Mary is extreeeeeemely manipulative! I think it’s something she does to both John and Sherlock all the time, even when she’s just “taking the piss” or making a little joke. I know it’s a very English thing to make jokes of that sort, but Mary’s really get under the skin. What I mean by manipulation is that she does things like correct John’s perceptions of reality, as though he can’t see anything clearly and needs her to set him straight (as it were). For instance, when he starts to say that she’s the best thing that could have happened to him (since Sherlock’s death), he’s stumbling over it, not entirely sure if it’s what he really wants to see, and Mary asserts herself firmly, changing it slightly: “I agree; I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to you”, which is not quite what John was saying - and he reacts as though slightly incredulous by her assumptive statement. Or Mary laughing at John’s awkward-as-arse proposal - it’s a subtle way of suggesting that John is laughable, that his proposal isn’t something to take seriously, that John isn’t someone to take seriously. It’s a very small way of undercutting someone, making them feel small.
She does it again in TSOT with the serviette folding thing: “I’m not John; I can tell when you’re fibbing”. In one neat little sentence, she’s undercut them both: she’s suggested that John is stupid and/or gullible and that Sherlock isn’t as clever as he thinks, that she can see through the fib he was hoping to pull off - which he does in an effort to save his own dignity, but Mary relentlessly forces him to admit that he was so into wedding planning that he looked up how to fold fancy serviettes on youtube. It’s mean-spirited. She could have let him have his dignity.
She does it again with Sholto, at the wedding. Let’s consider this honestly for a second: if Sholto was super important to John, would John have talked about him a lot? Does John ever talk about things that are really personal to him, really important? No. (“I find it hard, this sort of stuff.”) QED: either Sholto is not all that important to John, if he talks about him “all the time, won’t shut up about him”, or Sholto is somewhat important to John, meaning that John very likely does NOT talk about him all the time. We saw how John clammed up when Sherlock asked about him; therefore I’m more inclined to believe that John’s commanding officer during his three tours of duty in war-torn Afghanistan where John nearly lost his life, was indeed important to him. Either way, Mary is - if not lying directly - certainly exaggerating the truth to a large extent. Why? All to make Sherlock feel that he isn’t as important to John as he would like to believe he is. And Mary tops that off with the added implication that John confides in her more than he does in Sherlock - double-whammy. And then the cherry on the sundae is reminding him that there is one person present who is more important to John than either Sholto or Sherlock, and that’s her. “It’s my wedding day!” she pronounces gleefully, fully aware of Sherlock’s unhappiness and jealousy. Of course Mary wouldn’t love it if she suspects that her husband’s best friend is in love with her husband - that’s bound to be awkward/uncomfortable/undesirable in general. But they’re friends, and friends treat unwanted emotions with more tact and gentleness than this. Normally. This has more the feeling of Mean Girls politics. It’s not nice. It’s not kind or compassionate or understanding. It’s just mean. And it relies on half-truths to twist the knife. How is that in any way necessary?
I mean, why is she so damned happy here? Compare her expression to Sherlock’s!
Mary undercuts Sherlock and John’s friendship to John, too. At the beginning of HLV, John says that he hasn’t seen Sherlock “in ages” (and sounds bothered about it) and Mary corrects his perceptions again and states that it’s been a month. Kate Whitney asks who they’re talking about, and Mary pointedly says to John, “you see? That does happen!”, correcting John’s perceptions about how famous/well-known Sherlock is. And then she calls into question John’s ability to rescue Isaac Whitney from the drug den with a host of questions that are unnecessarily rude: “Why you?” (Why NOT Captain John H. Watson of the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers? I think he can handle a drug den!), “Since when [are you neighbourly]?” (Is she calling John an anti-social jerk? Possibly true, but still!), “Why are you being so… what’s the matter with you?”, or ”What is that?” to his tyre lever (as if John wouldn’t know how to handle it - and as it happened, he didn’t need anything but his bare hands!). We can see that John is bothered by it when he shrugs off Mary’s (attempt to apologise?) comment that it’s “a tiny bit sexy” with a cool “I know” before he unsmilingly turns and walks away. He doesn’t want her to come along; she comes regardless. He tells her to just leave if there’s any trouble; she stays. Does she ever credit John for actually knowing what he’s doing? That’s what I mean about subtle manipulation.
But yeah, her treatment of Sherlock at the wedding was one of the main reasons I didn’t like or trust her even before the big shocker in HLV came about.
Yes to all of the above regarding Mary’s treatment of John and Sherlock, which was painful to watch. I would also add that I could not stand the scene prior to the wedding, at Mary and John’s flat, in which Mary has John believing that the two of them are lying to Sherlock to take care of his pre-wedding jitters, while she’s got Sherlock believing that the two of them are lying to John to get him out and “run him.” As they’re leaving, she does the thumbs up to both of them. It made my stomach turn. She so deftly inserts herself between them, lying all around, and setting up a relationship triangle in which she is the indispensable point.
It is also my feeling that Mary manipulates both John and Sherlock into believing that the marriage won’t change anything between them. She is smart enough to know that had she acted possessively toward John, forcing him to choose between her and Sherlock, or to even see the reality that he was in fact making a choice, she likely would have lost him. Similarly, she ingratiates herself with Sherlock at an obviously very vulnerable point in his relationship with John, undermining his already deeply shaken sense that he understands anything at all about John Watson, and then telling him that she will fix it by “talking John round.” John and Sherlock are not themselves blameless in this. They are so uncomfortable with the intimacy between themselves that they are relieved to have Mary be a conduit for them. Nevertheless, it is precisely because they are each lulled into believing that no choice is really being made, that John can have both Mary and Sherlock and it will be all good — “The Sign of Three” — that the marriage goes forward without a hitch. The minute the ink is dry on the paper, however, it changes. Then John and Sherlock understand the reality of it. There are limits. And Mary emphasizes the point as she dances off with John: “Come on, husband. Let’s go.”
And of course the next time we see her it’s not all sweetness and light anymore. Now she’s allowing her jealousy of Sherlock to show. She can afford to now. She’s got what she wanted: John has married her and is essentially stuck with her, for better or for worse. That’s before the shooting. After the shooting, the horrifying reality of her possessiveness is laid bare: There is nothing she would not do to maintain her hold on John Watson, to stop him from knowing who she is and to keep him under her thumb. This is the hallmark of a manipulative person: the object of her manipulation has no agency. He is not allowed to know the truth and choose for himself whether he wants to be with her. No. She will decide that for him. By whatever means.
It’s too bad that Mary’s character is written as it is. This is such a male-oriented show. It would be nice to have had John become involved with a strong woman whom we could admire, or to otherwise see good female representation — not that I don’t adore Molly. But she has a small role that is somewhat forlorn in the pining over Sherlock. Mary is more than a bit not good, though, and I for one want nothing more than to be rid of her.