Sherlock. Season 1, Episode 2. The Blind Banker (2010)
Having started well, the series whose title is updated and truncated to Sherlock dropped off the cliff with The Blind Banker (2010). I still like the concept of bringing the sense of the original stories into a modern context, but there has to be something more than just the scenery and attitude shown by the actors. This would just about have been bearable as an “hour” show, i.e. about 50 minutes running time to allow for the ads. At the actual running time, it’s just grinding the viewers to dust. OK so the first fifteen minutes promises much. We’re in a museum where Soo Lin Yao (Gemma Chan) is demonstrating a version of the tea ceremony and later seeing spooky things in the stacks. As proof of my cultural ignorance, I was sceptical the Chinese have such tea ceremonies until I checked Wikipedia as confirmation of its status in Chinese culture, but I always associated this kind of ritual with Japan and, to a lesser extent, Korea. Silly me to be diverted by such trivial concerns. The minutes in the supermarket as Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) falls foul of the self-service exit counter also resonate, but this is time-wasting until the failure to buy creates an excuse for Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) to give his credit card to John Watson. The presentation of the spray painting in the bank building is also intriguing, but Sherlock’s antics go on too long. Fortunately John Watson has the chance to pick up the cheque — let the plot elements always look forward to the pay-off, no matter how long it takes to get there. We see Sherlock bluff his way into the block of flats where the target banker lives. Remarkably, he also seems reckless enough to drop down from one balcony to the matching balcony on the floor below. Who needs Chinese acrobats while he’s around.
The second murder is thrown away and it’s only when the second spray painting is found that we vaguely establish ourselves in The Adventure of the Dancing Men now inexplicably translated into a Chinese numbers cypher used by a tong specialising in the smuggling of ancient Chinese artifacts for sale in the London auction houses. It seems one of the their carriers has been less than honest — what a surprise. Since the tong does not know who to blame, it decides to kill them all. Even for mad tong people from China, this is hardly rational. Although the individual item lost has a potential sale value of nine million sterling, it’s not worth sacrificing all the couriers and having to wait until a new set can be recruited. Worse, it makes no sense to leave public messages unless the point is somehow to pique Sherlock’s curiosity and induce him to recover the jade pin for them. There’s no guarantee Sherlock will be invited to investigate nor that he will be able to crack the code from the small sample to work out what has been stolen, let alone find it. Since the tong has the ultimate cat burglar on call, he can search all the couriers’ accommodation as the first step. Moving immediately to kill people on the off chance Sherlock will inadvertently help is a nonsense (no matter what the still MIA Moriarty may be promised to the contrary). Then we get into the detail of the tong itself. The unit sent to London is led by one of these Rosa Klebb characters (as portrayed by Lotte Lenya in the film version of From Russia With Love), i.e. no-one would take her seriously as a villain. Worse, how can she possibly think John Watson is Sherlock? A criminal mastermind at least knows how to Google a photo of our heroes — assuming Moriarty did not also supply an artist’s impression.
Then we get more delaying bits of business in the smallest show on Earth as we see the escapologist and the acrobat playing to ten paying punters. At this point I was thoroughly confused. Once Sherlock finds the spray cans why doesn’t he speed-dial his tame police squad to come and arrest everyone? Worse, after the trio of Sherlock, John Watson and Sarah (Zoe Telford) Watson’s new love interest, have battered the Chinese martial arts experts into insensibility, why do they run away? It’s all incomprehensible. Similarly, I tried to understand how Sherlock knows where to find John Watson and his girlfriend when they had been kidnapped. There seemed no clue in the message as to the precise point in the miles of underground passages. I was also fascinated these Chinese villains would go to all the trouble of relocating their stage act into this underground hideaway, including installing the pulley system into the roof so the bag of sand would travel the right distance. You would think they would just take a portable electric drill with them and start off the entertainment for the evening by putting rawl plugs into painful places.
Once battle was joined, I lost track of how Sherlock managed to dispose of the two heavies. Worse, how does Sherlock explain the one dead body — was the other heavy also killed? — when the police finally turn up. I can’t understand why the tame Detective Inspector Dimmock (Paul Chequer) is grateful at this point. All he has is a dead body and some stage equipment from an escapology show gone wrong. There’s no indication of how anything could be proved until the jade pin is finally recovered later in the episode. I could go on for several hundred more words but you get the message. It seems the creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat who did so well the first time round, handed over writing duties to Steve Thompson with catastrophic results. All we have is a slight plot which is puffed up to enormous length by the addition of mistaken identity jokes and cod melodrama not even worthy of Doctor Who.
For reviews of the other episodes, see:
Sherlock. Season 1, Episode 1. A Study in Pink (2010)
Sherlock: Season 1, Episode 3. The Great Game (2010)
Sherlock: Season 2, Episode 1. A Scandal in Belgravia (2012)
Sherlock: Season 2, Episode 2. The Hounds of Baskerville (2012)
Sherlock: Season 2, Episode 3. The Reichenbach Fall (2012)
Sherlock: Season 3, Episode 1. The Empty Hearse (2014)
Sherlock: Season 3, Episode 2. The Sign of Three (2014)
Sherlock: Season 3, Episode 3. His Last Vow (2014).