Holmes & Watson in The Adventure of the Chinese Code

Posted: 8 August 2010 in television
Tags: , ,

Sherlock: The Blind Banker

Unfortunately less raving about the second episode of “Sherlock” than was the case for the first…

The second episode of “Sherlock” is a very different outing to the series premiere. Rather than a radical reinterpretation of old material, “The Blind Banker” wove elements of original stories “The Sign of the Four” (exotic assassin entering rooms in an impossible manner) and “The Dancing Men” (mysterious code appearing in various locations and holding the key to the mystery) into a new narrative. The roots of Conan Doyle showed through far less than they did in “A Study in Pink”, and if you’re doing a series about Holmes and Watson that’s based upon the original canon then the source material should shine through far more.

In no way does this mean “The Blind Banker” is a bad episode: it’s a superior slice of sumptuous television with production values that at times exceed the appearance of many so-called big budget films. From vistas of the Gherkin to the graffiti strewn walls of the South Bank and onto atmosphere laden halls and tunnels, London is showcased as a vibrant element of the adventures as it was in the Conan Doyle canon. The exotic and fantastic with the mundanity of everyday life (Holmes’ fight in 221b Baker Street with a sword-wielding assassin is intercut with Watson arguing with technology in the form of a self-service checkout).

The narrative moved far more slowly this time around, though Benedict Cumberbatch had some great scenes of mad deduction as Holmes bounced around the bank office working out eye line angles in front of utterly bemused city workers. Watson is clearly resigned to his friend’s eccentricities by this stage of their relationship. And another sticking up of the fingers to those obsessed with the concept of Holmes and Watson being gay with the latter landing  a date with his fellow doctor. Hell of a first date too: mysterious Chinese circuses, fights with exotic assassins, abduction from Baker Street and a near death encounter with a bloody great crossbow. Line certainly isn’t dull around John H Watson.

Watson clearly has his head in the real world far more than his colleague by nicely netting a total of £25,000 for their efforts on behalf of the bank after Holmes displays total disinterested in obtaining payment for his services. A sign of a private income or a total lack of understanding of the real world? Money was never an issue for him in the original tales so why should it be now? The exotic heritage of Holmes with his old connections to university and the world of finance contrasted well with Watson’s money issues and the need to find a job, but this mustn’t become a regular feature. We want the fight between good and evil not worries about paying the gas bill, when this happens the series would lose its uniqueness.

The use of the London A-Z as the basis of the smuggling organisation’s code reflected how the times are a changing. Once upon a time the book that everyone has in London would have been the Bible but in the more diverse world of today what the book that the vast majority of Londoners keep in their abode is an A-Z. For horrifying moment it seemed that the source of the code might be a Dan Brown novel. The horror, the horror…

Moriarty is lurking in the shadows. Has a confrontation in “The Great Game” been lined up? I’m hoping not…More encounters between The Napoleon of Crime’s criminal pawns and the Prince of Detectives would sell the idea of the epic struggle of good and evil far more effectively than a mere two or three shadow boxings.

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