Review: “Strike – The Silkworm”

Strike – The Silkworm has just been released on DVD in the UK, so following up our review of Strike – The Cuckoo’s Calling, it was time to sit down on the sofa, curl up, and enjoy the second installment of the detective series.

Now that we know the characters, there’s obviously less setting up to do, so we can get straight into the story. The first episode opens with not Strike (Tom Burke) or Robin (Holliday Grainger) but an unknown character, silence, and a rather gruesome death. This definitely marks the show out as grown-up TV. We see Strike now seemingly established in a flat/room above his office, and Robin is still his assistant, but a major theme of the story is her desire to become Strike’s partner and her disappointment when he suggests that he is hiring someone else.

The theme of the story – publishing and the disappearance – and death – of author Owen Quine (Jeremy Swift) – is introduced early on as we enter the world of publishers, novelists, and literary agents. In the featurette, Jo describes the story as a “novel about novels with another novel inside it.” And indeed it is the editor who picks apart the manuscript and shows Strike and Robin the holes in the theory that Quine wrote the novel. An Oxford comma is the secret to the identity of the murderer.

The show also relies on imagery – Strike watching things in the reflection of a car, a girl burning some manuscript pages – all parts of the puzzle, mystery, and the atmosphere. Jo describes herself, in the bonus featurette with this DVD, as a “visual author,” and the team behind Strike have brought Jo’s vision to life in a clever and striking way. Like the first installment, the show is engaging and visually pleasing. It isn’t your average detective show either, with the characters really well developed and complex, and the contrast between Robin and Strike’s lives is emphasized again.

Strike meets Matthew for the first time, and the pair is instantly at odds, feeling awkward and having nothing in common. Matthew – let’s face it – isn’t the most appealing character. He’s cold and prickly, and the meeting is strained. He loses his composure later when we learn that his mother has just died, although he still remains opposed to Robin’s relationship with her boss.

Robin’s character is developed too. She shows more of her character when she takes a car for an offroad spin, and she also tells Strike that she wants more training – being a detective is what she wants.

Strike is allowing her to be who she always wanted to be.

We also meet other sides to Strike: when we meet his brother, as we see more of his struggles with his leg after he injures himself, and when Robin leaves him stranded in a car he can’t drive. Both Burke and Grainger pull off wonderful performances again in these roles, making the two characters come alive on screen and making me want to watch more of the pair in action.

The program only gets more gruesome with Strike’s discovery of Quine’s body – not for the faint-hearted! I recall Rowling saying that this was the story she wanted to write originally but felt she had to introduce Strike and Robin with a less complicated story first (i.e., The Cuckoo’s Calling).

All in all, this is a great continuation of the Strike world, and we can’t wait to see the next installment when it hits our TV screens.

If you’re in the UK (the DVD is region 2 only) and haven’t caught up on the second part of the series yet, then I highly recommend getting a copy to watch over the remaining winter months. You won’t regret it!

Strike – The Silkworm is available on DVD on February 19.

A copy of the DVD was provided for review.