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Plot question in Sherlock Season 3 Episode 3
February 16, 2014 4:10 AM   Subscribe

Plot question about the final episode of Sherlock (BBC), Season 3 [spoilers inside]

I've watched the episode twice now and haven't been able to figure out a plot point. It's possible that it doesn't have an in-universe answer, but I'm curious to how it could have been done:

Sherlock and John Watson manage to get into Magnussen's office via the engagement ring trick. When they get up there, they find Sherlock's girlfriend and another guard knocked unconscious, and (spoiler alert) Mary Watson with a gun aimed at Magnussen.

Question: how was Mary able to get into the office before Sherlock and Watson? Did she enter through another way than the elevator? Was she watching Sherlock's girlfriend answer the call on the video screen? If she knew they were coming up, why didn't she stay hidden?

It seems unlikely that she used the same method of Sherlock, because then she'd be wearing street clothes instead of the all black ninja outfit.

Sherlock seems to have figured it all out, because he recaps it to Watson later and says that when she finished calling the ambulance she went back the way she came.

Another thing I can't figure out: why was Magnussen in his office to begin with? I thought Sherlock chose that time because he was going to be at dinner. Why wouldn't Mary Watson have waited until he left the building to assassinate him, rather than risk having to break in and then escape?
posted by amicamentis to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Mary is a former CIA agent and thus we can assume she used her l33t spy skillz to get in.

London's public spaces are covered with a panopticon of security cameras so it actually makes sense to murder someone in a private office (where you can most likely access and disable/wipe any security camera system from one central location) than out in public (where you're being recorded by a plethora of public and private security cameras).

Don't think about it too hard -- the episode's plot hinges on some extraordinary coincidences in timing.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:32 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


Just spontaneously, I'm with Jacqueline, or rather: at that point of the story, we don't even half know how good Mary is (not yet knowing that she's a former CIA agent) and thus we are not shown what spy skills she applied for getting in. The only thing we're made to think is wow. such good. very surprise.

[But we'll discuss this further over here...]
posted by Namlit at 5:07 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


It's also curious that when they first meet, Magnussen's security is quick to pat them down for weapons. But later when he wisks them to Appledore via helicopter John can sneak a gun in with no one checking.
posted by cephalopodcast at 5:49 AM on February 16


Some discussion of the same issue on /r/Sherlock: here (basically the answer is "Spy Stuff"). General discussion/speculation about the episode here and on other threads .
posted by melissasaurus at 6:39 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


Sherlock's girlfriend was also the Maid of Honor at John and Mary's wedding. I'd assumed that Mary's entry had less to do with "spy stuff" than with her and Mary being (apparently) close friends and the same sort of social engineering (ie: don't make me say this in the lobby) that Sherlock uses.
posted by anastasiav at 7:50 AM on February 16 [10 favorites]


Another thing I can't figure out: why was Magnussen in his office to begin with? I thought Sherlock chose that time because he was going to be at dinner. Why wouldn't Mary Watson have waited until he left the building to assassinate him, rather than risk having to break in and then escape?

I assumed Mary had some information Sherlock didn't have about Magnussen's whereabouts that night and/or she was following him.

It's also curious that when they first meet, Magnussen's security is quick to pat them down for weapons. But later when he wisks them to Appledore via helicopter John can sneak a gun in with no one checking.

I see this as an arrogant mistake on Magnussen's part. He wrongly assumed he had beaten Sherlock and now "owned" Sherlock, John, and Mary. Perhaps his fatal mistake was in thinking Sherlock wouldn't shoot him.
posted by futureisunwritten at 9:03 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Sherlock's girlfriend was also the Maid of Honor at John and Mary's wedding. I'd assumed that Mary's entry had less to do with "spy stuff" than with her and Mary being (apparently) close friends and the same sort of social engineering (ie: don't make me say this in the lobby) that Sherlock uses.

This. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Mary only formed a friendship with her eventual maid of honor for the same reason Sherlock dated her: a long con for the purposes of gaining entry.
posted by davejay at 10:01 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


I see this as an arrogant mistake on Magnussen's part. He wrongly assumed he had beaten Sherlock and now "owned" Sherlock, John, and Mary. Perhaps his fatal mistake was in thinking Sherlock wouldn't shoot him.

I'd go with the assumption that Sherlock was intending to have him arrested rather than killed, and that Sherlock's own intentions and methods ensured too many of his own witnesses would see/know Sherlock killed him, and therefore Sherlock's desire to preserve himself would make killing a non-starter by any mechanism.
posted by davejay at 10:05 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Sherlock's girlfriend was also the Maid of Honor at John and Mary's wedding. I'd assumed that Mary's entry had less to do with "spy stuff" than with her and Mary being (apparently) close friends and the same sort of social engineering (ie: don't make me say this in the lobby) that Sherlock uses.

It's been a couple of weeks since I watched the episode, but I seem to remember that Sherlock mentions befriending whatshername as part of Mary's plan when he's rattling off all his deductions about/to Mary afterward.

As to Magnussen being in his office: He's supposed to know everything about everybody, right? There's no way he doesn't know that his assistant is Sherlock's girlfriend. Maybe he's been expecting Sherlock to pull something like this.
posted by camyram at 10:47 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


By a strange coincidence, it's about 2 weeks since *I* watched the episode, but I also remember dialogue mentioning the assumption that Mary befriended Sherlock's GF for the same reason. And of course Mary has mad skilz, as has been established. But no, there was nothing in detail that explained how Mary got in the office.

Sherlock (much like the original books) is not afraid of coincidences, leaving loose ends, etc. So it's full of Batman Gambits, which leads to some Fridge Moments.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:57 PM on February 16


Following up on this -- and forgive the derail -- does anyone have a clear sense of why Sherlock shoots the guy at the end? They've just discovered that he keeps no physical evidence, which is the "leverage" he holds over his victims.

So... the villain appears to have revealed that he couldn't actually follow through on any of his threats. Doesn't this neuter his ability to blackmail Sherlock, Watson, and by extension, anyone who believes them?

Also: was anyone else expecting that Sherlock's brother would execute the villain upon learning that his evidence was mental? Up until Sherlock fired the gun, I was fully expecting him to shout "it's a memory palace," at which point the shocking twist would be a state execution of the villain on his own porch.

It's been weeks and I'm still baffled by the ending. Someone please help me make sense of it.
posted by ®@ at 4:09 PM on February 16


He shot Magnussen to protect John and Mary as per his last vow in the previous episode.
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:30 PM on February 16


the villain appears to have revealed that he couldn't actually follow through on any of his threats.

Doesn't matter; as the character mentions, he's a newspaper man. It's sufficient for him to make the allegations in public, with the confidence that the allegations are true, so nobody would dare sue him (as the truth would be found out by the courts, even if he didn't have the facts at hand.)
posted by davejay at 5:15 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


They don't explain how Mary got into the office.

It's been weeks and I'm still baffled by the ending. Someone please help me make sense of it.

The more you think about it, the less sense it makes.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:59 PM on February 16


Didn't Magnussen basically say that since he knew everybody's deep dark secrets, if Sherlock & Watson screwed with him then he'd put pressure on somebody -- probably someone that neither Sherlock nor Watson knew -- to assassinate Mary? Or something?

And the thing to remember about sociopaths (which Sherlock is) is that they are fiercely loyal to their friends. Who their friends are, and how they treat them, and how they define "loyalty" might be weird, but I thought it made total sense that Sherlock realized the only way to keep his best friend safe and happy was to destroy the evidence. When it became apparent that the evidence was all in Magnussen's head, it became pretty obvious that there was only one way to destroy that evidence. Add Chekov's gun into the mix and I would have been peeved if he hadn't done it.
posted by nushustu at 10:09 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


@@: Following up on this -- and forgive the derail -- does anyone have a clear sense of why Sherlock shoots the guy at the end?

Remember also the external context of the Leveson Inquiry. Magnusson is a pretty obvious stand in for Murdoch, and I can't help thinking the unceremonious execution was a bit of fantasy wish fulfilment for the audience (and writers).
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:42 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


does anyone have a clear sense of why Sherlock shoots the guy at the end?

There's something in the extra material, where they discuss how absolutely appalled Sherlock is about how Magnusson deals with other people. It's a special case for him.
Yes, and also because of his vow at the wedding.
posted by Namlit at 2:54 AM on February 18


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