I've been thinking about something related to Sherlock, or rather the Sherlock fandom. Or rather, to be specific, I haven't been thinking so much as feeling and living with a realization I'm still trying to make sense of.
I've seen a lot of back-and-forth over the character of Mary Morstan. If you're at all drawn to the show or the fandom, this is in no way surprising. What's slightly more surprising (though maybe not depending on where you're coming from) is the fact that for a lot of people, the fandom seems drawn between two camps: those who think Mary is is a villain, possibly a very exciting one, and those who try to explain away her actions and make sense of how they're understandable or even justifiable.
Put a different way, the fandom seems to be carved up along the lines of an objective analysis of Mary's morality. The question we're asking is whethr her actions are defensible or acceptable - or not.
What I'm discovering as I sit with her character is that I don't have strong opinions one way or the other on that question. One of the canonical (as in: Doyle) Sherlock's main points was that it's a mistake to form theories in the absence of evidence, and if there's one phrase I'd ascribe to Mary, "evidence of absence" is it. We just don't know nearly as much about her as we need to, to go making up our minds. I highly doubt the Watson marriage will last, for a whole slew of reasons. I have a strong intuitive sense that we're supposed to hate her, which makes me think (given these show creators) that that hatred is a red herring, either that Mary will turn out to be in some sense redeemable (even if not as Mrs. Watson) or that our focus is being drawn to her is a misdirect away from some other important aspect of the story (just a magic trick...). So I'm not really sold either way, thinking that Mary's a villain or that she's not - because we don't have the necessary evidence and I don't feel qualified to work out an answer to that question.
Here's where things get interesting for me, though. Almost in spite of myself I care deeply about Mary's character - just not about the question being asked. See, I know from my own experience that just because someone's a really, really awful excuse for a human being, that doesn't mean you don't love them, it doesn't keep you from being emotionally invested about them. And because of my own PTSD I've always identified really very strongly with John, so I feel myself going through this journey with him a bit. For me, even if Mary turns out to be a true villain that I as an objective outsider should hate the way we hate Voldemort and Morgoth, it won't change the fact that for John, the way I read John, he will suffer betrayal and anger and pain and abandonment just like he would if Mary turned out to be a redeemable character. And similarly with the baby: even if it turns out he's not the biological father, that doesn't change the fact that he'll still feel involved. He will still feel tied to Mary and will probably grieve for how Mary's past and his own falling-apart from her (assuming that happens) affects his daughter in a probably very negative way. If the baby turns out not to be his in the technical sense, that won't change how I think a man like John Watson would have to be affected.
At the end of the day, I think that is the framework I approach these questions through. It's not that I don't have opinions about Mary's past or the baby's paternity or any of the rest; it's that I think when I focus on those questions, I necessarily separate myself from the story the show is telling. I view these matters with a bit too much disinterest, I guess, and so I separate myself from these characters I care deeply about. I don't think of Mary as a villain, not because I'm convinced she isn't so much as because, if I acted like her being a villain would make everything okay, well, there's something off about that. Because it wouldn't for John Watson, or at least it wouldn't for me if I were in John Watson's shoes.
There's a part of me that wonders how many people are out there ambiguous to Mary's character or even looking a lot like the people wanting her to be redeemed, who are approaching this show from a similar perspective. I honestly don't know. I kind of hope so, though, and if they are I'm not sure where we fit into the Mary wars.