for me, I'm all out of anger, I've spent it all on Moffat's run of Doctor Who, now I'm just sad that he's done the same bullshit writing on Sherlock too :(

*counter-attack hug!*
therese_chantherese_chan on January 15th, 2014 11:12 pm (UTC)
I don't think there's anything here I don't agree on. I'm so sick and tired of Moffat and his stupid writing. It really feels like it's getting worse. This made no sense at all and just ugh, no!
sevenswellssevenswells on January 16th, 2014 10:01 am (UTC)
Thanks, I'm actually relieved to know that I'm not the only one who found this episode was badly written. I'm not judging the people who enjoyed it, I just don't understand.
fidesquaerensmarta_bee on January 17th, 2014 01:19 pm (UTC)
On the whole how-can-CAM-blackmail-without-evidence thing, I suppose that should have bothered me more than it did. The fact that it did seem so plausible to me (and still does) seems like it points to a breakdown in my critical thinking skills - a bit not good for someone with yours as a philosophy grad student under her belt. :-)

For what it's worth, I think it helps to think of CAM's victims as falling into two basic categories: people who are afraid of scandal (with or without justification), and people CAM can hurt because of the information he holds, not necessarily proof. Lady Smallwood falls into the first camp. She's not concerned about what a fair reading of the facts would do to her, but what the mere whiff of the story, to people who see the headline and never read the details, what that would do to her family. It's the threat of an accusation, coupled with her own guilt or fear about the shamefulness of the situation, that make her vulnerable. And we've already seen one good man brought down by a story in the press that was true in some details and completely fictional in the ones that really mattered: Sherlock himself, in Reichenbach.

Group #2 are people who are vulnerable because of something he knows which they need to keep secret. Mary and John fall into this category. If you killed my sister eighteen months ago and were never caught, if I'm sick with grief over it I'm going to be highly suggestible. So if someone comes to me with a reasonably convincing story, with details that seem to make sense along with your home address, am I going to demand photographic evidence? Or am I going to confront you? All it takes is one overwrought grieving relative who could snap and go after John and Mary. And even if Sherlock and John are too strong to fall for CAM's machinations, Sherlock can't be sure that complete strangers will all be able to see through him. If you know enough details to make the story seem plausible, if you're good enough at manipulating folks, then CAM can still use other people against folks like John and Mary. Again, without necessarily having physical proof.

(Similarly, if CAM wanted to ruin Mary's life, all it takes is a well-placed phone call to the CIA or the MI6 saying: "I know where [AGRA] is, the assassin behind [still unsolved case]. She's living under the assumed name Mary Morstan Watson at [address], and if you'll compare her fingerprints to what you have in evidence, you'll see she's your woman." Again, he doesn't need proof that Mary did this; he needs to give just enough information to other people with access to that evidence, to connect the dots back to Mary.)

So I found it plausible that CAM could blackmail people with very little actual evidence. Particularly if he was coy about the fact that he had so little. He told Sherlock this because he was so sure he'd beaten Sherlock and this was Sherlock's final humiliation: that he'd been beaten by someone who could never have actually proven any of it. He simply gives Lady Smallwood the impression that he has those documents, and that seems to be his MO. I suspect the majority of people he blackmailed assumed he had actual proof on them. Mycroft probably assumed that, because it's what he would do. CAM's genius seems to be in realizing the danger of having actual proof, and also in how far he could go just form knowing what the proof actually was.

Btw, I was under the impression that while CAM didn't have proof on everyone, he did occasionally hold on to documents. Not necessarily at his home, and not necessarily in every case; but the simple fact that you don't know wht he can prove makes him that much more dangerous. If you don't know what documents related to which PTB in the British government would be found in the clean-up after an abduction or assassination, you can't very well go after him safely. In that regard, Magnussen's abduction would be potentially more dangerous to at least the upper echelons of British society than Moriarty's.

fidesquaerensmarta_bee on January 17th, 2014 01:19 pm (UTC)
And, contd because LJ doesn't like long comments. All of which makes the last comment a bit ironic - seems I'm halfway to that blog post. ;-)


On why Sherlock had to assassinate CAM... well, this is why I find my breakdown in critical thought so embarrassing. I suspect, if Mycroft was in on this situation at all (a theory I like; there's simply no reason for the laptop to be at their parents' house otherwise), I don't think he intended it to go that far. Sherlock's job was probably to reconnaissance, to work out just what kind of threat CAM was. I can see Mycroft telling Sherlock to go in there, engage CAM in a battle of wits, get him to slip up and say something we can use to deal with him, because one you know just what kind of a threat he poses then you can abduct him or kill him or whatever. I don't think Sherlock was ever supposed to kill CAM himself, certainly not in such a sloppy, obvious way. He was supposed to fall back, tell Mycroft what he knew, and let Mycroft take it from there. But then Sherlock cracks a bit... why, exactly? because he's saying a replay of the Moriarty situation, where there doesn't seem to be a way to save John through unravelling the puzzle? Because his recent mind palace escapades have him thinking he can't trust Mycroft? I'm not sure exactly. But it does seem like Sherlock's actions on that porch were him going rogue. Which is stupid in its own way because as you point out, Sherlock has the perfect ammunition to blackmail the blackmailer. If he was at all on his game, he'd turn to CAM and do exactly what you suggest.

The only way that porch makes sense to me is if Sherlock is seriously off his game. Which he is. He's not feeling comfortable in his skin, he's estranged from his beloved London at some level. He's lost his flatmate and seems increasingly likely to not have him as a partner in casebusting, particularly as John and Mary are patching things up. And he's been shot, nearly fatally, and is dealing (or more properly not dealing) with the emotional fallout from that. This seems more like a snap than a premeditated decision, and the only real rhyme or reason I can draw from that is that it's the final plank in just how badly messed up BBC!Sherlock's headspace is. Which it really shouldn't be, and there's much more to say on that topic. Maybe I'll write my own blog piece later on this scene.
fidesquaerensmarta_bee on January 17th, 2014 01:26 pm (UTC)
And while I'm on the topic, it's worth saying...

LJ icon notwithstanding, I'm just now getting into the Eleven years of Doctor Who. Or about to get there - I'm currently watching the specials that bridge Ten/Eleven. So I have barely met River Song and have not been exposed to the latest Moffat fuckery. So I'm not coming at this from that perspective. Perhaps if I was I'd be more frustrated, less inquisitively "let's-work-out-just-what-the-heck-is-going-on-here." If that makes sense.

Mainly I wanted to say: I understand your frustration and don't mean to undercut it; it's simply not where I'm starting from so my response is a bit less... well, frustrated, I guess? More constructive in the sense that I'm driven to construct something that makes sense to me, rather than just throw my hands up in sheer but well-earned irritation that this is happening yet again? So if my overlong comments are too much worldbuilding and rehabilitation, not enough righteous indignation (which may actually be the more appropriate path)... well, I'm cool with that and didn't mean to get in the way of your frustration. Secretly, I think your response is probably the more fitting one. :-)
frozen_delight: angryfrozen_delight on January 22nd, 2014 08:04 pm (UTC)
I was so angry when I first saw the episode and you've voiced many of my feelings.

This is just ONE episode, why can't you do continuity right in the span of an hour and a half??

A big yes to all of this.
Sloppy and incredibly smug writing from first to last.

It's such a shame. I used to love this show so much.