The Blind Banker
|"The Blind Banker"|
Title card of the episode
|Episode no.||Series 1
|Directed by||Euros Lyn|
|Written by||Stephen Thompson|
|Featured music||David Arnold
|Original air date||1 August 2010|
|Running time||88 minutes|
Sherlock is a loose adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, taking place in the modern day. "The Blind Banker" follows Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and John Watson (Martin Freeman) as they investigate a series of ciphers representing numbers in an ancient Chinese numeral system which have been left by a Chinese smuggling ring who seem intent on killing to retrieve an item that one of them stole.
"The Blind Banker" attracted 8.07 million viewers on BBC One and BBC HD. Critical reception was positive, though some reviewers felt it was inferior to the first episode.
At the National Antiquities Museum, Chinese pottery expert Soo Lin Yao (Gemma Chan) sees something frightening, and disappears. Meanwhile, John is having financial problems and needs a paying job. Sherlock takes him to "the bank", which turns out to be a high-powered international finance house. There Sebastian Wilkes (Bertie Carvel), an old university acquaintance of Sherlock's, asks for help, in return for a large fee. A break-in occurred in which nothing was taken, but an apparently meaningless pair of symbols were spray-painted onto a portrait of a banker. Sherlock realises that was a message meant for one man - Edward Van Coon of the Hong Kong desk - who hasn't come to work. Sherlock breaks into Van Coon's locked flat and finds him dead. The police, under Detective Inspector Dimmock (Paul Chequer), are prepared to regard it as a suicide, though Sherlock sees it as murder. Soon, journalist Brian Lukis (Howard Coggins) is also killed inside his locked flat. Sherlock and John investigate, and in a library where Lukis had been they find the same mysterious symbols painted on a shelf.
Meanwhile, John obtains a job as locum at a local surgery with Sarah Sawyer (Zoe Telford). Sherlock and John discover a link between the two men; both had just returned from China, and both went to an oriental curio shop, "The Lucky Cat". There John discovers the symbols are ancient Chinese Hangzhou numerals. Sherlock breaks into Soo Lin's flat, obviously empty for days. Investigating, he finds the intruder; a brief fight ensues, but the attacker escapes. Outside, he doesn't mention it to Watson. At the museum they discover the same symbols on a statue. Then, with the help of graffiti artist "Raz" (Jack Bence), Sherlock and John find more symbols painted on a railway yard wall, and struggle to decode the message.
Back at the museum, Holmes discovers Soo Lin in hiding. Soo Lin explains the code is the work of the criminal "Black Lotus Tong", of which she was once a member. Unfortunately, before she can fully decode the message, the assassin, Soo Lin's brother, infiltrates the museum and kills Soo Lin. Sherlock realises Van Coon and Lukis were members of the Tong, involved in smuggling valuable antiquities from China to sell in London, and they were killed because one of them stole something.
Sherlock knows the message is in the form of a book cipher, and he and John spend the night going through the first two victims' books trying to find the solution. John's first day at work does not go well, as, having stayed up all night, he falls asleep in his consulting room. Sarah covers for him, and Sherlock arranges a date for the three of them at a travelling Chinese circus. While John and Sarah enjoy the classic escapology and acrobatics acts, Sherlock snoops around backstage and is attacked, but with Sarah and John's help, the three escape. While Sherlock continues to search for the solution to the book cipher, John and Sarah are kidnapped; Sarah is bound and gagged and then set in front of a giant time-delayed crossbow that will shoot her. Due to having some things belonging to Sherlock, John is mistaken for him by the villains, who want him to reveal the location of the missing "treasure" in return for Sarah's life. All along, they had attempted to use John and Sherlock in their search by directing the coded message at the two. Fortunately, Sherlock finds the solution to the code using an A-Z London Street Atlas guide, reads the message, tracks down the villains to their hideout and rescues John and Sarah. He also realises the elusive "treasure" has been in plain sight all the time; a jade hairpin belonging to the Chinese royal family being worn by Van Coon's secretary/mistress Amanda (Olivia Poulet), who had received it as a gift from Van Coon.
However, Shan, the group's leader, escapes, making excuses to a person identified only by the initial "M" who had helped the gang to get a foothold in London. The episode ends with Shan's assassination by a sniper sent by "M".
This episode takes the concept of coded messages from The Valley of Fear (using book references) and "The Adventure of the Dancing Men" (using pictorial messages). The rest of the plot makes more allusions to the stories. The markings on the feet of the Black Lotus members reference the markings of the "Scowrers" in Valley of Fear, along with the plot of escaping a secret society and being tracked and killed in England. Even the "a book that all would own" notion, comes from the same. The messages themselves, which appear to be plain graffiti, allude to the "Dancing Men", which appeared to be childish drawings, but are replacement ciphers known only by a criminal organisation.
Broadcast and reception
"The Blind Banker" aired on BBC One on 1 August 2010. Overnight figures showed that the episode had been watched by 6.442 million viewers on BBC One, a 25.6% audience share, while 210,000 watched on BBC HD an hour later. Final consolidated figures rose to 8.07 million, with both BBC One and BBC HD taken into account.
Sam Wollaston of The Guardian thought that "The Blind Banker" was better than the series opener, calling the plot "more satisfying ... clearer and more self-contained". He particularly praised the relationship between Sherlock and Watson. Radio Times reviewer David Butcher wrote that the episode "didn't have the scripting pizzazz of the others, but it did have one big advantage: Zoe Telford. She played a love interest for Martin Freeman's Dr Watson and briefly threatened to bring a strong female character into the mix — only to be wasted on damsel-in-distress duties. We can only hope creator Steven Moffat will bring her back for the second run". IGN's Chris Tilly rated the episode 7 out of 10, describing it as "a lacklustre effort that fails to do justice to that smart and sophisticated start". He praised Lyn's directing and the character developments, especially of Watson, but Lestrade did not appear and the plot "fails to fully engage, the story feeling like 60-minutes of material dragged out over 90".
- "Steven Moffat: "Cos people have asked: tonight's Sherlock ("The Blind Banker") is loosely based on The Dancing Men."". twitter.com. Retrieved 6 December 2010.
- "Steven Moffat tells us about 'Who' vs. 'Sherlock'" (YouTube video). Digital Spy. 22 July 2010.
- Deans, Jason (2 August 2010). "Sherlock on the case with 6.4m". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
- "Weekly Top 30 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
- Wollaston, Sam (1 August 2010). "TV review: Sherlock, Alan Titchmarsh's Walks of Fame and Come Dine with Me Down Under". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
- Butcher, David. "Sherlock: Series 1-2. The Blind Banker". Radio Times. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
- Tilly, Chris (2 August 2010). "Sherlock: "The Blind Banker" Review". IGN. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
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- Sherlock at BBC Online
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- Sherlock - The Blind Banker at the Internet Movie Database