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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Thompson, Don't Write out Loud

One of the enduring qualities of Dr. Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series is how well the stories hold up in repeated readings. For nearly three decades, I read every story in the Canon many times. Despite his confusion over the location of Watson's wound, ACD's rendering of logic and motivations is impeccable. Even the most bizarre stories make sense. Very few of the Holmes fanfics or imitations can achieve the same, with notable exceptions in David Pirie, Rene Balcer, and Stephen Moffat.

Steve Thompson's script for "The Blind Banker" --- not so much.

The episode crumbles into a heap of dust upon second viewing. Not counting the pacing problems and lack of wit (especially compared with episode 1), there are some irreparable problems at the bottom of the story.

First, let's imagine that you were a gangster/smuggler/assassin (Chinese or otherwise). An employee has stolen a very valuable jewel from you stash. You go after him. You find him. Then what?

Obviously, you would grab him and take him to a dark, isolated corner and ask him where the jewel is. Perhaps nicely at first, perhaps not. Perhaps you have to threaten bodily harm, until he gives it back or takes you to the fence where he unloaded the merchandise. All this must be done quietly because you do not want to attract anyone's attention, especially the police's. It's a no brainer.

But what does our Chinese secret-society villain do? He goes to van Coon's (fairly) high-security work place, enters some irrelevant boss's office, spray-paints a couple of big numbers on the wall, and hopes van Coon would see it. Obviously, the message is not clear enough to convey what he is looking for. Then, the villain goes to van Coon's apartment, jumps in from the window (it would be so much easier to just follow him in), avoids van Coon's gunshot, and ... shoots him in the head.

I ask: Why? Isn't the goal to find the hairpin? How does killing him achieve that? Does the villain shoot him in haste and therefore have no time to interrogate van Coon? No, because he shoots van Coon in close range. Remember that, in both encounters with Sherlock Holmes, the villain tries to strangle him in close range. He never uses a gun. Yet he shoots dead the two men whom he really must talk to.

All you have to do is ask.

Second glaring problem: How does Holmes trace the clues to Soo-Lin Yao? Holmes and Watson sit in the cafe across the street from the Fortune Cat Shop. He notices that the apartment next door to the shop (where the smugglers) has not been occupied for 3 days, so he breaks in. The apartment must have something to do with the case because it is the neighbor of the depot of the smuggling gang? Give me a break. So there's a phone book outside her door. Maybe the resident is on holiday. Maybe he or she just moved out. There is no logical reason for the break-in.

Perhaps even worse is Soo-Lin's motivation. Suppose you are a young woman who is trying to escape your past life in a dangerous criminal gang. Suppose you want to live your new life without interference. Would you choose to live next door to a shop that is a front for this particular gang that you are trying to escape? Wouldn't she know these people and what is going on in the shop? She was one of them for heaven's sake. Is Soo-Lin retarded? Doesn't seem like it.

There are many other sloppy and lazy details. Awkward, unfunny lines. Scenes that go nowhere. Poor editing.

Dull. :P


CAVA said...

There are a few scenes that I did enjoy though: Watson arguing with check-out machine in the supermarket, Holmes intruduing on Watson's first date without the faintest clue that he may not be wanted there. But they have nothing to do with the story itself.

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