I keep getting this argument in asks and reblogs and have ignored it til now. So, before we begin the comparisons have a disclaimer:
BBC Sherlock is a work of fiction. Of course I don’t recommend shooting your spouse’s BFF or poisoning your flatmate for experiments. Everything I am discussing here is in the context of a fictional show between fictional characters and will, therefore, focus on plot and motive not “real world consequences”.
"John shot the cabbie. Sherlock shot Magnussen. Mary shot Sherlock."
One of these things is not like the other. One of these things, if presented to NSY, would have an entirely different reaction. Ah yes, that pesky motive. As a writer, motives matter. A lot. They establish character morals and expose their limitations. Or as Sherlock says in ASiP:
Sherlock was saved by John’s shot. John’s motives are not in question.
So why did Sherlock shoot CAM? Was John in immediate danger from death by face flicking? No. But was Mary in danger from Magnussen’s blackmail? Weren’t many people? He had already driven Lord Smallwood to suicide and Mary to attempted murder. He had placed John in a fire (though he claimed to have people standing by so he wouldn’t die, John was still injured in the abduction.) So, yes, you could argue that CAM was dangerous. Sherlock’s motive was to protect people from Magnussen (the whole conversation with his brother makes this clear) and, as he says after the shooting:
Sherlock’s motives are not in question.
Then we have Mary. Was Mary in immediate danger? Only from Magnussen. The man she DIDN’T shoot. Was Sherlock a threat to her? No, he was offering her his help. So why did Mary shoot Sherlock? What were her motives? Sadly, we as an audience don’t actually know all the facts and Mary seems pretty tight-lipped on the matter. We can only infer from what Sherlock tells us later at Baker Street and the short dialogue pre-shot And what he tells us is that she “had to” shoot him so she could escape. But if Sherlock was offering to help her, he obviously wasn’t calling the cops. So from who was she escaping?
Not who, but what. Mary was escaping from the truth. The reveal. She shot Sherlock to keep her secret from John.
If you can find me a selfless reason for Mary to have shot Sherlock, I am waiting. She had the upper hand. If she just needed to buy a minute to make a run for it, she could have shot him in the leg or the shoulder and disabled him momentarily. But she shot him here:
Right through vital organs, bone and damn close to the spine. Let’s brush motive aside a moment then and pretend Mary had some noble reason to shoot an innocent man.
Sherlock tells John “Mary saved my life” and calls the shot “surgery” but I believe Sherlock is lying when he says these things. His words don’t match the things we’ve seen. First off being the obvious: Sherlock DIED. Mary killed him. She did not “save” him. She even says:
There is even now suspicion that CAM called the ambulance mentioned in this meta. But I will disregard that for now because even if she called the ambulance, it doesn’t change the fact that Sherlock’s heart stopped and he was in cardiac arrest as a result of her shooting him. Writers do not usually have the “good guys” shoot and kill the titular protagonist of the show. So I would argue that it’s not shippers who misinterpret Mary as a villain, but that TPTB who wrote her that way.
TPTB wrote in the following scenes:
- Mary threatens Sherlock at CAM’s.
- Mary shoots Sherlock.
- Sherlock dies but is resurrected.
- Mary is sad to see Sherlock survived and said her name.
- Mary goes to Sherlock’s bedside and threatens him to keep quiet.
- Mary hunts down the escaped Sherlock, with a silencer equipped gun.
- Mary tells Sherlock, again, that she will kill him to keep her past a secret from John.
So, no, I would not say Mary is supposed to be read as a “good guy” after these actions. I would say that reading her as selfish and violent is pretty spot on. Motives matter. A lot.
"Sherlock lied to John too!"
Oh yes, he does. A lot. So does Mary. But let’s focus on the big lies shall we? Sherlock’s big lie: faking his death for 2 years. Mary’s big lie: who she is.
Sherlock lies to John by letting him believe he is dead for two years. Motive? John, Hudders and Greg have snipers locked on them. Moriarty’s network needs to be eradicated before it is safe for Sherlock to reveal he is alive. So Sherlock’s motives, again, are to protect others from harm.
Mary lies to John by letting him believe she is normal and just some nurse who cares about him and likes him. Motive? We don’t know yet. We can guess a million things. Maybe Mary worked for Moriarty and was assigned to watch John post RF to watch for signs of Sherlock’s return. Maybe she’s just a CIA operative on the run who happened to meet John and randomly fall in love with him. We, as an audience, don’t actually know yet. So Mary’s motives, cannot really be judged good or bad.
Continuing the lie:
Sherlock maintains his lie until it is safe to return. He shows remorse once he sees how upset John is. In fact, Sherlock apologizes to John on several occasions throughout TEH.
I would say Sherlock shows remorse for his actions. I would say TPTB went out of their way to show us that he shows remorse for his actions. Even though what he did was for morally good reasons, he still feels guilty for lying to John.
Then there is Mary. Her lie is maintained until Sherlock accidentally discovers it. So she shoots him, but he manages to live and decides to tell John the truth. Even knowing his life is in danger to do so, he reveals Mary to John. And Mary has to deal with the consequences.
I would love to say she also showed remorse and was sad and asked John and Sherlock to forgive her “for all the hurt that I caused you.” I would love to fill this up with screen shots of her apologizing. But you know what you get when you look for transcript texts of Mary saying “sorry” or “forgive me”? You only get TEH. Mary says ‘Sorry’ a lot for minor things. Laughing through John’s proposal. Sorry. Pointing out that Sherlock would need a confidant. Sorry. Not admitting she hates John’s mustache. Sorry. But shooting Sherlock… Lying to John for almost a year. Mum. Not one sorry or forgive me or I feel so rotten or I understand why you are upset. For me, her silence speaks volumes, No remorse.
Instead we get snark:
Actions speak louder than words you may say. So let’s see how each of them let John handle the emotional fallout of their lies.
Sherlock lets John beat him up without fighting back. Despite being injured and tortured not 24 hours prior, he lets John wail on him for as long as he needs to. Sherlock then gives John his space and lets John come to him in his own time when he is ready. He says to everyone who asks about John that he is not in the picture or working with him anymore. Sherlock believes John may not ever take him back and he will just have to move on and try to make do without him. As long as John is happy he will leave him alone. Sherlock is told John is in danger and immediately drops everything to rescue him. Again, he assumes nothing and lets John come to him.
He tricks John with the bomb at the end, after removing them from danger (switching the bomb off) he emotionally manipulates John into telling Sherlock whether or not he’s forgiven. Sherlock finds out John does forgive him so he reveals his lie.
And yet there’s Mary. At Baker Street, Mary is pretty quiet. Her offered words are limited and only after she asks Sherlock “how much do you know”? She also, presumably, gives John his space as it seems they haven’t talked in six months and he may not even be living with her. The only scene we get post domestic is six months later so it is hard to actually fill in missing scenes. What we do have to go on is Mary refusing to stand up when John asks her to come to him so he can speak his prepared words. We have her face and attitude looking put out. We have her tears when John says he will stay with her but is “still basically pissed off”. So we can tell she is happy to hear him say these things. But we cannot tell if she shows remorse or feels guilty for what she did
Also note that Mary is perfectly willing to continue the lie, even though John’s life is in danger (she doesn’t know the fire wouldn’t have killed John). She would rather have John dead than knowing the truth. Mary never gives up the truth voluntarily. It has to be forced out of her.
TPTB don’t make these choices on accident. If they wanted to show us a sympathetic Mary, they could have. Multiple times. So my argument and that of TJLC crew is that we weren’t supposed to view her positively. In contrast to Sherlock, Mary comes off as selfish where he is selfless. This is not subtext or deep reading. This is just dialogue, plot and action presented in the show.
Do I think Sherlock is the ‘perfect’ boyfriend/mate/partner for John? No, and neither is Mary. Hell, neither is John for anyone else. But this is BBC Sherlock not a soap opera. They are flawed human beings not fairy tale lovers. I can argue that what I have seen so far tells me John and Sherlock compliment and complete one another. Mary, on the other hand, does not.
This is a wonderful meta and I agree with (nearly) all of it, but there is still something to this whole argument of “Mary is no better than Sherlock” that I feel I have to add because I haven’t seen it so far.
Everyone is always going around and comparing Marys actions to Sherlocks, but they are forgetting one important point. They are not the same person, and not only that, they have entirely different characters and ways of working. John deduces it himself (backed from Sherlock)
and as much as he always claims to be a sociopath
As much as I like Mary as a character there is literally no point in defending her. She is a bad guy. That’s just that. It doesn’t mean that we can’t like her (look at how we love Moriarty), but it’s also a simple truth.
Mary is not Sherlock and Sherlock is not Mary. They are two different people, with different motives, who take different actions. There is just simply no point in comparing them. End of Story.
John is not wearing his wedding ring! i repeat JOHN IS NOT WEARING HIS WEDDING RING!
I wonder if it’s because he and Mary are only just reconciling. If not, that’s a pretty serious continuity error
It’s really fucking annoying how so many things in this show could be very subtle, fantastic story telling or plain old continuity errors.
This annoys me to no ends, Sherlock is one of these shows where everything could be so beautiful, and you have all these wonderful theories and you constantly read rly good meta and be like woh mind blown, but at the same time there is this ever prominent fear that Moffat or Gatiss are going to jump out from behind a bush and scream sth along the lines of “YOU ARE JUST SEEING THINGS!” and then I’m gonna cry …
Gender and Sexuality Studies:
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Choaked at Theater
The only thing more terrifying than seeing the devil is no longer being able to see the devil.