Sunday, March 2, 2014

In-Class Movie: "The Blind Banker" (Sherlock, 2010)

“Wastson, you here! I’ll take the armchair in the middle. I think that we are now sufficiently imposing to strike terror into a guilty beast. Kindly ring the bell.”

--Sherlock Holmes, “The Adventure of Three Students”

Austin: So I watched Sherlock weekly when it first aired in August in the UK. (I saw it through magic.) My brother and I adored the pilot and were so excited to watch this one. After it was done, we both thought, “Huh. So this is the kind of show it’s going to be.” This isn’t a bad episode, but it’s a midseason filler. No advancements in the main storyline except for name dropping Morarity as if he was Bad Wolf.

Thankfully the show has evolved to make each episode count more, but this still remains as a bit of an odd bird in the series. A group of Chinese smugglers sneak in goods to the UK and leave ridiculous yellow markings to communicate and threaten their colleagues. This leads to some fun action scenes and an exciting (yet still ridiculous) conclusion involving a compacted deathtrap. 

Next time you can just send me an invoice.

Yet here’s where we’ve been talking about for the past few weeks on this blog: the heightened aspect. Sherlock Holmes stories stand out because of their superhuman deduction, exotic elements and crazy cases. This has all three, but when you place this show in some sort of modern day—those elements also stand out as odd. This is the one episode where the tone really feels off. I shouldn’t be asking, “Why would you even put those marks like that? Wouldn’t that attract more attention to your group instead of just sending them a note in the mail?” As Film Critic Hulk would say, that is not a plot hole, but it does hurt the criminal’s credibility in my mind. 

Other things draw me out of this story like the way the story is plotted. No matter how many times I watch this, I feel there could be a more concise way of telling this story because it feels like they’re moving from building to building just to switch locales, especially since they end up going back to the same places multiple times.

What say you, Montano? Am I being too mean towards this tale? Should ever episode be a blockbuster or can we just enjoy the finer things in life, like sleeping on the job and sword fights?

Leigh: This episode starts out with so much potential. We have a funny moment with Watson at the automatic check out (I think we've all been there) and Holmes is super exciting and has a sword fight with an unknown assailant. And then it gets kinda boring. And kinda confusing. There are some things that just don't make sense to me. Like, why did Watson get a job? We know he needs money but he still goes to his job after him and Sherlock get a HUGE check from the bank. I understand that he wants something to do during the day but when he's falling asleep at his day job because of staying up all night at his detective gig, you'd think he'd re-evaluate the situation. Also, why is Sherlock so resistant to opening a door for Watson? I think that alone could've solved some issues. 

And why did the bad guys think that Sherlock had the jade pin? He didn't even know about it until after they had kidnapped Watson and his lady friend (which, by the way, I wish had stuck around. She seemed pretty cool). And how did Holmes and Watson miss the fact that there was writing on the picture of the code that they were trying to decipher? It wasn't like it was microscopic writing, it was normal sized writing on the picture. 


No, I agree. There are a lot of issues with this episode (the detective inspector who keeps changing his opinion on Holmes for some reason?) but we know that not every Doyle story was a hit either. But the question we generally ask there is if we can look past the imperfections and look for the good in this episode. Was it still fun or was Watson's constantly grumpy demeanor frustrating (I thought it was frustrating and not amusing, to no fault of Martin Freeman, just bad writing, in my opinion.)

Austin: This episode is filled with nice little moments the sword fight scene. I loved when Watson quietly judges Sherlock for having a big scratch on the table when he gets home. I love Sherlock trying to free Watson’s brain to remember all of the symbols when he just took a photo. That was a great use of modern technology in a Sherlock tale that doesn’t ruin the mystery process. Ultimately I think all the payoffs for the gang thinking that Watson is Sherlock is a lot of fun, even if that just makes them look dumb because a quick Google search would show what Sherlock looks like.

I literally Googled "What does Sherlock look like" and this was one of the first results.
Maybe it's not a perfect system.

It’s important for Watson to be independent. Even if Sherlock could pay all the rent, he wants to have his fair share. 

I’m not sure why the villains do most of the things they do in this. Any attempt to silence or attack Sherlock seems to go against their MO and Morarity’s objective. The police inspector felt very flat in comparison to Lestrade—why wasn’t he in this episode? 

I think why this episode doesn’t register with me is that it’s missing the personal drama of all the other episodes. There’s nothing about Sherlock and Watson in this tale that the other eight episodes have. It’s just a case to have a case and that case isn’t that great. It’s still easy to watch because Cumberbatch and Freeman are excellent in every scene. This may play better in a season of 20 episodes, but when you just have three per season you want every one to count. 

Is it unfair to look at the format of the series or is it fair to have that sort of outlook? Do we change our opinion of Doyle stories when we know they’re one of a dozen, rather than only looking at the story itself?

Leigh: No, I definitely think we should look at it that way. If I were more mathematically minded, I'd say something here about averages and ratios and such. But as it stands I'm not so I'll try to explain my thought process on this as best as possible. The not so great stories from Doyle are only not so great instead of completely awful because it is one of a collection of many. If a not so great story was by itself then we'd probably rip it apart more, like if The Hounds of the Baskerville were just absolutely awful, we'd probably say so and with great conviction and at length. But because even the ones that are on the bad end of the spectrum are part of a series, they don't seem as bad. The good ones around it help prop it up. 

With Sherlock, we don't have that luxury. Because there are only three episodes to a season, every moment needs to count. The other two episodes can only prop up the bad one so much. And because there aren't as many to compare it to, the bad one sticks out more. If we look at it compared to the rest of the show, all 9 episodes now, then it really isn't as terrible because there are more to compare it to and more good to outshine the bad. 

I hope this is all making sense. It makes sense to me. Sorta. 

"I think I got it, but in case I didn't explain it all again, I wasn't listening."

And I have to agree with the lack of personal information. There's no development of the characters and when there are only three episodes a season, this is not a good thing. Yes, Watson shows that he is interested in women and tries to date someone (that you're working with? I thought that this was universally a terrible idea.) but we don't get anything else. And I know that we don't get much in the Doyle stories either but just even a little more interaction that is just Watson being a grouchy old man would've been nice even if Freeman is amazing at it.

Next time, there's a professor and a murder and a suicide and a mystery lady! That sounds like a perfect Friday night to me.

And here is Austin with the last words…

Austin: In case you forgot this was a British show, even the Chinese are obsessed with tea.


  1. Great review! I'm not a huge fan of this particular episode myself. Like you both said, there are some good moments. But as a whole episode it just wasn't doing all that much for me. And compared to the other two episodes in the first series, this one just stands out as not being all that great next to them.

    1. It was alright when there were only three episodes but the more there are the worse it gets. It fights with Hounds as my least favorite episode of the show.

    2. The Blind Banker is probably my least favorite. It's quite annoying that every episode has great scenes and then some of the episodes just fall flat during the majority of the story.