Words: Saam Das
'Sherlock' Episode 2: 'The Blind Banker'
SYNOPSIS: "A mysterious cipher is being scrawled on the walls around London. The first person to see the cipher is dead within hours of reading it. Sherlock plunges into a world of codes and symbols, consulting with London's best graffiti artists. He soon learns that the city is in the grip a gang of international smugglers, a secret society called the Black Lotus." (bbc.co.uk)
Episode two of the BBC's new contemporary take on 'Sherlock' could have and perhaps should have built upon the impressive foundations of the opening episode, 'A Study In Pink'. Unfortunately, despite a solid premise (wherein two men are killed by someone who can walk through walls, with a mysterious code/cipher connecting the killings), 'The Blind Banker' was somewhat of a lukewarm offering.
Has the novelty worn off already? For one thing, I'm actually getting used to Benedict Cumberbatch's (who plays Mr Holmes) name. Secondly, I'm not even that smug anymore that I know 221b "Baker Street" is actually North Gower Street, around the corner from where I used to live in student halls of residence. Or maybe it's that I'm just not really into cryptography.
Actually, I think perhaps one of the more considerable problems with 'The Blind Banker' was its emphasis on action. A successful formula for Guy Ritchie's recent big screen adaptation but perhaps a tad out of place on the small screen. While Sherlock's eccentricities ("I don't eat while I'm working....digestion slows me down") and deductive abilities remain to an extent, they feel overpowered by the intermittent action sequences, culminating in the final "battle".
Indeed, Sherlock's lust for action results in the most idiotic moment from the great man thus far. Sherlock abandons a principal witness to chase after her potential assassin. We then immediately discover the assailant also has a gun, making this exercise seem even more ridiculously stupid. Not soon after, Watson goes walkabout. You'll never guess what happens to the abandoned character. Yes, that's sarcasm.
Equally as ridiculous is Watson's (Martin Freeman) first day working as a locum at a GP surgery. After falling asleep and then admitting he had a late night to his boss (Zoe Telford), they go out on a date! Interesting form of punishment. Although it serves her right in the end, as following her date and in the "thrilling conclusion" both Watson's and her character's fate are at stake. Expectedly, Sherlock is on hand to save the day. Ultimately, I suppose an episode on acrobatic Chinese assassin smugglers (something like that, anyway) was always going to be quite ridiculous. And at ninety minutes long, I submitted long before the episode's ending.
As strange as it is to say with just one episode preceding it, 'The Blind Banker' felt out of tune with the series. Not simply because of the hand-to-hand action scenes but also in missing key elements from 'A Study In Pink'. The unexpected replacement of DI Lestrade and his team was disappointingly noticeable, as was the absence of Sherlock's brother Mycroft. Worse still, the continuation of the Moriarty storyline was literally tacked on to the end of 'The Blind Banker', and represented the most visible demonstration that co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss weren't on writing duties on this episode.
Of course, it wasn't all bad. Steven Thompson's writing successfully developed the central, and all-important, Watson-Holmes relationship, with Watson appearing ever prominent. Cumberbatch and Freeman remain an utter joy to watch together. With the final episode having been written by Gatiss (who also plays Mycroft, as it happens), I'm particularly hopeful this short series can end on a high note.
[WATCH] until 9:59pm, Sunday 15th August 2010 (UK users only).