“Only the very front section of the house remains. It’s just a façade. Remind you of anyone, Mary?”
I wish the whole of “His Last Vow” had been about the lie of Leinster Gardens: doors without doorknobs, widows that are never lit, an empty house built to look like something it isn’t. What a cool and vaguely unsettling image. The parallels aren’t subtle in the least, but I can’t remember the last time a building gave me so many feelings. It’s all hollow, an abandoned structure that only sees life when a train runs through it. And as we all remember from the premiere, trains are actually bombs.
So what kind of bomb is Mary Morstan? In “The Adventure of the Empty House,” Conan Doyle wrote Watson as a widower, but there’s more than one way to leave a house empty. Mary shot Sherlock. Point blank. She shot him, even after he confidently insisted that she wouldn’t, because she’s Mrs. Watson. That killed me–the same Sherlock Holmes who once saw John by that pool and thought he’d been betrayed by his best friend was now so certain of his relationships that he could stand there and insist that John’s wife wouldn’t shoot him. And she did.
But as it turns out, there was a bit of poolside fakery going on in Magnussen’s apartment too. If Mary wanted Sherlock dead, he’d be dead. He’s alive because she looked at his pretty face and thought about all of the time they’d spent whispering about John and his seven extra pounds. (Webisode idea: that conversation. Title: “More to Love.”) Mary didn’t want that to end, for any of them, so she bought herself time to convince Sherlock that she was still on his side.
Funny how the only thing you have to do to prove you’re on Sherlock’s side is to prove you’re on John’s. For all of her secrets, Mary never lied about her feelings for John Watson. She put herself in danger and let her blackmailer live to avoid implicating her husband, which makes her the second person in John’s life to be redeemed by his warmth and constancy. So she’s a killer. So what? She fits right in with these weirdos who talk to skulls and miss being at war. The Watson we met in season one was looking for his next fight, and he found it in Sherlock. Now, he’s found it in Mary. John is a fastidiously ordinary person attracted to a bigger life. Sherlock is the opposite: a great man who sees meaning in the smallest details.
In short, everyone on this show is a badass, and John just has to accept that. But no matter how much he loves danger, and no matter what Mary and Sherlock might try to suggest, this isn’t on him. Mary is not like this because John chose her. He might’ve chosen her because she’s like this, but I think that’s an important distinction. John is the only one with any right to decide how this plays out, but he immediately invites Sherlock into the process anyway. They read each other’s minds. Sherlock sets out John’s chair, knowing exactly what’s coming, and John picks up on the hint. “Your way. Always your way.” All of those Baker Street interrogations, the potential clients who came through the door, were leading to this.
“This is where they sit and talk. And this is where we sit and listen.”
Martin Freeman won a BAFTA, you guys. He makes John’s reconciliation with Mary into something earned and carefully considered. Amanda Abbington sells Mary’s desperation–she might be an assassin, but she knows this whole matter is up to John. She wants a life with him so badly, and who wouldn’t? “The problems of your past are your business. The problems of your future are my privilege.”
And with that, we get to keep Mary. Now we just have to hope that she gets to keep her badassery, in all its forms. Mary’s brilliant, capable, warm, quick witted, and confident, and she has been since we met her. I don’t want the show to suggest that Mary is only this cool because she’s a killer (because how can a woman be powerful without a gun?). She’s so much more than her history with the CIA. John can see that, so fingers crossed that the show will too, even given Moffat’s track record with women.
Because really, what happened to Janine? The woman we met at John’s wedding was a friend. She recognized straightaway that Sherlock is “whatever he is” and would never make a traditional boyfriend, yet here she is wearing his shirt. Janine should know better. She even tells him in the hospital that she knows what kind of man he is, but that would only make sense if she’d been playing him from the start, and her spur-of-the-moment opportunistic revenge plan suggests that she wasn’t. Oh, show. There are ways to gain a woman’s trust that aren’t romantic. They could have been friends. At least their relationship gave us this John face.
Poor exasperated John. A couple of months without Sherlock and he’s going rogue on junkies and sassing them when they pull out their knives. I’m not sure why he’s doing this now, when it would make so much more sense during Sherlock’s two year absence, but we all know it’s more than a tiny bit sexy. Also sexy?
Molly Hooper, ladies and gentlemen: scientist, confidante, and queen of Sherlock’s mind palace. Someone’s got to be the voice of reason here. Sherlock just relapsed for the sake of a case, just so Magnussen would write him off as an addict. Is he really such a casual user that he can just walk away? Even if he is, I’m with Molly here. Nothing is worth that.
Magnussen foils Sherlock in a way that no criminal has before, because they play the exact same game. They know people. CAM sees everything that goes on in London and recognizes the information that runs the city. He keeps his own mind palace. They’re mirror opposites. Magnussen is Sherlock without anyone he’d die for.
John shot a guy for Sherlock when they’d only just met, and it was glorious, but there was never much risk he’d get caught. Sherlock shot one of London’s most powerful people for John in full view of one of London’s other most powerful people, who also happens to be his brother. There was no way out and no way for Mycroft (who still sees Sherlock as a scared little boy, and who’d “break” if he lost him) to show any kind of favoritism. Sherlock had to know what was coming. He wasn’t just ready to kill for John. He was ready to go to his death for him. There was nothing left to say on the Tarmac because that says it all.
Only on Sherlock would the return of a crazy murderous arch-nemesis be the happy ending we need to save the day. If Sherlock and John need each other personally, he and Moriarty need each other professionally: it’s almost like Moriarty came back when he did just so Sherlock would be saved. Of course we missed him. But how did Moriarty fake his death? Is it tied up somehow in how Sherlock faked his? Will we get both explanations now?
Probably not, but we have a long time to make up our own.
Bits and Pieces:
Mycroft and Sherlock need to keep up this love fest, because I’m into it.
“I am not given to outbursts of brotherly compassion. You know what happened to the other one.” WHAT.
Mycroft literally dismisses Lestrade.
Adelaide Brooke, forever a star.
“Is it a CLUE? You doing a mime?”
“I’m looking for a friend. Very specific friend. I’m not just browsing.”
“I hope I won’t have to threaten you as well.” “Well I think we’d both find that embarrassing.” I love the fact that John isn’t scared of Mycroft almost as much as Mycroft does.
Molly’s engagement is over, because meat dagger. Don’t try to tell me she and Sherlock aren’t happening.
Sherlock has a lot of pressure points for someone who theoretically isolates himself.
“They’re putting me down too” is the RUDEST LINE EVER WRITTEN ON THIS TERRIBLE SHOW.
Sherlock MAKES his heart start beating for JOHN.
Of course Greg wants a video.
“But it’s Christmas!” “I feel the same. Oh you mean it’s actually Christmas.”
Has the BBC hired Moffat to market its t-shirt line?
“Why would I bring my gun to your parents’ house for Christmas dinner?!” “Is it in your coat?” “Yes!”
MARTIN THE BUTLER.
“Hello little brother, how’s the exile going?” “I’ve only been gone four minutes.” “Well I certainly hope you’ve learned your lesson.”
“The game is never over, John.”
Happy hiatus, Sherlockians.