In the His Last Vow (s03e03) episode when Charles Augustus Magnussen first come to meet Sherlock his bodyguard searched Sherlock and Watson for weapons. But at the climax when the detective duo reached the Magnussen house his bodyguards didn't bother to check them. Why?

If they had, Charles Augustus Magnussen would not be killed by SH.


4 Answers 4


The gun is actually not that relevant.

I cannot quite get my head around why:

Magnusson revealed so clearly that the only copy of all of the blackmail information is in his head with no backups. Even if Holmes and Watson were not armed they could still have killed him with their bare hands. They were both facing life imprisonment for treason so killing him would hardly make things worse.

The only thing I can think of is that he got so carried away with his power and his intellectual dual with Holmes that he forgot:

He can still be bested physically. The triumph went to his, already arrogant, head and whilst he had all of the clever options covered he neglected the 'stupid' option of just killing him and taking the consequences.

  • 6
    Building upon your answer I think Charles did have some kind of fail-safe plan which will be revealed in later season. Sherlock made a vow in Watson's wedding that he will protect all three of them. Now if SH killed Mag in closed door Watson will also be imprisoned. So SH killed him in front of eye-witnesses as so Watson didn't get harmed. Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 12:57
  • @tintinmj, good points!
    – Stefan
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 13:52
  • 1
    @Stefan great answer, Remember how sherlock commenting to watson about the cabbie. "Frailty of genius john, he needs an audience!!" so i am assuming magnussen got a little too reckless.
    – Dredd
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 22:52

From an interview with Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat:


  • [I wrote a scene where] Sherlock and John go to him, and Magnussen’s decided to go for a swim so he just takes his clothes off. He gets into his Speedos. So he’s so bored of them, so uninterested, so unaware that they’re there, that he just behaves like that.


  • It would be like a Roman emperor, where they just didn’t even acknowledge that the servants were there. They just put their hand out for something.


  • That sense of entitlement... It’s what brings him down of course, that it doesn’t occur to him that Sherlock Holmes might just shoot him. He hasn’t factored that in. He doesn’t think people can do that.
  • 4
    Personal thoughts: (1) The last sentence seems a bit odd, given that Mary did try to shoot him. Did he just forget that incident? - (2) And if he generally can't imagine poeple having the audacity to to kill him, why does he have Sherlock and John frisked the first time they meet?
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 22:34
  • +1 this is the best answer as it references the thoughts of the creators themselves and so is less speculative. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 14:43

For all of Magnussen's power in having "a very good memory", his primary weakness is assuming that once he has someone's pressure point, they will simply bow down to him. This was already evident in Lady Smallwood - he was able to intimidate her enough that he could lick her face and she'd do nothing about it, but he didn't anticipate that she would ask someone else for help. When it came time to confront Sherlock and John, even revealing where he kept his 'files' didn't seem to be a bother to him. As far as he was concerned, neither man would actually go so far as to kill him in cold blood. John is a soldier, a man of honour who would only kill when there was no other alternative (if memory serves, the only person he actually kills during the 9 episodes of Sherlock is the cabbie at the end of A Study In Pink). Certainly, if John was going to kill Magnussen, he would have done it beforehand. Sherlock, meanwhile, was not someone whom anyone would expect to kill someone else (if anything, Mycroft wouldn't hesitate to put a bullet in Magnussen's head if necessary). Thus, Magnussen fell by his weakness of assuming. There's a reason why they say when you assume, "you make an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me'".

  • I actually expected John to be the one who shoots Magnussen. As you say, John has already killed once to save a friend's live, and afterwards he assured Sherlock that he wouldn't lose any sleep over it because the cabbie "wasn't a very nice man". - Surely John would also be willing to kill the not very nice Magnussen to keep Mary (and his unborn child) save.
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 1:16
  • @Oliver_C John wouldn't have wanted to go to jail for the rest of his life and leave Mary and his baby without a husband and father. Sherlock had no such worries. Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 16:17
  • Well, yet again someone had made the error of assuming Sherlock to belong to the good guys, I guess.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 22:20

The simplest answer is his overconfidence

When Magnussen first meets Sherlock to negotiate the return of the evidence embarrassing to Lady Smallwood, he sends his goons in first to secure the environment and search Sherlock and Watson. This happens at Baker Street. At this point Magnussen doesn't really know what he will face and may be wary of Sherlock.

Later, two things have happened. Sherlock has saved Magnussen's life or at least interrupted an event that could have led to his death and distracted his assailant who seemed about to kill him. Since the assailant shoots Sherlock, you could argue that Sherlock took a bullet for him. Also, Magnussen has managed to get plenty of dirt on Sherlock and, as a result, may be more confident in facing him.

So Magnussen may be overconfident. Also, he invites Sherlock to his home base, sending a helicopter. Moreover, he is expecting to beat Sherlock in the negotiation for Mycroft's laptop. It seems that he has predicted Sherlock's strategy and wants to lord it over the detective by showing that his plan to facilitate a security search of his base to uncover his secret files won't work. Again, this might contribute to overconfidence on his part. Therefore no need to search Sherlock.

It is also worth pointing out that it isn't at all obvious that Sherlock planned

to shoot Magnussen.

Sherlock looks like he didn't expect to be bested by Magnussen. He could be putting on an act, but maybe he really was surprised to be beaten and improvised a new strategy on the spot. His actions are certainly unprecedented and a shock to Watson and the audience (making at least 4 mindf**ks in a single script).

  • 2
    Magnussen threatened to expose Mary, which means he knew that even though she lied to John and shot Sherlock, they still stood by her. So, Mary wants him dead, John and Sherlock are in cahoots with Mary, ... how could Magnussen not be suspicious? - Sherlock did ask John to bring his gun, so he kind of expected to encounter a problem that couldn't be solved by wits alone.
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 22:42
  • 1
    +1, I agree totally. Everything about Magnussen was intended to exhibit him as a narcissistic egotist. He needed to search them when making his little 'home invasion', but by the time they came to Appledore his arrogance led him to believe he had already won. People are trying to figure out why he was so short sighted, whilst totally ignoring his personality. Shooting him was totally against Sherlock's MO, and totally unexpected, even to an audience that enjoys the privilege of omniscient spectatorship. Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 12:10
  • As arrogant as Magnussen is, he is also depicted as cold and calculating. We never see him have an emotional outburst. He never lets his emotions get the better of him. The only exception is when Mary has a gun to his head. - One would assume that after that near-death experience he would be more careful, especially when inviting Mary's two closest allies to his home...
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 1:00
  • ... I found it strange that Magnussen didn't retaliate against Mary. Why doesn't he feel the need to get back at her? My guess is that he isn't someone who lets his emotions control him. He swallowed his anger and pride and focused on the bigger picture.
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 1:01
  • 'We never see him have an emotional outburst.'... don't forget that pride is just as valid an emotion as fear. I don't see licking someone's face as an action of a cold and calculating persona: much closer to that of a masochist that fetishes his control over others. Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 13:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .