Review: Sherlock (Season 1, episodes 2 and 3)

I watched the two remaining episodes of the first season of the new modern-day interpretation of the Sherlock Holmes stories. After the glowing review I gave of the very first episode A Study in Pink, episode 2 The Blind Banker was a huge disappointment.

The original Sherlock Holmes stories that featured shadowy underworld foreign gangs using secret ciphers were some of the least compelling. In this episode Holmes and Watson face off against a ruthless Chinese gang that smuggles stolen antiquities to the west and sells them off. This episode descended to using some of the hoariest clichés of that genre, such as the villains having malevolent expressions and uttering dire threats in broken English in a manner reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoon shows. They even had the proverbial damsel in distress and the villains threatening to kill her using an elaborate and diabolical device that is set in motion so that it will destroy the victim in nasty ways after a certain time. A classic scene that typifies this is from the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger.

The idea that villains go to such lengths to kill the heroes, instead of summarily executing them, is so absurd that it has been parodied mercilessly. Given the sophistication of the new Sherlock, I was frankly surprised and disappointed to see it being used here.

After the major disappointment of episode 2, the third episode The Great Game restored my faith in the series. Although not quite as good as the first episode, it was far better than the second and had some recognizable elements from the books. It ends with a cliffhanger whose resolution I will have to wait to see when season 2 becomes available.

Unfortunately it looks like the evil Moriarty is going to play a major role in the series. In the original stories Moriarty is mainly a sinister presence in the background who does not play any role in most of the stories. Like the stories with foreign gangs, the ones with Moriarty were those that I enjoyed the least. I can see why Conan Doyle felt it might be a good idea to create a character who could match wits with his Holmes, but the idea of a criminal mastermind having his finger in all manner of enterprises, controlling a vast array of people and pulling the wires behind the scenes was a little too much for me to swallow.

The old Moriarty was supposed to be a professor of mathematics, a genius using his superb analytical mind in the service of crime. The new Moriarty, while still an evil mastermind, is quite different from the one that was envisaged by Conan Doyle and I am hoping that the writers will make him more plausible, and thus overcome my dislike of the entire evil mastermind cliché.

So on to season 2!


  1. Who Cares says

    Study in Pink wasn’t bad.
    The problem being that the people who wrote the script didn’t think the initial setup through. If they’d done so Sherlock would have deduced that it must have been a cab driver at that point. Can’t recall exactly what my arguments were at that point but it was good enough for the friends I was watching that show with to agree that even if he didn’t make the connection then he should have done so when the cab came around during the stakeout.

  2. Kimpatsu says

    Yes, ep 2 was disappointing, but that’s because it wasn’t either Moffat or Gatiss who wrote it.
    Moriarty appears in at least 2/3rds of season 2.

  3. Rory says

    Moriarty appears to some degree in every episode of season 2, but he’s not much of a presence in the first two episodes, so fear not. Admittedly, the last episode of season 2 is pretty heavily focused on him.

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