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TV Review: Strike - The Silkworm (Episode 2)


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Following the dramatic events of last week's episode, Strike returns with fervour this week, desperate to solve the case and set an innocent woman free. 

As he and Robin begin to provoke Owen Quine's inner circle, they discover new secrets and expose the truth of the grotesque 'Bombyx Mori' manuscript.

The episode opens with Robin watching a TV interview of the ever-enigmatic suspect, Andrew Fancourt - an old frenemy of Owen Quine's who has been pretty suss up to this point. Asked about his late wife, Fancourt stumbles on her name, saying "Effigy" instead of "Ellie." Sure enough, this conjures up yet more weird, culty images, straight from the pages of Bombyx Mori, in which Fancourt brands his wife with a "lust" iron as punishment for her bad writing. 

Meanwhile, Strike faces questions from the press following Leonora Quine's arrest - ever the good and humourous investigator, he "bets his remaining leg" that she is innocent and proceeds to visit Leonora in prison with a lawyer friend. There, he reveals that the family credit card was used to buy some suspicious items - namely a burka, some ropes and overalls - that were delivered to the "nightmare" house that Owen was found in.

Leonora protests her innocence, whilst also revealing that Quine's manuscript was about "how a silkworm gets boiled alive, like he was by his critics." Agitated, frustrated, scared - and desperate to return to her daughter Dodo - it's hard not to sympathise with Monica Dolan's affecting performance in this scene. With the "ugly truth" of a blindsided police agenda looming over her, the need for Strike to solve the case once and for all becomes more and more imminent. 

Elsewhere, Robin's jealous fiancée Matthew answers a phone call regarding the car from last week (in which Robin displayed some impressive off-road driving skills) and confronts her. Clearly driven by his mistrust of Cormoran, and unaware of Robin's own part in the decision to go to Devon, he says that he doesn't want Strike "anywhere near [their] wedding." Any scene with Matthew tends to be uncomfortable to watch, mainly because it reeks of a man wanting to claim ownership of "his" woman - ignorant to Robin's own desire to progress and thrive in her chosen field. A break-up seems imminent - and I, for one, would welcome it. 

Speaking of toxic partners, Cormoran also gets a number of choice texts and packages from his manipulative ex, Charlotte this week. She is just as aggravating, if not more so, as Matthew. Despite moving on, she seems intent on tormenting Cormoran and enticing him back in through jealousy. Thankfully, Strike's having none of it - but it's still a rather irritating sub-plot to have to deal with each week. With their burgeoning relationship as friends and co-workers growing by the day, one can't help but yearn for the day Strike and Robin get together themselves. 

The next day, Robin and Strike go about investigating their prime suspect, Andrew Fancourt. While looking into Fancourt's garden (to check if Quine's missing guts could feasibly be hidden there), Strike hurts his leg. Robin suggests they head to the pub (not as "bribery", but as "motivation") to discuss their findings further. There, Robin reveals it is Strike's birthday and presents him with a Cornish gift basket, which he likes very much. Discussing murder over fudge, Strike reveals he has a lunch reservation with Quine's agent, Liz Tassel, while Robin volunteers to track Fancourt for the day.

At their lunch date, Strike begins to interrogate Liz further. She tells him that she kept on Quine "for Orlando" and offers some blunt words about Fancourt's late wife: "Anyone who kills themself over a little criticism has no business being a writer." But as soon as Strike attempts to provoke her into speaking about her love for Fancourt, she becomes suspiciously flustered and storms out. Meanwhile, despite her inexperience, Robin manages to track Fancourt to the grave site of his wife's burial, where he becomes enraged at finding a document attached to her headstone. The twisted document in question is an excerpt of the very parody that led her to suicide.

Keen to talk to the man himself, Robin and Strike attend a fancy publishing event, celebrating Chard's 100th anniversary and the return of Fancourt as one of their writers. Scrubbed up and looking good, Robin entices Fancourt into meeting with Strike. "Utterly reeled in" by Robin, Fancourt remains as evasive as ever - provoking Strike with talk of Charlotte and speaking unfavourably of Quine's writing talents. 

The next day, Robin and Strike go about interviewing other name-checked suspects of Bombyx Mori. Quine's Editor, Jerry, proves to be humourously candid, calling Fancourt an "absolute shit of a human being" and revealing that while Bombyx Mori contains some "classic Quine" elements, the use of semi-colons seems suspicious. Indeed, the use of punctuation is what makes a writer. Strike speaks to Quine's erotic novellist lover, who reveals her chagrin about being called a "harpy" in the manuscript.

After discovering that Quine and Liz had an argument in the very restaurant he interrogated her in, Strike makes another visit - this time accompanied by his charming half-brother, Al. Speaking to a waitress, he discovers that Quine theatrically shouted: "the world will know you made Fancourt's dick limp!" At Quine's house, Robin meets Dodo and connects with her over their shared bird names. Trusting of Robin, Dodo reveals that she steals things. After getting a necklace out of Robin, Dodo allows her to sift through her bag of goodies - which includes one of her Father's typewriter reels. Actress Sarah Gordy gives another moving performance throughout. 

After corroborating the clues together, Strike reveals his findings in a dramatic dinner table scene, surrounded by all our prime suspects. As it turns out, Liz was the mastermind of everything - from the cruel parody piece of Ellie Fancourt's novel to the revised manuscript of Bombyx Mori. Quine knew about the parody and so blackmailed Liz into keeping him on - leading her to commit his gruesome murder and feed his guts to her dog. Despite her protestations, she later makes a run for it, with Robin giving chase. After getting a few hits in, Robin triumphantly pins Liz down.

With the real murderer captured, Leonora is released and reunited with Dodo in a truly lovely scene. Meanwhile, invigorated by success of yet another big case, Strike finally agrees to make Robin his partner in crime. 

Another satisfying end to a grotesque and complicated case, we can't wait to find out what's next for Strike and Robin - our new favourite crime duo. 

Strike: Career of Evil is expected to air on BBC One in 2018.

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