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Sherlock: The Blind Banker

On the second episode, I think we can safely say that Sherlock is settling in well as an accomplished piece of television. The camera crew certainly know how to bring out the interest and atmosphere of architectural settings; I liked the running joke about Sherlock getting into fights when Watson thinks he has been doing nothing; and I liked Sarah too. She's Watson's professional equal, who can handle his case-load better than him, she's game to rush in and help in a fight when necessary, and she noticed Soo Lin Yao's start at translating the smuggler's code before Sherlock did. But at the same time, these characteristics also aren't portrayed as anything we're expected to find surprising in an ordinary woman who also enjoys a nice night out and is truly, genuinely terrified when facing what she thinks will be a horrible death. In fact, she's a bit like Barbara from Doctor Who, really - perfectly ordinary, but amazing with it. Good.

The plot this time was more complex, and felt much more like a proper intellectual challenge than last week's did. That said, wouldn't St Bart's notice that two recently-admitted corpses both had the same highly distinctive tattoo on their heel, without needing Sherlock to point it out? I'd also like to have heard a bit more about Soo Lin Yao's transition from being an orphaned teenage drug smuggler in China to becoming an expert in antiquities working in a museum in London, while still clearly under thirty years old. How did she find the time or the money for the training and relocation? We almost seemed to be straying into lazy stereotyping territory there: "Oh, she's Chinese - of course she automatically knows all about antique tea-pots! They're from China, aren't they?" Indeed, obviously any plot which centres around Sherlock's grapplings with a Chinese smuggling gang runs the risk of implying that all Chinese people are slippery criminals. I felt that the character of Soo Lin Yao went some way towards balancing this out, as did the general shots of people going about their ordinary lives in the Chinese quarter around the Lucky Cat emporium. But it would have been nice just to go that extra mile, and for example make one of the bankers or police officers Chinese as well.

On the queer front (and following up from discussion about this in my journal last week), the running trope of people assuming that Sherlock and Watson are a couple, and Watson (but not Sherlock, I notice) being quick to explain otherwise is still going on - for example with Sebastian the banker - though it isn't as prevalent as last week. That in itself is fine with me, though it could get tedious if overdone. But there was a reference later on which I felt less comfortable about, when Watson turned down Sherlock's plans for the evening because he has a date with Sarah. He comically explains to Sherlock that most people think a 'date' means two people who like each other going out and having fun together; Sherlock protests that that's exactly what he'd been proposing for the two of them; and Watson replies that no, that really wouldn't be a date. And all of that was fine and quite funny, and left room for Sherlock at least to be sort of as romantically interested in Watson as he is ever going to be in anyone, and certainly strongly platonically attached to him anyway. But when after Watson has said that going out with Sherlock wouldn't be like a 'date', he then added, "At least, I hope not", it stopped being so cute and began evoking further unspoken phrases like "because we wouldn't want any suspicion of homoeroticism in this friendship, would we?" That seemed a bit disappointing after last week, when at a couple of points the script deliberately set up ambiguities which made it appear for a while as though Watson was romantically interested in Sherlock. Just that one line made it feel to me as though that door to potential subtexts has been definitively closed now, at least on Watson's side. And the line could so easily just have been omitted, and that door left open instead - which I would much have preferred.

Finally, splendorsine last week put forward the interesting suggestion that although Mark Gatiss' character may well have been revealed to be Mycroft Holmes in that episode, it is quite possible that he is also Moriarty - i.e. that they are one and the same man. I think the final scenes this week with the female Chinese villain (I've forgotten her name already) speaking to her contact over the laptop make that seem a very plausible theory indeed. The facts that her contact has no picture and simply uses the letter 'M' as their alias would both fit - it means that it is someone we will recognise if we see them, while the 'M' remains deliberately ambiguous. But we must wait and see. Since we only experienced this character through text on a screen, the mystery remains wide open - and after the Harry = Harriette joke last week, I think we certainly shouldn't assume that they are male. We never learnt smartphone-addicted Anthea's surname last week, for example - so if that begins with an M, she too could turn out to be Moriarty, and organising her criminal empire over her smartphone. Now that would be cool!

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Aug. 2nd, 2010 08:55 am (UTC)
There was so much in the way of plotholes (why did graffiti boy know to find Sherlock outside the museum, why were they eating across from both the shop and the gang's hideout, why unbranded Google and Times websites but prominent Breitling watch and Daily Express, how convenient is it that supergirl Sarah - much as I love Zoe Telford - spotted the translation first, why go and get another map when he had one, why is he using the index when he needs numbers like 15?), racefail and shite onscreen graphics (the bit at the end). In other words, it was a bit Chibnall. It's alright to have a midseason filler when you have 13 episodes, not so much when you have three. If you're going to hand over the writing to someone else in such a heavily authored series, Moff and Gatiss, hand it to someone who's a bit more than a drama serial plodder.
Aug. 2nd, 2010 09:26 pm (UTC)
It didn't seem too filler-ish to me, but fair enough.
Aug. 11th, 2010 08:21 am (UTC)
I'm really surprised by this...

I'm coming a bit late to the part, having only just watched ep2, so have just been popping along to LJs I assumed would contain reviews (ie yours and drdoug's) but was pretty much taking it as read that everything would be broadly negative.

Hearing your comments makes me want to watch it again in case I missed something!
Aug. 11th, 2010 09:27 am (UTC)
I've seen quite a few people agreeing with myfirstkitchen about this episode, but as far as plot, dialogue, design and the central characters are concerned I largely enjoyed it. The treatment of the Chinese characters is bothering me more and more in retrospect, though, as is the fact that characters such as Lestrade, Mycroft and Sally Donovan seem to have been dropped unceremoniously from this episode. They could so easily have been there, and in Sally's case in particular very badly needed to be in order to get some proper character development - which in fact (as I now know having seen the third episode) really hasn't happened.

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