Yo, hi. Its 3:30am. Anderson’s empty hearse club are more like post s4 fandom than post s2. (bbc)sherlock is dead, a fake genius. But they #believeinsherlock. They wear hats. There’s even like 7 of them left after two years, that’s some impressive resolve. They’re also right in the end. Goth girl has a pretty good theory too where moriarty is in on it and its a fake dummy version that goes over the edge. Isnt there another *projector* in there too? Sherlock’s face projected from a phone onto a piece of paper or something? A projector. A facade. Hmm. Okay, night night.
I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile. I don’t often engage in hefty meta, but this one has had my knickers in a twist for, well, about two months now. This is a post about why I didn’t like Mary Morstan from the start. Popular fandom opinion seems to have gone: The Empty Hearse: love Mary! The Sign of Three: really love Mary! His Last Vow: a) omg hate Mary! or b) still love Mary, but with certain explanations (“she’s a complicated person”/“she had no choice”, etc). For my part, I didn’t even like her at the beginning, and here’s why. Read on, if you dare…
Reasons I didn’t like Mary even before she shot Sherlock:
1. She assumes too much with John.
“I’m the best thing that ever happened to you.” While John is fumbling through his awkward-as-arse proposal, Mary is quick to step in and assert this unfinished statement of John’s. Even having barely met her at this point, this rubbed me the wrong way. Usually you let the other person say something like that. This could be interpreted as just Mary being “adorably” forward and cheeky, but it read to me like she was informing him, as though John wasn’t allowed to make up his own mind about that statement. More about that to come.
2. She manipulates John.
There’s the obvious example here, where Mary clearly wants both John and Sherlock out of Baker Street for awhile, for whatever reason (assuring their guarantee that it will take awhile). Again, this could be interpreted as a concern for either or both of them, and all around “cute”, but Sherlock and John never needed their friendship micromanaged by a third party in the past and they don’t now. Even after John’s reaction over Sherlock’s revelation in The Empty Hearse, he was already softening within twenty-four hours, shaving his moustache off the next morning and going to visit him after work (or trying to, at least). And the minute he’s smoke-free and able to return, he does. I doubt very much that that was all Mary’s magical machinations so much as it was John’s honest desire to see the friend he loved, lost, and thoroughly bloodied upon their reunion. John has a fierce temper but he wouldn’t have stayed permanently angry with Sherlock. He says openly that he loved Sherlock and grieved his loss. Sherlock’s inept self-revelation wouldn’t have broken that permanently. Again, Mary is assuming too much, and asserting herself too much. They are hardly reliant on her to make their friendship happen.
“You can’t go, I’m pregnant.” First Mary badgers John about his choice to go and be neighbourly (his words for needing an adrenaline fix, whether or not he’s also being neighbourly in the bargain), then she uses her pregnancy to manipulate him, and when that also doesn’t work, she insists on coming along. Why? To supervise? This is Captain John Watson we’re talking about, not a kid who needs a babysitter. Why so domineering, Mary?
3. She demeans John.
When John decides to go find/rescue Isaac Whitney, Mary asks, “Why you?” Why the hell not John?! He’s had enough military experience in an active combat zone to have made captain and understands the neighbour’s dilemma over not wanting to go to the police. It’s a good turn, and who better to go than someone like John Watson? Mary’s question strips John of his capabilities, shows a profound lack of respect for all that he is able to do and to contribute to any particular situation. This simple question is the most straightforward example of Mary’s attitude regarding John, and it comes up again and again. She goes on to ask “What’s the matter with you?” over John wanting to go and help. What’s the matter with John? What’s the matter with Mary?? Why is she so set on leaving Isaac Whitney to his fate, or preventing John from saving him? And then, when John responds snappishly that there’s nothing wrong with him, and catches himself over having raised his voice, Mary is pissy over that, yet fully unapologetic about her own ungenerous behaviour regarding both John and Isaac.
Mary chastises John in front of their neighbour for his seeming tactlessness. This is possibly merited, but not in front of someone else like that. A month into their marriage and she’s not presenting a united front with him in front of other people? That’s not on. When your partner fucks up, you bring it up with them in private. To the world, you’re a team. Outward signs of disrespect like this erode a relationship.
When John arms himself with the tire lever, Mary laughs, points at it and asks, “What is that?” Again, this suggests that John – who shows just a minute or two later that he doesn’t need any sort of weapon other than his own hands to handle the drug den and its occupants – can’t handle a weapon or doesn’t know what he’s doing. Is this just resentment that John didn’t want her coming along? Or why on earth is Mary behaving so rudely to her husband? It’s as though she thinks of him as completely incapable of handling a potentially dangerous situation, despite years in a war zone and then embedded in London’s crime scene with Sherlock. John then answers her question, stating the obvious, “It’s a tyre lever” and Mary responds with “Why?”, as though there’s no conceivable reason that John could have to arm himself in there, or as though he wouldn’t know what to do with it in the first place. Sherlock, on the other hand, knows exactly how useful John is in a dangerous situation, and does the opposite: he brings along John’s gun in foresight (The Great Game, Vauxhall Arches scene). Sherlock certainly knows that the man who shot his would-be killer within twenty-four hours of having met him knows his way around a spot of trouble. Why doesn’t Mary give John this credit? It was a bit satisfying to see John’s cool response to Mary’s seeming attempt at something like an apology (calling it sexy that John has armed himself with the tire iron) here. Her comment not only a) doesn’t undo what she’s said numerous times in this scene: that she thinks John isn’t capable of handling himself here, and b) implies that his sexiness regarding the whole thing is a new concept. It isn’t. John has been sexy in dangerous situations for a long time now and plenty of people are well aware of it. He doesn’t need to be told that, particularly not hard on the heels of being demeaned by his own partner.
Speaking of Sherlock, Mary also discredits John’s belief in Sherlock. We don’t get all the details of the backstory of their opening conversation with Kate Whitney, but when the latter doesn’t recognise Sherlock’s name, Mary looks pointedly at John and says, “See? That does happen.” This suggests that John thinks that Sherlock is more widely recognised/renowned than Mary does. Mary’s barb here suggests that her version of reality is more accurate than John’s. It’s another subtle way of taking the floor out from under John, of demeaning him – and again, in front of a third party. In that same bit of conversation, Mary reduces John’s feeling of not having seen Sherlock “in ages” to the prosaic “about a month”: correcting John’s experience of the situation. It’s all part and parcel of the same behaviour: Mary knows best; John doesn’t view anything accurately. And yes, one could certainly argue that many married/long-term coupled people behave the same way, but this is the first month of their marriage. This is unhealthy behaviour upon which to be establishing a relationship.
4. She’s not a nice person.
We could start with the screamingly obvious, that nice people don’t become professional assassins, but that seems just a little too easy. Although, just to address that head-on, I’ve seen some of the Mary-lovers out there claim that both Sherlock and John have killed people, so why hate on Mary for doing the same thing? I’ll say right up front that I’m a pacifist and don’t ever believe that killing is the only option. However, if you’re going to kill someone, there had better be a damned good reason for it, like saving a life, preventing the spread of evil political power (futile as that is, and I’m looking at you, war in Afghanistan). You know what isn’t a damned good reason? Money.
Professional killings aside, “she’s put all that behind her now” aside, Mary still isn’t a demonstrably nice person in any way. Sure, she puts on the stroking-the-arm-of-the-distressed-neighbour act, but when it comes as a surprise?
Bill Wiggins: Please, can I come? I think I’ve got a broken arm.
Mary: No, go away.
John: No, let him.
Why the hell not, Mary?? Why can’t she accept John’s decision to have rescued someone else as long as he was there? (Never mind that this is only because it was John who injured Bill.) What would it hurt her to let Bill come along? He’s a person trying to escape from a terrible place. Why is she so ungenerous to the people in need around her? She demonstrates this same kind of behaviour again later with Bill when he’s posing as a homeless person. Not only does she refuse to even look at him when he asks for change, just gives a brisk no without stopping, but then, at the end of the conversation when Bill says “keeps me off the streets, doesn’t it?”, a tongue-in-cheek comment about the fact that he’s being paid to pose as a street person, she refuses to engage with him as an actual person, doesn’t acknowledge the humour and just says, “well, no.” And walks away. Not a nice person.
Speaking of not being nice, it seems clear to me that Mary understands that Sherlock feels a great deal for John, much more than John sees. I found her comments to Sherlock at the wedding particularly insensitive, regarding that. John and Major Sholto is an essay for another time (personally I don’t see any romantic connection there whatsoever; they’re much too formal, but I do see John’s desire to impress a former commanding officer, absolutely), but Sherlock’s jealousy over John wanting to impress Sholto is patently obvious to Mary. She seems to go out of her way to aggravate Sherlock’s jealousy, choosing things to say that make Sherlock seem less important to John, such as her statement that John talks about Sholto to her but not to Sherlock, and then that Sholto is more reclusive than Sherlock is (trust Sherlock to take that as an insult, but the point is that Mary knew that he would). She adds, with a(n irritating) giggle that “neither of us were the first, you know”, a statement I interpret as meaning, “neither of us were the first person that John ever cared about”, just to further reduce Sherlock’s sense of importance to John. When he irritably tells her to stop smiling, she just giggles and simpers that “it’s my wedding day!” and goes off to talk to other people, leaving Sherlock to simmer in his unhappy insecurities. Of course it was Mary’s wedding day, but if they’re all such good friends and she can see that this is difficult for him, she could have been a whole lot more sensitive about this.
The night of Sherlock’s revelation, Mary’s quick switch on stances bothered me a whole lot. At first she reacts with proper anger, even horror at finding that he’s still alive, given what his supposed death put John through, but she’s awfully quick to decide that he’s all right after all, even siding with him against John. John has every right in the universe to be absolutely furious with Sherlock – I don’t think a person on the planet would disagree with that. And even if Mary thought he was overreacting, let me reiterate my above point that couples should back each other up in public. She could have told him later, in private, that she thought it was a bit much. Instead she sides with Sherlock, even on the point of John’s (horrible) moustache, and honestly – she could have lied to spare his dignity about that. God knows she’d lied to him about enough other stuff by that point already; she could have raised the moustache point at some decidedly less sensitive point. It’s like she finds it all a bit funny. Why isn’t she more sympathetic to what John is going through at this point? (Oh right, because she’s a psychopath and incapable of sympathy.) She could have heard him out, let him vent, given him her fullest understanding and feeling that he wasn’t alone in thinking that this was a rotten thing for Sherlock to have done to him before telling John that she’s decided that she likes Sherlock. She should have been right behind him when he stormed off to hail a cab, even if she had sneaking sympathies for Sherlock’s side of the story. That could have come later. I mean, frankly, Mary’s opinion on Sherlock is completely irrelevant at this point, in my opinion. This was Sherlock and John’s reunion. John’s reaction was the only one that mattered, that had any place in this. Mary had no right to even be there, as far as I’m concerned, much less to insert her own opinions into it all. Even the outrage at the beginning. It just didn’t have a place there. Nonetheless, given that it was there, she should have sided with John, unshakeably. Instead, she left him feeling alone. It felt like adolescent popularity politics to me: Mary decided that Sherlock was the cooler kid and abandoned John to side with him at the first available opportunity. And when Sherlock – jealous, left-out Sherlock – talks to her and comments on John’s seven-pound weight gain, she should have been the first to say “no, I think it’s only four”. Where the fuck is Mary’s loyalty?