This should go without saying, but I so loved the surprise ending of this episode that I'm going to say it anyway just in case: there are major spoilers for the third season finale of Sherlock in here. If you haven't seen His Last Vow yet, I beg you not to read further.
Now that that piece of housekeeping is out of the way, let's get on with it: I absolutely loved this episode even though I know I shouldn't have.
Admittedly, the end in particular should've served as further proof of my argument about Moffat not understanding grief, nor being able to let characters just die. But I love Andrew Scott in this role. I just do. More importantly, I think the clues to Moriarty not being dead were there the whole time and that this was a pretty deliberate set-up, as opposed to Moffat trying to go back and erase a rash decision.
In the premiere, when everyone was coming up with theories about Sherlock's faked death, there was a very glaring lack of continuity that people weren't picking up on: none of the oral reconstructions seemed to agree about what happened to Moriarty's body. In one version, a Sherlock mask is placed over his face and, presumably, he's buried in Sherlock's grave. In another, he and Sherlock are simply alive together, kissing and cuddling. In Sherlock's own version, Moriarty's corpse is simply irrelevant. Which means, basically, that Moriarty's body was not found at the scene. Otherwise Anderson, of all people, would know about it and would know it couldn't have been used for a body swap.
Now some people are arguing that it's possible that this is Moriarty's brother (who does exist in canon, though I'm not sure that he's ever meant to be Jim's twin), or that — and this idea has floated around for a very long time — Andrew Scott was never the "real" Moriarty but rather Sebastian Moran, Moriarty's answer to John Watson. And now we're going to meet the "real" Moriarty.
Maybe. But if that means that we don't get Andrew Scott next season, I'll pass.
On to the rest of the episode: I have to admit that I was annoyed that Moffat was able to make me feel so engaged, excited, nervous and happy throughout this episode since he's failed to give me even one of those emotions over the last two seasons of Doctor Who. There were a couple of Moffatisms that made my blood simmer just a little — like Sherlock's emotional manipulation of the lovely Janine, which is excused by Moffat turning Janine into a "tabloid whore," though the headline He Made Me Wear the Hat almost made up for it.
Without being a total ingrate, I'll argue that the reason I cared about Mary and her entire (admittedly insane) story line in this episode is because of the groundwork laid by Mark Gatiss in the last two episodes. And, of course, because of Amanda Abbington's endearing and surprisingly believable performance.
This, however, does bring me to one of my big pet peeves, though:
Ugh. The scene where Sherlock essentially argues that John picked Mary because deep down he knew she was dangerous and that he's attracted to that lifestyle? That didn't sit well with me. Nor did it make a whole lot of sense. Here's the difference between John being eager to partner up with Sherlock and John being eager to partner up with Mary: John knew full well ahead of time what Sherlock's life entailed. Mary specifically and deliberately tricked him. For good reason, sure, but the idea is that Mary wanted to mostly live a quiet life with John, not that on their first date she said, "Well, my last job involved killing people and this is actually a fake identity. Also I'll have the soup."
Making Mary's secret identity somehow John's fault was just odd. But again, Abbington is so charming and lovely that I can overlook Sherlock's weird analysis of John's inner feelings despite the fact that he's been obtuse about them on every other occasion.
I'm not sure that many other actors could've made face-flicking seem so sinister and disturbing, or peeing in a fireplace for that matter. The resolution with Magnussen's mind palace doesn't make a lot of sense, I grant you — where does he get the files in the first place? Does he burn them afterwards? Why would you tell someone, "Hey, the files are in my brain. Three guesses as to how you could destroy them!" But all in all, Lars gave us a great one-off villain, especially in a season that was devoid of any real antagonists up to this point.
Is he definitely for sure dead? It's Moffat, so I'm not holding my breath. I kind of think that Sherlock saying he made a deal with the devil wouldn't just involve his brother's password protected computer. Plus I've reached a point where unless I actually see the bullet enter a character's head on this show, I'm not going to assume they're dead. The far-away shot with Magnussen crumpling didn't do much to convince me, apart from the fact that John was obviously a witness.
But this is all speculation. If Mikkelsen is a one-off villain, I think he did a damn find job.
So in this episode, we had Martin Freeman's partner playing his wife, Benedict Cumberbatch's parents playing his parents and Steven Moffat's son playing a young Sherlock. And you know what? It was cute. I will say that when people who are actually related to one-another play relatives on screen, I don't glean any additional sense of connection between the characters because they're never playing themselves — they're all still playing characters. All the same, it's lucky to have a lot of actors in the same family, especially when two people have produced such a strange-looking creature as Benedict Cumberbatch. It does work better if you have his real genetic contributors from a visual standpoint.
Was the dragon conversation an extra wink at The Hobbit? Probably.
And that's pretty much it, friends. I know it's a big departure from my attitude about the last two episodes, but I can't help it: I had a good time, I'm glad that Moriarty is probably back and I loved Lars Mikkelsen. Some things didn't make sense, sure, but I was entertained and that's the biggest factor when it comes to any form of, you know, entertainment.