Response to ArchipelagoArchaea’s recent meta on Mary Morstan
archipelagoarchaea wrote a very thorough and clearly well thought-out piece on “His Last Vow,” making the argument that Mary’s character hasn’t begun anything resembling the redemptive hero’s arc we see Sherlock going through, and perhaps more fundamentally that we’re meant to reject the “surface” reading of this episode and try to see a lot of what’s going on as lies or at least as obfuscation. It’s well-written and thought-provoking, and I highly suggest everyone entered in these things give it a read-through.
Let me be absolutely clear upfront that I haven’t been able to put anywhere near the amount of thought or writing effort into this piece that Archaea has. This is a reaction, not an original meta, and I don’t want to detract from her piece. I think in a lot of ways I agreed with her, and certainly felt my own more kinder!gentler!Mary (which isn’t the same as wanting her to go on as Mrs. Watson) interpretation more challenged (in a good way!) than I have by most other opposing views. Even if you like the idea of a Mary who doesn’t become a villain, even if you want her and John to go on to their stereotypically heterosexual happily-ever-after of a kid and a house in the suburbs (I put myself in the first camp but not in the second), I still really encourage you to give it a read. It’s thought-provoking and just fun to work through.
All that said… let me try to reply critically.
1) Archaea says that Mary hasn’t gone through any kind of a redemptive arc. I absolutely agree – but don’t think this has to mean she won’t go through that arc, just that it hasn’t happened yet. And that makes a certain amount of sense to me, because as much as our reaction to HLV has revolved around Mary’s character and past, the episode itself seems much more about Sherlock to me than Mary. The episode’s plot begins with John frustrated and board in suburbia, Sherlock being increasingly self-destructive in pursuit of a case, and it ends with Mary’s past putting John in danger and Sherlock being willing to kill (and kill in a way that will get him caught) to save him. And pretty much everything in between seems driven by two simple facts: John being married (to someone other than Sherlock) is harmful to both of them, and Mary has a past that threatens both of them. Even if she’d moved on from that past, or wanted to, John would still be miserable in suburbia, Sherlock would still be hollowed out on the inside from having lost John, and both of them (John in particular) would still be walking targets. It’s Sherlock’s progression from junkie (or ex-addict-willing-to-take-drugs-for-a-slight-advantage-in-a-case, if you prefer) to near-murder victim to dragon-slayer that’s so interesting, and so moving.
Lovely meta! And compelling. And a second one to make the point that canon!Moran doesn’t have to stay a villain in BBC!Moran. That is, even if Mary is Moran, that doesn’t mean she will be identical to Moran’s villainy. I am sorry, I don’t remember the other meta; if I find it, I will link it. I haven’t read the meta you are replying to, so that’s a thing I need to do.
Either way, for me, my Mary as Birdy Edwards theory works better. In fact, it was the bit about “wet jobs” that first prompted me to think about it. Birdy Edwards of The Valley of Fear was undercover operative taking down a gang. But he never revealed himself publicly after the operation. So except for those gangsters, and his then fiancée, he was just another gang member doing horrible things. So the other inhabitants of Vermissa Valley might have continued to think of him as a Scowrer. If the parallel holds (without Moftiss twisting it), then people who only knew Mary’s undercover identity would think that she was doing “freelance wet jobs” instead of eradicating some threat.
Also, HLV’s ending was more in line with The Final Problem. 1. Sherlock’s words “Give my love to Mary” paralleling Holmes’ words “Give my greetings to Mrs Watson”. 2. Sherlock facing an enemy without any foreknowledge that he would come out of it alive. That is, Sherlock accepting his fate parallels what Holmes says in The Empty House, “My note to you was absolutely genuine. I had little doubt that I had come to the end of my career[…]” But as you point out, the scene of Leinster Gardens definitely parallels The Empty House. And definitely there are elements of His Last Bow. So…now I have to think over how things are fitting in.