I started rambling. Sorry.
Disclaimer: Highly subjective content to follow. I have read most of the meta on the subject and know that many interpretations of the scene(s) go into a very different direction. But these are my opinions as of now. Of course, Season 4 might prove us all wrong.
Disclaimer: I think Mary’s awesome. Whether they are going make her a villain or not, I’ll be happy. Nothing of this has any effect on Johnlock.
Disclaimer: I believe that the surgery explanation is at least partly true. It has its holes, yes, but I can perfectly imagine Moffat thinking it up, wanting cool Mary but also Plot-twist Mary.
Yo, onto the breach then.
In my opinion, they actually did mean to redeem Mary in some way by the end of HLV (during the Christmas scene), or at least set her up for a redemptive arc to follow in future episodes.
This all draws heavily from my own emotional response upon first watching it, without having read meta, without knowing other people’s opinions. And well, I liked it, I was touched by it and I bought it almost completely. I know from friends, family and the tags on that gifset, that others felt the same, whereas you (along with loads of people on here) describe a very different reaction. But oh well, I don’t have a representative sample at hand, so subjectivity it is.
And really, I loved the scene. I LOVED those acting choices and thought they all fit the “redemption plot” perfectly. No, John doesn’t smile too much. It’s not “laugh kiss happily ever after” drivel à la Hollywood. And that’s what makes it so much more realistic and likely to be the truth. Their problems didn’t just disappear, their marriage still isn’t the happiest one, they still have issues, of course they do. “I’m still really pissed at you” prevents the issue from slowly simmering below the surface AND is also slightly humourous and actually lightens the whole moment. It also means “i’m ready to forgive you one day”. There’s a shot from after Sherlock and Mary hug, often taken as “a drop of the mask”, but of course they look serious: They both know that Sherlock is leaving on a highly dangerous mission AND that now it’s time for the sherlock/john goodbye. This is not exactly a light-hearted moment.
Then there’s the Christmas hug. Which is split into too parts by the holmes boys’ scene, thus making it seem even longer. John is rocking her for fuck’s sake. He’s half murmuring into her neck. They’re bantering. They’re joking. All very intimate and old-married-coupley. Later on Sherlock will kiss Mary on the cheek, something we’ve only seen him do with Molly in TEH, giving her arch some closure by saying thank you.
What am I getting at? Granted, we can’t be sure of exactly how much the actors know about S4, and how far we can trust them, but everything is indicating to the viewer that we’re slowly getting back the TEH/TSOT Mary, that’s she’s on her way to redemption.
Now, back to the Christmas scene. Let’s talk about the one truly remarable feature in all of this. Let’s talk about John Watson. Who decides to throws a usb stick into a fire.
As far as I can see, there are three main explanations of that moment/scene: a) everything said is true b) john is lying or c) mary is lying. With each one, the emotional impact on the viewer changes (hah, we’re finally getting there).
- If A) is true, and everything is what it seems (which I think is plausible, see above), then this scene is another love declaration to John: He finds it within his big Watsonian heart to try and forgive Mary. To ignore her past and focus at their future. Saint John. We all admire you. Yay. Cheesy but also a tiny bit sexy.
Now what happens if there is a secret masterplan going on?
- This could be either B) known to John, in which case he’s lying and emotionally manipulating his happily sobbing and pregnant wife. Meh. Not only is he extremely honest and straightforward (seriously. Like seriously. He lies approximately, once. About Irene. And is crap at it.), but wow, look how suddenly the viewer’s sympathies change – he is no longer the “better human being”, instead he becomes a deceptive, almost slightly cruel guy. I mean this is totally possible. But I really really don’t see it happening.
- Also: “tell Mary she’s safe now” and all that might sound devious in print, but the actual spoken dialoge really lacked all “we’re luring her into a trap” vibe
- C) John doesn’t know. Mary’s evil and has a villainous plan. And suddenly, the scene goes from “wow john, so forgiving” to “wow john, so dumb, look at that fucking usb stick please”. Again, a shift which I don’t really see happening. I mean, she probably wouldn’t have put a lot of incriminating stuff on there anyway. But we’d never know that. In such a scenario, it just doesn’t make any sense to not show us her lies.
- Also: Those tears looked pretty darn realistic to me.
In other words: YOOO REDEMPTION. Someone pointed out the “mixed signals” quote as an “attention there is a morally grey character here” sign and I agree wholeheartedly. That’s what she’s supposed to be. The Snape parallels really are overwhelming. People always wish for the “Mary pointing a gun at someone’s head” scenario, but WE ALREADY HAD THAT. She started off as almost too good to be true, then came the fall and now redemption begins. You tease your audience, you give them riddles, you mislead them, yes. But you don’t play with them by saying “she’s good - PLOT TWIST - she’s bad - OK she’s good again - HAHA PLOT TWIST LOSERS JUST JOKING - she’s totally evil”. The audience has to be able to trust the author/show and their own feelings to some extent. And Mary is already marked as morally gray in everybody’s head, it wouldn’t really surprise anyone anymore (and why give us such a warning shot when they could have simply gone for the big kill?).
One last point: People have already drawn parallels to TRF (maybe Mary is the wrong question to ask, just like breadcrumbs were last time – unless that’s how Moriarty survived ofc), but I’d really like to remind you that there are two whole years between seasons, and that this show does not only cater to us, who wake up every morning with the show on their mind, but also to the casual viewer, who sees each episode once, or maybe twice. Now, I might be underestimating the writers, but I really can’t see them managing to make a conspiracy against Mary (oh you know what I mean. B) work in hindsight, to coma back after such a long hiatus and say – oh, that christmas scene that you only half remember? (complementary flashback) yeah that was all fake. Also this? (sherlock’s surgery explanation flashback) yo we were joking. - It could happen, but I don’t think it will.
And that’s pretty much all I have to say on the subject. Wow, your answer was somewhere in there. My apologies.