“Because John can’t ever know that I lied to him. It would break him and I would lose him forever, and Mary, I will never let that happen. Please, understand, there is nothing in this world I would not do to stop that happening.”

Tell me that, if this was how it had gone, if it had been Sherlock saying this to Mary, fans wouldn’t now be calling that the most romantic line and the greatest evidence of Sherlock’s eternal, selfless love to have happened in the show thus far. Imagine it, think about it, and if you believe that it would have been evidence of true love coming from Sherlock but is evidence of sheer selfishness coming from Mary, ask yourself why—and then try to explain it to me. (Understand that you’ll be talking to the hand, though.)

Hello, hand!

I’m not a Mary hater, and I don’t think the quoted line necessarily conveys sheer selfishness; but I do think it’s more ambiguous coming from Mary than it would be coming from Sherlock.  Because it’s John and Sherlock we’ve been watching, and we’re meant to see them as soul mates, no?  We’ve seen how they first met, and what draws them to each other, and how they complement each other, and how they’ve progressed individually because of their relationship.  We’ve seen them hurt each other and help each other and we’ve seen their loyalty and devotion to one another.  In short, we’ve seen them fall in love.

 But we haven’t seen any of this with John and Mary.  We only see their relationship after it’s established, and we’re told very little about how it developed (other than that Mary helped John through his grief over Sherlock).  So I think it’s very difficult to have the same kind of emotional investment in John/Mary, whose relationship we’ve essentially been told about, as opposed to John/Sherlock, whose relationship we’ve witnessed every step of the way.  

Those words coming from Sherlock would be the culmination of everything we already understand and accept about his feelings for John.  But the same words coming from Mary, in the immediate wake of learning about her past and about her lies to John, couldn’t possibly have the same emotional resonance.

 If Sherlock said those lines, I’d believe them, because it’s been demonstrated to me that those are his feelings.  But I simply don’t know enough about Mary (as yet) to accept them as an honest expression of love.

Because it’s John and Sherlock we’ve been watching, and we’re meant to see them as soul mates, no?

No. Seriously, no. That’s a Johnlock-flavored fannish interpretation of what we’re shown, and it’s a fun one, but that’s all it is. For people who are predisposed to see what we’re shown that way, who want that to be true, it’s “obvious,” but it’s not text and it’s not obvious to the rest of us, even those of us who enjoy Johnlock AND John/Mary. We see as much that’s questionable, and even awful, in John and Sherlock’s relationship as we see that’s good: Sherlock lying to John, leaving him to grieve (to further his plans, not to save John or anyone else—that’s text), drugging him, manipulating him, etc. And John beats the crap out of his “beloved” friend, repeatedly; certainly not a way I ever want anyone to show me that I’m their “soulmate.”

Meanwhile, the text tells us that John and Mary are in love, shows them being in love—it’s there, and it actually IS obvious if one isn’t working hard to explain away all evidence of it; they’re adorable together. She hasn’t been on the show as long as Sherlock has, no, but she also hasn’t done all of the horrible things to John that Sherlock has in that time. It’s that predisposition to Johnlock, again, influencing how people see her, not the writing. It’s bias, and it’s internal, not external.

That’s what I’m talking about, that’s the examination that needs to happen. We have all we need from the writing to believe that Mary loves John and that that statement isn’t any more selfish coming from her than it would be coming from Sherlock, if we allow ourselves to see and accept it. Realizing that should be a wake-up call, not an opportunity for more rationalization. 

*more applause*

I need a pocket CC to carry around and be eloquent for me. lol

I think it’s more than a “fannish predisposition”—I think the bias, as you say, which is the right word, because it is bias, is encoded into the narrative—but that’s not the tack I want to take here to begin to respond to this claim. 

My response is that I think for many, many Johnlock-invested fans, those words would not be seen as profoundly romantic, but rather profoundly fucked up. “John can’t know that I lied to him”?! No. I couldn’t accept it as loving or romantic, and many other fans I regularly converse with couldn’t either. 

As prettyarbitrary has argued quite convincingly, if John and Sherlock’s relationship appears fucked up, it’s because it is. But the main idea is that all the fucked-up-ness is consensual. The manipulation on the train car in TEH which I and many other fans thought was horrifying is only ever so slightly made acceptable by John’s smile and laughter afterward—because any normal person would have told Sherlock to fuck off at that point, but John didn’t, and in fact seemed to like Sherlock’s manipulation. So rather than take my cues from my own sense of indignation, I’m taking my cues from John himself. 

Sherlock’s betrayal of John in TRF is also quite possibly inexcusable. That was the rub of Reichenbach—how do you come back from such an immense betrayal? Or can you? True, some fans tried to gloss over it, but for the most part, you found fandom truly struggling with how to work through this issue. For me, and for many others, it was going to be about two factors: (1) realizing it was a huge mistake and genuinely apologizing and (2) actually acting in a way to make up for it; in other words, not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. 

Does Sherlock do that in series 3? Well in TEH, he pretty much covers (though yes, I found the train car scene jarring and can only make sense of it by understanding it as some kind of consensual kink that Sherlock knows John will enjoy). And then in SoT and HLV, Sherlock DOES walk the walk. He supports John, gives him space, is there for him, doesn’t lie to him anymore (as far as we know; is even brutally honest at times that it may have been better not to be); and in fact attempts to protect John and Mary from harm (though the way he goes about that is … a bit not good). 

Here’s the thing with Mary, as I’ve talked about before: she doesn’t seem to exhibit remorse; she doesn’t even do step 1 in terms of apologizing (verbally) for what she did to John (“sorry…sorry again!”). We also don’t see her do anything to make it up to John and to prove she won’t lie to him anymore. A typical mantra of couples therapy is that if your partner catches you in a lie (say, about an emotional affair), you need to become “an open book” so they know they can trust you again. Let them know and see everything, and eventually, over time, they’ll come to trust you again. Mary doesn’t DO this in HLV; she doesn’t even tell John her name (I put this down to shitty Moffat writing, but that’s what we have). She does seem to give John his space, which is something, but it’s not everything; she doesn’t even apologize

This is all by way of saying that I am very happy for people to ship Johnlock, or John/Mary, or Marylock, or whatever they want to ship. But shipping Johnlock doesn’t mean that you’re operating out of some kind of mental obtuseness or selective understanding of BBC canon. If Series 3 had ended after TEH, I would have a lot of trouble rooting for Johnlock, given Sherlock’s surfacey and glib approach to John upon his return; luckily we got a Sherlock with more depth and devotion in the other two episodes. If Sherlock had created a cover story to get John to like him more—say, if Sherlock had told John that he couldn’t contact John because he had amnesia that he just recovered from—and then Sherlock said to Mary, “John can’t ever know that I lied to him. It would break him and I would lose him forever, and Mary, I will never let that happen. Please, understand, there is nothing in this world I would not do to stop that happening”—honestly, I think most Johnlock shippers would be 100% done. I know I would. But that’s not what happened. 

I get the impression that people are trying to separate love and selfishness when it comes to Mary, as if the two can’t co-exist in a person.

That statement of Mary’s in itself says a lot about how much she loves John.  It also says a lot about how she loves John.  She does love him, intensely, even irrationally.  Quite possibly, for a woman whose lifestyle requires her to be ruthless, cripplingly.  And she loves him in a way that prioritizes keeping him over the prospect of his overall happiness.  (Well, truth-based happiness; I’m pretty sure Mary’s idea was that he’d be perfectly happy so long as he stayed ignorant.)

Yes, that line would be equally self-centered if it came from anybody else in the world as it is coming from her—but the point is that it’s not Sherlock who says it.  It’s Mary.

And yet, that in itself doesn’t make her a bad person.  It makes her probably very much the same as a hell of a lot of people in the world.  It’s not like she’s the only person in the world—or even the only person you, reader, have probably ever personally met—who is selfish in her love.  And taken by itself, that act probably still ranks lower on the shittiness scale than Sherlock bailing out and leaving John to think he was dead for two years.  Both acts are terrible things to do to someone.  But doing something terrible isn’t the same as being a terrible person.

What makes Mary a bad person is mainly being a professional assassin.

But being a bad person is also not the same thing as being irredeemable.  Even a career villain can decide to reform.  Which is why John gives her a second chance.  And it’s not Mary who withholds her name (and it’s not John who assigns her a new one).  She provides John with all the information, gives him the choice of whether to read it or not.  If he’d asked, while they were standing in the Holmes’ living room, she might even have told him her real name.  But he didn’t.  He accepted the new identity and name she had crafted for herself, chose to take her as the woman she seemed to want to become rather than who she had been before.

OR, of course, she could turn out to be a lying super-villain.  Whether the faith he gave her was the right choice or not, we’ll have to wait till S4 to find out. 

So yes, Mary is objectively a bad person.  Yes, she’s a worse person than Sherlock.  No, that’s not the same thing as being evil or irredeemable, and it’s completely irrelevant to the question of whether she’s a good character or not.  (Personally I think she’s a terrible person and a fantastic character, even though I also have trouble imagining how the show can continue to make room for her.)

It’s also to the point to note that nobody ever implied that this was a show about healthy, emulation-worthy people or relationships.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Mycroft did warn us at the outset: this is a show about people who prefer living in war over living in peace.

People often point out that Sherlock’s love for John is selfless and that Mary’s love for John is selfish, and that this is why Sherlock deserves John more than Mary ever will deserve John. But is it really that simple? Sherlock being a better person than Mary doesn’t exactly mean much. Just because Mary is selfish doesn’t mean much either. It says a lot about what kind of people they are, yes, but it doesn’t say an iota about who John would love. John doesn’t love people because they’re good people. If John was looking for someone who wasn’t selfish, Sherlock would lose that battle by a mile when competing with the majority of London.

After all, I’m fairly sure that Mary is getting a lot of heat not for her past as an assassin (I mean, this is also a problem), but because she shot Sherlock. If she hadn’t shot Sherlock, she wouldn’t be betting half the hate she is receiving from both the fandom and John. If she hadn’t shot Sherlock, and say, she shot Magnussen instead, she would have gotten off a lot easier. Neither the fandom or John would have been so inclined to be angry at her if she had not shot Sherlock.

But oh well, the theory of narrative causality and all that stuff.

Sherlock and Mary are both not good. Sherlock shoves a man out the window several times. Mary has a past as a freelance killer. Of course, relatively speaking, Mary is much worse than Sherlock. That doesn’t really make Sherlock a good person, but it makes him seem like one. 

My point is this: Mary and Sherlock are both not good people. Sherlock is a better person than Mary. Mary’s love is more selfish than Sherlock’s. None of these facts change the fact that they are both in love with john Watson or guarantee that John will choose one of them over the other. We don’t choose the person we deserve, we choose the person we need. 

And we all know who John Watson needs. 

John doesn’t love people because they’re good people.


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