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The Blind Banker   * S1E2

Directed By
Running Time
90 minutes
Written By
First UK Broadcast
01 August 2010
(6.4 million viewers)

Called in by an old university colleague of Sherlock Holmes' to investigate a  mysterious cipher in a locked office, Sherlock and John Watson are drawn into a shadowy world that moves from the highest reaches of financial power to the darkest depths of the gangland underworld of Soho. Racing to unlock the code behind the ciphers in order to catch those responsible for a growing line of dead bodies, Sherlock and John find their friendship growing, even as John discovers the possibility of romance while trying to pin down a day job. But ultimately a case of mistaken identity may prove fatal, as the gang carrying out the murders come looking for Sherlock Holmes, and instead take the wrong man...


First things first – 'The Blind Banker' is more often than not derided as the ‘weak one’ of this series. In truth, there are things we could consider missteps, but it remains a tremendous amount of fun to watch, and tonally in perfect keeping with the other episodes. The only thing it possibly truly lacks is the spark of that first meeting of the two leads that gave 'A Study in Pink' its main hook, or the frenetic pacing of 'The Great Game'.

Chronologically, it’s unclear how much time is meant to have passed between this and 'A Study in Pink', but Sherlock and John have clearly become bedded in with one another, much like an old married couple. John’s comedic frustration at dealing with what is thrown at him throughout the episode is superb, from initial shopping problems to inadvertently gaining an ASBO and being mistaken for his friend by perhaps the worst people imaginable. One would say a sane man would instantly move out, especially when you keep catching your flatmate using your stuff all the time.

Taking some of the narrative and thematic material from 'The Valley of Fear' and combining it with the mysterious ciphers from 'The Adventure of The Dancing Men', 'The Blind Banker' effectively reconfigures the original elements to include the addition of a Triad gang working at the behest of Moriarty, and bringing everything smack into the present through the use of large financial institutions as a principal location. It also applies real world pressures on the characters - or rather John, seeing how unconcerned Sherlock is with finance – with John out job hunting in a bid to pay the rent. It also gives us deeper flashes of the past of these characters – pay particular attention to Sherlock’s reaction during his first meeting with Sebastian Wilkes near the start. Is that simple annoyance or the memory of something more hurtful that plays across his features? And after John’s ‘rescue’ of Sherlock in the opener, it’s fitting for Sherlock to return the favour at the close here, making the pair literally dependent on the other.

There’s also no denying the spark Zoe Telford brings to the episode as Sarah, giving real zing to her first scene with Martin Freeman and effectively rubbing up against Sherlock in odd, quiet competition on her first date with John. Its maybe a shame she is put into the situation she is at the close.

Which brings us to our minor, tiny gripes. We know it’s intentionally played for laughs, but we would have loved to know what happened to Sherlock's Sikh warrior assailant after the opening scene. The leader of the Chinese gang seems intent on ensuring there is a bullet chambered in her gun, constantly racking the slide, yet never fires the thing. And the final scene can be rendered devoid of dramatic tension when you consider Sarah could easily tip over the chair she is tied to with some mild rocking, thus avoiding the crossbow bolt. But they are minor, perhaps exacerbated from over watching.

It seems churlish to complain overly about any of this though. The episode remains a thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes, superior to many motion pictures of the same length. Its hardly the weak one, more a stepping stone to that final confrontation that was hinted at in the first episode. As the final scene makes abundantly clear, even the most powerful members of the underworld are having their strings pulled by someone far, far worse...