Well, more like a rant… Loved episode 1 to bits, but in general I have the feeling this episode was a little under par. Also, it had a number of massive issues around its depictions of Chinese–the sheer number of movies featuring a powerful Chinese sect (somewhat Triad-like) is really annoying, and it’s a shame this episode doesn’t buck the trend. Let’s not even mention the clichés of the Chinese girl obsessed with the tea ceremony or the eeevil Triad (sorry, sect) pillaging the riches of its own country. Yeah, right.
I have the same problem with the Triads intruding in the UK as I have with the Russian mafia or the Colombian drug-lords in thrillers: behind a premise like that, there’s a strong subtext of “oh, we were doing fine until those *people* started bringing their own criminality over. Really, all British citizens are fine. It’s just foreigners who bring their dirty laundry”. And I thought it was particularly noticeable in that episode, especially given the poor characterisation of the Chinese.
And for once, Sherlock is painfully slow on the uptake–I don’t know any Chinese, but my first reflex on seeing those symbols would have been “some Asian language, probably derived from Chinese” (yes, they’re numbers from an obsolete system, but some of the signs, like the “one” sign, definitely have a familiar component…).
Oh, and yeah–the big bad General Shan looked about as Chinese as me or you. I could be wrong, but I’d have pegged her as some kind of South-East Asian (Thai or Vietnamese, I think, but I can’t find the actress’ name to check). Kind of undercut her seriousness as the top person of the eeevil Chinese sect.