Saturday, December 21, 2013

BBC Sherlock Season 1 Episode # 2 "The Blind Banker" - Review

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in BBC Sherlock Season 1 Episode 2 The Blind Banker

Check out my initial review for an outline of the plot.

This episode is loosely based on The Adventure of the Dancing Men and The Valley of Fear.

“The Blind Banker” continues the show's exploration of the iconic characters and the Canon created by Arthur Conan Doyle.

One of the best aspects of this episode is the way the contrasts between Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and John Watson (Martin Freeman) are highlighted.

Steve Thompson's script neatly ties in one of the often overlooked aspects of the Canon. In The Sign of the Four, Dr John Watson states: “What was I, an army surgeon with a weak leg and a weaker banking-account,..”. John admits to taking the new job purely for money, when Sarah (Zoe Telford) mentions that he might be overqualified.

Click on the link below to buy your copy of Season 1:


John also tries to loan some money from Sherlock. He later takes the check from Sebastian, after Sherlock refuses to take up the case of the break in purely for financial incentives.

In the climax too, Sherlock declines the credit from the Scotland Yard for solving the case of the murders. As readers of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories are aware, Sherlock Holmes is known for solving cases purely for the intellectual challenge.

Benedict's Sherlock forgoes both food and sleep as he continues his efforts to solve the puzzle. John, on the other hand, tries his best to catch some much needed sleep. When Sherlock wakes him up to continue the investigation outdoors, John sadly notes that he needs to sleep just a bit more.

Both men have different outlook towards women as well.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Zoe Telford as Sherlock Holmes, John Watson and Sarah in BBC Sherlock Season 1 Episode 2 The Blind Banker

Dr John Watson has always been a ladies' man, as evident in his remark in The Sign of the Four: “In an experience of women which extends over many nations and three separate continents, …”. John shows an interest in Sarah, right from their first meeting. Sherlock tries to hijack their date as part of his investigation.

Sherlock resists Sarah's continued presence at 221 B Baker Street and openly voices his frustration. The Canonical Holmes has often expressed his apathy towards women.

Sarah proves to be a tough cookie and helps save Sherlock's life from his attacker in the Chinese circus. She also helps him in breaking the code later. The character of Sarah could be a nod to the strong female characters in the Canon, like Maud Bellamy, Violet Hunter and Annie Harrison.

I also like the exchange between Sherlock and John, just as Sherlock arrives to rescue John and Sarah.

Sherlock: “How would you describe me, John? Resourceful, Dynamic, Enigmatic?”
John: “Late.”


Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes studying Chinese Ming pottery in BBC Sherlock Season 1 Episode 2 The Blind Banker

Sherlock's fighting skills come into play at the beginning and the climax of the episode. I prefer this realistic portrayal to the hyper stylized Guy Ritchie version, where Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock predicts his opponent's moves.

Euros Lyn's direction is spot on. This is one of the few episodes that does not feature both Mark Gatiss' Mycroft Holmes and Rupert Graves' Detective Inspector Lestrade.

The one distracting point in the episode is the stereotyped portrayal of Asians. The argument can be made that, this is an indirect reference to the prevailing times of the Victorian England.

Still, the aforementioned bright spots more than make up for these drawbacks.

Sherlock Season 3 debuts with the first episode “The Empty Hearse” on Jan 01 2014 in the UK and on Jan 19 2014 in the US.

Click here to read the Canonical references in this episode. Click here to read all my posts about BBC Sherlock.

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Image Sources: BBC Wales, Hartswood Films, Masterpiece Theatre

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14 comments:

  1. I have more a problem with the episode because unlike the others, it spends a lot of time showing scenes without Sherlock, and what is going on in the museum, long before Sherlock even knows about it. As a result, the audience is miles ahead of him most of the episode. Also, there are a few hard to buy leaps (isn't it convenient that the apartment is directly beside the shop?) and aren't those the stupidest villains ever?

    Concerning the supposedly stereotypical portrayal...I think a lot of the complains are plain nonsense. Like "the lucky cat is not Chinese". Well, it naturally isn't, but that doesn't change the fact that so called Chinese shops stock them for the tourists. I for my part was glad to see a Chinese woman who isn't a sex slave for once, one who managed to (initially) escape her life of poverty and later crime on her own, instead of being a victim stuffed in some container - I might be too forgiving towards the episode as a whole because of it.

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    1. I agree about the apartment being right opposite the shop in Chinatown. As Holmes himself said in The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet: “We have certainly been favoured with extraordinary luck during this inquiry...”

      As for the cliched depiction - while Gemma Chan's Soo Lin Yao is definitely the silver lining in the cloud, I just felt that the episode was a bit harsh. Still loved the circus scene.

      B2B.

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    2. I guess...it's borderline for sure, but I think it is more that it reminds us of truly hateful portrayals than being hateful in itself, if you get my drift. I mean, if the criminals has been Russians, I guess nobody would complain about the portrayal - and that is always my measure for this kind of stuff. If I feel that it would be offensive no matter what group is portrayed, then it is really offensive. If it is only offensive if a special group is featured, then I start to wonder if it might be a reaction which has more to do with a history of this group being featured in a negative light than this one specific portrayal.

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    3. That is my point. It is normal to expect such cliched depiction in a brainless summer blockbuster (like Roland Emmerich's 2012 or Michael Bay's Transformer movies).

      But, one (atleast myself) would expect a more nuanced portrayal in a well written show like BBC Sherlock. Well, I guess nobody/nothing is perfect...

      B2B.

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    4. I put this episode down mostly to first season pains....since the season was so short we tend to forget that at this point all shows are still figuring out what they want to be. TBB stick out in more than one way, because it goes in a little different direction, one, the makers later on decided to abandon.

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    5. I believe the writers had the scripts completed for all 3 episodes before they started filming Season 1. They shot Ep # 3 first, followed by this one and then Ep # 1.

      As I said before, perfection is impossible for any mortal(s).

      B2B.

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    6. In the DVD commentary they mention that they filmed three first because the (rewritten) script for the first one wasn't ready yet. I guess it explains the absence of Mycroft in this one...he wasn't in the original pilot and I wouldn't be surprised if Moffat and Gatiss inspired each other while writing their respective scripts.

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    7. Since Moffat and Gatiss seem to have a healthy working relationship, I would agree with your theory about them improving each other's work.

      B2B.

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  2. We certainly have different opinions on this one. I didn't like this one because it felt, honestly, rather dull compared to its predecessor, "A Study in Pink". To me it's the most "filler-y" episode, and not in a good way. And because the more I think about the ridiculous mistaken identity plot point, the more irritated I become with it.

    I kind of miss Sarah. I think her character was underused. But we're finally getting Mary Morstan this season, so I'm happy...

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    1. Thanks Loveable Freak for stopping by.

      I agree that it does not live up to the high standards of "A Study in Pink". I also agree about Sarah being a very underused character. Zoe Telford was great in the role.

      Well, now we are getting Ms Morstan herself. I am looking forward to Amanda's version.

      B2B.

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  3. As someone who is coming to Sherlock late (and extremely reluctantly given my difficulties w/Moffat & Gatiss), I was not impressed w/The Blind Banker as you were. The things I liked: the actual mistaken identity thread (at least there was a logic to it), and the interplay between Benny & Marty.

    The things I didn't like: the "dragon lady" stereotype, Watson veering towards Nigel Bruce territory (never could stand the 'dim Watson' imagery, such as when he shouts at the check-out machine), a story where I figured things out faster than Holmes (kept waiting for them to think 'Chinese circus') and questions of logic. If Soo Lin really was in danger, why would BOTH of them leave her unguarded AND neither carry a weapon?

    Not as good as A Study in Pink, and I hope The Great Game is better, otherwise I'll still be puzzled by the fanaticism Sherlock creates.

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    1. Carrying a weapon is technically not allowed in Britain at all, meaning that John's firearm is illegal. That's the reason why they only carry a weapon when they expect danger.

      The Blind Banker is, btw, the episode of the first season NOT written by Moffat or Gatiss...which might be another reason why it feels so different from all the other ones. The show is their brainchild, and it is certainly difficult to communicate their vision verbally.

      Either way, I think most fans would agree that this one is the odd one out of the series, for multiple reasons. I think it has its enjoyable moments.

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    2. Thanks for replying to Rick's comment.

      I do think that it would have been better if John had stayed by Soo Lin's side.

      I also feel that it definitely has its moments of fun, not only from a regular viewing perspective, but also from a Sherlockian one.

      B2B.

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