Moriarty the Patriot ‒ Episode 21

Moriarty the Patriot doesn’t always stick close to Arthur Conan Doyle‘s original stories, but it certainly does this time. “The Sign of Mary” is a fairly straightforward adaptation of The Sign of the Four, the second full-length Sherlock Holmes novel, originally published in 1890 and set in 1888, which is faithful to the anime’s timeline. There are three notable changes made from the source material, two of which are difficult to find fault about: Mary and Watson are already engaged when Sherlock meets her (this doesn’t happen until the end of the original novel) and Mary is revealed to be interested in the treasure because she is being blackmailed by a faithful-to-his-source Milverton. The other major change is that many of the Indian characters present in the text are left out, which I’m less keen on.

But more important to the story at this point is the introduction of Mary and the framing of her as being under Milverton’s power. This isn’t much of a revelation to Sherlock, who is markedly unimpressed by her from the moment John brings her into their apartment. It would be easy to go with the whole “he’ll be losing his buddy” angle, but that’s almost too simple (and a waste of Sherlock’s various irritated facial expressions). The more interesting angle would be that Sherlock doesn’t trust Mary, not because women are inherently untrustworthy in a post-Irene Adler world, but because she’s giving off a lot of signs that she’s not just in this to figure out what happened to her father. Ostensibly we’re meant to accept at the end that Mary’s issue is Milverton, but that brings up more questions; namely, what could a governess have done to merit such intense blackmailing in the first place? Even if we assume that he’s holding her father’s actions over her head (and in 19th century England, what he did would have a profound impact on her future), there’s just something that feels too sweet and perfect about Mary.

Plus there’s that one, nagging clue that doesn’t seem to have a solution to it: there were two people involved in the murder of Bartholomew Sholto – the one-legged man and the lighter, smaller person who climbed in the window and tied up the treasure chest. We’ve seen Mr. Small, the one-legged man (who is not, sadly, Long John Silver as my fevered brain suggested), and the one Indian man who remains in the story. Neither of them could even generously be described as “small,” and probably not even “light on their feet.” So that means that while both of them were very likely present – one to wait below and the other to shoot the poison dart – there was a third person involved.

Wouldn’t it make sense if that third person was Mary Morstan? Remember, she knows about the treasure, she seems unsurprised that it has something to do with Major Sholto, and she’s a slight enough figure that she could easily fit the description of small and light on her feet. Yes, there’s the creosol angle – a broken bottle of it is what leads Toby the dog to Small – but if Mary changed her shoes, she might not retain the scent. (Also, from what I read, creosol doesn’t have a particular odor – cresol does, as does creosote, so either I read the subtitles with my dyslexia turned on or Sherlock is pulling a fast one based on his suspicions of Mary.) It really feels like Mary’s got more to do with this than the episode is willing to tell us.

Plus there’s the fact that, canonically, Mary dies. In the stories it’s after she and Watson are married, and, the BBC’s Sherlock notwithstanding, the most common theory is that she dies in childbirth. (Knowing the author, it’s probably more out of convenience so that Holmes and Watson can live together again.) But her death is essentially a foregone conclusion in the Sherlockian world. That gives Moriarty the Patriot a bit more room to play with how involved in crime she is. Let’s just hope that when (and if) she does die in the series, the good old Dairy Londoner or its sister publication Dairy Londner spell her name right – poor Whiteley is written as “Whitelet” in his obituary.


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