And I've really got to stop using these lame rhyming titles. I think somewhere along the way Sherlock broke my brain.* As with my "Empty Hearse" post, I'm amazed I can produce sentences because my brain is still trying to process everything I've just seen. I've had to pull both Volume I and Volume II of my beat up Bantam Classics from my Sherlockiana Section in order to check certain references. As usual, I'll just babble about all the things that struck me during the episode.
I should start off by saying that "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" is one of my absolute favourite Sherlock Holmes stories. I was both excited and anxious about what Moffat might do to it, especially as Charles Augustus Milverton had become Charles Augustus Magnussen. I mean, it couldn't possibly be as bad as Granada's version ("The Master Blackmailer"), but I still had concerns. They were needless. Again, other fans may not agree, but I love what Moffat did with the story. Magnussen (Lars Mikkelsen) was genuinely creepy. He really did make my skin crawl, so I can only imagine how Lady Smallwood felt!
As soon as I saw that Sherlock and Janine had become a couple, I assumed that she must work for Magnussen and that Sherlock was using her to get information. In the original story, Sherlock poses as a plumber and becomes engaged to a maid in Milverton's household in order to gain access to the house. It's a great modern twist that the maid has become a PA and gets revenge on Sherlock afterwards. Nice reference to Holmes's canon retirement spot, the Sussex Downs. I love the way Sherlock winces when Janine mentions getting rid of all the bees. *g* I just had to check both these things, but Lady Eva Blackwell becomes Lady Elizabeth Smallwood, while Appledore Towers is now the huge Appledore complex. Saying that, I was impressed by how closely Moffat stuck to the original story. Sherlock and John are still breaking and entering in the hope of retrieving their client's letters, and a lady is holding a gun on Magnussen. However, what completely took me by surprise was seeing Mary standing there with the gun instead of Lady Smallwood. And she shoots Sherlock instead of Magnussen when Lady Blackwell shoots and kills Milverton in canon. And I'm smacking my forehead for not seeing it because John points out that Lady Smallwood isn't the only one who wears Claire de la Lune perfume...
I'm still trying to work out how I feel about this new Mary. On the whole, I think I really like the Sherlock version. While I'm genuinely fond of canon Mary Morstan, she's always struck me as being a bit mousy. It's really cool to see Moffat take Mary Morstan to the opposite extreme and make her a trained killer. I love it when John asks why he ended up with a psychopath, and Sherlock points out that she has to be because John picked her. John really is addicted to danger, so, in the Sherlock universe, it makes sense that he'd fall for a woman who embodies it. I was also thrilled to see another Sign of Four reference with that A.G.R.A. memory stick (in place of the Agra treasure). As in the original novel, John Watson ends up with Mary Morstan alone. The Agra treasure is lost at the bottom of the Thames in The Sign of Four, and John throws the memory stick on the fire in this episode. Lastly, I got a kick out of seeing Mary Morstan's journey being reversed in "His Last Vow". She becomes the client after marrying John Watson rather than the other way round. It's wonderful when Sherlock repeatedly asks John who Mary is at that exact moment, and John realizes that she's their client.
Other than tackling "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton," I was happy to see that big shout out to "The Man with the Twisted Lip," with Sherlock going undercover in a crack house instead of an opium den, and John searching for Kate Whitney's son instead of her husband. It was also nice to see another reference to "The Empty House" with those literal empty houses on Leinster Terrace, not to mention the dummy, who is no dummy at all once he wakes up and smells the perfume. Moffat even dips into Baring-Gould when Sherlock gives his full name (William Sherlock Scott Holmes) to John. Of course, it couldn't be "His Last Vow" without a nod to "His Last Bow". That "east wind" was mentioned several times:
There's an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast.
In "His Last Bow," the east wind is referring to the First World War. Holmes goes undercover as an Irish-American named Altamont, which ties in nicely to that undercover job Sherlock almost pursues in "His Last Vow". I'm not quite sure what the "east wind" means in "His Last Vow". Is it Moriarty returning from the dead? While only Moriarty would be evil enough to interrupt Lestrade's football match, I can't help feeling that it's not actually Moriarty but another villain using his face. Of course, as Moffat and Gatiss are big fans of the Basil Rathbone films (where Moriarty comes back from the dead on a regular basis), I could be wrong. I guess we'll find out in two years' time.
* And here's proof! I almost forgot about Billy Wiggins! What a fantastic gift for the fans with this combination of both the Billy and Wiggins characters into one! And both Billy and Wiggins were Holmes's protégés, so combining the characters in this modern version makes sense.