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'Sherlock' 'His Last Vow' recap: Pressure points, mind palaces and the east wind

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in 'Sherlock' 303 "His Last Vow"
Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in 'Sherlock' 303 "His Last Vow"
Courtesy of (C)Robert Viglasky/Hartswood Films for MASTERPIECE

"Sherlock" season 3 ended on PBS Sunday, Feb. 2, with "His Last Vow," in which it was revealed Sherlock faced off with another's mind palace, it was revealed Mary had quite a secret of her own (and John clearly had a type) and a surprise return meant a change of plans.

As we've noted before in reviews for "Sherlock," there's just something about his mind palace that is so intriguing, and as entertaining as it was to watch his mind work while he was drunk in "The Sign of Three," that had nothing on what we saw of a mind palace in this episode. Nothing is ever quite what it seems when it comes to this series, and the same can be said of the characters as well, as we saw in "His Last Vow," which was pretty much exactly what a season finale should be – especially for this show. It set up next season in a way that left us wanting more in a way last season finale's didn't, even when it came to the questions surrounding Sherlock's "death."

Charles Augustus Magnussen was introduced as a man with considerable power, all because of the information he had on significant figures in the public eye. He had a vault of secrets from which he could pull out information to use against a person, and it was the manner in which he did so – seeing facts and pressure points listed when he looked at someone – that should have been the first sign that he was, in a way, like Sherlock Holmes.

He too had a mind palace, which he used when it was necessary, and the times we saw him descend to the vaults in his house, he simply went into a white room and sat in a chair and brought up the files he needed in his mind. From the beginning, it was clear he wasn't any regular man as he licked Lady Smallwood while blackmailing her, but even with all the information at his disposal, could he have predicted that Sherlock would become a murderer to ensure his job – making sure John and Mary could have a life together without worrying who would come after her – was done?

Yes, Mary too had her secrets, as Sherlock and John discovered after she shot Sherlock, leading him to descend through his mind palace to the room where Moriarty was locked up and climb back up in a way only he could to protect his pressure point, John Watson. Mary had been an assassin, and she had taken a dead woman's identity, and with that, she went from John's wife to Sherlock and John's client. She had, after all, known exactly how to get Sherlock's attention and get him to take her case.

John did have a type, as seen by the situations he put himself into and the people he befriended and cared for, but he chose to leave the past behind and make a future with Mary – and their daughter – instead of reading about her previous life. The signs had been there that there was more to Mary than met the eye, as shown in quick flashes, and in the end, it just made her an even more intriguing character, exactly John's type, and, in a way, worthy of being part of Sherlock and John's lives.

Finally, there was Sherlock himself in this episode. The first time we saw him, John was tracking down a neighbor's son in a house full of drug users, and while Sherlock insisted he was on a case, no one quite believed him. But he had been, determined for that fact to get back to Magnussen, as everything he was doing – including a relationship with and proposing to Janine – was about that man. With that proposal, Sherlock did take things too far, but she did get back at him with stories worthy of the tabloids.

Sherlock ended up making a deal with Magnussen for access to his vaults, and what Magnussen wanted was Mycroft. Sherlock brought him his laptop after having a druggie friend dose everyone else at a Christmas gathering, but Magnussen knew he had a GPS tracker on it, and instead, that was when he revealed there was no vault, everything was in his mind palace, and his news story the next day would be Sherlock and John's arrest for trying to sell state secrets. As Mycroft called out for them to step away from Magnussen from his helicopter after John was forced to stand there and let him flick his face, Sherlock made sure the information Magnussen knew was nowhere but in his head before shooting him. Magnussen made the mistake in thinking Sherlock was a hero. He wasn't. He was a high-functioning sociopath. With that, Mary was safe.

As for Sherlock, he was being sent on a mission undercover in Eastern Europe that Mycroft had explained "would prove fatal to [him] in six months." Before, he had told him he didn't want him on the job because "[his] loss would break [his] heart." But after, when they couldn't put him in prison, it became his exile. John and Mary met him at the plane to say their goodbyes, but the game wasn't over. "The game is never over, but there may be some new players now. That's okay. The east wind takes us all in the end," Sherlock said, explaining his brother told him it plucked the unworthy (him) from the earth. As for his last words, what he had never had the chance to say? "Sherlock is actually a girl's name." No, they would not be naming their daughter after him. So with a handshake and "to the very best of times," Sherlock boarded the plane…for all of about four minutes.

"Did you miss me?" A voice asked on every television screen in the country after Sherlock's plane took off, and with that, Mycroft called to make sure his brother had learned his lesson. He was needed. Moriarty was somehow back?! And with that, so was Sherlock. "There's an east wind coming," John said as the plane landed.

But how was Moriarty back? Was he back? Did he too somehow fake his own death? Or are we to believe Sherlock missed a key player in his network while he was busy dismantling it and that person has put this together to make the world think Moriarty's alive? How will having a baby change things for John Watson? Can he and Mary have a happily ever after?

What did you think of the "Sherlock" season 3 finale "His Last Vow"?

© Meredith Jacobs 2014

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