Saturday, May 24, 2014

Random Rant: Sherlock - Why was the plot twist in 'His Last Vow' such a big surprise?


So, why did everyone seem so surprised at the plot twist in 'His Last Vow'? Of course I should clarify, since there were about four or five of them throughout this frankly brilliant episode. The one I'm referring to is Mary. I'm a little confused as to why everyone seemed so shocked that she turned out to be more than just Mrs. Watson.

I want to point out that the clues were all there; Sherlock didn't put everything together because he was too distraught emotionally over John getting married, but we as an audience could see it coming a mile away. Or I thought we all did - I was actually really surprised when I went online the day after 'His Last Vow' aired and found the fandom seemingly bowled over by this plot twist.

So, with this reveal - that Mary is actually a CIA assassin - why did so many people seem surprised? I mean, we didn't know the exact details of her hidden identity, but there was always evidence that Mary would end up being more than she seemed.

In 'The Empty Hearse,' Mary is first properly introduced to the audience in the restaurant when John is working up to propose to her (a proposal that is, unfortunately but very hilariously, interrupted by a disguised Sherlock). I was trying to keep an open mind about Mary; I know a lot of fans didn't like having her in the picture, since they thought she would come between John and Sherlock, but I wanted to give her a fair chance. I actually liked her, and was warming up to her...until this exchange:

John: "You are the best thing that could have happened to me."
Mary: "I agree."
John: "What?"
Mary: "I agree; I'm the best thing that could have happened to you."

Does that sound at a Sherlock level of egotistical to anyone else?

Then, when Sherlock reveals himself to John, Mary reacts at first with shock ("Oh my god, oh my god, do you have any idea what you've done to him [John]"), but then later on in the night she completely changes her tune. When John starts yelling at Sherlock, Mary starts chastising him and acting like he's overreacting, and John, observing this, responds with "Why am I the only person reacting like a normal human being??!", which is a fair observation, considering his own fiancee seems to think that John is too distraught over the fact that his best friend in the world, who he thought committed suicide two years ago, in essence came back from the dead. We know that Sherlock is sociopathic, or at least has the tendency not to consider others' feelings, but Mary? Mary is acting like that as well, toward her fiance, a man she's supposed to be very close to, and yet she's become unsympathetic to his (understandable) outrage.

Even then, on the cab ride home, Mary tells John that she likes Sherlock. Sherlock, the man who broke John's heart and then had the audacity to come back without any explanation or any thought for John's feelings. Mary should be just as furious as John at Sherlock; instead, she says she likes him.

Who the heck likes Sherlock Holmes??

Especially when they first meet him. It even took John awhile to warm up to Sherlock; but for the most part, normal, everyday people hate Sherlock. So the fact that Mary likes him, especially after what he's done to John, is a bit telling.

Then, in 'The Sign of Three,' we see Mary's capacity to manipulate both Sherlock and John, which is a task and a half in itself, considering how difficult it is to manipulate Sherlock, a genius and a practiced manipulator in his own right. This is seen particularly in the scene where Mary convinces Sherlock and John to go out on a case, convincing both of them that they are doing the other a favor. It's actually kind of eerie how effortlessly she can manipulate them both. That, and this telling image at the end of that scene:

Are those DEVIL HORNS? In a show where every detail is seen to so precisely, you cannot tell me that that wasn't in some way intentional.
And then in 'His Last Vow,' her true identity is revealed at last, and Sherlock finally sees all the clues fall into place. Really he should have seen it coming, but, like we all know, his emotions cloud his thinking, and he was so focused on John's wedding that he couldn't piece together everything about Mary to reveal her for what she was. In short, he knew she was a liar, but he couldn't even fathom what that lie was until it was too late. Besides knowing skip codes, having a retentive memory, etc., all the signs were there to show she was not "ordinary" - she and Sherlock share similar sociopathic tendencies; Mary is just better at hiding them. John realizes this at the end, when Mary is talking about killing Magnussen and Sherlock isn't opposed to it: "Ah, look at the two of you. You should have gotten married."

In a show as clever as 'Sherlock,' we should know that a character that's as much of a game-changer for the show as Mary isn't just going to be sidelined within the plot. From the beginning she was going to have a major impact on the show; it just so happened that the biggest impact the writers could give her was to have her betray John. 

What do I think of Mary being an assassin? Well...I think it's an interesting plot twist; I'm just not sure how much it does for her as a character. One of my problems with female characters in a lot of TV shows and movies is that often they can't just be awesome for their own sake; they have to have some kind of hidden past or dark secret that makes them different or special. Now, I can see the flaw in that reasoning for Mary - she possessed the potential to learn the skills to be an assassin, which is still awesome in itself. But does there have to be a reason behind her being an intriguing character besides that she just happens to be amazing? I guess my real question is, why can't an ordinary woman still be an intriguing character? I think we have that in Molly; Mary falls more into the category of Irene Adler, where she is an extraordinary woman because of her occupation, but doesn't have as much merit without it. Don't take that as me bashing Mary; I think she is a great character, and Amanda Abbington's portrayal is fantastic. But I still feel let down in the respect that Mary couldn't be a great character simply because she was MARY; she had to have a dark past thrust upon her because she couldn't hold up her place as an interesting character on her own terms.