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Recap / Sherlock S3 E3 "His Last Vow"

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"I've dealt with murders, psychopaths, terrorists, serial killers. None of them can turn my stomach like Charles Augustus Magnussen."
Sherlock Holmes
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A case of stolen letters leads Sherlock Holmes into a long conflict with Charles Augustus Magnussen, the Napoleon of blackmail, and the one man he truly hates. But how do you tackle a foe who knows the personal weakness of every person of importance in the Western world?


Tropes:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: It only took four minutes for Sherlock to be ordered back from his assignment in East Europe to help the British government deal with Moriarty.
  • Aborted Declaration of Love: The scene in which Sherlock says goodbye to John on the tarmac is seemingly set up to lead the audience to believe a love confession is imminent:
    Sherlock: John, there's something I should say. I've meant to say always, and then never have. Since it's unlikely we'll ever meet again, I might as well say it now. [long pause] Sherlock is actually a girl's name.
    John: [laughs] We're not naming our daughter after you.
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  • Adaptational Wimp: A particularly subtle example, but Magnussen isn't nearly as smart as his Conan Doyle counterpart. Unlike Magnussen's mistakes (see Idiot Ball, below), Doyle's version of Milverton is smart enough to have concrete material to blackmail his victims with. Doyle's Milverton also keeps the location of this information well-hidden, and even notes that he would never do anything stupid like bring the materials to some place they could be forcibly taken from him.
  • Anger Born of Worry: After finding he's failed a drug test, Molly slaps Sherlock three times and chews him out about how he could be so careless, then orders him to apologize to his friends.
  • Arc Words: There's an east wind coming.
  • Asshole Victim: When Sherlock and Watson come up to see a security guard and Janine unconscious in the office. Watson, as he is looking over Janine, asks if the other needs assistance. Sherlock is able to tell the guard is an ex-con and probably a white supremacist and tells Watson to ignore him.
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  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Mitigated slightly as Mycroft is unknowingly being tranquilized.
    Mycroft: ... also, your loss would break my heart.
    Sherlock: What the hell am I supposed to say to that?
  • Big Fancy House: "Appledore", Magnussen's pad.
    • Actually David McMurtry's Swinhay House, which is so flashy that the owner himself can't bear to live in it, instead renting it out year-round with the proceeds going to various charities.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": John yells this at Sherlock after John asks if everyone he's known is a psychopath, and Sherlock says yes and is about to go on. Understandable, since John at this moment is VERY angry. He's just found out Mary is an assassin and he's just asked if everyone he's ever known is a sociopath. Sherlock being Sherlock just answered yes and was about to carry on. Cue this trope.
  • Blackmail: Magnussen's Weapon of Choice.
    Sherlock: ... he attacks people who are different and preys on their secrets!
  • Blackmail Backfire: The whole of the episode is a slow set-up towards this. If Magnussen, the so-called "Napoleon of Blackmail", had not kept on bullying the Holmeses and the Watsons out of a petty desire to showcase his control over them, Sherlock wouldn't have figured out that all of the blackmail information he has was located in his head (and only his head), and wouldn't have been angry enough to deal with the threat thusly. Magnussen unknowingly dodges a bullet earlier when his continuous dangling of Mary Watson's (nee Morstan's) past to make John do what he wants nearly make Mary (who in this version is apparently a retired assassin, presumably for the CIA) kill him; only to be thwarted because John and Sherlock entered the office while she was talking to Magnussen.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: Magnussen doesn't think of his actions as blackmail. It's ownership.
  • Blown Across the Room: Defied by Sherlock's imagination of Molly, who explains that a bullet doesn't transfer enough energy to significantly move a human body.
  • Boom, Headshot!: This is how Sherlock gets rid of Magnussen, after the latter is dumb enough to reveal that there are no hard copies of his Blackmail material, and it was all kept in his head.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Magnussen has the most important and powerful people under his thumb, so a few sociopaths and/or Blood Knights like Sherlock, John, and Mary should be no different, right? He is wrong.
  • Call-Back: To the rest of the series, particularly "A Study In Pink". Among them:
    • Sherlock's drug habit is a plot point in the beginning of the episode.
    • The drugs bust.
    • Every single time Mary was clever in "The Empty Hearse" and "The Sign of Three" gets referred to.
    • Moriarty's death is called into question.
  • The Cameo: Jim Moriarty has a scene in Sherlock's Mind Palace. Then he shows up again in time for the cliffhanger.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Sherlock is recalled from his suicide mission for MI-6 after just getting on the plane, because he's the only one who can deal with Moriarty when Moriarty comes back to life.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Watson's gun.
    • Everything related to Mary in the first 2 episodes of Season 3.
    • Redbeard, appearing in Magnussen's analysis of Sherlock. He is extremely important in Series 4.
  • Complexity Addiction: Sherlock. Like in the series 2 finale he expects the other party to be more devious and circumspect than they actually are.
  • Composite Character:
    • With her attack on a dummy in an empty house and military background, Mary combines both Mary Morstan and Sebastian Moran. Interesting, since Lord Moran in "The Empty Hearse" seemed to be Sherlock's adaptation of the character. Perhaps Lord Moran was Sebastian's father, Sir Augustus Moran?
    • Magnussen is called "The Napoleon of Blackmail" appropriating Moriarty's "The Napoleon of Crime," which the latter was not called in Sherlock. While he owes obvious debts to Charles Augustus Milverton, his characterisation and encounters with Sherlock are much closer to Conan Doyle's version of Moriarty than Sherlock!Moriarty was.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Mrs. Hudson's "herbal soothers."
    • The positioning of the chairs.
    • The "Christmas cigarette" from "A Scandal in Belgravia".
    • Magnussen finds people's pressure points and uses them to blackmail them. In "The Reichenbach Fall", Moriarty comments "Every person has their pressure point, someone that they want to protect from harm." John is still Sherlock's. Big time.
    • Mycroft references Irene as a "damsel in distress" after Sherlock was taken in by her in "A Scandal in Belgravia", and asks "In the end, are you really so obvious?" In this episode, Magnussen echoes that with "Look how you care about John Watson. Your damsel in distress."
    • The real Mary Morstan was stillborn, like Jennifer Wilson's daughter Rachel in "A Study In Pink".
    • "Oh, it's Christmas!"
    • Sherlock states that Mycroft is the British Government in the first episode. Magnussen fully admits that Mycroft is the most powerful man in the British Government.
    • Sherlock's subconscious references that 'The Woman' (Irene Adler) will mourn Sherlock.
    • The staircase Sherlock runs down, and back up again, in his mind palace after being shot is the same one from the hotel the fourth body was found in in "A Study In Pink", this time in harsh daylight instead of in the hotel at night.
    • Magnussen's scan of Watson lists his alcoholic sister Harry as a potential pressure point. Sherlock's are Moriarty, Irene Addler, "Redbeard," John, and opium.
  • Corpsing: When Sherlock/Benedict is yelling "WELL I'M NOT NOW!", John/Martin can be seen laughing at his childish behavior.
    • John/Martin also struggles to hold back laughter during the scene with the Appledore vaults.
  • Credits Gag: The plane flies off, the screen goes black, and the theme music starts playing, but then it cuts off and the screen turns to static before the episode continues for another couple of minutes.
  • Cutting the Knot: Sherlock is unable to outwit Magnussen, so Sherlock kills the man to eliminate the threat altogether.
  • Dark Secret: Mary used to be a professional killer for the CIA and has left that life behind.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: The real Mary Morstan was stillborn and buried decades ago. The woman who John married took her identity to escape her old life as a trained assassin. Leads to Becoming the Mask with forgiveness and acceptance from John.
  • Deal with the Devil: Name-dropped by Sherlock when he tells John why he's drugged everyone.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Sherlock and Janine. (They didn't.)
  • Did You Actually Believe...?: ...that the vaults were a physical place, Sherlock?
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: In the last scene, Moriarty does a grandiose comeback by showing up in every television screen in the UK.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Several — Sherlock is called "Shezza" (by the druggies) and "Sherl" (by Janine) while the Holmes mother calls Mycroft "Mikey" and "Mike."
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: Among all the things Magnussen does just because he can, he stirs around the pasta and eats an olive from Sherlock's plate.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Sherlock's meeting with Mary at Leinster Gardens is revealed to be one. Sherlock tricks Mary into revealing details about her past as an assassin in front of John, with Mary saying she doesn't want John to find out. As you might expect, she gets an Oh, Crap! when Sherlock reveals the ruse and that John heard the whole thing.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Magnussen, for all the ways he manages to outwit Sherlock in this episode, misses one crucial fact about the man. While he recognizes that John is a pressure point for Sherlock that he can exploit, he seems completely unaware of just how far Sherlock will go to protect or save John. It doesn't end well for him.
  • Evil Gloating: Magnussen likes to do this. And in classic villain fashion, this ultimately leads to his downfall: When he thinks that he has beat Sherlock Holmes, he tells him the reason whythis way exposing his own biggest weakness. Namely that the police can't confiscate his blackmail vault because it only exists in his head. Thus the vault will simply cease to exist and stop causing any more trouble with Magnussen's death.
  • Evil Is Petty: Magnussen exercises power over his victims through very petty actions. For example, having information that could get John Watson's wife killed, he tells him to try to keep his eye open while he (Magnussen) flicks it, and says that he's done the same thing to at least one other person. He also urinates in Sherlock's fireplace to demonstrate that he can do whatever he wants.
  • Exact Words: Sherlock's deal with Magnussen is that in exchange for top British secrets, Magnussen hands over all materials related to Mary Watson. The latter agrees and fulfills his end of the bargain... because there was no material evidence or records to begin with.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: On encountering Sherlock, a woman from his fan club notes that she expected him to be taller. Given that Benedict Cumberbatch is already 6 feet (183cm) tall, one has to wonder what sort of Statuesque Stunner she expected him to be.
  • Fake Brit: In-Universe. Sherlock speculates that Mary isn't actually English. A passing remark by Magnussen implies that she's American (or at least that she used to work for the CIA).
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: A snippet of the ending theme plays before being interrupted by the static caused by Moriarty's reveal.
  • Faux Shadowing:
    • Sherlock ensures that Watson brings his gun, and then Magnussen keeps provoking John and lets him know that his control of Mycroft comes from him being the weak part in the chain so he flicks Watson's face repeatedly and as he grows more furious, Sherlock tries to talk him down from retaliating and JUST when you think he's going to shoot Charles, Sherlock confirms all of Magnussen's info is inside of his mind, pulls out John's pistol and shoots him in the head.
    • As well as Magnussen's Sherlock Scan / Photographic Memory which shows up as Stat-O-Vision. At one point Sherlock believes it to be inside of his glasses, but then they turn out to be just regular spectacles. The real Stat-O-Vision being inside of Magnussen's brain.
  • Flatline: Sherlock's heart stops beating and the flatline sounds carries over into his Dying Dream.
  • Flipping the Bird: When Magnussen is flicking John's face, take a look at which finger he uses to do so. Evil Is Petty, indeed.
  • Foreshadowing: "I have an excellent memory."
    • And if that didn't prepare you for The Reveal, Sherlock's discovery that Magnussen's glasses were ordinary spectacles should have.
    • Mycroft describes Magnussen to Sherlock as "a dragon for [Sherlock] to slay". Sherlock does indeed murder Magnussen in the climax.
    • Mycroft warns Sherlock that "the east wind is coming"
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • Magnussen's readings of other characters and their pressure points contain some interesting information:
      • Sherlock apparently has a porn preference. It's normal.
      • Mrs. Hudson's pressure point is marijuana. And she's a former exotic dancer.
    • The other person that gets scanned during the inquest is named Garvey. When Sherlock and John walk into Magnussen's office the TV can be heard reporting that MP Garvey was forced to resign on charges of corruption. Looks like Magnussen got to him.
    • At Christmas the newspapers are reporting that Lord Smallwood committed suicide. Seems Magnussen got to him too.
    • At the drug den, right as Watson gets the tire iron out of the boot, there's a billboard behind him with three different torn up signs peeking through. The most prominent word on each section reads "Information // Is // Power," which is a little important to this episode.
  • Friendly Enemy: Janine and Sherlock after she realizes he was never going to marry her.
    Janine: Sherlock Holmes, you are a no-good, backstabbing, manipulative bastard.
    Sherlock: You, as it turns out, are a grasping, opportunistic, publicity-hungry tabloid whore.
    Janine: So we're good, then?
    Sherlock: Yes, of course.
  • Given Name Reveal: Magnussen's Stat-O-Vision reveals Mrs. Hudson's full name is Martha Louise Hudson.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: Subverted with Magnussen's glasses. Turns out the Stat-O-Vision comes from inside Magnussen's Mind Palace.
  • Hate Sink: Charles Augustus Magnussen. While Moriarty may be far more murderous and involved in acts of terrorism, he is at least Laughably Evil and entertaining, and perhaps mildly sympathetic insofar as he is clearly mentally unstable. Magnussen, though, much like his literary counterpart Charles Augustus Milverton, is flat-out stated by Sherlock to be the worst person he has ever met, a "shark" who preys on peoples' vulnerabilities and blackmails them into letting him exploit and bully them (up to and including sexual assault). A media baron, he claims he is willing to run stories that he can't actually prove in order to ruin a person's life, and even if it puts them and their family in mortal danger. At one point he even has Watson trapped in a fire just to see if Sherlock cared enough about him to save him, though he claimed that he had people ready to save him if he didn't. He is a Dirty Coward who begs for his life when confronted with a killer he tried to blackmail, but smugly threatens to expose and destroy said killer and their family and friends the moment he regains the advantage. In the end, Sherlock decides shooting him is the only way to stop him- which he does after Magnussen was childishly flicking Watson in the face just, again, to show that he can.
  • Helpful Hallucination: When Sherlock is shot by an assassin, he instantly enters into a not-so Dying Dream, in which first Mycroft appears to help him determine which way to fall down and later Moriarty, of all people, giving him the motivation to come back to life.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Sherlock briefly undergoes one at the climax once Magnussen lets him know how hard he has been outwitted.
    • Mycroft has a minor one when Sherlock shoots Magnussen.
    • Everyone has one when Moriarty's picture shows up on every screen in Britain at the end.
  • Heroic Resolve: In Sherlock's mind palace, when Moriarty mentions that John is in danger, it provides Sherlock with the necessary power to make this heart start beating again.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Sherlock might not consider himself a hero, but at the end he knowingly did something that would at worse get him arrested and at best exiled just so Watson and Mary could have a good life. If it wasn't for Moriarty's return, Sherlock would have most likely never seen them again.
  • Hero Insurance: Averted. Sherlock's murder of Magnussen has consequences, even Mycroft can't turn a blind eye to that.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Magnussen claims he's not a villain, merely a businessman acquiring resources. But as the No Sense of Personal Space and Evil Is Petty examples show, Magnussen clearly glories in the power he has and abusing it.
    • Also, Mycroft. He's had numerous people killed or tortured to protect British interests. But he calls his own brother a murderer for killing Magnussen, when he's done much worse.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Sherlock comments that Mycroft is so OCD that he always adjusts the door-knocker at 221B without even realising he does it. When he returns the knocker to its original position, John asks him why he just did that, to which Sherlock responds, "Do what?"
  • Idiot Ball: Magnussen makes the following rather serious errors.
    • He decides to blackmail Mary, a recently retired assassin. He presumably knows everything about her, and takes joy in amusing himself with the nature of her assassinations. It never occurs to him that this means she has no difficulty, moral or practical, in just sneaking into his office and putting a bullet between his eyes as soon as she could fit it in her schedule. Which she would have done if not for Sherlock and Watson making an appearance and forcing her to improvise to avoid them being suspected in Magnussen's murder.
    • The big reveal to Sherlock that there's no Appledore blackmail vault, and he controls no records other than what he remembers, renders Magnussen pretty well impotent. We'll assume that the only reason he's alive is that the powerful and/or dangerous people he's blackmailing think that Magnussen has some sort of failsafe in case he's killed, such as physical records that would be disseminated if he should die under mysterious circumstances. Magnussen likes the idea of showing up Sherlock by getting the police to search his home and find nothing incriminating. But he fails to realize this also means revealing to lots of current and future unhappy blackmail victims that it might be better to just kill him instead of pay him. The reveal is intended to demonstrate Magnussen defeating Sherlock's plan to expose him, but it also suggests Magnussen is far and wide the stupidest criminal Sherlock has ever faced, as even after one of his victims attempting to kill him, he seems unaware that any of his victims might attempt to kill him, and therefore made no effort to use his extensive blackmail library to protect himself.
  • I Have Your Wife: And she is John's pressure point, and John is Sherlock's, and Sherlock is Mycroft's.
  • Irony:
    • Mummy Holmes declares that if she ever finds out who shot Sherlock, she shall turn "absolutely monstrous" — right before taking Mary some food.
    • Then there is Magnussen who, in revealing that the fatal flaw in Sherlock's plan to take him down — that his vaults of blackmail material are all in his head and therefore no physical evidence to use against him — unintentionally reveals his own fatal flaw in his plan to Sherlock — that Sherlock has absolutely no reason to let Magnussen live.
    • Magnussen taunts Sherlock with how he never fell for the idea that Sherlock is a druggie. The next episode we discover Sherlock just stopped hiding it briefly.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Magnussen licks Lady Smallwood's face and pokes John and Janine in the eye simply because he has power over them.
    • After Molly slaps Sherlock for failing a drug test, he comments that she's no longer wearing her engagement ring. Her response is to tell him to just stop it.
  • Laser Sight: After Sherlock shoots Magnussen he is targetted by several laser guns from Mycroft's men.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The credits are stopped by the screen turning to static, which we then see is happening to every screen in the UK. This implies the audience's TVs are being affected by Moriarty, too.
  • Lecherous Licking: Magnussen licks Lady Smallwood's face because he can.
  • Let's Wait a While: Apparently what Sherlock was telling Janine.
    Janine: Just once would have been nice.
    Sherlock: Oh. I was waiting until we got married.
    Janine: Which was never gonna happen!
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Greg, Mrs. Hudson, and Molly are visibly unnerved when Moriarty reveals himself on all the TVs in the UK.
  • Meaningful Background Event: When John gets the tyre lever from the boot, the signs behind the car collectively say "information is power". Or as Magnussen puts it: "knowing is owning".
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • "I'm a high-functioning sociopath, do your research."
    • "If you're looking for baby names," also from "A Scandal In Belgravia".
    • "I'm not a hero," a reference to either his "heroes don't exist" line or "I'm on the side of the angels, but don't think for one second that I am one of them" line.
  • Musical Spoiler:
    • Pay attention to the music when Sherlock runs into Moriarty's cell during the mind palace scene; it's the same music played as Moriarty approached the Tower of London before his triple heist in "The Reichenbach Fall" and it plays just before we see Moriarty's face. ("Grimm Fairy Tales" on the Season 2 soundtrack)
    • When all the screens start dissolving to static at the end, the same music plays again right when we can barely make out a figure on the TV, about a minute before we get confirmation that it is indeed Moriarty.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Magnussen is put under the gun of a woman he has blackmailed, exactly how his literary counterpart Charles Augustus Milverton died in "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton." Sherlock's description of his repulsion for Magnussen also comes from that story.
    • As in the original story, Sherlock seduces and gets engaged with a member of CAM's staff to gain access to CAM.
    • The dummy from "The Empty House" (the story) as well as the empty house itself, show up in this episode, except the "dummy" is John.
    • Also Janine mentions moving to a cottage in Sussex and the fact that there are beehives there. In the final Sherlock book, His Last Bow, Sherlock ends up retiring to a small cottage in Sussex, keeping (what else?) bees.
    • John walking into a drug den to find the neighbor's son only to find Sherlock as well is copied from The Man with the Twisted Lip. Originally it was a wayward husband in an opium den.
    • Mary's real initials are A.G.R.A.. The Agra treasure featured in The Sign of (the) Four the case that Mary Morstan first appears in.
    • Sherlock's new protégé Billy Wiggins is based on Wiggins, the leader of the Baker Street Irregulars. His first name may be a shout out to Billy, the page at 221B Baker Street.
    • Mycroft references having another brother at the end of the episode. In the expanded Sherlock Homes universe Sherrinford Holmes (originally an alternate name for Sherlock before Arthur Conan Doyle changed his mind) is the eldest and smartest of the Holmes children. The rationale being that as Holmes come from the gentry class and both Sherlock and Mycroft have salaried careers, then there has to be another Holmes who inherited the family estate and is responsible for running it.
    • Sherlock's mother (named Violet in expanded continuity) is a gifted mathematician. In "The Final Problem", Sherlock describes Moriarty as particularly having "a phenomenal mathematical faculty" and perhaps could have gone into a career in mathematics. Moriarty also wrote a paper entitled "The Dynamics of an Asteroid", mentioned in "The Valley of Fear". Sherlock's mother wrote a book titled "The Dynamics of Combustion".
    • The east wind line is from the canon. In "His Last Bow" Holmes says it, referring to the German threat of the first world war.
    • Sherlock reveals his full name to be William Sherlock Scott Holmes, popularized by Philip José Farmer in The Wold Newton family, and used in the 1977 film Sherlock Holmes in New York, starring Roger Moore.
    • Mrs. Hudson's first name of Martha may be an allusion to Von Bork's elderly maid from "His Last Bow", who some theorise was Mrs. Hudson who, like Watson, had been roped into Holmes' undercover operation.
    • Likewise, Mrs. Hudson's ex-husband being a drug kingpin may be a reference to "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott", where Holmes recalls facing a criminal named "Hudson" in his first case.
    • Magnussen's nickname, "The Napoleon of Blackmail," is a reference to Moriarty being labelled "The Napoleon of Crime" in his first appearance in "The Final Problem". As mentioned above (see Composite Character), Magnussen's portrayal takes many cues from the literary version of Moriarty, to the point that he's arguably more similar to Sir Arthur's Moriarty than Jim Moriarty was.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Downplayed when Sherlock busts into Magnussen's flat only to discover Mary beat him to it and already had him at gunpoint. Downplayed because it's hard to say what the result of that would have been had Sherlock not been there.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: An odd example. Dying Dream mind palace Moriarty taunts Holmes with how when he dies, he'll fail everyone... including John Watson. This is what brings Sherlock back to action, to the hallucination's confusion.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: To wit, MP Garvie asks Magnussen in the opening scene, "Do you think it right that a newspaper proprietor, a private individual and, in fact, a foreign national should have such regular access to our Prime Minister?"
  • Noodle Incident:
    • What did happen to "the other one", Mikey?
    • What were Sherlock and Janine doing in the bathroom?
    • The incident where Sherlock won a building facade covering a Tube railway in a poker game with a cannibal.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: How Magnussen demonstrates his domination over his targets, from flicking their faces to licking them.
  • Not Quite Dead: Moriarty uses every television in the country to reveal himself.
  • Not So Different: At different times in the episode, John's increasing Dissonant Serenity in dealing with some situations makes it look like as if it would be something Sherlock himself would do at his most anti-social.
  • Off the Wagon: Sherlock. John and Molly are absolutely livid with him, despite his claims that he's deliberately relapsed for a case he's working on.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Sherlock is completely floored when he sees it's Mary holding the gun.
    • Also when he learns that the Appledore Vaults do not exist.
    • Mary has one when she realises the dummy she thought was Sherlock is actually John, and who has heard her whole conversation with Sherlock about her past.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Why Mary shoots Sherlock in the sternum rather than the head. Realizing that if she killed Sherlock for walking in on her standoff, John would be blamed for the murders of Sherlock and Magnussen. Thus she neutralizes Sherlock in the most non-lethal way she could manage. Sherlock helps his own situation as well by quickly calculating the most effective way to fall based on the circumstances of the shot and the lack of an exit wound.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Enforced. Mikkelsen, who is capable of speaking with a London accent, was asked to sound more Danish. This is particularly obvious in the opening scene, when Magnussen states his own name.
  • Out-Gambitted: Sherlock just barely comes out on top between him and Magnussen, before that, Magnussen played Sherlock like a harp by tricking him into thinking that there were actually physical records of everything inside vaults.
  • Pædo Hunt: Magnussen exploits this to blackmail Lady Smallwood using Lord Smallwood's romantic correspondence that was (unknowingly) sent to an underage subject.
  • The Patient Has Left the Building: Soon after coming back to life, Sherlock escapes from the hospital bed via window.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Sherlock executing Magnussen.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Mycroft admits that he actually is fond of his little brother.
    • Sherlock pets Redbeard (revealed to be his childhood dog) while in his mind palace in order to calm himself down and pull himself out of shock.
  • Photographic Memory: Magnussen has a form of this that shows up as Stat-O-Vision. He can look at a person and instantly recall everything about them.
  • Pistol Whip: Mary pistol whips Magnussen after Sherlock foiled her assassination attempt.
  • The Power of Love: Sherlock manages to pull himself back from death, because of mind-palace Moriarty's words: "John will cry buckets and buckets. It's him that I worry about the most. That wife... You're letting him down, Sherlock. John Watson is definitely in danger."
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Magnussen invokes this, claiming that he's not some evil man for them to thwart, just a businessman. His main use of his store of blackmail information seems to be to remove threats to his business. As Mycroft points out, he "never causes too much damage". On the other hand, he utterly relishes the control he has over people and when Sherlock offers up Magnussen Mycroft's personal laptop, he's more than eager to get his hands on it.
  • Precision F-Strike: John lets out a "Jesus!" when Magnussen leaves 221B. Understandable since he just urinated in the fireplace.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Oh, do your research! I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Merry Christmas!"
  • Pretty Little Headshots:
    • Sherlock's imagination of getting shot in the head just leaves a neat hole.
    • Averted with Magnussen, as the camera never gets close enough to show the effect, and there's quite a lot of blood visible on the ground beneath him at a distance.
  • Professional Killer: Mary Morstan.
  • Reality Ensues: Sherlock does not get off for killing Magnussen, he's sent on a suicide mission for MI-6 as punishment... until Moriarty shows up.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    Which turns out to be sweet when Sherlock stops himself from being clinically dead since he thought John was in danger.
  • Red Baron: Subverted for laughs with Bill Wiggins.
    Bill: They call me "The Wig".
    Sherlock: No they don't.
    Bill: They call me "Wiggy".
    Sherlock: Nope.
    [beat]
    Bill: Bill. Bill Wiggins.
    Sherlock: Excellent deductions, Billy.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Magnussen has been in England for a while and Sherlock has clearly studied him long enough to hate him, yet he played no part in previous seasons.
  • The Reveal:
    • There's no vault in Appledore. Magnussen stores his blackmail information in his mind, because he's able to use the same "mind palace" technique that Sherlock uses.
    • Mary is actually a former assassin.
    • Moriarty is possibly Not Quite Dead.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: A non-British media mogul who has access to people's personal information who tried to pressure the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Sounds a lot like the News of the World hacking scandal.
  • Rule of Symbolism: There appear to be angel wings on the floor of Moriarty's cell in Sherlock's mind palace.
  • Screaming Woman: Mrs. Hudson freaks out when Moriarty pops back on the telly.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Janine walks out of Sherlock's bedroom wearing one of his shirts and not visibly anything else.
  • Shadow Archetype:
    • Magnussen. Like Sherlock, he cares little for societal norms or niceties, and he has a mind palace.
    • Also, Sherlock apparently isn't the only one who faked his death. Moriarty seems to have as well.
  • Sherlock Scan:
    • Magnussen has a variety, he doesn't see every minute detail about a person, but he does have a form of perfect recall so he knows everything that person has in the form of Stat-O-Vision.
    • The junkie "Wiggy" that Sherlock takes a shining to has a form of this as well, and this is the reason why Sherlock keeps him around.
  • Shirtless Scene: When Sherlock is in the hospital.
  • Shoot the Dog: Sherlock, upon realizing that the information that Magnussen is using to blackmail Mary and torment John is only in his head, grabs John's gun and shoots Magnussen in the head in front of John, Mycroft and several armed police officers. That was more of shooting the son of a bitch, though.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Mycroft mentions a colleague fond of England having a "blunt instrument". Perhaps his or her name also starts with M. There's even a shot reminiscent of one the rooftop scene of Skyfall in the stinger.
    • Several Doctor Who references:
      • When Sherlock is in his mind palace after getting shot and on the brink of death, his friends urge him to stay alive while Moriarty urges him to die. Just like the Fifth Doctor. Coincidentally, the author of the Doctor Who episode that happens in was called "Robert Holmes".
      • Sherlock refers to Mary as "the Doctor's wife" and later asks Mrs. Hudson "Then what, exactly, is the point of you?!", a line almost word-for-word lifted from Amy Pond. The Eleventh Doctor says something similar in "The Impossible Astronaut". Moffat certainly had fun with this one.
      • Not to mention Mary's "mixed messages" of shooting Sherlock, then saving his life, alongside being madly in love with John were very familiar to River's erratic "I love him / I have to kill him" flirting/psychopath behavior in "Let's Kill Hitler."
      • The Christmas Day outfit of the elder Mr. Holmes (Sherlock and Mycroft's dad) screams the Series 5 outfit of the Eleventh Doctor.
      • John and Sherlock's farewell to each other at the end is very reminiscent of the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler's farewell in "Doomsday", with at least two lines pulled from it. ("I can't think of what to say." and "If it's my last chance to say it...")
      • Sherlock uses the sentence "hidden in plain sight" when discussing his hideout with Mary. Said hideout is a house whose interior does not match the exterior, which could be reminiscent of Craig's house or a certain blue box.
      • John dismissing the fact that he does not know Mary's real name and that her name is the one she choose is reminiscent of Clara's conclusion in "The time of the Doctor".
    • An ambiguous mention of "Redbeard" turns out to refer to a childhood memory. Sound familiar?
    • If you've seen Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, then you may note that the film's climactic moment involves the villain displaying an ability previously demonstrated only by Sherlock, and Sherlock defeating him by killing him and sacrificing himself for Watson, something the self-centered villain might have trouble anticipating.
    • Sherlock won a fake-front block of buildings playing poker with a cannibal? One kind of wonders if this was a dig at Magnussen having a more famous brother?
  • Shower of Love: Alluded to when Sherlock's new girlfriend sneaks into the bathroom after him. Turns out there was no sex between them.
  • Stat-O-Vision: Every time we view through Magnussen's eyes when he's wearing his glasses, we see a nifty view of stats about characters he views and their weaknesses. Such as Mrs Hudson's marijuana and history as an exotic dancer, and Irene Adler, Moriarty and Redbeard for Sherlock (among many others for the detective. Actually, it looks like a lot more, but the list is just rotated around to make it look like more. It goes Redbeard, Hounds of The Baskerville, Opium, John Watson, Irene Adler, Jim Moriarty.) Turns out that Magnussen doesn't have an HUD: it's all in his head.
  • Staying Alive: Just layer another one on the meanings of Jim Moriarty's ringtone.
  • The Stinger: Jim Moriarty asking the audience, "Miss me?" after the credits finish.
  • A Storm Is Coming: In Sherlock's mind palace after Mary shoots him, Mycroft tells Sherlock that an east wind is coming (reference to an exchange between Holmes and Watson in the original story "His Last Bow"). Sherlock tells John the same thing when they say goodbye, explaining that this is a story that Mycroft told him as a child; "The East Wind; this terrifying force that lays waste to all in its path. It seeks out the unworthy, and plucks them from the Earth. That was generally me. He was a rubbish big brother." At the end, when Moriarty's return leads to Sherlock's exile being curtailed, John comments that if Moriarty is alive, "he’d better wrap up warm. There's an East Wind coming."
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: "Why is everything always... MY FAULT?!" Made all the more effective due to John kicking a table in his rage at the same time.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Janine is an attractive, witty brunette who manipulates Sherlock to her benefit but also seems to have some sort of feelings for him. He manipulates her in turn. They part on good terms. Sounds a lot like Irene.
  • That Man Is Dead: Or rather, that woman: Mary's past identity.
  • This Is the Part Where...: Magnusson pulls this sarcastically on Sherlock and John, revealing that he knows their plan and it won't work.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Go ahead, Magnussen. Reveal that you knew Sherlock's pressure point, by threatening John's life in front of him. Not like he knows how to kill you. He does.
  • Torment by Annoyance: Magnusson spends some time tormenting a helpless John Watson by flicking him in the face. Because of the blackmail material he has on John's wife, he has no choice but to stand there and take it. Even when the villain moves on to flicking him in the eye. "Try to keep it open, John. Try to keep it open!"
  • Tranquil Fury: John after Mary is revealed as a former assassin and has lied to him since the day they met. He slips into Unstoppable Rage for a moment when he suddenly shouts and kicks a table.
  • Twisted Christmas: Christmas at the Holmes, um, home, starts off ordinarily enough... until Sherlock drugs his family, steals a laptop containing national security secrets, and rushes off to meet a master blackmailer whom he ends up shooting dead.
    John: It's Christmas!
    Sherlock: I feel the same way too... oh you mean it's actually Christmas.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Mycroft and the British Government. Sherlock killed Magnussen. Instead of pardoning Sherlock, or hushing the whole thing up, they send him on a suicide mission for MI-6 because he would just cause prison riots. The MP who hired Sherlock to bring down Magnussen, Lady Smallwood, is the one who signs the order. They only change their minds when Moriarty comes back, and realize how much they need Sherlock.
  • Unstoppable Rage: For a few seconds after Mary is revealed as a former assassin, John loses his shit, slipping from Tranquil Fury into this trope, raising his voice and kicking a table aside before he is able to calm down.
  • Uriah Gambit: Sherlock has, in order to save Watson from a possible treason charge, killed Big Bad Charles Magnussen in cold blood. The government bigwigs quickly realize that, given Holmes saved the entire country from Moriarty last series and is the most popular man in Britain, imprisoning him for this crime would be political suicide for everyone involved. Instead they decide to send him on an extremely difficult mission for MI-6 in the Middle East, presumably hoping he'd die "heroically" and thus keep the public happy. But before his plane even leaves the ground, Moriarty turns out to be not nearly as dead as he seemed.
  • Villain Ball: While he goes out of his way to look clean in terms of blackmail materials, Magnussen does openly admit to kidnapping John Watson and recklessly endangering him as well as admitting to blackmailing whole countries in front of Sherlock and Watson. Had either of them had a recording device, his Evil Gloating would have been his end.
  • Was It All a Lie?: For Mary, no. For Janine, no. For Sherlock, yes.
  • Wham Episode: Mary was a professional killer. Sherlock is shot and nearly dies. Sherlock kills Magnussen to solve the issue. Holmes's subsequent reassignment to East Europe is halted by the return of a seemingly Not Quite Dead Moriarty. Also, Sherlock has another sibling.
  • Wham Line:
    • "That's not Lady Smallwood, Mister Holmes."
    • A wham line more for Sherlock which gives him the drive not to die: "You're letting him down Sherlock, John Watson is definitely in danger."
    • "The Appledore vaults are my mind palace."
    • "Don't be absurd. I'm not given to outbursts of brotherly compassion. You know what happened to the other one."
    • "Did you miss me?"
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Watson gives Sherlock this when he discovers that Sherlock toyed with Janine's feelings (proposed to her) to gain access to Magnussen.
    • Before that, Molly gives him one when he tests positive for drugs.
    • While the occasional killing and injuring of villains is often treated as no big deal in universe, it's very quickly clear that Sherlock's murder of Magnussen is a very big deal. John is stunned and the only thing he manages to say is "CHRIST, SHERLOCK." Mycroft rips off his headset after frantically instructing his men not to fire on Sherlock, and says quietly to himself "Oh, Sherlock, what have you done?"
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: Mary's proposed solution to Magnussen. It's Sherlock who pulls the trigger at the end.
  • Worth Living For: When Mary shoots Sherlock, he goes into in his mind palace, and, when he hears John's in danger, cue him stopping himself from being in this position for his friend.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Magnussen thought Sherlock saw himself as a hero. We all know better than that.
  • You Didn't See That:
    Mycroft Holmes: That name you think you may have just heard. You are mistaken. If you ever mention hearing that name, in this room, in this context, I guarantee you on behalf of the British Security Services that materials will be found on your computer hard-drives resulting in your immediate incarceration. Don't reply, just look frightened and scuttle.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Sherlock thinks this of Mary, so he ignores her warning and takes step into her direction. Wrong deduction, Sherlock.


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