Sherlock: His Last Vow, BBC1, with Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Amanda Abbington, Lars Mikkelsen PREVIEW

Sherlock Holmes (BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH) BBC
Sherlock didn’t hate Moriarty, but he hates Magnussen in His Last Vow. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★★

BBC1: Sunday, 12 January, 8.30pm 

Story: 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…

‘THAT’S THE THING with Sherlock,’ says Watson in tonight’s finale. ‘There’s always the unexpected.’

It’s an easy deduction that Watson’s claim is an early entry for the understatement of 2014.

Because tonight’s dazzling climax is chock-full of jaw-dropping surprises, twists and delights. Written by Steven Moffat – Doctor Who head honcho and prime moving force behind this Sherlock update along with Mark Gatiss – it’s one of the absolute top episodes in what is already a tremendous series.

Lady Smallwood (LINDSAY DUNCAN), Magnussen ( LARS MIKKELSEN) Sherlock BBC
Lady Smallwood (LINDSAY DUNCAN) and Magnussen ( LARS MIKKELSEN)

Lars Mikkelsen as the loathsome Magnussen

Like a magician, Moffat diverts and stuns us with a series of revelations and intrigues that make the 90-
minute film fly by.

Lars Mikkelsen, of The Killing and Borgen fame, joins in the fun as one of the nastiest and most disconcerting villains Sherlock has encountered. He is media mogul Charles Augustus Magnussen, a world-class hoarder of personal secrets that he can use to blackmail whomever he chooses.

And Sherlock, not a chap normally ruled by his emotions, loathes Magnussen (he calls him ‘the worst man in London’ in the original story). When the slimeball turns up at Baker Street, he makes himself at home in a particularly offensive way.

Dr John Watson (MARTIN FREEMAN) Sherlock BBC
Watson again finds Sherlock anything but elementary

Tension, laughs and tears

Anyway, it is not possible to reveal more of what’s in store. In the first place, it would be mean and sad to spoil things for anyone tuning in, and secondly, the security around the series is now so tight that you almost suspect Mycroft Holmes is organising it.

The Beeb sent me a email outlining what was verboten for this post. Here’s a redacted version:

  •          Anything related to the revelation of XXXXXXX.
  •          The lengths Sherlock goes to to XXXXXXXX
  •          The truth about Magnussen’s XXXXXXXXX
  •          Sherlock’s XXXXXX and the fact that XXXXXXX
  •          Sherlock’s XXXXXXX in the episode
  •          The fact that Sherlock XXXXXXX
  •          The appearance of XXXXXX
  •          The ending

Only someone with the evil impulses of a Moriarty would want to divulge all this anyway. But what can be revealed is that the production values are lavish, the soundtrack is again superb, there’s a wonderful ‘mind palace’ sequence, plus tension, laughs and tears.

Amanda Abbington as Mary

Moffat and co-writer/star Mark Gatiss have pushed the characters hard in this latest series. Where so

Mary Morstan (AMANDA ABBINGTON) Sherlock BBC
Mary has been a brilliant addition to the series

many TV dramas are about preserving characters in aspic, Moffat and Gatiss are so in the groove with the Sherlockian world that they’ve shown new angles and depths to Holmes and Watson throughout the series.

Any caveats? Sherlock acts in what seems an out-of-character fashion at the final confrontation, though that could have ramifications in the next series.

But bringing Amanda Abbington in as Mary has been a masterstroke. Her performance is hugely enjoyable and the character has helped to bring out Holmes in all his ridiculousness and brilliance.

Now the poor chaps have set the bar extremely high for series four. Apparently, a fourth and fifth series are planned, and will follow ‘quickly’.

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock Holmes, Martin Freeman John Watson, Mark Gatiss Mycroft, Rupert Graves Inspector Lestrade, Una Stubbs Mrs Hudson, Amanda Abbington Mary Morstan, Louise Brealey Molly Hooper, Lars Mikkelsen Charles Augustus Magnussen, Lindsay Duncan Lady Smallwood

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