Strike: Lethal White opener is a classic romcom tale of crossed wires

Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger return for BBC One's Lethal White adaptation - and the opening episode is less murder mystery, more romcom love triangle.

Lethal White
3.0 out of 5 star rating

Viewers of BBC One’s Cormoran Strike adaptations no doubt tune in for the twists and turns of the intriguing cases the titular detective takes on – but even the biggest crime drama fans will admit that another, big factor, is the detective’s will-they-won’t-they relationship with his work partner, Robin Ellacott

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After waiting three full seasons, will fourth instalment Strike: Lethal White give viewers what they’ve waited for? 

Well. At the end of Career of Evil, we were left on tenterhooks when Strike turned up at Robin’s wedding unannounced, having changed his mind about firing her and leaving a bunch of voicemails enr oute – all of which Robin’s frankly loathsome new husband, Matthew, deleted from her phone in a fit of jealousy.

In the first episode of Lethal White, Robin learns of Matthew’s deceit within the first few minutes, and later abandons him during her ‘first dance’ in order to chase after Strike and thank him for re-hiring her.

Then comes a time-jump tease in the style of that Avengers: Endgame ‘five years later’. We’re one year on from the wedding, and Robin is – inexplicably – still with Matthew. 

More flashbacks to the wedding, and the honeymoon, are dotted throughout the episode in no particular order – and we’re left wondering what exactly happened when Robin dragged her (insufferable) husband offscreen during the wedding and confronted him about the voicemails.

Lethal White
Matthew and Robin in Strike: Lethal White (Credit: BBC)
BBC

We do eventually learn that Robin’s decision is tied-up with romcom-type crossed wires, and the existence of Strike’s new girlfriend, Lorelei; but even then it’s difficult to understand how Robin could stay with Matthew after everything she’s learnt, and all the myriad ways she’s grown in confidence. Why can’t she just leave him on her own terms, without needing another man to immediately move on to? 

However, the episode’s action mainly focuses on the present-day, which sees a new awkwardness and silence between Robin and Strike. She’s also failed to mention to him that she’s still suffering from PTSD brought on by last season’s serial killer, the Shacklewell Ripper.

However, that distance between the pair may be about to change, as they team up on a new case – brought to them by an unexpected source.

Billy Knight is a troubled, homeless young man armed with a knife – and at the start of the episode, he’s just broken into Strike’s office with a cry for help, haunted by childhood memories of a young girl being strangled and buried in a pink blanket close to the Westbury White Horse landmark. Does Strike believe him? Will Strike take the cold case?

Do you even need to ask?

Strike’s investigation into Billy’s claim soon puts him into the path of Minister for Culture, Jasper Chiswell (played by a sneering Robert Glenister), whose conceitedness somehow rivals even Matthew’s. 

Jasper is apparently being blackmailed by Billy’s elder brother, Jimmy, who in turn is somehow in cahoots with another government minister – and Strike needs Robin to go undercover as Jasper’s privileged goddaughter and parliamentary intern. 

By the end of the first episode, the two detectives’ shared excitement over the case quickly brings them closer to a dangerous revelation – but fans will be pleased to know, it also brings them closer together. 

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Strike: Lethal White continues tomorrow night (Monday, 31st August) at 9pm BBC One. Check out what else is on with our TV Guide.