Lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions meant that many ongoing productions were prematurely ground to a halt, resulting in a drought of highly anticipated programmes we had expected this year, leaving us with nothing but reruns. But not all hope is lost, as the end of August saw the return of BBC One’s Strike – the new four-part series, Lethal White, is based on the book of the same name by JK Rowling.
The first episode is full to bursting with flashbacks to Robin’s (Holliday Grainger) wedding reception, following her professional partner Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke) arriving unannounced and reigniting the romantic tension between the two. The opening scenes see a clearly doubtful Robin abort her first dance with her irksome new husband Matt (Kerr Logan) to run after Strike, taking him up on his proposal to rejoin the firm, resulting in an embrace that only amplified the magnetism between the pair. A year on, it’s clear the romantic tension still exists between Robin and Strike, despite Robin and Matt moving into their shiny new London home, and Strike a year into a new relationship.
Grainger portrays a raw and honest depiction of Robin’s acute anxiety, something that sees her almost put an undercover operation in jeopardy. The investigative duo are still attempting to navigate their shrouded infatuation whilst facing their biggest investigation yet – the blackmail of a government minister. There comes a time when too many flashbacks become tedious, yet in Strike: Lethal White, it seems to work. With the gap of a year to fill in, it offers a pleasant alternative to the otherwise monotonous dialogue of playing catch up.
Tension only snowballs throughout the series, with countless scenes of Robin or Strike in places they probably shouldn’t be, doing things they definitely shouldn’t be doing. With a shocking revelation at the end of the first episode, Strike and Robin remain at the mercy of countless unraveling secrets. The lines slowly begin to join between the cases they’re working on, as it seems Mr Chiswell (Robert Glenister) knows more about the murder of a young girl that a quivering Billy (Joseph Quinn) informed Strike and Robin of in the first episode. The cracks in both Robin and Strike’s own relationships continue to surface, with the avoidance of romantic advances from their respective partners. Robin and Strike living their personal lives in parallel strongly implies that they will (predictably) end up running towards each other when some sort of inevitable tragedy strikes.
The events of episode three lay down the foundations for the well overdue romantic reunion of Strike and Robin. With Robin diving in head-first into yet another undercover operation, the third episode offers a slow reveal of key elements to Strike’s case. Grainger’s portrayal of one half of a fractured and loveless marriage can’t be faulted, and with what should be a heartbreaking revelation, her character handles the situation with resilience and integrity.
I am never usually a glass half-empty kind of person, but if I had to summarise the final episode in several words, it would be that. Whilst there were still some gritty aspects of the storyline, with a tense showdown at the end of the episode, there could have been more. Whether it’s an attempt to leave the door open for another series, or simply because giving the lead protagonists the happy ending the entire audience wants them to get is overly cliched, Lethal White‘s conclusion didn’t stick the landing.
Having watched Strike since the first series, it is evident that screenwriter and adaptor Tom Edge has carefully orchestrated the storylines so as not to end the series in the most obvious way. Following the breakdown of Robin’s marriage, it is interesting to see how it allows Strike and Robin’s emotional connection to become more physical, whether it was a friendly hug or a comforting arm around the other’s shoulder, it is as though the pair find solace in each other’s presence.
Whilst the series as a whole showed promise and had its fair share of unexpected twists and turns, the big reveal in the final episode felt somewhat lacklustre, though there is most certainly room for another series to follow this one. I for one would like to see the impact of Robin’s divorce on her working relationship with Strike, but I guess we’ll just have to watch this space.
Words by Grace Nicholls