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Recap / Sherlock S1 E2 "The Blind Banker"

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"Fourth floor. That's why they think they're safe. Put the chain on the door, bolt it shut. They think they're impregnable. They never consider for a moment there's another way in."
Sherlock Holmes

Holmes is hired by an old frie-... acquaintance to investigate a mysterious break-in at a bank in London. Although nothing was stolen, the bank is concerned that someone was able to get in undetected and want Sherlock to find out how, but Sherlock is more interested in the symbols the intruder spray-painted onto an office wall. He discovers they are a coded message intended for an employee of the bank, who is later discovered dead in his flat. The next day, a journalist is killed, and the same symbols are found nearby. Holmes and Watson follow a trail of clues that link the two dead men to a Chinese smuggling ring, who are trying to retrieve a valuable item that one of them stole. Holmes eventually cracks the coded message based on Suzhou numerals and a book cipher, but not before Watson and a female friend are kidnapped by the criminals. Holmes rescues Watson's friend but the leader of the gang escapes. After escaping, the leader of the gang is in communication with her superior, who is identified by the initial "M". She is then shot by a sniper. Holmes figures out that the banker was killed because he took a piece of jewelry from one of his shipments as a gift to his girlfriend, not realizing how valuable it was.


  • Action Girl: Sarah takes on Chinese gangsters with a wooden stick.
  • Actor Allusion Seb Wilkes notes that he and Sherlock had been "in uni together". Benedict Cumberbatch and Bertie Carvel played college friends in Hawking.
  • Alliterative Name: Sarah Sawyer, presumably as a Shout-Out to Mary Morstan.
  • Asshole Victim: Brian Lukis is killed as a result of something that he didn't do, as the killer had no idea who stole the hairpin. However, considering that Lukis was a smuggler working for the Black Lotus who was likely responsible for a lot of illegal activities, it's hard to feel sorry for him.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Sherlock pulls this one off when John and Sarah get captured.
  • Black Screen of Death: When Moriarty has General Shan killed.
  • The Book Cipher: Sherlock and John encounter a number of symbols. This turns out to be numbers written in an ancient Chinese script, with the book being a Tour Guide of London (which ends up as part of Fridge Brilliance, as the Chinese Gang use these symbols to arrange meeting points).
  • Bound and Gagged: Sarah is bound, gagged, and facing a giant crossbow.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Sherlock does a dead-on impersonation of a metrosexual yuppie to fool a woman into thinking that he lived at a posh apartment complex and let him in.
  • Cain and Abel: Zhi Zhu and Soo Lin, respectively. A pair of siblings who began working for the Black Lotus Tong as teenagers in order to survive, Soo Lin left that life behind to start over in England, while Zhi Zhu remained a fanatically loyal member. After Soo Lin refused to help her brother with his criminal activities, he accuses her of betraying him and marks her for death, and he is the one to kill her later in the episode.
  • Carnival of Killers: The Chinese assassins.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Quite a few.
    • John ends up holding onto Sherlock's debit card, a cheque for Sherlock from the bank that hired him, and tickets reserved under the name Holmes; since John is holding them all by the conclusion, they all result in John being mistaken for Sherlock.
    • The crossbow used during the circus act is later reused as a Death Trap for Sarah.
    • The hand cream in Amanda's office, as well as the jade pin seen in her hair in the same scene. Sherlock works out that Van Coon stole the jade pin because the hand cream is the same brand as that of the soap he saw earlier in Van Coon's bathroom, and the jade pin is being sought by the smugglers.
  • Circus Episode: A Chinese circus is a big part of the plot. They're really involved with a smuggling ring and end up trying to kill Sherlock.
  • Comically Missing the Point: There's this dialogue after John gets caught with Raz's spray-paint bag:
    Sherlock Holmes: You've been a while.
    John Watson: Yeah, well, you know how it is — custody sergeants don't really like to be hurried, do they? Just... formalities: fingerprints, charge sheet... and I've got to be in Magistrates' Court on Tuesday.
    Sherlock Holmes: What?
    John Watson: Me, Sherlock, in court on Tuesday! They're giving me an ASBO!
    Sherlock Holmes: Good, fine.
  • Compartment Shot: When John is looking for food in Sherlock's fridge. The fridge is almost empty though.
  • Contrast Montage: A life-or-death situation of Sherlock fighting an Arab mook in his flat is contrasted with John doing grocery and struggling with the electronic scanner at the check-out.
  • Conversation Cut: When Sherlock asks Soo Lin's colleague what she was doing on her final afternoon, the scene cuts to them in another section of the building where he gives the answer.
  • Damsel in Distress: Sarah gets kidnapped by the Chinese gangsters. She handles herself relatively well, though.
  • Dramatic Drop: Soo Lin would have broken one of the teapots she cared for if not for Sherlock catching it — although he was the one who startled her into dropping it in the first place.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Shan does it to John and it definitely works as a scare tactic.
  • Enemy Rising Behind: Soo Lin's brother approaching her from behind in the dark.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In the middle of a gunfight with the villain, Sherlock notes to his opponent that they're surrounded by priceless old museum pieces which makes the latter stop shooting, at least temporarily.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Sherlock is looking through a flat and talking to John (well, sort of- John's left grumbling outside the door, can't hear a thing and might as well not be there).
    Sherlock: Someone else has been here. Somebody else broke into the flat and knocked over the vase, just like I did.
    John: You think maybe you could let me in this time? Can you not keep doing this, please?
    Sherlock: I'm not the first.
    John: What?
    Sherlock: Somebody's been in here before me.
    John: What are you saying?
    Sherlock: Size 8 feet. Small, but... athletic. Small, strong hands. Our acrobat. Why didn't he close the window when he left-? *Beat* Oh, stupid. Stupid! Obvious. He's still here.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: John's resume. Apart from some of it being hilarious, (he specifically mentions time management skills, which turns into a Brick Joke that most people wouldn't even see) but Sarah wasn't kidding about him being overqualified for locum work. He refers to himself as simply a 'doctor', but his resume indicates he's not just a GP — he's a trauma surgeon.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    Sherlock: Where are you taking her?
    John: Uh, cinema.
    Sherlock: Dull, boring, predictable. Why don't you try this [the circus that pertains to the case]? In London for one night only.
    John: Thanks, but I don't come to you for dating advice.
    Sarah: It's years since anyone took me to the circus.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight:
    • Sherlock is wondering how to find the book behind a book code, when nobody involved seemed to have any books in common. It was a local directory, available anywhere and eminently disposable.
    • The stolen Chinese treasure is a jade hairpin, which the thief gave to his secretary-slash-mistress; she had been wearing it throughout the episode.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: One of the mooks gets shot by an arrow from the crossbow he mounted for Sarah.
  • I Can Explain: John gets an ASBO after being mistaken for a graffiti artist.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • This episode revolves around the villains being complete morons at every turn. Killing two operatives who they could have tortured to get info out of — just to get Sherlock's attention? Mistaking John for Sherlock? Only hiring Moriarty to get them into the country instead of to find the pin? You almost can't blame Moriarty at the end; Shan was clearly Too Dumb to Live.
      • Fridge Brilliance: They were commanded by Moriarty, who wouldn't care if they got the pin. He just wanted to screw with Sherlock.
    • John, a trained soldier, leaving a defenceless woman alone to run after Sherlock, while knowing that someone is out to kill her.
    • Sarah sitting calmly watching the iron ball (which will trigger the crossbow) descends... instead of just rocking the chair left-right until she falls down out of the way of the bolt (none of the bad guys is stopping her or even paying attention to her at that moment). And she is a doctor?! Double facepalm.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...:
    Shan: Three times we tried to kill you and your companion, Mr. Holmes. What does it tell you when an assassin cannot shoot straight? It tells you that they're not really trying. If we wanted to kill you, Mr. Holmes, we would have done it by now.
  • Imminent Danger Clue: The open window, signalling the presence of the acrobat assassin.
  • Improvised Weapon: Sherlock, while investigating backstage during a circus performance, is attacked by a masked, knife-wielding assassin and defends himself using a can of spray paint.
  • Insecurity Camera: The security cameras at the bank only capture one frame per minute, allowing any intruder to time their actions accordingly and hence remain unseen.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: John discovers a wall covered with vitally important graffiti; in the ten minutes it takes him to fetch Sherlock to show him the evidence, however, it's been painted over. Subverted; Good thing John took a picture with his camera phone.
  • The Killer Was Left-Handed: Sherlock concludes that an apparent suicide was in fact a murder because the left-handed victim had been shot on the right side of his head, something which would be rather awkward to achieve with your left hand. What makes this rather silly is that it's actually quite common for a left-handed person to use their right hand while shooting; Watson did that very thing in the previous episode.
  • Laser Sight: Aimed at Shan in the last moments of the episode, leading to her Sound-Only Death as the scene cuts to black and the shot is fired.
  • Le Parkour: Zhi Zhu is a parkour expert.
  • Locked Room Mystery: The question of how the banker was murdered while the door to his apartment was locked from the inside. Turns out the killer was an acrobat coming through the window.
  • Look Behind You: Used by Sherlock in the first five minutes, against a sword-wielding assailant. Surprisingly, it works.
  • Meaningful Echo: Also added to through speech when John sarcastically imitates Sherlock; by shouting "I'm Sherlock Holmes, and I always work alone because of my massive intellect!", it was assumed by the assassins that he was actually Sherlock and just boasting about it.
  • Mistaken Identity: The crime syndicate believes John to be Sherlock because of a series of unfortunate coincidences.
  • Muggles Do It Better: After John and Sherlock discover that a clue in the form of graffiti has been painted over, Sherlock implores him to concentrate and try to remember every detail of it. When John finally can get a word in, he reveals he simply took a picture of it with his phone.
  • Mysterious Watcher: We see General Shan watching Sherlock and John from afar before she is even introduced.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The plot draws on two Sherlock Holmes stories, The Sign of the Four (oriental treasure, foreign killer who can climb into apparently inaccessible places, Watson finds romance) and "The Adventure of the Dancing Men" (mysterious symbols left in a public place as a message for a woman trying to leave behind her dark past).
    • The sequence with Sherlock and John trying to figure out which book is the basis of the book cipher takes its cues from a scene in The Valley of Fear.
  • Never Suicide: There is the case of the first victim - shot in the right side of the head, despite the victim being left-handed. Sherlock quickly points this out.
  • Offscreen Inertia: John invokes this trope on Sherlock. However, while John believes Sherlock hasn't moved in the intervening time, a flashback reveals that Sherlock, in fact, fought and defeated a mysterious sword-wielding intruder while John was out.
  • One-Woman Wail: Plays in an emotional moment when John comes to find Soo Lin dead.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The Tong. All they had to do was explain to their smuggler that the pin he took was actually worth 9 million. He had no idea of its value and gave it to his girlfriend as an apology for breaking their date.
  • Race Lift: In the original story the episode was based on, the villains were American gangsters from Chicago. Here, they're Chinese.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Soo Lin.
  • The Reveal: The spray-painted symbols are ancient Chinese numeric symbols—each referring to a page in a London atlas that leads to the smugglers' hideout.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Soo Lin. Her own brother killing her serves to demonstrate the ruthlessness of the Yellow Peril.
  • Samus Is a Girl: General Shan.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: The acrobat stops strangling Sherlock after John imitates him, leading the Acrobat to think that John is Sherlock.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Sherlock and the graffiti artist both scarper when the police show up, leaving John holding the bag.
  • Sherlock Scan: A Double Subversion. Sherlock tells a college acquaintance familiar with his deductive scans that he's been around the world twice in the last month. When asked how he knew, Sherlock says the secretary mentioned it, which John knows to be untrue. Sherlock later explains to John that he deduced it from looking at the man's watch and seeing the date discrepancy, but he felt like messing with the guy's head instead.
  • Short-Distance Phone Call: Sherlock calls Eddie Van Coon's mistress as he's walking up to her desk.
  • Sibling Murder: Soo Lin is killed by her brother, Zhi Zhu.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Sherlock deducts that the secretary, Amanda, had an affair with her now-dead boss. It earned her an expensive hairpin.
  • Speak Friend and Enter: John finds a wall covered in graffiti that's actually the code that will allow them to solve the case. He runs to fetch Sherlock, but by the time they get back, the entire thing's been painted over. Sherlock then spends the next minute or so pressing John to remember the code, waxing lyrical about the fallibilities of the average human mind's memory capacities, all the while ignoring John's protests and attempts to get to his camera phone, on which is stored a picture of the entire wall before it was painted over.
  • Stab the Picture: The episode starts off with Sherlock and Watson coming across a painting of a banker that is defaced with symbols. Later on, said banker is found dead in his flat.
  • Staggered Zoom: Onto the face of the second murder victim.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: John and Sarah are at the circus on a date and John is getting their reserved tickets when he is informed that there are three waiting for them, not the two John was expecting. John is confused - until Sherlock pops up out of nowhere behind them, explains that he called back to get the third ticket for himself, introduces himself to Sarah, and promptly walks off offscreen.
    John: I've got two reserved for tonight.
    Box Office Manager: What name is it?
    John: Er... Holmes.
    Box Office Manager: Actually, I have three in that name.
    John: Oh, no. I think that's an error. He booked two.
    Sherlock: [offscreen] And then I phoned back and got one for me as well. [slides onscreen; turns to Sarah] I'm Sherlock. [slides offscreen]
  • Temporary Substitute: This is the first episode that Lestrade doesn't appear in. His role is instead assigned to D.I. Dimmock.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: John orders a meal at a Chinese restaurant while he and Sherlock ponder their situation. John only gets two bites before Sherlock drags him away.
  • Time-Passes Montage: When Sherlock and John search the books for clues at Baker Street, we get a transition from an orderly look during the night to a scattered room the next morning.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Really, Chinese gangster? Do you think threatening Sherlock's life is a good idea? Nope. Not a smart - let alone survivable - move.
    • Goes double for General Shan when she tries pleading with Moriarty by saying "I won't reveal your identity." when he's already aimed a sniper rifle at her. Yeah like those arguments ever worked.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: John ditching Soo Lin, who knew the code, in the dark museum, knowing she was marked for death by trained assassins who were most likely in the building. May have been to protect his heterosexual Life-Partner or serve his own Blood Knight tendencies.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: A group of Tong serves as the main villain, though it's referred to as an ancient Chinese crime syndicate rather than a Chinese American organization a little over a century old (and, as with the previous episode's villain, it turns out that Moriarty's The Man Behind the Dragon Lady).
  • Uncovering Relationship Status: When Sarah mentions John's girlfriend, he replies that he doesn't have a girlfriend and invites her on a date.
  • Wham Line: When Sherlock is following the trail of the killer, he starts inspecting the apartment of the missing Soo Lin:
    Sherlock: Why didn't he close the window when he left? [realisation] Oh. Stupid, stupid. Obvious: He's still here.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The Tong seems to completely believe the reason why the item is missing is because one of their smugglers stole it for its value and set out to kill them as punishment. It turns out the guy just got it as an apology gift for his girlfriend and had absolutely no idea of its value.
  • Yellow Peril: Several reviewers have noted that the portrayal of the Chinese villains (and a random "Arabian Nights" Days assailant wielding a freaking scimitar) smacks uncomfortably of this trope.
    • In particular, Su Lin claims all Chinese immigrants living in the UK can read the secret code the triad uses, as if they're all in on it, which can spread some very Unfortunate Implications about real-life immigrants.
    • A particularly interesting change considering that, while Yellow Peril villains were common enough when the original "Adventure of the Dancing Men" was written, the villains in that story were actually Chicago gangsters with a secret code.
  • You Have Failed Me: Moriarty's response to General Shan at the end is to have her shot in the head as she apologizes.