First look UK TV review: Strike: Lethal White
James R | On 30, Aug 2020
Like a good wine, some things get better with age. Others just get grumpier. That’s especially the case with Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke), as he returns to the BBC – and just as he matures in his own particular way, this fourth outing for the detective is his best yet.
The central charm of the three Strike adaptations so far has been rooted in the will-they-won’t-they chemistry of its two leads: Tom Burke’s seemingly unsentimental Strike and his eager sidekick, Robin (Holliday Grainger). This fourth outing for the sleuthing duo gives us an apparent answer to that question, as we join the pair after she has married the utter bore Matthew (Kerr Logan). A flashback to the wedding shows us Cormoran rushing to the ceremony in time to… well, do nothing, and that won’t-they decision leaves Strike pining for his best friend and companion, and Robin struggling to balance the commitment to her husband and her job.
But, typically of Tom Edge’s smart scripting, things don’t quite play out like that, as we see Strike with a new girlfriend, Lorelai (the excellent Natalie Gumede). And, as ever, the duo are forced to put professional demands ahead of personal dilemmas as another case swallows up all of their free time.
In this case, it’s a young man named Billy Knight (Joseph Quinn) who tells Strike about a child he saw murdered years ago. At the same time, Strike is hired to investigate Billy’s brother, Jimmy Knight (Nick Blood), who is blackmailing a high-ranking politician. Played with relish by Robert Glenister, the minister – wonderfully named Jasper Chiswell – is a foul sort, who wants all the dirt dug up on Jimmy to counter his blackmailing, while getting shirty whenever Strike starts asking questions about his own dirty secrets. Jimmy, meanwhile, is stoking up anti-capitalist protests.
And so, as Strike inserts himself into the far-left community, Robin goes undercover in the House of Commons to work out what’s going on – and that decision to split the pair up is a sign of just how far Strike has come as a TV drama. Both characters are now rounded enough to stand on their own feet. While Burke’s glowering charisma is as brilliant as ever, Grainger’s performance just keeps on adding layers to Robin, whose quick-witted resourcefulness has you rooting for her one second and then biting your nails for her the next.
Inevitably, it will all be connected in the end, but with an expanded four-episode run (compared to the usual two or three parts), the plot gets a chance to unravel slowly, balancing twisting reveals with more nuanced character moments. Edge’s script is brought to life with style and confidently measured pacing by Tin Star, The A Word and Line of Duty director Sue Tully, managing to find time not only for some shots of the beautiful countryside landmark the Uffington White Horse but also a poignant use of The Calling’s Wherever You Will Go. Who knew that song could age so well too?
Strike: Lethal White premieres at 9pm on Sunday 30th August, with Episode 2 on Monday 31st August. Episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer after their broadcast.