There’s Something about Mary: Unraveling the Season Three Finale of Sherlock
by Crystal Hurd
“Mary, when I say you deserve this man, it is the highest compliment of which I am capable. John, you have endured war, and injury, and tragic loss – so sorry again about that last one. So know this: Today, you sit between the woman you have made your wife and the man you have saved. In short, the two people who love you most in all this world. And I know I speak for Mary as well when I say we will never let you down, and we have a lifetime ahead to prove that.” Sherlock Episode Two.
You could have knocked me over with a feather.
Sure, Magnussen is your classic, malevolent yet brilliant villain and you don’t mind seeing him at gunpoint after he has viciously bullied other characters, (particularly the licking), BUT when the shooter turned around, I was flabbergasted to discover not some twisted, manical, run-of-the-mill enemy, but MARY. The sweet Mary that innocent John Watson chose to be his blushing bride. The blonde, bubbling, affable sidekick who seems to have an affinity for Sherlock, whom most people characterize as a snobby and aloof misanthrope. But that is all part of the Sherlock genius and oftentimes, that genius is a magnet for other genius. Sherlock warmed to her, gave a welcoming speech at the wedding (peppered with various criticisms of marriage nonetheless) and then we find ourselves here: Sherlock at the end of a gun, a trusted friend behind the trigger, and one shocked audience.
And then she pulled the trigger.
You have got to hand it to Moffat; he can write twists and turns. In fact, he was recently interviewed by Collider magazine about the “female perspective” of his Sherlock tales:
The Mary thing is interesting. The reason you didn’t spot it is because you liked her. We put the audience in the position of Sherlock Holmes. All the evidence is absolutely under your nose. It’s all there. She’s far too calm under pressure. No human being would be like that. She immediately likes Sherlock Holmes, which is the sure sign of a maniac. But all the audience is thinking is, “Well, thank god, she’s not a drag. Thank god, she’s fun,” instead of thinking, “What sort of person is that? That’s not a nurse. She’s something other than a nurse.” So, when she turns around and points a gun at Sherlock, it’s the two things you really want. It’s a surprise, but you also think, “I should have seen that! Of course! She had to be!
It turns out that Mary’s plot twist is really a component of Moffat’s desire to broaden Doyle’s conventional, yet reductive presentation of females. Indeed, he tends to liberate them from their Victorian misconceptions, making them diverse and interesting to draw favor from a twenty-first century audience.
In fact, the season finale reveals that many of Sherlock’s females are multi-faceted and complex. For example, the humble, soft-spoken Mrs. Hudson was a minor character in Doyle’s works, but is quite important in Moffat’s version. She serves often as a voice of reason and common sense. But even she hides a bizarre past. She reveals to John that her husband was a drug dealer (!!). Sherlock’s “girlfriend” Janine falls for the dashing, mysterious detective and even assists in the heist, only to realize that Sherlock is feigning emotion and even a false proposal to gain information from her boss Magnussen.
But will she go quietly into that good night? Oh, no. She turns the tables on Sherlock, selling her story to the tabloids. One magazine cover boasts, “He Made Me Wear the Hat”. Molly, a scientist who serves as an excellent foil (and perhaps provides some romantic tension) for the deductive sleuth, also provides an interesting flavor to the overall plotline.
Moffat claims that all of these changes are vital to a contemporary audience and actually improves the overall storyline:
One of the interesting things about Sherlock, as a show, is that we want to stick very close to the style and approach of the original stories, but the one big problem is that there are no women, and what women do turn up are not that great. They’re a bit boring. Not all of them, but most of them are not very interesting. He didn’t seem that comfortable with women, but the two boys are fantastic. I sometimes forget that Mrs. Hudson doesn’t really speak in the original, and we’ve given her a big part. That’s a nice female perspective on those two. And Molly wasn’t even in the original stories, but she just worked so well that we kept her, and she’s developed so hugely. She’s changed so much. There’s a very different, very female perspective with that character. Mary, in some ways, is the most interesting perspective of all. The thing that’s occurred to me recently is that what is consistently true of all the women who meet Sherlock Holmes is that they see through him much faster. John [Watson] is still pretty much enthralled with the act. All the women he meets decode him so fast. Mrs. Hudson just thinks he’s a spoiled brat, who she quite likes. Irene [Adler] gets it totally. She can close him down with a smile, and she gets that. Molly, initially, was awestruck, but so quickly got what he is. So, bringing the female perspective onto Sherlock is brilliant, I think. It works so well. And Mary is such a good example of it.
Like many admirers of Sherlock, I was surprised to see that Mary had a checkered past, but seeks to transform herself. She aspires now to have a calm life, for the unfamiliar sense of normalcy, and ultimately for redemption. Her only escape is to recreate herself. The shot she fired was aimed to prevent the resuscitation of her old self. Magnussen knew her past, and she would do anything, even revert back to her dark days, to ensure that it stayed in a deep, stale grave.
Eventually John forgives her. She hands him a flash drive with all of the details of her past, but John burns it in the fireplace. Just as she had wanted, Mary’s past is destroyed in the flames. After Sherlock kills Magnussen, she is completely liberated from all of her former crimes. As the episode neared its conclusion, I began to warm to Mary again. She wears a mask, like so many of us. Even to those nearest and dearest, we hide our flaws beneath a response of arrogance, of self-loathing, of undetected anguish, and sometimes even a thirst for accomplishment. Sherlock himself does this. We see flashbacks of a young, bullied Sherlock with tears in his eyes and realize that we are all formed and shaped by our experiences. Our intricate masks are weaved from this wide and various tapestry of occurrences, but it is when we recognize them, and are loved in spite of them, that we mature to a greater understanding of humanity. Season three ends as it began, with John reeling from loss and lies, but ultimately exuding a love that forgives and thus strengthens his relationships.
For more on Moffat’s article with Collider, visit here: http://collider.com/sherlock-moriarty-steven-moffat-interview/
Dr. Crystal Hurd
Crystal is a writer, poet, reader, and public school educator from Virginia. She is happily married with three beautiful Terriers (adopted from local shelters). Her dissertation explored the leadership of C.S Lewis with postdoctoral work focusing on the leadership roles of artists. An unapologetic book nerd, Crystal loves to read and research works involving faith, literature, art, and leadership. She also possesses a deep, unrelenting interest in all things European, especially Doctor Who. You can read her weekly thoughts on her webpage/blog www.crystalhurd.com, friend her on Facebook, (Crystal Sullivan Hurd) and follow her on Twitter: @DoctorHurd and @hurdofficial.