The miniseries C.B. Strike premieres June 1st, 10pm on Cinemax.
By Greg Wheeler
At its core, C.B. Strike is a no nonsense crime thriller featuring a tortured protagonist. The first three episodes, subtitled The Cuckoo’s Calling, revolve around the mysterious circumstances of a young model killing herself. Despite some of the supporting cast being contrived and slightly wooden in their delivery, the great chemistry between Private Detective Strike (Tom Burke) and his assistant Robin (Holliday Grainger) is enough to overshadow that flaw. With a compelling plot, plenty of intrigue around the murder and some nicely shot scenes, Strike does a great job of telling its story with flair and confidence.
The first episode of the series is arguably the best, especially from a technical perspective. Sweeping aerial shots and a clever use of sound and flashing imagery combine for a nice display of artistic flair. One particular scene that stuck out includes Strike contemplating just how deep this mystery runs whilst walking down a street. As the camera zooms out we see a billboard of the dead model posing in one of her shoots above him emphasising the looming nature of the investigation. It’s a small moment but a cleverly shot one. It is this attention to detail that helps set the show apart from a busy crime mystery genre.
As the mystery begins and we follow Strike’s journey to uncover whether it was really a suicide that took the girl’s life. Cleverly disguised chunks of exposition for the characters allow for some natural exchanges between potential suspects and the Private Detective as he tries to get to the bottom of the mystery. The second and third episodes do settle into a more familiar mystery vibe but some interesting scenes diving into Strike’s past and how he lost his leg help to try and break up this familiarity. Given that there were only a handful of suspects to begin with, it would always be difficult for Strike to manage to pull off a convincing shock twist at its conclusive end. There are hints throughout the episodes that tease who the suspect is and picking out the details might make it a little easy to figure out who the culprit is, especially with the lack of compelling personas cloaked in mystery but its disguised well enough through the episodes.
Ultimately, its the characters that make or break a show like this and thankfully the partnership between Strike and Robin is interesting, compelling and well written. The two characters have a great chemistry on screen, sharing a passion for solving the mystery. Robin’s eagerness contrasts perfectly with Strike’s reserved nature and its great to see these two characters interact. Most of the script lends itself to some well written exchanges but one scene in particular feels forced and contrived. With an intoxicated Strike rambling in a pub about public affairs, the scene comes across as heavy handed, contrived and out of character. It feels like a jab at the audience, pointing a finger at the inequalities in British society and an excuse to try and force an agenda and it just doesn’t work. Its a shame too because its the only glaring example of his character breaking the reserved persona and I can’t help but feel it could have been handled a lot better, especially since this could have been used to show more of the shock and horror from his past.
Overall, C.B. Strike is an interesting, well shot show that’s driven forward by the excellent on screen chemistry between its two lead stars. With only a handful of suspects, it was never going to be a massively engrossing mystery like Broadchurch or a cult classic like Midsomer Murders but its the characters that ultimately manage to make this a compelling watch. Its not perfect, with some of the supporting cast coming across as wooden and some wobbles with the script but overall, Strike does a good job of driving the mystery forward to its big reveal at the end. Whilst it certainly won’t win any awards, I recommend checking it out, especially if you’re a fan of the J.K. Rowling novels the show is based on.
I give C.B. Strike a B-.