The short and spoiler free version:
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Overall: A great villain, and some nice ideas, but maybe could have been better executed overall. Sherlock’s character consistency debatably suffers another blow whilst John’s character gets nicely developed.
Summary: Magnussen, the man with all the information, is blackmailing someone very close to Sherlock. Sherlock then treads a dangerous line to protect his friends.
The slightly longer version (spoilers throughout):
There were some great moments in this. Magnussen as a villain was quite excellent. Doing small and debasing acts because his sheer power allowed him too led to some compelling scenes, including urinating in 221B’s fireplace and flicking John’s face (much more sinister than it sounds, credit to Lars Mikklesen). He reminded me somewhat of the Irene Adler storyline, having information with which to control people – except his isn’t stored on a phone (so last series). The cinematography trick with his glasses providing information a bit like Iron Man’s visor but more understated was a nice touch, and obviously led us into Sherlock’s later assumption that they were a techy hyperlink to a blackmail database.
Whilst a nice plot device I find it more believable that Sherlock would firstly assume Magnussen was simply reading people for information rather than searching for it on Blackmoogle.
The second highlight here had to be Mary. For a moment I’m sure many suffered from a sudden fear that she was going to end up on the bad side. Thankfully, it was better than that. Her great gunshot (shot – haha – with excellent cinematography) and somehow fitting revelation worked very well. And one of my favourite moments was in the discussion of John’s attraction to danger. That was well pitched, coming at a good point in the series, and nicely entwined with the Mary situation. I also enjoyed the whole scene quite literally set behind a facade (I see what you did there writers) and how Sherlock reveals the truth to John before the unhappy couple have an ex-military domestic.
Another nice highlight of this episode was the brotherly banter – Mycroft-Sherlock interactions are quite unique and for me seeing more of them together has been one of my favourite things about this series.
Now, forgive me whilst I play Moriarty for a bit and criticise a bit of Sherlock’s character in this episode.
Janine. As much as I’m sure the writers had fun with this (our reaction’s were John’s and they know it) I find it a little unlikely, if not a tad insulting. I don’t believe him incapable of using manipulation to get something he wants. Before the end of the second season, he did it it to Molly. But in this episode to believe he would go to such unreliable lengths in which he has limited experience in the hope of getting access to Magnussen’s office seems to me quite improbable – I actually find the idea of Sherlock simply blackmailing her more likely. But choosing to boyfriend her instead would suggest he gained other perks from the experience – yet this directly contradicts his dismissiveness of her and his so claimed sociopathic tendences. Sociopathic really is as close to sociopath as he gets, especially in this series. It’s an outdated and vague term, used by Sherlock presumably as a disguise and by the writers as a plot device. And Janine just letting it go – well if she had that reason in the first place surely he would have deduced it and they could have negotiated the act for mutual benefit beforehand? I have an increasing feeling that throughout this series especially, Sherlock’s ‘sociopathy’ has been played alternately for laughs or heart string tugs at a whim.
The ending of the episode was a mixed bag for me. The ‘it was hard to find a pressure point on you’ was a bit confusing at first – the scrolling graphic at the start made me think he’d seen plenty on Sherlock, not that he was searching for one. Also I was almost expecting some kind of Mind Palace war – I don’t know how – but it might have been cool. Apart from the Blackmoogle glasses there wasn’t much text-play in this episode. But aside from that, after much twisting and turning in my mind over the manipulation and murder, I forgive it. Well, almost. It’s not exactly satisfactory, but maybe that’s the point. Also the ‘you know what happened to the other one’ line from Mycroft made my ears perk up – there was another Holmes brother? Well, anyway. As for Moriarty, I don’t believe it’s actually him. You know Sherlock kind of taking on an apprentice this episode? I think it might have been foreshadowing for Moriarty having one.
I suppose that’s it for now. I would put something witty in to sign off until the next series, but…