Review: “Sherlock” Series 1, Ep 2: “The Blind Banker”

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Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2

As you may recall from an earlier post, I thought last week’s premiere episode of the BBC’s new series, “Sherlock,” was brilliance made manifest. So much so that I feared anything that followed would be outshone in comparison. My fear was indeed justified by this week’s “The Blind Banker,” though the episode was far from being dim.

Penned not by Steven Moffat (whom you might have worked out by now I esteem very highly as a writer) but rather by Stephen Thompson, this week’s mid-series episode takes our modernized Sherlock and his associate Dr. Watson into the heart of a Chinese smuggling ring. There are, like in last week’s episode, a string of what seem to be suicides, but Sherlock isn’t, as we’ve come to expect, satisfied with that conclusion. Though the manner in which the murders were executed seem impossible (the attacks look like something Spider-Man would pull off), Sherlock soon demystifies them for us using his oh-so-masterful power of deduction (itself rather superhuman): They’re dealing here with deadly circus performers who are part of a Chinese gang, out to retrieve an ancient trinket stolen from them. And it’s not just any trinket: It has a whopping market value of nine million pounds. In the end, the leader of the gang mistakes Watson for Sherlock (the way in which this mix-up is set up is done well, with the breadcrumbs so stealthily planted earlier on). At “stake” are the lives not only of Watson, but also his lady friend, who faces death by an escapology contraption presented earlier in the story. Sherlock of course saves the day the smuggling ring, but a larger evil force looms, as Moriarty’s menacing presence reappears in the last few minutes of the episode.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman continue to impress in their roles as Sherlock and Dr. Watson respectively, but here they plateau instead of sustaining a more upward momentum. (I have a vague sense of Freeman’s Watson being somewhat underused here). Perhaps it’s the sense that this is the in-between episode, a self-contained story that doesn’t necessarily move the story arc along. In fact, the elements of the episode themselves, though interesting, do feel like filler for the feature film length of the episode. The ciphers splattered throughout the episode as graffiti come across more as make-work.

I am perhaps though being a bit too harsh and dismissive. Thompson’s is better than your average script. It’s just that it’s not as electrifying or refreshingly dynamic as “A Study in Pink.” It’s a more mundane script, very evidently crafted by another’s hand. (I really do wish one writer would write all episodes for a series, as inconsistency in tone is just so annoying; but that’s neither here nor there). I wasn’t in love with this episode, but that doesn’t mean I’ve fallen out of love with the series. Here’s looking to the series closer next week, written by Mark Gatiss.

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