- "It's all about knowledge, everything is. Knowing is owning."
- ―Magnussen to John Watson and Sherlock Holmes [src]
Charles Augustus Magnussen was a powerful and wealthy businessman who runs his own media firm CAM Global. He was a known blackmailer, referred to by Sherlock Holmes as the "Napoleon of blackmail", and had much control over the Western world due to his blackmailing. His activities caused him to come into conflict with Sherlock Holmes in 2014.
Charles Augustus Magnussen is a media mogul who owns the media empire CAM Global. He gained a powerful influence across the Western World due to blackmailing how powerful officials (which he would refer to as "assets"), and when his requirements wouldn't be met Magnussen would publish the dirt he had on that person in his newspaper, which would potentially cause their life to be ruined. One of the people he gained a connection to what British government official Mycroft Holmes, the brother of consulting detective Sherlock Holmes.
His activities drew the attention of the parliamentary committee, who wanted to know what interest he had in these high officials, one of them being the prime minister. Magnussen was called to meet the committee around the time that Sherlock Holmes returned to London after being presumed dead for two years.
Interest in Sherlock Holmes
After Sherlock's return from the 'dead,' Magnussen took an interest in him and decided to test his "pressure point" to see what can truly break him. Magnussen has his men kidnap Sherlock's friend John Watson on Guy Fawkes night and place him into a bonfire. Sherlock and John's fiancee Mary Morstan arrive and manage to rescue John from the fire, which is all recorded by Magnussen's men. Magnussen watches the recording later on.
At some unknown point, Magnussen had gained information on the past of Mary Morstan and found out she was an assassin who did freelance contacts, which forced her to change her identity to escape any retribution from the victim's families. A few months after the bonfire incident, Magnussen sent a telegram to the wedding of Mary and John, addressed to her. The telegram subtly taunted Mary, saying that he wished her family was still around to see this. Magnussen used his initials "CAM," and the telegram brought unease to Mary, much to the notice of her husband, John.
Targeting Sherlock and the Watsons
Later on, Magnussen is summoned and questioned by a parliamentary committee. It becomes clear that he owns a newspaper and is meeting with many of Britain's top officials repeatedly. Magnussen denies any ties and lets it hang; however, when the camera shifts into his view, it is shown that whenever he looks at someone, he views information about them already recorded, and at some point, makes a quick deduction about an MP's "Pressure Point".
Later, he blackmails one of the interrogators, Lady Smallwood, commenting on her perfume – which is typically used by younger people – and the fact that her husband engaged in an affair with a 15-year-old at some point in the past (not knowing that she was 15). He holds her hand, preventing her from leaving. Smallwood comments that Magnussen's palm is sweating, and he explains that he has hyperhidrosis. Claiming that his knowledge of Lord Smallwood's unwitting felony gives him ownership over Lady Smallwood, he maliciously licks her face. The lady is understandably unnerved and disgusted by him.
Sherlock meanwhile is launching an investigation into Magnussen, claiming him to be the one man on Earth who can turn his stomach. Sherlock seduces Magnussen's secretary, Janine, to gain access to his office, even going so far as to propose to her. Sherlock explains to John that Magnussen is an extremely powerful newspaper tycoon who controls world governments through blackmail and stores all of his information in a secret vault in his country estate, Appledore House. Aware that Sherlock is after him, Magnussen goes to 221B Baker Street and threatens Sherlock and John in their flat, warning them to stay out of his way before urinating in their fireplace and leaving. Later, Sherlock breaks into Magnussen's office and finds him at the mercy of an assailant. After he falsely identifies them as Lady Smallwood based on the perfume, the invader turns around and reveals herself to be Mary Watson.
Magnussen knows all about her and her activities as a former CIA agent turned assassin, and fearing that the information would come to light, she attempted to silence him. After the failed attempt, her identity becomes known to both Sherlock and John, who eventually try and trade the information out of Magnussen by giving him Mycroft's government laptop. However, at the turning point, it is revealed that the Appledoor Vaults are no more than Magnussen's mind palace.
Knowing that whatever it was that he wanted to spread, he could spread through his news channel, Magnussen pictures, and stores away his blackmail material in his mind palace, then sends the hard copies somewhere else to be submitted for if needed. As they await the authorities, Magnussen exercises his power on John by flicking his face, and his eye, asking him to keep it open. When MI6 arrive, Sherlock shoots Magnussen in the head, knowing it was the only way to get them and everyone else out of his power.
Following Magnussen's death, it is decided to send Sherlock on a dangerous mission overseas rather than imprisonment, although it is likely he wouldn't survive. However, this never went ahead as Sherlock ended up being called back a few minutes after being jetted off due to images of the seemingly late Jim Moriarty began appearing around screens in London. Footage showing Magnussen's murder was faked to make out that a sniper took him out rather than Sherlock. Mycroft made sure that only he and a few others (including Sherlock) would know the truth.
Cold, calculating, and an egomaniac, Magnussen displayed a disregard for social niceties. A sociopath, Magnussen had a misanthropic view of other people, to the point of possessing a superiority complex. He also displayed traits of extreme sadism and megalomania. Examples of his superiority complex were categorised by his utter disregard for human happiness, inflated sense of entitlement, narcissistic view on how other people think and behave, and even going so far as to torment his victims to get what he wanted. He relished demonstrating his power for its own sake. Sherlock Holmes considered him to be far worse than any killer, serial killer, or terrorist that he had encountered and the one man who could turn his stomach.
Magnussen was perverse, showing little respect for the privacy, boundaries, and personal space of others, sexually harassing Lady Smallwood and later Sherlock in his hospital bed. He was often cruel and manipulative, not caring about the feelings of others except when they served his purposes. Magnussen also had an eidetic memory. He utilised this trait to remember incriminating data on individuals of importance, which he would then use to deduce the so-called "pressure points" of individuals to exploit their weaknesses and blackmail them into subservience. Through this, Magnussen demonstrated extraordinary levels of intellectual genius that not only surpassed that of Sherlock Holmes but were even on the same level of intellect as the latter's brother, Mycroft, and he was quite well-versed in psychological warfare, staying a step ahead of Sherlock all the time and ultimately managing to outfox the genius detective at his own game. This intellect marks him as the second most intelligent human on Earth, inferior only to the later revealed Eurus Holmes, who was even smarter than Mycroft. He is believed by some fans, because of his nature and personality, to be in many ways even worse and more dangerous than Moriarty (it is safe to assume that only the more intelligent Eurus surpassed Magnussen in danger level) Despite his arrogant and overconfident attitude, Magnussen was not above begging for his life when threatened by Mary Watson, fearing death.
- The name Charles Augustus Magnussen refers to Charles Augustus Milverton from the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle short story, "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton".
- In "The Final Problem", Sherlock describes Moriarty as "the Napoleon of crime".
- Magnussen was first alluded to in the third series prequel mini-episode "Many Happy Returns", in which his newspaper CAM Global could be seen.
- During the scene in the Empty Hearse fan club, a headline in the news report ticker can be seen revealing that Magnussen has been called up to the parliamentary committee, foreshadowing the third series finale "His Last Vow".
- Magnussen is a Scandinavian surname, often used in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Lars Mikkelsen pronounced this name with a strong Danish accent, suggesting the actor and character shared the same home country.
- In the Sign of Three, Magnussen sends Mary the telegram signed C.A.M. expressing his regret that her parents weren't alive to attend.
- Magnussen is played by Lars Mikkelsen who is the brother of Mads Mikkelsen who played the similar character Le Chiffre in the James Bond film, Casino Royale.
- Mads himself co-starred with Benedict Cumberbatch in the 2016 Marvel movie Doctor Strange, in which Benedict portrayed the title character.
- The character attracted criticism from The Daily Mail for being a pastiche of Rupert Murdoch, with the paper alleging that this was a calculated insult to capitalism on the part of the BBC.
- "Many Happy Returns" (newspaper only)
- "The Empty Hearse"
- "The Sign of Three" (mentioned)
- "His Last Vow"
|Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) • John Watson (Martin Freeman) • Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss) • Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott) • Greg Lestrade (Rupert Graves) • Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) • Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs)|
|Irene Adler • Mary Watson • Charles Augustus Magnussen • Eurus Holmes|
|"A Study in Pink" • "The Blind Banker" • "The Great Game"|
|"A Scandal in Belgravia" • "The Hounds of Baskerville" • "The Reichenbach Fall"|
|"The Empty Hearse" • "The Sign of Three" • "His Last Vow"|
|"The Six Thatchers" • "The Lying Detective" • "The Final Problem"|
|Unaired Pilot • "Many Happy Returns" • "The Abominable Bride"|
|"Sherlock: The Network" • Manga|