16 Times Sherlock Drove Us All Crazy

11 of 17

Sherlock and John in Chinatown in “The Blind Banker”. (Photo: BBC)

When The Show Was Unfortunately Kind of Racist

“The Blind Banker” is generally regarded as one of Sherlock’s weakest episode. (There are a few that I like less, but not many.) Plot-wise, it’s actually not the worst, overall. It’s pretty boring actually, and its story of a band of Chinese smugglers lacks a lot of the tension of the other mysteries Sherlock and John investigate. (It’s incredibly forgettable, too – don’t feel bad if you need to consult Wikipedia to remember the particulars of the Black Lotus or anything.)

But that’s not the worst part about it. No, the most awful thing about “The Blind Banker” is that it’s got so many weirdly racist undertones. It embraces a lazy kind of Orientalism that’s incredibly uncomfortable to watch. The episode is full of pretty terrible stereotypes, from the murderous ninja gang to the Dragon Lady in charge of everything, to the sinister Chinatown setting full of black-clad Asian drug dealers. The final confrontation, set in a literal Chinese circus, is littered with cringe-inducing moments involving ancient Asian punishments. You definitely get a gold star if you can get through it without cringing.

“The Blind Banker” seems to draw most of its inspiration from the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story The Dancing Men. Maybe with a little bit of The Valley of Fear thrown in. Neither of these two stories features Asian characters or an Asian-related plotline. That’s what makes this episode even worse – someone chose this Orientalist framework on purpose. It’s not any kind of homage to a classic story. And it’s not like it’s even interesting, as a narrative device! So why bother?

 Number of eyerolls: 7