Strike: Career of Evil

Once more we travel into the London world of murder mystery as written by J K Rowling under the pen name Robert Galbraith. We all know it’s her but we play along. Let’s see if the character’s can overcome their personal issues to help justice prevail once more.

This is meant to be an irreverent synopsis and commentary of the BBC’s adaption of Career of Evil. Honestly I meant to do this back when it first aired on the BBC but lost my original notes and then never got back around to it as I didn’t enjoy it at the time to be honest. Let’s see if time has made me feel more inclined to enjoy it. I’ve typed this without going back to my posts regarding the other stories (links to which are at the bottom of this post) so I only half recall some of the bigger points from before such as Strike’s circumstances and Robin being an ‘author’s self insert wish fulfillment’ figure in the narrative who can do anything.

Career of Evil: Short synopsis

First let’s have a short synopsis for those who just want the highlights of the storyline to refresh their memories:

Strike gets a call from a potential client so goes to a set of flats. A teenage girl goes there too. She turns up dead later – dismembered to be more accurate. He, early on, gets framed for her murder but it soon gets dismissed as all the evidence is circumstantial; mainly focusing on a newspaper published photo of him meeting the dead girl which he proves could easily just be a set up. She could have coincidentally been asking if a seat was spare, when the photo was taken, rather than them actually knowing each other. The photo, frozen in a single fleeting moment, shows them interacting and assumptions were made. However it turns out she was a fan of his due to the news coverage he got from the previous high profile cases but he only learns of this long after the fact.

Robin is getting ready to be married at the start of the story. A severed leg turns up in the mail addressed to her. Her fiancé Matthew insists she can’t be a detective any more. Robin wants to be married and a detective. Strike is okay with her being both but Matthew hates him. So same old, same old… eventually she gets attacked when walking alone at night but proves herself and foils a peadophile later too.

Shanker throughout the story seems to play sidekick to both Strike and Robin at different points. It’s like he has nothing better to do despite being involved in torturing a bloke in a back room of a bar when Strike goes to him for information at one point. He verges on being both the dogged saver of the pair and comic relief as if he is some sort of latter day Sancho Panza.

The prime suspects of the case are:

Malley: Some bloke who used to cut off legs and send them places – we never hear of him after the initial mention.

Whittingham: Dodgy musician obsessed with death and dark things who is/was Strike’s step father. He was involved in the death of Strike’s mother but got off scot free. Strike keeps trying to find a way to pin this case on him but he didn’t do it. Even if he is a dodgy, willfully antagonistic, bastard who abuses his current girl friend, as he has others previously, he isn’t the murderer in this case.

Brockbank: Ex-army. Paedophile. Abused his own daughter years ago back when Strike was in the SIB. Strike punched him which causes him to get epileptic fits due to a pre-existing concussion from playing rugby the weekend before. Thus everyone Robin or Strike meet involved with him thinks Strike single-handedly caused the ailment. Nowadays he moves about doing bouncer work for various strip clubs. It turns out this is our B-plot where Robin and Shanker stop him abusing his new girlfriend’s daughter. He gets caught by the police off screen towards the end.

Laing: Also ex-army. Con man with a violent past. Back in the day he abused his wife and child so Strike got him imprisoned for over a decade. He has been free for a few years before the current events so counts as one of the people Strike feels has a grudge against him. Laing turns out to be the guy who sent the severed leg and stuck a cut off thumb in Robin’s kettle when Matthew was home alone. He uses theatrical make up to apply a beard and contact lens to change his appearance between his own identity as a disabled, stroller using, man living in a council flat (where he stores the body parts in numerous fridges) and Ray the ex-fireman husband of the dead girl’s older sister. He stole the ex-fireman identity from the son of an elderly neighbour whose lawn he used to mow when living with a former girlfriend.

Back and forth we go between scenes of Robin’s emotional crises on whether to marry Matthew or not. This occurs after it’s revealed he cheated on her shortly after her rape in university (by someone wearing a gorilla mask) which leads to her reliving some of her trauma from the experience and needing to go home, near Yorkshire, instead of taking an active part in the current investigation for a while though she does rejoin it later on.

Early on they go to the countryside and Robin interviews Brockbank’s sister pretending to be a solicitor in order to get some current address information about him.

Strike tracks down Laing to council flats, in London’s Elephant and Castle area, but sees him using a mobility walker, assumes he is incapable of the murder and so dismisses him from the inquiry.

Instead he keeps trying to find some way to place the blame on Whittingham due to his own personal bias against the guy regarding his mother’s death. Robin meets his newest girlfriend and speaks with her but that all falls through and eventually they find out his band had a gig on the night the girl was murdered so he has an alibi.

Strike also visits the murder victim’s older sister’s home where she lived. There he meets ‘Ray’ her husband. He pretends to go to the toilet and takes photos of certificates on the wall and sees a photo of Ray and his friend on an apparently cold weather holiday.

Strike goes to some strip clubs to find information about Brockbank who worked as a bouncer and finds out he is in a relationship with someone who has children.

Robin keeps going out on night time walks despite Strike telling her repeatedly not too. Eventually on one of them she goes down a street she doesn’t know and instead of turning back or getting to a populated area she pressed on and is assaulted. Fortunately she has her rape alarm but she still gets cut across the arm.

At the hospital Matthew and Strike turn up and as usual Matthew has a bad attitude towards Robin continuing to be a detective and especially towards Strike personally for enabling her.

Against Strike’s wishes she goes after Brockbank telling Shanker Strike had asked him to help her. She meets Brockbank’s new girlfriend with her daughters and tries to warn them about him. The girlfriend defends his honour ‘knowing’ of what happened with Strike causing his epilepsy. He comes home and becomes violent. Shanker backs Robin up but Brockbank runs off before they can detain him. On the bright side the daughter finds the courage to tell her mother what was happening and she didn’t before because he threatened to hurt her little sister if she didn’t comply with him abusing her. Eventually he is caught off screen by the police.

The turning point in the investigation is when Strike sees a potted plant his uncle left at his mother’s grave which is similar to the wild growing one in Ray’s photo. He makes a call and realises the plant wouldn’t be in full bloom, as in the photo, during the colder seasons of the year so the photo was staged. He also looked up the award certificate Ray had on the wall and things don’t match up. On an earlier visit to one of Laing’s former residences shared with an ex-girlfriend he had mowed the lawn of an old woman and stole the document’s of her ex-fireman son and assumed his identity as ‘Ray’.

Thus Strike goes to Laing’s council flat alone posing as a repairman and breaks in. He finds a number of fridges filled with body parts. Laing appears and they fight. Shanker also arrives to help but due to the steel door he can’t kick it down to save Strike when the fight is underway. Strike takes Laing down with a hammer eventually and calls the police to deal with him.

Afterwards Robin and Matthew have headed off into the country to get married. Strike throughout the case has recalled his mother telling him how she loves Whittingham and one day he will find someone he loves just as much (hinting, or at lease teasing, he has feelings for Robin) but he doesn’t interfere in the wedding affairs.

Instead he has Shanker drive him to an off the grid commune where Brockbank’s daughter, from all those years ago when he punched him as they took her into custody, is living. He tells her what happened and apologises as he has felt guilt ever since. She forgives him.

With that resolution to his guilt Strike has one more stop before heading back to London with Shanker – Robin and Matthew’s wedding since he was invited as a guest. Shanker jokes he is going to pull a ‘Graduate’ and stop the wedding. They get there just in time for Strike to see her say I do, but not before knocking over a flower arrangement calling attention to himself, and then it all ends on a happy note.

[Spoilers: obviously this all gets undone in the prologue to the next book ‘Lethal White‘.]

Now for the longer, in depth, version of the synopsis. Throughout this I will insert my commentary written while watching it by [doing this with any such commentary text so it stands out] though it will probably be obvious.

Career of Evil: Detailed Synopsis and Commentary

Episode 1

We open on a semi detached house where a teenage girl is getting ready to head out somewhere

Robin meets some friends at a restaurant and they joke about how he keeps her long every night. [How dare work impacting the lives of those with aspirations – as if it’s not Robin who insisted on being more involved]. Then they have some banal dinner party chat about her work and her stating ‘money isn’t everything’ – which is something only comfortably well off people can say. [Robin, according to the book version has now worked a whole year for Strike… it’s been very eventful then… but it also means the detective agency has been on the brink of closure once every six months, i.e. once per story line, at least and it will be again this time too unsurprisingly.]

Robin’s friends joke about how scruffy Strike is and her fiancé jokes he could do with a second leg – because ha ha he lost one to an IED when part of the military police. [which, you know, is a bit too on the nose to make us dislike Robin’s fiancé and friends immediately]

Strike walks the streets of London.

Strike enters a building using a code we see on his phone.

We see the teenage girl from the opening enter the same building and go to the stairwell. Tense music plays. She freshens her breath as if going to meet a date. She exits the elevator and enters a sparsely decorated flat and looks out the window. Suddenly gloved Dario Argento black gloved hands use cling film to asphyxiate her…

The theme song plays. [I forgot it after all this time…]

The next day Robin runs to work with two coffees and looks through the mail in the letter box. There’s a delivery by a mute motorcycle delivery person whose helmet visor is black – almost as if they want to keep their identity secret [or to not pay for, or give credit to, an extra]. She signs for the boxed package.

In the office she discusses a new case which came in where someone wants to check if their partner is cheating. Then Robyn gets a phone call to the office about the food for her wedding reception. As she does this she opens the package and dramatically draws away from it. Strike goes to check and there’s a severed leg in the box. He slowly drags her away as she cries. Apparently as career hungry as she is she wasn’t prepared for this.

He then contacts Detective Inspector Eric Wardle with four possible suspects, three of whom he knew from his time in the SIB:

  • Terrence “Digger” Malley, a member of the Haringey Crime Syndicate who has a history of mailing severed body parts and was sent to prison after Strike anonymously testified against him.
  • Noel Brockbank, a Gulf War veteran and serial paedophile whom Strike had investigated and who blames Strike for taking his family away from him [In the TV adaption he is called Niall apparently.]
  • Donald Laing, a former member of the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment who Strike arrested for physically abusing his wife and child, which resulted in a dishonourable discharge and a 10-year prison sentence;
  • Jeff Whittaker, Strike’s stepfather and the prime suspect in Leda’s death by overdose, who Strike believes to be responsible despite the fact that Whittaker was acquitted.

[Heads up: Good luck recalling which suspect’s background is which after a while if you don’t pay attention. I spent some time confusing the backgrounds of Brockbank and Laing myself. It got to the point there was the ‘guy who abused and raped his own daughter’ as a single suspect because we only know of them from passing comments made by the characters until they appear in person for one or two scenes. Obviously Whittaker is almost immediately dismissible as Strike’s personal hopes of getting justice finally. What I found odd was the mention of Malley but he seems to never be mentioned besides this initial line up of suspects.]

Strike jokes the leg is not even in his size. Wardle says he is on his way and Strike offers Robin a tea… or a beer which he describes as ‘something stronger’ [you would think spirits would be more appropriate to rat piss but whatever – beer is ‘stout, hearty, English fare’].

Robin gets up to look at the leg again and Strike tells her not to touch it. She chides she wasn’t going to. He then looks at the leg more carefully himself seeing cuts near the ankle as if he recognises them and robin remarks he has gone white.

A little later Robin is asking him about the leg with a smile on her face [apparently having power over her employer soothes all ‘dismembered body part’ woes]. Strike says he could identify it was the leg of a teen or someone in their twenties and he had seen scarring like that before. He even goes as far as saying it might be a girl called Brittany Brockbank who was the daughter of Major Niall BrockBank who had a reputation for cruelty. She had told a school friend her father was having sex with her and she feared she might get pregnant. The friend’s dad told SIB and Strike was the investigating officer. When he interviewed her she denied everything out of fear as her father had threatened to cut her legs off if anyone found out. The scars were his idea of a warning hence why these legs remind him of it.

[In hindsight we see at the end of the story that Brittany seems to be in her early to mid twenties – but then could any of us identify a leg’s age on sight if it wasn’t attached to a body? Arguably it’s because she lives off the grid so is ‘missing’ but that is never made clear to the audience so it’s one of those cases of cutting information assuming the audience will just ‘get it’ somehow as we are never told the time frames for past events]

No charges were brought. However Strike feels Brockbank still ha good reason to hate him as he injured his reputation [and the whole epilepsy matter which they omit here though it’s clearly something he does hold a grudge over throughout the story considering how many know the story from Brockbank’s whitewashed account of it]. Aside from him the only other person who would do this is a Scot called Donald Laing who used to write him letters and should be on file somewhere. Robin chips in saying she will get cracking. [It’s not as if she wants to help but just to get some juicy gossip about him it feels.]

Wardle and his partner arrive while arranging for forensics to turn up. [You would expect they would be required to be the first on the scene before the detectives if there’s the chance in case of contamination but what do I know…]

Strike goes down the stairs and opens it to Wardle saying ‘a fucking leg?’

Thus the office is being covered by the forensics people taking photos and such as Robin gives a statement about the delivery person. ‘A black Honda, big, 600cc at least’ she states.

[She, unsurprisingly for her, randomly knows a lot about motorcycles if she can identify them on sight. To be honest it isn’t something you expect unless they’re into motor sports or such. We’ve been given no hint of that about Robin – maybe an ex-boyfriend was a petrol head or some other lame excuse like the running joke that whenever Strike needs a new skill set to overcome some obstacle she coincidentally did a weekend course on the topic.]

She notes how there was nothing identifiable about the courier. He looked big but the jacket could have been padding him out. Strike comments ‘not a fat bastard like the boss’/ Robin notes the package was addressed to her and Strike suggests it could just demonstrate they’ve done their homework. Suddenly Wardle’s partner calls over to them that there was a note underneath the leg:

“A harvest of limbs, of arms and of legs, the toes that crawl…”

Strike chips in to finish it “- the knees that jerk, the necks like swans that seem to turn, as if inclined to gasp or pray. Last verse of Mistress Of The Salmon Salt by Blue Oyster Cult”

It was Strike’s mother’s favourite band. She had that specific song title tattooed. However she is interred in Whitechapel Cemetery. Her second husband Jeff Whittaker, as far as Strike is concerned, killed her but was never charged with it. In a flashback we see an ominous silhouetted hand approach a sleeping figure with syringe in hand. She was already dead and spread out across the bed like a painting. We cut to her grave which is in the shape of an electric guitar. Eccentric. Leda Strike 1952 – 1994 it reads. [Leda like the swan… swan song… it sort of makes sense I guess…]

At night Strike and Shanker [his salt-of-the-earth, bit-of-a cheeky-chappy, non-standard English speaking, criminal-friend-whose-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-law but ‘not in a bad way as he works with Strike’ associate i.e. plot convenience when a deus ex machina is required, for revealing relevant investigation information such as the location of persons of interest, when Rowling isn’t sure how to have the characters obtain it via other methods] go to the graveyard to visit Leda’s grave. Shanker asks who left the pot plant and Strike says it was probably Uncle Ted. It’s an Erica carnea – or at least it was before winter in Whitechapel as he grows them. [Heads up this is the critical clue of the entire investigation apparently]. Shanker lays some flowers down joking ‘Dunno what those are. Garage had ’em on sale’. He asks about the stump i.e. Strike’s leg and Strike says it’s not like an old relative, you don’t have to ask after it. Then they have a drink while sat on someone else’s grave. Shanker chirps ‘top girl your mum’.

At home Robin is reading up about Jeff Whittaker and Strike’s mother. Her fiancé brings her food and she thanks him but doesn’t take her eyes off the screen as she reads about Leda Strike. He pushes down the laptop and she apologises. They discuss the leg being sent to her and he chimes in ‘and for what? Slightly less than the minimum wage?’ She remarks back ‘would it be alright if I was on £100 grand? How many share options make a girl’s severed limb worth me dealing with?’ in a tone of self righteous indignation. She declares she has work to do.

Shanker asks if Strike is up for killing Whittaker yet? Strike says no – but he needs him to find him. He tells him about the severed leg and lyrics ‘he holds grudges. This feels like him. The police are looking but they won’t find him’ Shanker suggests he is probably squatting somewhere in a shitty band.’ Strike notes it was addressed to his partner (Robin). Shanker says she is a pretty girl. Strike agrees hence why he wants him to work fast.

Robin sleeps next to her fiancé. She begins to whimper in her sleep so he wakes her. He tells her it’s a sound she used to do (after the rape presumably). He says being in that state isn’t good for her as they’re getting married. She says she is fine. He remarks he is sure strike is delighted. He then insinuates she is infatuated with Strike and wouldn’t mind if he grabbed her. They have a tiff. He says she is naïve. She says Strike is her colleague and friend as ‘Sarah’ is to him… except she realises he and Sarah had a fling in the past. It comes out it was when they were having a split (or she went home to recover from the rape/trial convicting her rapist) so it wasn’t an affair, as she first speculated, but something occurred during the overall course of their relationship. She runs off sobbing and locks herself in another room.

The next morning she is sat on a park bench surrounded by pigeons. She listens to a voice mail left by her fiancé of him admitting he has messed up. She stoically deletes it as she stares into the middle distance. Then there is a message from Strike saying he is trying to get in touch with her. She deletes that too [which, let’s be honest, would cause Strike to contact the police to find her for fear something has happened to her – but this entire series is wish fulfilment and Robin is untouchable as it’s real protagonist]. There are more messages from both men which she deletes without listening to them. We see the blurred silhouette of someone observing her and then following her.

She is following a young blonde woman wearing a furry blue coat – those ones that look like they’re actually part of a novelty fancy dress shop’s gorilla costume. They are walking past the entrance to Spearmint Rhino when Robin photos the girl entering the establishment after greeting the security guard [Maybe it’s Brockbank? At this point you really would need to be paying close attention to realise that]. Her phone rings and it’s Strike. He is furious she just disappeared off the grid the day after a severed leg was sent to her in the mail. He tells her to keep her phone on and to answer it when he calls. She says she will try. Then he tells her to meet him in the office at five.

In the office he is reading up about Laing’s reputation as a champion and his discharge from the forces.

Robin is in the pub drinking alone at the bar.

Strike reads up about Whittaker.

Robin goes to the toilet […apparently we needed to be aware of that].

Strike finds a modern photo of Whittaker [… it’s Super Hans from Peepshow!]

Robin, still sat in the pub but in a cubicle now gets a call. It’s Strike telling her it’s ten past six. He asks if she is okay and she, addressing him as Cormoran, says she’s not sure if she is up to this today.

Still in the pub alone a guy approaches Robin asking if she is alone. She says she is waiting for someone. He asks if he can wait with her just as Strike walks up behind him and says ‘no you can’t’. The man walks away. [cock block or ‘Strike saved her’? It depends on your perspective but it was a meaningless moment].

Strike wants to know what’s going on. She asked how he found her. He drily jokes that he is a detective. Also that pub is always playing the Pogues which he heard in the background when he called her.

[That’s a bit… coincidental. I mean it’s not unthinkable a pub has a limited play list but I don’t they would play a single band that much to the point he would be certain of it. I like to think he actually went to a few pubs walking in dramatically as he did and found no one there before slowly exiting. Then again I think this is the same pub as featured in the other stories thus it’s ‘their local’ as it were so he probably would have gone there Pogues or no Pogues.].

She asks what he needs. He wants to know what’s going on. She denies anything is. He says not to give him that – there clearly is. She is welling up with tears. He mocks he has never seen her look so bad with a smile on his face and she laughs saying ‘morale duly boosted’ as she sips her white wine. He asks where her engagement ring is and she tells him to put two and two together since he is the detective.

[Also I will note it’s been years since I last watched any of the Strike series and it’s notable they assume you’re familiar with the secondary or tertiary characters immediately here so no names really come up to aid people who are jumping in late if there are passing references].

She says Matthew, her fiancé, cheated on her. Strike calls him a moron. She says it was a long time ago but it was with one of the most annoying women [wow… so she knows it’s in the past and doesn’t affect her engagement now but is acting like it happened only a brief time ago… she is overreacting immaturely depending on your own views – not that we should be surprised as she seems to have led a life wrapped in cotton wool and little is going to happen to change that opinion]. In fact she was one of the people at the dinner party last night.

She cries some more before saying Matthew and Sarah started up shortly after Robin left university. Strike is surprised he admitted to it but she corrects him that Matthew didn’t – she just knew [very deductive reasoning befitting a detective then… relying on hunches rather than facts but it’s that kind of story considering Strike spends far too much time trying to tie it to Whittaker since he dislikes him]. She says he looked ashamed of himself.

She relays that she dropped out of university because something happened to her [she was raped… the series kept teasing this in previous stories but that’s what happened and it all but hammers with it in all but name after the first two ‘cases’ but here we finally get an explanation for all the skill sets she had accumulated previously as if to be prepared for any circumstance that might occur hence her off road driving skills etc previously].

She was coming back from a friends halls, not even late in the night, when it happened. There had been a warning and the guy had tried to attack someone earlier. She played dead and he ran. That’s how she survived. He was wearing a rubber gorilla mask but had a patch of white skin behind the ear. [That’s such an oddly specific thing to mention. I secretly want there to be some ridiculously sensationalist old school twist in a later novel revealing they looked for and convicted a white guy but it was actually a black man with vitiligo or even albinism like the model Shaun Ross. Then we can all discuss how it’s a stereotype depicting black people as excessively violent criminals especially one with some form of skin condition to ‘other’ them further. Rowling will say she thought it would honestly be a great twist in the most ignorant way possible. However these days it wouldn’t be as shocking to people as back when this storyline originally aired now she has made clear her stance on transgender people despite all her lip service towards progressive views prior].

Her evidence got him put away for rape and attempted murder. She claims it was 20 bad minutes out of an entire life and she is still the same person. Strike assured her of that but it’s still a horrible thing to have happened to her. After it happened she couldn’t leave her room so she had to go home to her mum and dad. That is apparently when Matthew cheated on her.

[Sorry, but in all seriousness, she is still considering marrying this guy? You can sort of insinuate due to the ‘affair’ that he probably wasn’t there to be supportive of her in other ways too during that period and yet she continued dating him and is now going to marry him. That’s a lot of convenience with this character. Then again it does seem people marry because ‘it’s the right time’ in life to tick the box before it’s too late. Everything is done for convenience. A marriage of apparent convenience. An employer who conveniently allows her to become his partner in a detective agency though he has many years of being a military police investigator to have honed his skills… It’s just Robin is a character around which the narrative is formed not one formed by the narrative writing wise. If there is something needed it’s likely she has access to it. It’s a very middle class fantasy.]

They leave the pub and Strike asks where she is staying. She says everyone she knows in London is Matthew’s friend. She’ll get a youth hostel or YMCA [not to digress but are there hostels non ‘youths’ can use too? Presumably so. I just don’t know the details to be honest but Robin doesn’t strike me as someone who would even consider sleeping in one to begin with considering everything we know about her].

Strike says he’ll find her somewhere proper. She says she is skint and he quips that is probably his fault. He will pay and they can call it a wedding cancellation present. We see the same person from earlier following them [I’ll be honest we all suspect it’s the ex-army buddy following her since Strike more or less asked him to but – uh oh – maybe it’s the leg man? In fact it turned out to be no one apparently unless I missed something but at least it foreshadows the later complacency she has when the assault occurs in fairness].

She arrive at a hotel Hazlitts which has a blue plaque on it’s wall [so it’s somewhere of historical note… but those are ten a penny in London from my experiences if you’re in the centre]. Strike notices the person following them. [We never know who it is. Journalists? The murderer? It could be Matthew for all we know.]

The room is very luxurious. Bijou hotel level. 5 stars. Robin knows he can’t afford this as she does his books. He smiles telling her check out is at 11 and to keep the door locked. Also to stay away from the mini-bar.

When exiting and striking up a cigarette Strike sees the hooded figure sitting in the window of the bar across the road [would any establishment not be a bit concerned about someone obscuring their face to that degree? At least that is what I would have said back at the time of broadcast but we are in COVID-19 days as I write this…]. Strike gives chase with an inevitable lurching run due to his false leg through the crowded bar. The rush out the back door and down an alleyway. Strike tries to keep up but eventually loses steam and loses the suspect in Chinatown. After sitting down outside a supermarket he is next seen using a folded lawn chair as a crutch. [Where had he get it from? We don’t know and, honestly, I assume he stole it]. Outside his office are a number of journalists with voice recorders question him if he knows where the leg is from.

Inside we get the obligatory special effects and camera tricks visualisation to confirm that the character has a false leg. He makes a call to the detective asking about who leaked the information about the leg as it’s not good for business. The detective says ‘you know how it is’ which irritates Strike asking not to play their game before cutting the call short before rubbing slave onto the stump of his leg.

The next day Wardle and his partner arrive on the scene where the body of a young girl has had its hands and legs sawn off. Caucasian, maybe 16. Found by a cleaner. There was also a phone but no bag or wallet. Nothing to identify her with and the phone has gone to forensics. CCTV camera footage from the lobby. They’re checking the tapes so they might get lucky.

Strike opens the street door to his office and there are journalists with cameras and questions prepared piling on top of one another to ask him about the developments. As he closes the door one white guy with an afro breaks away. He looks like the guy from the bar. [maybe it’s a coincidence… maybe he has a part to play… who knows? Well you will if you read further on. Spoilers: No it seems to just be a coincidence but I swear it was the same guy. Maybe he is a character in the book omitted from the teleplay?]

Strike calls Robin to tell her about the scrum of parasites on his doorstep and that they need to find him before he puts them out of business. Robin vomits into the toilet of her hotel room. He notes she vomited and she assures him she can work. He says he never doubted her. [Honestly so far this story has been about glorifying her more than developing the events of the case. I get it that we want to be invested in our protagonists but this is slowly becoming more a low key comedy-drama about an office romance than a detective mystery]. He jokes that she should have them send her up a bacon sandwich.

He gives her Nick and Ilsa’s address on 80 Octavia Street. Then he remembers to tell her to be careful exiting the hotel as they were followed last night.

Strike is then at Nick and Ilsa’s. She is making a smoothie with a blender [wow, remember the fad for those back a few years ago? It seems a lifetime ago but it’s only been a few years…]

Strike complains he is down to two clients while the rest have run screaming to the hills. [I don’t think that’s how it would really work to be honest considering the financial investment by clients but this happens every book/series to the point you could argue it’s an annual thing for him to lose clients, solve a high profile case and get an influx of new clients and then lose them at the start of the next scandal due to a case he has taken on or has some connection to. Rowling loves her formulae… but then I recall what I said at the start of this synopsis and it’s not just annually but at least biannual which makes it all the worse! He can’t afford a partner under the best of circumstances let alone with these constant threats of closure/bankruptcy.]

They’re a healthy, clearly affluent if their fashionable stark décor is anything to go by, couple. Strike notes if the guy wanted to kill him he is a big enough target to which Nick quips ‘that reminds me we need to talk about your cholesterol. [ha ha – funny joke as Master Splinter would say at the end of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live action films back in the 90s… the issue being Tom Burke who plays Strike is well built with a rounded face not at all overweight due to physical inactivity like the character is in the books is apparently].

Strike remarks on the effort to get into his head due to the leg and lyrics used so far. Ilsa says it’s Robin that he is concerned about. [Yes, for Robin is the centre of the universe…]. Strike mockingly quotes Robin who has ‘a certificate for a three day self defence course’. Ilsa says she likes Robin with a ‘hint hint you and her together’ gesture which Strike doesn’t register and says blankly ‘well so do I’ in a friendly manner. He admits he just doesn’t want to add her to the list of dead and/or maimed women he carries around with him in his head [like James Bond].

Elsewhere Wardle and his partner are watching the CCTV footage from the start of the episode making notes of time stamps. They note that Strike entered the murder scene building 18 minutes before the girl. [the post-it note has a 2019 date on it. Has it really only been about a year? It seems much longer than that…]. They’ll have to bring him in.

At the hotel, which Robin still hasn’t left though it must be past 11AM now, her phone rings. It’s Matthew. She doesn’t answer it.

Strike is on the phone at Nick and Ilsa’s home. Robin arrives and they offer her coffee. She thanks them and says she feels awful. Strike, finishing his call, says it’s because she drank every bottle of wine in London. She tells him another client cancelled their job with them and he calls over to his friends that they only have one client now. She gives him the reasons but he says it’s fine and he gets it as he takes a drag on a cigarette.

Later in his office he has another address for Brockbank’s sister Holly in Barrow-In-Furness. It’s the only solid lead they’ve got and business isn’t thriving he reflects so he will go there. Robin remarks she will go with him. He says she would be more help in the office. She retorts she can do the research work from anywhere [the unspoken caveat being she needs a decent internet connection but apparently no one in this series suffers that even in rural areas]. Also she has a land rover she borrowed from her father and Strike can’t drive so it’ll save them time and money – also so she has money before the company goes bust. She believes she will be safer outside of London. Strike asks what Matthew will think and Robin replies he can shove his thoughts up his own arse. [Why she says ‘his own arse’ instead of ‘his arse’ I don’t know. It sounds awkward.]

Next Robin is packing up to leave and Matthew pleads with her not to to which she tells him not to touch her. She loads the land rover and drives off as he watches.

Elsewhere Wardle takes Strike to the station for questioning in the back of his car.

Robin gets to the home of Strike’s friends only for Nick to tell her ‘Oggy’ (Strike) had to nip off to see the police. He then asks her if she fancies some lunch and she graciously asks for just a glass of water [wow, being fed by Strike’s friends too – what a blessed existence].

[I know what you’re asking: When does the murder mystery investigation part of the story really start? Well… congratulations it finally starts now after all this personal stories set up!]

The detectives, Wardle and his partner, asks if Strike has been in Whitechapel recently. Yes due to a message from a client called Valley who he never met [almost like, you know, it was a set up]. They found the building and murder scene with the cut up body and a phone which had her finger prints on it [almost as if, shockingly, a young girl might own a mobile phone] where apparently Strike had invited her.

[In reality that wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny if it was done with mobile phones these days. It’s not like it was a hand written invitation with his handwriting, on his personalised stationary which no one else has access too, someone saw him write the letter and speak about the meeting and all those other ‘proof’ contrivances that would work in a story set 30 or more years prior to today. The CCTV would show him not enter anywhere or spend the minimal amount of time when first entering and never returning nor having something hidden, i.e. legs and hands, under his coat when leaving… but then that gets in the way of a classic ‘accused of a crime he did not commit’ trope based story. Watch now as the already overly worshiped Robin gets to prove his innocence so he owes her one… or not as he quickly proves his innocence by stating things the police would have asked themselves i.e. if the photo was staged by the photographer.]

Back at the friends’ home Robin is drinking an abomination of a ‘healthy’ drink Nick made in med school to ‘prove your the hardest bastard in the room’. [Yes, rigor mortis does make you that I suppose]. Strike walks in telling then he was interviewed under caution, drinks the concoction saying he needed that and drags Robin out onto adventure.

While getting in the land rover we are told Wardle at least believes Strike isn’t going around carving up teenage girls and Robin will have to actually do some work sending all they’ve got on the ‘Valley’ client to the detective. [which, really, would be the phone number and a brief description of why he wanted to meet… which is nothing barring ‘he sounded like [accent], [age] and [pure speculative guessing with no solid proof you’re not lying]’ speculation].

Why the leg? Asks Robin. ‘So I never work again because of scandal’ more or less Strike tells her after walking through the bloody obvious which she herself was aware of already.

[Got to make sure the stupid audience is treated like children as if getting a leg in the mail wouldn’t drive people off which already was indicated by the ‘I’ve lost all but one of my clients’ information earlier].

They drive to the country with some wide shots to sell the series to the foreign market.

So they’ve three suspects [apparently the TV series cut them down or the ‘sends limbs in the post’ guy is instantly dismissed for one reason or another though I don’t recall them doing so.]

Whittaker: got away with murder twice.

Laing: charmed everyone while he kept his wife terrified.

Brockbank: was a child rapist who managed to convince everyone he was the injured party.

Robin asks if Brockbank is capable of cutting off his own daughter’s leg. Strike doesn’t know what to think but knows he wants revenge on him for the past.

More countryside scenery porn for foreign market trailers.

We get a little flashback of Brockbank being approached by Strike in his SIB days. Brockbank tells his daughter to get back inside while getting an empty bottle to attack with. More countryside scenery porn.

Why are they out in the country? Brockbank’s army pension goes out to his sister living in Barrow every month and she is their only lead.

[It might just be me but surely the police would contact him or make a note of his whereabouts immediately and have already contacted his sister if they couldn’t trace him. But again it’s another contrivance for the sake of drama. Otherwise, without them, the entire ‘Strike is a murderer’ story thread would be ‘Strike entered the building, we found out it was a weak set up, we found the body and, very likely due to forensic evidence, it was someone else and due to their pre-existing record we know exactly who did it. We then caught/did not catch the killer/had to wait until they resurfaced before detaining them. Meanwhile Strike has gone off on other adventures after his name was cleared after a day or two.’]

Also Strike had Brockbank’s old photo in his military uniform on his phone. [Surely a closer photo of his face would be better for identifying him but whatever…]

Strike asks how Robin is doing and she says a bit shit [the middle class love a bit of casual swearing for emphasis but hypocritically look down on the working class assuming they do it all the time] and that Matthew keeps texting. To this Strike asks if she wants to hear about the migratory pattern of the black marlin… [because he could not give less of a shit and because they’ve two hours to go and no one wants to listen to the self pity of someone as self glorifying as Robin for two hours. Really he should have faked taking a nap. Much easier.]

They arrive as the sun sets and park in a residential street which has a massive nuclear power station looming over it.

Both are asleep in the land rover as a female bobby-on-the-beat approaches and knocks on the window. The land rover belongs to Robin’s father Michael. The police officer tells them they’re on a double yellow and there is no loitering near a nuclear facility. [um, they have housing that close to such a place?! That’s far more interesting…]. She checks Robin’s driving license and then is used to give some exposition regarding ‘shipyard’ the nuclear facility. [side note: the police officer actress barely moves her mouth to the point she looks like someone doing a really bad ventriloquist act]. Strike jokes does anyone come up to Barrow-In-Furness on holiday? The officer gives a slight smirk saying the abbey and nature reserves are popular… apparently Strike is that charming. Robin lies about hoping to catch up with a friend on the way to Scotland. Strike asks where they can get a half decent coffee. The officer, losing interest, tells them there’s a no photography rule in the area and leaves [so… does that include residents? The scene almost makes it sound like one of the locked off Russian industrial cities like Norilsk].

Bit of banter between our protagonists and Robin goes off to enquire about Brockbank not two seconds after the officer has gone and will see her going door to door inquiring. She goes to ask an old woman ‘who looks the sort to enjoy gossiping’. [again we get more of Rowling’s biased stereotypical image of the working classes and those who don’t live in the gentrified areas of a city…]

Later while clothes shopping Robin tells Strike she has to be the one to approach as the sister will recognise Strike and tell her brother he is being looked for. [The only time they may have encountered each other was at a trial if he was giving evidence and she was present which likely wouldn’t be the case in a military trial so… where would she recognise him from? Perhaps the papers I suppose if the old cases and murder accusation got into the national press]. He doesn’t like it but she insists it’s a good idea and there’s a moment suggesting she thinks he will watch her change as he lingers a moment to long but then he goes outside the shop. Afterwards, at another shop, she gets a call off her mother regarding the break up. She is at work etc etc.

So they drive to the pub Holly Brockbank is in every lunch time and Strike hopes she is nicer than her brother. Wearing a brand new navy trouser suit Robin goes into the pub. [That doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb at all. Rowling has spent too much time in London and such affluent areas where that look might pass without note but in the rest of the country outside cities you would get noted.]

Inside the Crow’s Nest pub Robin walks up to the bar lady asking for Holly and is directed to a side room where Holly is playing snooker by herself. Holly is of course overweight, tattooed, wearing rings and chunky gold jewellery, a hoodie and has somewhat disheveled hair.

[‘Oh J K Rowling you’ve done it again – how do you come up with these incredibly accurate depictions of the working class?’ ask the London based newspaper literary column reviewers who’ve never set foot outside the city except for the Cotswolds or to go abroad. Thus they believe the broad stroke stereotypes Rowling has of anyone not middle class. Archetypes which wouldn’t feel out of place in an Enid Blyton book. Meanwhile they also happily patronising which ever group polite society deemed worthy of pity this season in order to stay on the right side of history and their dinner party connections.]

As a bonus Holly has a bit of a lisp too apparently.

[Kick ’em while they’re down Joanne! Why not give her some ‘James Bond villain’ scars too and maybe a full blown disability – not a ‘noble’ one like Strike who lost his leg in military service but something humiliating to mock like… IBS… Yeah, she’d like to mock that no doubt. She already questionably did in the previous case The Silkworm regarding learning difficulties and mental illness.]

Robin introduces herself as ‘Venetia Hall’ and she is a lawyer/solicitor specialising in claims. [So she did go with a James Bond like naming aspect then. It’s Robin’s middle name but it sounds one of those wordplay code names femme fatales from Ian Fleming’s works have. Based on ‘Venetian Hall’ in Robin’s case. ‘Hello my names Roma Column, Georgia Facade, Russi Caravan, India Summer, etc…’ I would say it’s an odd middle name but a lot of people have middle names far more interesting than their first name it seems – just to be a little special but not stick out too much they get persecuted for it if they need to fit in]

[Robin wouldn’t be seen dead being anything below a professional career even as a cover story (oh except her over the top cartoonish accents we keep enduring in each story when she is digging for information). She must have been such an obnoxious child…]

She pretends Niall is owed money and presents it like one of those ‘were you in an accident and could seek compensation’ adverts that used to be on the TV constantly [again showing this story has already aged since you rarely hear from those ambulance chaser sorts these days]. Robin claims she represents servicemen who could get reparations for injuries outside of combat operations. She then can’t help herself but to simplify it to ‘I’d like to help you to make a lot of money off the government’ speaking down to Holly. [Just because someone acknowledges what you’re saying doesn’t mean you get to act like they’re stupid. Rowling bias is really shining through with the dialogue.]

Strike, sat outside in the land rover calls Wardle. He only now tells the detective about Laing who he got put down for 16 years but would be released around now. [um, why not mention him earlier? Maybe because he was under interview and this all needs to be done clandestinely I guess.]

Back with Robin and the sister we see Robin is drinking a white wine while the sister drinks a pint. [I’m not saying this is also a bit cliché of the differences between the classes but… come on… it’s being laid on with a trowel in this contrast of Robin and Holly. It’s the brother who was dodgy but they’re implying it’s a thing all people of the family have so you can never rise above the circumstances of your birth not be deserving of the common, courteous, respect automatically given to people of equal, or better, social rank…]

Robin says she knows Niall had some troubles in the army. To which the sister replies ‘Problems? Some fuckin’ police copper smashed his head in!’ [Now see it’s okay when the middle class character swears for emphasis but not you… even if you’ve every motivation to be indignant over the understatement regarding a life altering injury someone close to you suffered. Rowling wants us to judge her but I doubt many would feel differently even if they bit their tongue in the moment.] The sister recalls Comoran Strike’s name as the one who caused the injury. She goes as far as calling him a ‘fucking gadgee’ [whatever that means]. This caused her brother to have fits and be unable to work again.

He would go to her house and smash things up and attack her too. She points out her nose as one that’s been ‘hit hard’ [but the actress has a button nose – the worst you could say is there are some subdermal bumps on it from blocked pores but… they really didn’t consider how that line doesn’t work with her features despite the costume etc trying to give a ‘look how rough and working class she is compared to Robin in her pristine suit and perfect hair despite sleeping in a vehicle last night’ image.]

Then the sister recounts how she has had a shit life, as had her brother, but he got to be a major in the army which was ‘good money and good respect’ which all went after Strike bashed his head in. Apparently Niall works ‘shit jobs in rubbish strip joints’ as a bouncer but it doesn’t last long and he is in London now as there is more work there.

[‘Entering the army gives you prospects’. That’s the message in all their marketing material. It’s a bit odd to hear it casually implied here to be honest especially with Strike missing a leg, PTSD and other mental issues clearly being alluded to with other ex-forces characters and such… They apparently want their cake and to eat it too it seems regarding their stance on the armed forces.]

Robin gets back to the land rover where Strike is doing a crossword. She has a number for Niall now. She suggests they leave it a day or two to ‘let the story bed in’ before contacting him. She jokes if they lose the business she might try personal injury claims. Strike asks what she could get him for his missing leg? ‘Packet of crisps and a pint’. [A bit callous? Gallows humour I guess].

[Robin goes upsetting a relative of a suspect who isn’t involved. Gives her false hope about justice and tells her employer she has options if his business collapses – which is very likely under the circumstances and would leave him legally liable for all the costings… This is the central protagonist of the story ladies and gentlemen. ‘Feed the rich and fuck the poor’ as the lyrics go… the working classes are animals who do not deserve the respect of being depicted as equal human being but patronised and stereotyped as ever on the brink of destitution and criminality because they are lesser creatures… one more needless stereotypical depiction of the working classes for the Strike series to chalk up. It’s no surprise though to anyone who saw the ‘give you a blow job for a fiver’ girl from ‘The Cuckoo’s Call’ though.]

Strike gets a pint and wine at a country pub while inquiring about a place to stay. [Which immediately brings to mind Al Murray’s Pub Owner character’s catchphrase ‘a pint for the men and a wine for the ladies’.]

Robin asks about the attack Holly told her of.

He says the interview with Brittany he saw back then ‘may have’ framed his response when encountering her father. So we see him in the flashback give a brutal right hook to Niall when Niall raises a bottle at him. Niall goes down and begins to foam at the mouth while spasming in a fit as his daughter is led away by police.

Strike recounts he had a pre-existing concussion from playing rugby that week, got epileptic fits and was invalided out of the armed services. Between the fits he would tell anyone who listened he was going to destroy Strike. ‘Perks of the job’ Strike jokes as he takes a swig of his beer.

Niall’s wife believed Brittany was ‘telling tales, a naughty little liar’ as she though Niall was a good man and a good father. But Brittany knew no help was coming and that’s what Strike finds hard to live with.

Robin says they have to catch him. Strike interrupts ‘- if he is our killer’ and Robin indignant declares ‘he’s a child rapist’. Strike says the army did their job properly and there wasn’t enough evidence for a case. Then we get a little ‘its hard but what can we do, we can’t hunt them all down’ spiel with Robin saying she will tell British Gas that’s what they’ve decided to do when Strike comments they can’t catch them all and also pay off the utility bill too. [Optimism versus pessimism].

They get to the hotel in the pouring rain and Robin rings the front desk bell immediately [because how dare they have minimal reception staff at night so the lone person manning the reception is also likely doing other tasks at the same time in a side room].

Strike asks for two single rooms immediately. Then clarifies two single rooms not one room with two single beds. [wouldn’t that be more costly considering how tight their finances are?]

Walking down the corridor Robin asks if his leg is okay and offers to give Strike a piggyback due to all the gymkhanas she used to do. They have rooms next to each other and Strike tells her if she needs anything he is in the room next door. Then through the window we see both getting ready for bed. A moment later Strike knocks at Robin’s door to tell her Wardle has found an old address of Laing’s where he was living with someone in Corby so they’ll go check it out tomorrow. He assures her he was telling her now in case she was making other plans for tomorrow. [I mean… she is on the work clock as part of a ‘work’s trip’ so she shouldn’t be even considering that to be honest yet he assumed it was the case]. They return to their rooms and close their curtains. [It’s a nicely framed scene.]

The next day they’re driving down a country road when Robin asks Strike to give her one. A mint that is. Then they stop off at a roadside cafe so Strike can recount his backstory with Laing.

He was on a drugs case in Cyprus, undercover, buying grass off a guy who dealt with a lot of local soldiers. This guy told him about a squaddie who claimed to have chained his wife up after she threatened to leave him. Though it sounded like grandstanding he checked it out anyway. When he went to investigate no one answered. There was a terrible smell and then he went to check the bedroom.

Laing said she was kinky and liked to be tied up. She had broken her wrist and dislocated her shoulder trying to get free and there were internal injuries. [at which point we see her from behind and she too has tattoos – so either this show is being very modern or tattoos are given their historical association of only being worn by deviants/lower classes and since we never see non-crime involved characters with tattoos it seems the latter association]. Laing went down for 16 years but probably only did 8 so he would have been out a while now.

They drive to a housing estate and ask Lorraine McNaughton about Laing as she used to live with him at her address. She called Laing Donnie and asks what he’s done now. She lets them in to ask a few questions. Inside she has lots of ornaments and such littering the walls and every surface. Laing robbed her when he left taking jewellery including her mum’s ring. Robin half heartedly says ‘I’m sorry, that’s terrible’ in the manner of someone who doesn’t really care but obeys the social script for such circumstances.

Lorraine met Laing at the pub where he was very charming. She acknowledges it sound stupid. He had his own company in Scotland but got ill apparently with Psoriatic arthritis so some days he couldn’t even move. Robin carries the teas for Lorraine having hovered in the doorway until now. Lorraine and ‘Donnie’ were together for less than a year after her mother died. He did some work for Mrs Williams at number 37 across the road. Cutting grass. Also he raised money for charity. Despite it all she misses him and confirms, when Strike asks, he was never violent. She told the police that when Mrs Williams was attacked and robbed. She had passed away since then. [Hint: this was one of the clue scenes you needed to pick up on if you wanted to play along and try and solve the mystery before the answer was revealed].

After they left Strike believes Laing cases Mrs Williams home to prepare for the robbery when mowing her lawn. ‘[For] Men like Laing and Brockbank and Whittaker – women are things to be used.’ [I’m sure Rowling felt she was doing a great service to the Feminist cause writing that but considering what we have been shown already it seems obvious. But then you’ve got to spell it out to the audience so they get it I suppose it was done for the trailer.] He laments even after it all Lorraine still missing Laing not seeing him for what he really is.

While driving Strike looks up Laing’s charity fund raising and it’s £40 for psoriatic arthritis. [getting good reception in the countryside?! What kind of service do they have? His mobile data rates must drain his pockets so no wonder his detective agency is always on the brink of closure!] He reflects Laing only set it up to dissuade anyone recognising him as a leech.

Strike asks her where she is going to stay and she says the flat as Matthew will be away. [How does she know he will be? Even then you might think she might not want to go there now anyway.] Then more countryside views and cityscapes.

Strike walks the damp streets of London alone as Robin goes to bed. He wakes up at his beer bottle and pot noodle covered desk when the phone rings. It’s Shanker. Apparently Shanker is wearing a suit instead of jeans and his green waterproof coat we always see him in. He has found Whittaker.

Strike walks into the back room of a pool hall where Shanker and his colleagues have someone tied up and he is apparently torturing the guy. Strike wordlessly gives Shanker money in a brown envelope, which he counts, and Shanker gives him a slip of paper with the information on. Happy with the payment he says see you later and goes back to his business. [This scene serves to show Shanker is actually a member of the criminal world and not just some jobless guy who seems to be Strike’s informant when he needs one. It’s well done but a bit pointlessly extravagant too really when you figure out the costs and everything for a 1 minute long scene with the rental fees, extras’ ages, etc.]

The next day Strike is stood presumably near the address Shanker has given him for Whittaker while having ‘imagined flashbacks’ to someone approaching his prone mother with a syringe. In case you’ve forgotten Whittaker is the guy Leda Strike was involved with at the time of her death. So all of this is a side plot really.

Whittaker and his group are loading up a van. He greets Strike as ‘Sherlock fucking Holmes as I live and breathe’. He then tells a young groupie ‘I was banging his mummy back in the day, for a while. I gave her a kid [Strike’s half sister who was encountered in the first story line The Cuckoo’s Call]. Now, she… she was a juicy old tart’ Strike interrupts him saying ‘this man kills women’. To which Whittaker retorts ‘you think this one gives a shit? She barely knows where she is half the time, bless her.

He then recounts how Leda used to like to ‘suck him off’ after he sang to her. ‘Sing her a song and then down she’d go – Pavlovian response.’. Strike punches him and tells the girl he can find her somewhere to stay. Whittaker tells her to get in the van and calls Strike a mother fucker as he does a ‘slit the throat’ gesture while Strike walks away.

At night Robin is on her phone. Zahara answers the phone – she is Brockbank’s ‘daughter’ (actually the daughter of his current girlfriend Alyssa). She is playing the next part in her ‘Ventia Hall – personal claims solicitor’ gambit while drinking a glass of red wine. [how often do people drink these days? I thought that was more of an older generations thing? As much as I talk of stereotyping working class people the whole ‘dinner parties and glasses of wine’ is one for the middle classes too]. She wants to arrange a meeting and he suggests Shoreditch. She asks for a home address to send paperwork to which he asks ‘do I know you little girl? She says she is sure they’ve never met and he puts the phone down on her [so she scuppered a meeting for the sake of over reaching for a home address. Bad detective work…] She takes a swig of her wine.

Meanwhile Strike has a nightmare about his mother’s corpse and hearing her say how she loves ‘him’, by which she means Whittaker, and that one day Strike will feel like that about somebody. [cough-Robin-cough].

Elsewhere Robin lays in bed recalling her rape. [Due to the weird close up on the rubber gorilla mask it’s not as intense as it should feel.]

The door bell rings for Strike asleep in his chair without his leg on. He hops to the phone and opens it for Wardle. The press are outside. He, with his partner, shows Strike a school portrait photo of the dead girl. He insists he have a longer look and again Strike says he doesn’t know her. Then he is shown the autopsy photo and told it was the girl found in Whitechapel. The partner reveals it took the morning papers to help them piece it all together.

They show him the front page of a paper depicting the girl meeting Strike in the window of a cafe. The partner asks him to confirm he has never met Kelsey Platt, the dead girl. [Ah, ah, were you expecting the name of someone else’s daughter? Cough-Brittany or Zahara-cough… Yeah, there’s a lot of overlapping here if you are not ever vigilantly keeping tabs on everything.]

We see the footage or both Strike and Kelsey getting into the elevator separately on the CCTV footage and the episode ends.

Episode 2

A brief recounting of the important bits from the last episode. Most of which apparently concern Robin’s relationship status and a brief reminder of who the suspects are before the last moments of the episode where Strike is going to be interviewed under caution by the police.

Theme tune time! Let’s alter the lyrics a bit: ‘You and me. Me and you. We’re all in this together. Watching a show. Following all the tropes. Easy watching – no matter the weather. Strike’s mama’s dead. So’s his leg. Robin’s dilemma – Matthew or Comoran: safe life or adventure? I wonder where she’ll end up?’

Strike is taken in for interview by the partner detective [who never gets named in the show. Maybe she does but seriously do you recall her name – no, no running off to Wikipedia or IMDB now! They barely if ever mention it as far as I recall.]

[The character’s name is DS Ekwensi. I think it is mentioned once very briefly in passing so it’s very much a case of ‘blink and you miss it’.]

They speculate if the photo is doctored as it was sent in by ‘a concerned friend’. He demonstrates how asking ‘is this seat taken’ can easily lead to a photo taken at the exact right moment gives the illusion of association between people otherwise unconnected. He then notes the details of the photo such as someone in the background wearing a vest [a minor hint to the turning point of the mystery here] so it must have been warm weather and they were reading a magazine so if the papers were sent a high resolution image they’ll be able to track that. He concludes if they find who took the photo they’ll find Kelsey’s killer.

He also notes Kelsey is holding a bottle of water and asks who goes to a coffee shop to sit and drink a bottle of water [actually quite a few people from my own experience… it is a bit odd I suppose but no cafe is going to turn away customers and most sell bottled water. It’s like if you go to a steakhouse and don’t eat steak – they won’t refuse you service for snubbing their specialty.]

Thus he concludes she came expressly to see him not to drink there. [But that doesn’t mean he didn’t make her acquaintance there which led to the later events. I’m obviously overthinking how his argument only proves he didn’t know her before that meeting not that he didn’t know her afterwards as he claims.]

He asks if they’ve found the three men he informed Wardle about. She says she can’t discuss that with him to which he interrupts before she can say it ‘- because it’s part of a murder investigation’. He begins to strike up a cigarette and she says she has asthma blankly. [I assume that is meant to be humorous?]

[On a side note: is the actress bad or was she directly to deliver her lines staring blankly and speaking in a monotone? It doesn’t serve her well for future roles as this is the biggest scene she has had in this show so far. It’s meant to come across as cold and ‘by the book’ but it reads more like a 9 year old told to recite lines and not thinking they also have to act at the same time. Not that she is at fault but the direction of the scene feels like they wanted a contrast between Strike’s disheveled and instinctive style against her more regimented and systemic manner but didn’t give her space to have some subtle characterisation too. Or the character is under written and they were told to ‘play it safe’ in case it contrasts with later descriptions of the character in the book series. Who knows? It just came across really badly sad to say.]

Afterwards Strike goes and buys a copy of every paper he can get his hands on. [I know it’s London but I’m sure some would be sold out by the time he got around to collecting them.]

In a park he sits on a bench causing a large group of pigeons to fly off. [from bizarrely amateurish acting in one scene to sheer trailer fodder in the next… I half wonder if there was a B-roll director who outdid themselves there honestly because it was a great shot with the pigeons flying up]. He begins to read one paper focusing on a story saying the Strata building in London is one of Britain’s ugliest buildings. But that doesn’t matter as we quickly cut to him walking down the road on the phone to Robin asking if they’ve got a print out of Laing’s fundraising page. He jokes he just had a social down at the station. Robin asks if they have a lead and Strike says yes, him, so they better get a move on as he approaches the front door to his office.

They look at a blown up image of Laing’s fund raising page and see the Strata building in Elephant and Castle, an area of London, in the background. They can use it to guess which block of flats he lived in. Robin tells Strike she contacted Brockbank and the exchange they had and that he may be living with a little girl. Strike tells her to head to Elephant and Castle. If she sees Laing to keep her distance, no working after dark and to keep on busy routes. She chimes in she knows as she has done counter surveillance. Strike retorts if it was up to him she would stay in Yorkshire until he is caught and reminds her of the pattern of sending the leg to her that already exists. She assures him she will be careful. While she is checking out for Laing he will look for Brockbank.

Strike goes into a strip club where a performer is on the pole. He shows the barman the military uniform photo of Brockbank asking he he knows him and the man says no. [presumably he does this a few more times elsewhere but they didn’t want to spend too much time on that so the second place he goes proves fruitful.] Meanwhile Robin is at the base of the Strata building trying to guess the angle from which Laing’s photo was taken.

Strike enters another establishment which clearly is meant to be closed as the performers are in silk night gowns looking at the phones in some of the pub like booths near the stage. One with blood red hair approaches him and asks ‘have you been here before darling’ in a foreign accent.

Robins walking the streets around the Elephant and Castle area.

The dancer offers Strike a private dance. He says he is looking for a friend and she says she will be his friend and kisses him on the cheek. [… I mean… Rowling’s views of women from certain backgrounds or circumstances again comes to the forefront… is it even worth commenting on?] to which he retorts ‘not that kind of friend, sadly’.

Robin crosses someone on a road she turns back to take a second look at.

Strike asks about Brockbank and is told he was fired as he was no use as a bouncer if he was having a fit and pissing himself [Rowling’s view of how certain businesses conduct themselves as if inhumane towards their employees, also rearing it’s head. I half wonder if she has actually been anywhere near to these places herself or just uses stereotypes]. He asks if anyone might know where he is and shows his wallet which the dancer takes some notes from saying probably with Alyssa as she has the worst taste in men. She was a dancer who was fired as well. They have a flat over in Bow. Apparently Alyssa bitches about the flat but likes the nursery her child is in. They are served two… jack and cokes I assume… and he asks if she can introduce him to Des but she says ‘thanks for the drink, darling, but I reckon you’re trouble. Normally I like trouble.’ after which she returns to her booth. [in hindsight it looks like a normal, if oddly lit on one side, pub except for the unnamed dancer and her friend. Maybe they had issues finding a shooting location and had to make do? Also I’m not sure what was going on with the end of that conversation to be honest.]

Robin calls him to say it could be one of a hundred flats. He tells her to be back home before nightfall. She asks how the strip clubs were and he retorts ‘expensive’ which makes her snort. He tells her to get in a cab but she quickly tells him to stop treating her like part of the problem. She will be having dinner with her mother around the corner from work so she will be perfectly safe. Strike agrees in an unconvincing tone.

Later at her dinner date she says Matthew shouldn’t have called her mother. Her mother says she is happy he did. Robin immediately becomes defensive saying she isn’t going to stop doing her job. Her mother says she will always have her mother and father’s full support but the wedding day is ‘nearly here’. [Okay, no worries your daughter got a severed leg in the post or anything. So… yeah. Marriage is still a defining thing you must do by a certain age for some people in society I guess even if it’s not a good fit. Honestly the number of red flags waving in her face and the marriage to Matthew is still on the cards is ridiculous. The writing from day one has depicted him poorly and yet the narrative insists it’s still viable. I’m not sure what issues Rowling has been working through with these characters but it really does seem like she felt obliged to marry due to social pressure at some point in her life… it all comes across incredibly archaic that marriage is the be all and end all of things to some degree].

At night Strike goes wandering door to door in a council flats building asking if people have seen Laing. [I’m not making a point of it but… the first two people are non-Caucasian looking. We hardly see any non-white people in other scenes except as token characters like the detective partner or on other stories where it’s made out as a bit ‘forward thinking’ but adds nothing to the plot. Here with so many in a brief time in council flats it seems again a certain stereotyping is being used…]

Robin’s mother asks if she wants to come back to Masham for a bit to be looked after. Robin refuses concerned she would feel like she did before – as if she was shutting out the world when she wants to stay in it.

As Strike is continuing his rounds to each and every door of the council flats a man in a wheeled walking frame comes out of his door. It’s Laing who recognises Strike and who recognises him in return. Laing has a Scottish accent [I don’t know if it’s exaggerated or not but due to the character’s theatrical skills I do half wonder what the descriptions in the book were like considering the Manchester accent in other scenes also feeling a bit over the top too potentially]. Strike tells him he is a private investigator now and had spoke to a woman in Corby. Laing asks if it was Lorraine and says he never hit her as ‘lesson learned the first fucking time’. Strike asks if he stole her jewellery. Laing said it was years ago so the stuff is long gone. It’s the truth he says and he didn’t feel good about it. Strike says he will tell her and steps aside to let Laing pass using his walking frame. Laing asks if that’s it. Strike agrees. Laing mocks him for tracking down old bits of tat. Strike then goes down a stairwell.

Robin’s mother gives her an envelope containing £500. ‘It could be the deposit on renting a flat of your own. Or it can be a pair of really beautiful wedding shoes’. [I have to admit I apparently live in a parallel universe. Getting money like that. The idea a flat in London would have a deposit of only £500. That shoes can cost stupid money like that if not basically intended for collectors never to be worn but as a financial investment. None of it makes sense. Most of all how wishy-washy her parents are on the whole marriage thing. Either they want her to marry or they don’t. They like Matthew or they don’t. Yes giving her space to make her own decisions is fine but… the narrative all leads to one conclusion really. Robin does what Robin wants and the universe bends to her will.]

Afterwards Robin walks down the road checking over her shoulder if she is being followed and ends up in Strike’s office. She takes a file out of the filing cabinet and calls his name to see if he is there. [well he lives there so… it would be likely. Also on a side note again what is with the red neon lighting around his window? It’s not part of a sign but just there for aesthetics apparently]. She finds him asleep in his chair and drapes his coat over him which wakes him. He thanks her and she says she came back for some files. She then offers him the money, to pay bills so they can continue working there, which she was given. He chides that as someone is trying to destroy him he makes a bad prospect for investment so would be better off putting it on a horse. She says she is better off here. She wants to do it for them.

He looks at his watch and realises he missed a date. Who asks Robin. Swedish, pretty, doesn’t give a fuck. [the dancer from earlier? Who knows. It’s a throw away line or Strike is lying he has stuff going on in his life other than the detective work.] Robin says ‘sounds perfect’. He says he should go to bed and thanks her for Donald Laing but it was a dead end as the guy is ‘even more crippled than I am’. Then he again reiterates her doesn’t like her being out after dark and she should get a cab. [Is ‘cripple’ still an acceptable terms for disabled people? I thought it was deemed a bit of a slur these days.]

She heads home and finds candles and such set up at her little desk. Matthew is there with more candles around him and she asks ‘what’s all this?’ [Master detective in the making]. He made her ‘that Nigel Slater salmon thing you like’. She tells him she ate with her mum, he asks how she is, Robin says fine, he says good. Robin pours herself some white wine [and due to the editing of the shows scenes she actually has a glass in her hand in most scenes during this case.]

Matthew says he has something to say to her. She sits down. He kneels by her and collects his words. He says what he did to her was unforgivable. He was 21. In so much pain. He was incredibly lonely and he made a mistake. He tells her she is the love of his life and he wants to marry her. More than anything that’s what he wants. But he leaves it for her to decide.

He takes his engagement ring off (or was it hers? It had a gem on it and I’m not familiar with what men’s engagement rings look like or if it’s even a thing). He says he is asking her again to marry him and if she says no he’ll accept it and he’ll leave the flat in the morning. She sheds a lone tear.

[Okay so this all sounds like it’s heavy handed manipulation and emotional blackmailing doesn’t it? The series doesn’t seem like it’s sure it wants it to come across like that or as sincere. Also if she refused him wouldn’t he leave immediately – just me but that’s not a ‘well sleep on it’ ultimatum he gave her there.]

Meanwhile Strike sleeps in his small attic conversion bedroom staring out of the skylight. He is recalling being stood at the side of the stage with his mother as a band performs and she tells him she loves him and tells him one day he’ll feel like that about somebody as we saw before. In a nice bit of editing he gets out of bed as Matthew gets into bed with Robin who presumably said yes to the marriage proposal.

Strike gets a beer from the fridge hopping along without his artificial leg and sits down in a chair. Robin turns to Matthew, strokes his face and kisses him. Strike is (crying?) alone drinking his beer. Robin snuggles up to Matthew.

The next morning Strike enters the back garden of Matthew and Robin’s home. He looks at her through the back window as she prepares coffee. Hearing someone opening the door she grabs a knife ready to strike. Strike looks at her and compliments her on going for it. He tells her he was just checking the locks and notes they’re not adequate while noticing she has her engagement ring back on.

She tells him she has to go back to Masham for a few days for dress fittings and stuff.

[I know this probably doesn’t need to be said but for foreign readers ‘Masham’ is a small market town and civil parish in the Harrogate district of North Yorkshire, England not a country estate of landed gentry like something out of a Georgian era novel. It does sound like it due to the name but it isn’t. Also at no point does Robin have the slightest inflection of a Yorkshire area accent unless I’m missing something].

She asks if that’s okay and Strike agrees as it’ll keep her out of harm’s way. He changes the subject saying he’ll put a padlock on the back gate. She seems mildly pleased with how everything is turning out. [Because everything basically is. She’s getting married and has ensured the detective agency survives so she can carry on the job.]

So it is we get more countryside eye porn watching the land rover drive parallel to a large river and through country lanes to a converted farm steam like home where all her family are waiting for her arrival. [so she is basically the modern literary version of lower level gentry… it’s no surprise considering the resources she seems able to call on at a moments notice but still…].

It’s the return of the prodigal daughter in the truest sense.

Then we get a daytime montage of the dress fitting contrasting with Strike at night looking over the suspects in the case including Whittingham who he still is considering though he has no real connection. He reflects on what the partner detective said in the interview about whether he had ever met Kelsey Platt before.

The next day he walks up a residential street to a house we have seen before. A woman distraught and in tears answers recognising him. He says he needs to ask about her sister as a man’s voice calls asking who it is. She tells him it’s Comoran Strike. The man asks why he is here and tells her to close the door. She asks him to wait as they discuss seeing the pictures of him and her sister Kelsey. The wife argues the police believe he was set up [how she was informed of that is left to guessing…] and her husband, Ray, has a Manchester accent [ a very strong one – almost like someone doing a broad impression of one and we never get a clear look at his face nor Laing’s earlier hint hint].

Apparently Kelsey looked up to Strike [yeah, the whole ‘superstar detective’ thing is a bit of a contrivance as if he really is the Sherlock Homes of the twenty-first century – which is similar to how they depicted the character with Benedict Cumberbatch]. The husband concludes she can talk to him if she wants but he won’t. Thus she invites him in.

Inside is a dimly lit living room despite the curtains being open and a lamp on. The table is covered in newspapers and other documents. The décor is arguably a few decades out of fashion when contrasted with the minimalist design of the home of Strike’s friends.

He is sorry for their loss and is sure the police have asked a lot of questions. She says they asked if she ‘…was working, signed statements from colleagues and payslips. Ray, the husband, had to print off photos of himself fishing with Ritchie (a friend?), boat receipts, the lot’. [why the payslips? The others for an alibi I could understand… just for more confirmation of things I guess but it actually raises a lot of questions towards the end when we have to question the whole boat trip aspect which was falsified as there would be dates on there which would have given away the inaccuracy of the photo time wise without needing to resort to knowing the annual life cycle of plant life as Strike eventually does.] They were away in Wales and so they lost her. She sobs. Strike asks if it’s okay to photo the photos.

He asks if they’ve any idea who might have got close to Kelsey. No, as she had no friends and came to live with them once their mother died. She mentions there was the age gap between them as sisters but trails off into more sobbing. Strike asks to use their toilet and is told it’s upstairs.

He pretends to go into the toilet by slamming the door shut before skulking around to find Kelsey’s bedroom. He photos some pots of medical salves in the couple’s bedroom [I don’t think anything comes of that afterwards] before finding Kelsey’s room. Without any hesitation he sticks his hand in a draw partially blocked by the bed before noticing the cork board covered with newspaper articles featuring the model Lulu Landry from the Cuckoo case, some probably from the second case regardin the Solk Worm and other pieces about him too. [One article features the headline ‘why we’re obsessed with Comoran Strike’ – I mean I’ve seen that for ‘young professionals’ magazines but for a random, if socially connected, private detective it’s a bit weird anyone wrote that for a publication]. Apparently a fashion magazine announcing him their newest crush. Also some print offs of forums pages with how to say his name and photos of him. He photos the cork board and tears off the forum print off before going back to the toilet and flushing it to create his alibi. He also photos a certificate on the wall acknowledging Ray’s ‘bravery and meritorious conduct’. [A clue].

Downstairs Kelsey’s sister [who I don’t think is addressed by surname – perhaps to not tip their hat too soon regarding the stolen identity part of the story] writes information out for Strike and asks him ‘you didn’t do it, did you?’ ‘No, I didn’t’ he responds. Whether that puts her mind at rest or not is up to you. It’s something at least.

Meanwhile Robin gets a knock at the door to her room from her mother asking if she is alright. Robin tells her she should redecorate the room. Her mother says ‘it’ll always be your room, love’ before leaving her alone again.

[I suppose her mother is overly protective, understandably considering what happened, but at the same time I always get the impression Robin was a character always wrapped in cotton wool and given whatever she wanted even before the rape. She is hard to identify with I feel. We are watching a wish fulfilment character living an idealised existence with little consequences to anything. Yes, there was the rape in university but what other trials has she faced save those she created herself by wanting things that are not readily available to her like a career as a private detective. Having every skill set under the sun to provide and protect herself is understandable after what she endured but, and it’s key to why I disconnect I think, by making her near Batman levels of prepared for all eventualities, with no real flaws, she doesn’t come across as a character I can invest in. In the first book we needed someone to help us enter the life of Comoran Strike but now we are familiar with him her part in the narrative feels extraneous and prone to detracting from the potential risks in the story even with Strike repeatedly seeming to foreshadow her being accosted at night. The image of her in a preserved room, like a caged bird, really relies on the reader feeling she is in circumstances which deny her development but everyone has left those options open to her to choose herself be they to go home, to marry and otherwise. It’s like being told someone’s lucid dream where they decide nothing bad will happen. There are no stakes and thus it becomes tedious unintentionally no matter how fantastical the tale. You can wake up from a bad dream, Robin can go home to her privileged life.]

Strike goes past the guitar and drums pub wearing his enormous scarf and encounters the two detectives outside his front door. Wardle calls him a stupid bastard and they all enter together. Wardle relays that Ray felt like he was attacking Hazel, Kelsey’s sister, and asks Strike to imagine if he had gone to the papers instead of them. He scolds Strike and Strike asks him what he thinks he should do. ‘Stay out of it, work your own cases’. Strike informs him no one wants to hire a detective accused of being a paedophile and murderer. Due to that he can’t afford the rent on the office property and will have to make his partner redundant while she is on her honeymoon. He asks them what they suggest while someone is cutting up little girls on his account. The partner detective says in the projected monotone of a small child in a school play on bullying ‘we need you to trust us to do our job’. [I honestly feel sorry for her if she wasn’t being given good direction on how to deliver her lines].

Strike asks what they’ve done with the three names he gave them. They’re still making enquiries. Strike tells them ‘…Whittaker’s in Catford, Laing was in Corby but is now in Elephant and Castle, and Brockbank just got fired from a strip club in Shoreditch’ he is insulted their suggestion is he should just sit back and ‘…wait for London’s finest to plod along to the finish line?’ He declares by the time they’re finished he’ll be on the street and Robin will be dead. ‘We’re on your side you idiot’ Wardle tells him with a smile. Strike apologises and says he doesn’t know what else to say.

Meanwhile Robin is online doing research as usual. She is looking at a site titled ‘Sally’s Nursery Bowl’ which is the nursery mentioned by Alyssa, the stripper/dancer’s former work colleague to Strike last episode. She calls the nursery using an over the top East London accent with her brother sat next to her in the living room while she is on her laptop.

[I’m going to mention again that the work colleague had a foreign accent so in my mind wouldn’t it be possible Alyssa might also be a foreign accented person as they only really have her name (even if Zahara has a London accent as a small child who might have been born here or picked it up quickly). So this ploy could immediately raise alarm bells at the nursery? Then again all these ploys might be Rowling playing the long game and a few books from now on of them will get her in deep trouble when the people she is called track back to her considering she is using her own mobile phone when doing these ‘comical’ cold calls].

Her brother laughs at it and she gestures him to be quiet. She pretends she hasn’t been getting any letters regarding Zahara, Alyssa’s daughter, from them for a while so they will give her the home address [in reality they’d ask her to confirm her own home address in order to avoid that sort of information being released]. It turns out she called the wrong place.

Meanwhile Strike stares at a photograph of the cork board from Kelsey’s room.

Robin tries another nursery using the exact same ploy but adding they might be using the old address.

Strike looks over various newspaper articles online although they’re formatted like the printed editions so maybe it’s images of them and not newspaper websites.

Robin finally strikes it lucky with her telephone calls.

Accompanied by some tense, threatening, music a hooded figure goes around the back of a house with a bag of tool and a flash light. Matthew is alone at the house he shares with Robin, Meanwhile, up Yorkshire way, Robin and her mother are cooking a roast dinner. The hooded man breaks the security light with a random bit of plastic piping [it could be iron but… those lights are quite sturdy so wouldn’t break as easily as depicted]. Strike is in a bar somewhere looking through the photos on his phone when he decides to zoom in and read Ray’s award he noticed earlier. The hooded figure unscrews the last security light and…

… it’s the next morning. Nothing happened it seems.

Matthew is cheerily making himself some coffee.

Elsewhere Robin’s mother rushes into her bedroom announcing Matthew is on the phone for her… apparently a finger was left in their see through glass kettle.

Next forensics have been and done their work and Strike walks up to the property. He introduces himself as ‘…a friend of Matthew’s here to check he’s alright’ and is let straight through by the office standing guard as if it was all prearranged. [Police detectives can do that in other murder mystery dramas because they’re police – it wouldn’t be that easy to gain access otherwise so that felt like a bit of a contivance. ‘Only residents, family…. oh and people who claim to be friends without us confirming it can enter’.] Strike goes past a forensics person carrying wrapped containers and sees the kitchen being swabbed down.

Matthew is sat upstairs, in shirt and tie, on his laptop ready for work. [He didn’t see it until after his coffee? Or he changed after noticing it and intends to go to work still? Um, interesting…] Strike enters saying Robin asked him to check in on Matthew. ‘I’m fine thanks, the police have everything covered’ Matthew says spitefully. Strike tells him Robin is driving down – but he should know that already obviously.

Matthew angrily asks him what it would take Strike to let her go? She’s been followed, had body parts sent to her, she has had her flat broken into by someone who butchers women – Matthew wonders if Strike is just waiting to see what happens to her next. Strike tells him calmly he understands he is having a difficult morning but is cut off when Matthew tells him to piss off. Strike ignores it and continues saying ‘Robin’s good at what she does. She’s very good. She manages the risks. If she ever decides to hand in her notice, that’ll be her decision but I would try to persuade her to stay. The police will watch the flat at night I don’t think he’ll try anything again. Matthew says he doesn’t really know anything though. Strike says ‘it’s proving challenging’ then leaves.

Strike walks down the densely populated streets of London. Robin walks down more sparsely populated ones. She arrives in the office where Strike awaits. He asks how Matthew is and she says he went to work eventually. He asks how she is. She admits she spent an hour checking over the flat and leaching everything [also she probably lost the deposit too though that is not mentioned].

She tells him she got an exact address for Brockbank and of the phone calls she was making. He tells her she is very clever. She stoically says ‘let’s just find this guy.’ Strike says he can’t go back to Whittaker as he knows him but the person they’re looking for is careful and deliberate – doesn’t feel like Whittaker. She says she will watch Whittaker. She insists and then offers Strike some tea.

The next day Robin is buying something off a market stall while observing the entrance to Whittaker’s flat and sees the groupie girl exit. Coincidentally she drops the coins form her pocket and Robin rushes over to be a good Samaritan. Robin helps to pick up the coins and offers to buy her some lunch because she looks like she is ‘just having one of those days’. She says she can order what she wants and Robin will pay. [Incredibly suspicious. And the playful ‘just having one of those days’ would make it all the more questionable a gesture.]

They go to the Stage Door cafe. The girl eats a dish of chips, beans and eggs while Robin observes. Robin asks if she has a sore tooth to which the girl grunts agreement as she eats with her hands. [It’s like a middle class human zoo no doubt or the thrill of Bedlam was to people back in the Victorian era looking at the mentally ill and judging them]. She asks if the girl’s boyfriend did this but that is denied and she is told he is going away. She didn’t want him to but that’s why he did it. She thinks he has someone else though he says he is only going back with the band though she doesn’t believe him. Robin asks what sort of music he plays and is told ‘metal’ and that the band is called Death Cult in which he is the lead guitar. Robin gives the look of the middle classes when they are involved in a conversation they don’t want to be part of but continue to humour as it serves some purpose to them. She asks the girl if she goes to all their gigs and the girl says ‘yeah, they’re good’.

Whittaker appears asking ‘what’s this’ and asks Robin for her name. He jokes to the girl she has made a little friend which she denies. Robin says ‘actually I was just leaving’. He says it seems such a shame. Robin says it was nice to meet Stephanie but it told to fuck off in return which amuses Whittaker as he comments ‘obviously not such good friends after all. You’ve obviously tried very hard. He follows her outside enquiring ‘just being kind, were you?’ Robin retorts she was just concerned and looked a bit beaten up. He says he wouldn’t worry too much about her ‘she can be a clumsy little bitch at times’. Robin calls to Stephanie, stood in the cafe’s doorway to get help with her tooth before walking away as Whittaker goes and kisses Stephanie. [Again if you read the books you know who these minor characters are but for people following the TV adaption we rely on dialogue to actually tell us their names and we only learn Stephanie’s in her final moments in the episode. Admittedly it’s not important to know he name as she is a minor character but still.]

Some time later it is night and Robin is walking through the Catford area of London. She phones Strike who asks if she is okay and if she is out as it is late. She tells him she is heading back and she had spoken with Stephanie telling him all about Death Cult and the other things she learned. [Just in case the audience nipped out of the room for five minutes to make a cup of tea – that’s the one downside of the BBC not having advert breaks so sometimes shows do this sort of ‘repeating what we just learned’ moments if there is an opportunity]. She realises she has taken a wrong turn suddenly having just gone under the shopping precinct. [why didn’t she stop and reorient herself while by the brightly lit shops we will never know… okay it was yet another narrative convenience which we are about to witness. For all those courses she went on she is far too confident and for once it actually serves, rather than undermines, the narrative]. Strike asks if she has said something but she says now she is just being a bit jumpy.

He asks for her exact location with the street name. She admits she isn’t quite sure it has a name actually. Suddenly a masked man leaps out and puts a bag over her head and drags her to one side to stab her. However she luckily blindly kicks at him with enough force he drops the knife and she can run away. Strike calls for her over the phone but she dropped it during the initial attack. Also she didn’t/couldn’t remove the bag from her head so the assailant catches up to her knife in hand. The bag/large bobble hat [no really it looks like that once you’ve time to see it clearly] is half way up her face as she struggles. Some young guys are walking to the passage and see the dropped phone. She activates a rape alarm she has at her side and the buzzing calls the attention of the youths who have her phone. The assailant runs away and she deactivates the alarm. [Presumably the youths return her phone which… might happen I suppose. More importantly was the assailant a random chancer or was it Laing? If the latter how did he know what route she would take? It’s also possible it was Brockbank I suppose as he seems to know of her injured arm. Who knows. She was attacked after Strike repeatedly warning her but she did, barely, defend herself. That’s all we can take away from this.]

Next Strike is walking through white corridors and meets Robin in the A & E ward of a hospital. She is holding her arm up and putting pressure on it and says ‘he cut me’. She apologises for messing up. Strike says he isn’t there to tell her off. He asks her how she managed to… but she cuts him off and reminds him she did a self-defence course. He grabbed her from behind so she did what they taught her – kneed him in the groin she says amused and somewhat pleased with herself.

[okay, for once I am happy to admit we finally get some pay off with all these random courses she has been endlessly mentioning she does. It’s just someone who did such a course wouldn’t have been as foolish as she was not to double back to an area she knew with a lot of people passing by so she still is too foolhardy really but it at least feels natural here compared to many other occasions.]

Strike tells her Whittaker has disappeared and they’re looking for him. She says Whittaker is thin and the guy who attacked her had a different build. She also, at some point either before or after the attack looked up Whittaker’s band and they had a gig the night Kelsey was killed [which isn’t a guaranteed alibi if he dropped out and they had someone stand in for him to be honest…] but Robin doesn’t think it was him. Strike nods silently in agreement no doubt somewhat annoyed he has to eliminate Whittaker from the line of enquiry once and for all – at least this time.

Matthew bursts into the ward as she is telling Strike she still wants to work. Flatly Strike tells her she has her wedding to think about as Matthew draws up to the bedside. She, annoyed, tells Strike not to patronise her. Matthew, not even looking at Strike, tells him bluntly ‘you can leave us alone now. Robin needs her rest’. Strike agrees with him. She asks what they are doing about Brockbank. Strike says the police are watching him. She says it’s not where he goes but what he does in the flat that is the issue. Strike bluntly says ‘we can’t save everyone’. [Why is he repeating that phrase a lot during this story?] Matthew adds ‘you were nearly killed tonight. Let someone else take this one on’. She tells Strike they can’t leave him with children. Both men stare at her and she concedes she needs to rest. Strike tries to placate her by saying he knows why she wants to help but she cuts him off reiterating she needs to rest.

[I keep forgetting to note she gradually calls Strike by his first name, Cormoran, but it’s just easier to keep track using his surname. It shows they’ve grown closer I suppose but the tone she uses is like a teacher scolding a schoolboy more often than not].

Matthew and Strike walk out of the ward and Matthew tells him ‘Cormoran, this has to end. She’s barely trained and you sent her out, with no support. You’re a sociopath’. Strike leaves without a word.

Next we see him sat on the floor of his office with the photos, documents and the laptop. Some inspirational sounding music plays as he reads through the forums discussing him that Kelsey was posting on. The posts praise him and note his office is somewhere Tottenham Court Road. It seems to bemuse him a bit.

He phones Ray telling him his name and asking for Hazel and himself to look at some photos or suspects – not great pictures but they might jog their memory. Ray insists ‘Hazel needs some space. Don’t you understand that, fella?’ before hanging up.

Next we see Robin getting her cut and styled as she gets a phone call. It’s a call from Shanker. Apparently he is calling back because, according to her Strike asked her to give him a call. She tells him she needs some help.

A red mini pulls up to a terrace house where a man in a black mac and leather gloves meets Shanker who was driving the car. Shanker says ‘Taking the girl to get her stitches out innit.’ the man tells him to wait a minute and goes off.

Ray tells Hazel that if Cormoran Strike calls while he is away she should hang up as he doesn’t trust him. Hazel runs her fingers through his hair and beard and they hold hands sadly.

Robin announces she is just popping out. Matthew asks where she is going and she claims to a police interview. He asks if they can’t come to her but she claims they want her to look at some stuff they can’t take off site. He asks if she is sure she is okay and she assures him she is and won’t use the arm.

Ray begins to walk down the road with a limp (which isn’t alluded to earlier and is very ‘blink and you miss it’ though the beard removal makes it clear ‘Ray’ is an act by Laing) but begins to walk more assertively and swing the sports bag over his shoulder once presumably out of line of sight of Hazel at home.

Shanker runs down a road to Robin to tell her ‘she’ is coming. Robin asks if they’re sure it’s her. Shanker responds ‘fit black girl, two kids.’ He asks if Robin is positive she doesn’t want him in there and she asks him to keep an eye out for ‘him’. Then Robin follows the mother into some new build social housing. [again… non-Caucasians only live in council houses in Rowling’s London apparently – unless adopted by well off white families like Lulu was in ‘The Cuckoo’s Call].

There’s a knock at the door and Alyssa opens the door where Robin asks to have a word about Niall. She pretty much insists on coming inside for a chat so Alyssa sends her daughters upstairs.

[Niall is actually Brockbank – I’m not sure if I got the name wrong, they changed it for the adaption or we are meant to immediately realise it’s an alias of Brockbank’s].

[Please contrast the exaggerated voice Robin did as ‘Alyssa’ and the actual voice of the character… considering staff likely spoke to her at the school I’m not sure how they believed Robin’s voice over the phone to be honest except the adaption embellished it for comic effect. Maybe you can argue they would hear so many voices they wouldn’t be able to keep track of them.]

Robin hesitates and Alyssa tells her to spit it out. Robin trips over her words introducing herself and saying she is a detective before gesturing to sit. She begins to explain ‘we’ have come across information in the course of our investigation. Alyssa cuts her off asking who ‘we’ is. Robin mentions she works for an agency run by Cormoran Strike and they had been looking into Niall.

Alyssa, irritated, tells her she can get out now. She is angry as Strike ‘gave my boyfriend epilepsy, ruined his marriage etc. she claims she knows ‘all about you lot’ as Robin struggles to regain control of the situation as she is being kicked out. She tells Alyssa bluntly he abuses young girls as Alyssa screams at her to get out ‘before I give you a proper smack’. Robin, ever the wise one, decided to add ‘he’s been doing it for a long time – ask your daughters’.

Alyssa grabs Robin’s bad arm when telling her to get out and Robin crumples to the floor. One of the daughters upstairs says ‘mum’ and we cut to Niall coming home. Shanker sees him and intercepts. Inside Robin asks Alyssa ‘just ask her’ to which Alyssa goes to her daughter , Angel, telling her to go upstairs now having apparently accepted what Robin said. Niall enters and slams the door behind him.

[He is wearing a hoodie under a light leather jacket – so again the ‘uniform’ of working class people in this series. Alyssa also was wearing one I forgot to mention. Either they’re described as wearing them in the book or the costume designer for the series hasn’t got much of an imagination on these things or was told to ‘code’ people via their clothing. Looking at his jacket later I swear I’ve seen that exact design on the arms in other series so it must be from the wardrobe department and been used in multiple productions. So it likely is, unspoken, the ‘uniform’ for working class thuggish characters amongst the staff… meanwhile respectable characters all wear woollen coats or Shanker, to denote being lower class than the main characters, wears a generic wind breaker but never a hoodie. ‘The good guys don’t have to cover their heads in shame’ or some weird concept like that. Also how many people do you see wearing leather jackets daily? These sort of productions make it seem like it’s every other person when I barely see one or two when in a city let alone elsewhere.]

Niall asks what is going on and if Angel is alright. Alyssa tells him ‘…this bitch is telling lies about you’ and that she is with Cormoran Strike. Robin has run to a rear room and tries to escape through some French windows but they are locked. Shanker approaches the front door. Niall tells Alyssa to look after Angel as he approaches Robin. He slaps the phone out of her hand telling her she’s ‘…not phoning anyone.’

Upstairs Alyssa tells Angel to stay sat on her bed. Angel quietly says ‘He done it to me’ which causes Alyssa to sit by her daughter to listen to her. Niall asks ‘what’s the idea, barging into people’s houses, upsetting their kids, eh?’ before grabbing her bad arm [did he know it was injured or was he just fortunate? Maybe he saw her nursing it?]. While Angel tells her mother the truth Niall is downstairs taunting Robin about her injured arm.

Robin screams out for Shanker who begins to kick the front door down. As soon as he gets in he squares up to ‘Niall’ saying ‘you dirty nonce, I’ll skin ya!’ as he pulls out a flick knife. Robin tells him not to stab Niall but as she does Niall rams into her knocking the two down and runs out the front door. Shanker gives chase initially but he is running far too fast down the road to catch up to.

Meanwhile Alyssa and Angel are crying upstairs. She asks her daughter ‘why didn’t you say anything, darling?’ to which Angel replies ‘because he said he’d hurt Zahara.’ They sob together.

Later on Strike is ringing the bell and knocking the door urgently at Robin and Matthew’s flat. Matthew opens it and tells him ‘… we’re actually packing to go to…’ but Strike doesn’t let him finish telling him ‘I don’t care.’ Robin walks in from another room and he says ‘I told you we were leaving Brockbank to the police. She tells him she knew and he scolds her that she went in anyway. She justifies it by saying he was raping Alyssa’s daughter. Strike informs her that Wardle thinks he had sent her in there and thanks to her Brockbank’s vanished. Angry Robin tells him not to dare put that on her. He does. She tells him if he hadn’t messed up Brockbank would have been in prison years ago. [Actually he likely would be dead, unless kept in a secured section away from the general prison populace, as child molesters are deemed unforgivable, immoral, scum by inmates. No one would help him if he were attacked and some might actually join in because it’s so reprehensible even for them.].

Strike reminds her of their findings: ‘Laing is a cripple, [she] ruled out Whittaker, that means that Brockbank is our number-one suspect, and now he’s off the radar. We’re finished.’ She says he doesn’t mean that incredulously but he assures her he will send her her last salary. ‘Quick and clean, gross misconduct’ he tells her then leaves silently. Matthew enters the room and tells her ‘it’s probably for the best love’ but she leaves the room. He then takes the opportunity to block Strike’s contact on her phone while muttering ‘Goodbye forever, Cormoran Strike’.

Strike goes to his mother’s grave again with a bouquet of flowers to lay on it. He looks over the pot plant left by his uncle Ted and recalls Ray’s holiday photo with his friend Ritchie. He realises something. [Cash in your detective bets right now as this realisation is apparently what the whole case hinges on…] On his mobile phone he calls his uncle who is in his shed potting some plants. He asks if Ted was at Leda’s grave recently but is told he wasn’t but he had a friend pop something on the grave for the anniversary. Strike asks if it’s sea holly. His uncle says ‘it’s not much to look at now but come June it’ll be rather special’. Strike, smiling, tells him to call him next time he’s up that way and they say their goodbyes to each other. Then Strike mutters to himself ‘gotcha’.

We see flash backs about ‘Donnie’ doing the lawn mowing, Ray telling Hazel to close the door and Laing on his wheeled stroller encountering him in the corridor of the council flats. But if Donald Laing was disabled enough to need a stroller how did he do the lawn mowing for the neighbour? [As for the certificate… it’s not clear what the relevance was… yet].

Strike calls the directory for the number for the fire service – not the emergency number but for the one for the people who hire firemen.

We finally get the reveal of Laing taking out his contact lens and removing the glued on beard of his Ray disguise.

In a hardware shop Strike calls Shanker who immediately says ‘let me guess – you want a favour.’ Strike asks him to watch his back and meet him at Elephant at eight. Shanker agrees and Strike says he will text him the address.

Strike arrives back at the council flats where he encountered Laing on his stroller. He is dressed up like a handyman and opens the nozzle on his gas blowtorch before knocking the door. He uses a lock pick to open the door to the empty flat. A neighbour, a black man, comes from next door and smells the gas so asks if Donnie is okay as the door is open. Strike comes to the door saying it is gas and he is there as they got a call from upstairs so it was probably coming from that property. The man asks ‘we’re not going to get blown up are we?’ to which Strike drily jokes ‘well don’t light up any cigarettes’. The man mutters ‘shit’ then asks if Donnie is in there as he owes him ‘forty quid’. Strike says ‘afraid I can’t help you mate’ noting yet another person Laing swingled out of money. Then with the door closed again he inspects the flat.

[So again people of non-white ethnicities are in council housing. In reality many are in London in fairness, Grenfell Tower making people all too aware of that, but it’s how naïve they’re presented be they Alyssa or this neighbour which makes their depiction a bit questionable…]

Weirdly the flat has stairs. [It honestly makes no sense…]. Strike comes into a blue lit room with numerous knifes and other blades. He looks in a glass fronted fridge and sees dismembered body parts wrapped in plastic. Plastered on the walls are pornographic images of women but some have his face plastered on top of theirs. There are some cuttings of Lulu and voyeuristic photos of Robin walking down the street. The kitchen has abandoned cartons of food and Strike finds a small mirror with a selection of spectacle glasses, medication and a toupee/wig. He wanders up some more stairs [Are there multilevel flats in London? Because I’ve never heard of such a think unless these are all service rooms meant for maintenance staff that Laing has been using somehow…] Strike comes across another fridge filled with body parts.

Suddenly he gets attacked from behind by a bald man. It’s Laing! He stamps on Laing’s foot but gets pushed back. They slam each other into the walls and Laing bites into his collar. Strike gets thrown down a staircase.

Shanker is walking down the corridor of flats checking his phone wondering where Bunsen (his nickname for Strike) is.

Laing shouts as he descends the stairs but Strike kicks him in the groin.

At the door Shanker calls to ‘Bunsen’. Strike gets kicked into one of the blue lit rooms as Shanker calls to him through the letterbox. Laing is kicking Strike as Shanker begins trying to kick the door down. Laing grabs a knife but while he is distracted Strike, splayed on the floor, grabs a hammer and swings successfully at Laing knocking him off his feet. As Shanker continues to call for him he handcuffs Laing to the frame of the counter top.

Strike, still having not left the flat nor opened the door for Shanker yet, tries to call Robin but gets an automated message saying ‘messages to this number have been blocked’.

[first: he has bad priorities. Second: Does it actually do that to blocked numbers? I assumed it just leaves it ringing until it either automatically cuts off or you give up. Otherwise people know you’ve blocked them and that would lead to trouble for many people surely.]

He finally opens the door for Shanker and asks ‘what kept you?’ to which an out of breathe Shanker says ‘that’s a steel door’.

[… you know I realise this was made before Grenfell wasn’t it? That’s unfortunate timing to be showing such a dismissively low opinion of those who live in council flats…]

Matthew drives the land rover through the night to get to… where ever it is he and Robin are getting married.

Strike is in the office speaking to Wardle detailing how the forensics team believe there was more than one body there [i.e. the production team were a bit overzealous and put too many body parts in because there were clearly multiple torsos in those fridges thus it makes the team sound like they’re stating the bloody obvious]. Wardle asks Strike ‘what made you think Ray and Laing were the same person?’ Strike tells him ‘the photo of Ray gave the police has him on the beach next to sea holly in full bloom, supposedly in April. It was like the coffee shop photo. It was staged.’

Wardle asks if he is sure he is alright and Strike mutters ‘yeah’ before continuing ‘sea holly doesn’t flower in the wild until June. If you find the other bloke, Ritchie, I’m sure he’ll tell you they were taken last year. Height of summer, but they put coats on to try and look cold. Ritchie probably thought he was taking part in a benefits scam or something. I’m imagining Ritchie’s none too clever. [That’s a presumption as he might have aided Laing knowing who he really is. Strike just assumes he was a patsy.] There was a certificate for bravery hanging in Kelsey’s sister’s house. I called the fire service. The real Ray Williams, Mrs Williams’ son, retired to Spain six years ago. Laing stole his identity. He was good at accents and he spent a lot of money disguising his appearance. He even managed to find a girl who’d made the mistake of having a crush on me.’ [Presumably Laing was one of the people posting on the online forums which Kelsey was on.].

Wardle smiles and Strike, leading him out, says he will come down to the station tomorrow morning. Wardle’s mobile phone vibrates and he tells Strike that they’ve picked up Brockbank before telling him to get some sleep. [When this aired I swear there was a shot of them finding him in a homeless shelter. Was that in another case?]

Strike returns to his desk and leafs through various newspaper cutting and print offs. One speaks of communes featuring a photo of Brittany Brockbank. He recalls her words as she was led away when they came into the house back then: ‘Daddy wouldn’t do that. I didn’t mean any of it’ he recalls her saying. [Which doesn’t match what we were told about her informing on him earlier.]

He is driven to a commune in the country by Shanker and introduces himself to a member as a friend of Brittany. We hear a baby cry. The commune, composed of quasi-hipsters dressed in a manner not really suited to the lifestyle, is mostly VW beetle vans and some marquee tents with random pieces of furniture and such strewn about. Here he meets Brittany who is older now and a member of the commune.

She asks what will happen to her father now. ‘Nothing that involves you’ Strike tells her. ‘He’ll be put away for a very long time, and when he’s released he’ll be on the sex offenders register for life.’ She says that’s good before he continues ‘I wanted you to know before, you know… He should have been put in prison a long time ago. We failed you there, Brittany. I failed you.’ She reassured him by saying ‘you believed me, though. And you tried. That helped a lot.’ She hesitates a moment before asking ‘was it you who caught him?’ Strike tells her no, it was his partner. ‘For a case you were doing?’ ‘No’ he replies. ‘But she did it anyway?’ Brittany asks. He confirms it and she asks if she is alright. ‘She’s a bit bruised, but she’ll live.’ Brittany asks ‘will you thank her for us?’ Strike nods. ‘What’s her name? Your partner.’ He tells her it’s Robin. There stare at each other a moment then he heads back to Shanker. [So that was for his closure not hers really.]

Strike tells Shanker they’ve got a second stop in Yorkshire. Shanker asks ‘where’s that?’ Strike bemused responds ‘Yorkshire! The county. You know.’ then imitates the accent saying ‘Yorkshire!’ then tells Shanker to just keep going north until he tells him to stop.

Some whimsical music plays.

Strike buys a suit from somewhere. [With him and Robin in this story it’s as if people are constantly just going in and buying formal wear casually according to Rowling… what makes it amusing here is we see him exist a petrol station as if he bought it there.]

More countryside scenery porn for the foreign markets.

Robin with her hair in rollers.

Strike tells Shanker to put his foot down and Shanker tells him it is but Strike wants him to put it down further to which he responses ‘I am not having this for the next hundred miles. Humour.

A newspaper article has a headline reading ‘Killer Strikes Out: Strike no longer suspect in Kelsey Platt murder’. Shanker mocks ‘that’s you sorted out then. Back to being the hero of the hour. Strike laments there’s not fixing everything and Shanker says ‘…Nah, there’s not. That’s just life, innit, mate?’ which cheers Strike up a little.

[So they repeated that sentiment throughout and try to play it off as a positive note? That is a bit bizarre to he honest. Hard fought for survival I guess. ‘You don’t always win – you just survive and that’s good enough’.]

We see Robin exiting the car to her wedding ceremony.

Shanker, in voice over, asks ‘what’s the deal, then, Bunsen, you going to go full-on Graduate? Elaine! Elaine! What about me?’ he mocks pretending to bang on glass like the scene in the film of The Graduate laughing. Strike tells him ‘No, I was invited. I’m a friend, a guest.’ Shanker mocks him being a friend as he sacked her, ‘not exactly a friend where I come from’ he jokes.

We see Robin in her wedding dress with her father.

Shanker comments ‘reminds me of your mum.’ Who asks Strike. ‘Who?! Your Robin. She’s kind, isn’t she? Like the way she wanted to save that kid. Strike says he is going to try and get her back but next time if she calls Shanker – Shanker cuts him off agreeing that he’ll call Strike first to check as he just took her word it was at his behest she was asking for Shanker’s help.

The marriage ceremony is underway as Strike pulls up and runs, as best he can with his leg, inside. The grooms-men hand him an order of service and although he is offered a seat he decides to stand at the back instead. At which point he accidentally knocks over one of the flower arrangement on a stand. Robin and Matthew look back at the noise. He apologises in the echoing silence. Matthew scowls. Robin smiles to see him there and says ‘I do’ while still looking at Strike.

The happy couple walk down the aisle being wished well by people as they go. Both smile at Strike and all ends well.

The End.

Review:

I recall why I never came back to this until now – it just seems to dawdle along for so long feeding only fleeting suggestions of what the evidence will lead to while seeming to focus more on Robin’s back and forth feelings on her marriage. In theory you could skip most of episode one except for one or two scenes involving early pieces of evidence.

It’s not that there are no developments at all but it also doesn’t really feel like there is much steady progression to the murder side of the story when we keep having to address Robin’s emotional situation. Remove the parts about her upcoming marriage, finding out about Matthew’s cheating, running off home to her parents, making up with him and returning to London and about a third of the run time could easily be cut out at least.

It’s pleasant to watch but isn’t satisfying due to how the clues are dealt with leaving the twist both a bit obvious but at the same time coming out of the blue that it really came down to that.

Not that gradual character developments over the run of the whole series isn’t nice but we can all see where it will end up going so it might as well get there a bit quicker so we can get on with the more interesting murder case investigations. However I can easily imagine we will just keep getting teased along about whether Strike and Robin end up together until near the end, if not at the very end, of the entire run of novels. I’d like to think this ‘will they/won’t they’ aspect will get resolved within a book or two then they get together, then there’s a marriage one and then we get to deal with their married life and all the consequences that would bring eventually instead.

Robin wants to be a detective and married. Matthew says she can’t be a detective for her own sake. Strike is happy for her to be both. She wants to be both. Instead of trying to address Matthew’s disdain for the job they just kind of trundle along. Her constant Batman like ability to have prepared for every eventuality is addressed but also her fore-rightness in not practising caution also ends up with her comeuppance not once by twice. So as much as I felt this story line dragged I did like how it addressed issues with the characters while leaving room for future developments.

Strike spends too long wanting Whittaker to be involved and getting distracted by him. You can easily argue it shows a flaw in Strike’s character that, as good a detective as he could be, he lets sentimental bias cloud his judgement. However in his case with his focus on Whittingham it becomes a bit laboured.

Matthew just keeps coming up as little more than an obstacle and ineffectual antagonist towards Strike. Honestly he is in the list of ‘introduced characters who will eventually become a murder victim later in the series’. Probably it’ll involve Robin suddenly claiming Strike never liked him when the animosity all seems very one sided. From the first moment of this character’s scene time in the first story line he has had the sword of Damocles over his head it seems and we get little if any reason to like him – even the chirpy light hearted breakfast scene interrupted by the thumb in the kettle does nothing to make him more sympathetic.

Shanker is a fun character. I wan to know more about him but at the same time he seems to be limited to being a sidekick with a few quips to serve as Strike’s criminal class muscle and informant when he needs it. He serves as a bit too easy a plot device to be honest. I half wonder if further down the line he and Strike will be on opposite sides of events. It’s a potential storyline if there is a criminal murder and Shanker has to choose who he is loyal too. That or he will die too.

As for our suspects: They all feel one dimensional to be honest. One is only mentioned due to his MO then instantly forgotten about. One is more based on Strike’s grudge than evidence. The last two are both child abusers albeit one goes to the extent of murder. On an initial, casual, viewing it was easy to confuse the details of their backstories due to the similarities.

The bookendings regarding Brittany really feels forced as if to give Strike some catharsis over an incident in his past. The character with his stated ethos of ‘you can’t save everyone’ might have been better served by Brittany telling him to piss off – just as everyone had told Robin to do so just for being associated with him.

The second time watching the story I followed it better but that twist about Laing posing as Ray comes so suddenly, even with the clues being scattered throughout, it still feels a bit like a contrivance. I assume we get less hints in the TV adaption that someone reading the book. So it could be an issue with the adaption distilling the novel into two episodes when perhaps it needed more as a lot of subtlety was lost and then even some important parts were too as well.

It was enjoyable but you definitely shouldn’t actually sit and think about it as you suddenly see a lot of issues arise. Admittedly in my commentary I focused on how certain people were depicted as stereotypes but there also feels to be a lot of contrivance too.

This feels more of an adventure-mystery series than crime one. It’s more in the mould of something like Tintin or the works of Wilkie Collins than truly belonging to the modern crime genre or the grand British tradition of detective literature. If J K Rowling aspires to join such luminaries as Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and others she really needs to focus more on the integrity of her mysteries than being distracted by the personal lives of her characters. As a mystery solving adventure, in the style of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five or Secret Seven who solved mysteries as adventures, this is good fun but I can only imagine for people who enjoy murder mysteries this comes across as infuriatingly light on substance.

On the technical side every thing is great. There’s good cinematography, lighting, the sound is always crisp so you don’t miss any dialogue. In terms of locations the only time I got lost was the layout of Laing’s council flat. Something was off there and it needed to be explained about how there were multiple floors of rooms, up numerous staircases, for what was apparently a normal council flat.

The acting by the returning cast is great as always even if I’m somewhat questioning of the writing choices and how secondary characters are depicted. Praise should go to the actors of Niall Brockbank (Andrew Brooke) and Alyssa (Emanuella Cole) for the intense scenes they had to perform in. The actor for Donald Laing (Neil Maskell) goes above and beyond having to portray three distinct versions of his character. Admittedly there were some weak performances but personally I feel that might be due to not having much flexibility to explore then as they tend to be one note characters sadly. I have no doubt the actors in those roles have given excellent performances elsewhere.

Predictions regarding the future of the series

If she writes the number of books she wants for the series, having stated there are at least ten more she wants to do, then this will be her longest running project by far but amusingly it’ll not be under her own name.

Everyone besides Strike and Robin are potential murderers or murder victims as we have now been introduced to so many extraneous character like Strike’s half sister, Nick and Ilsa who serve no real purpose except as potential case fodder. I suppose it’s to avoid the classic issue Christie often had of her characters wandering from place to place to meet ‘old friends’ who we had never met before (or perhaps you don’t recall as you’ve seen TV adaptions out of order or with the role played by distinctly different actors).

Honestly we should all go put down bets that one of the future books will be a case where Whittaker is already murdered before the start so Strike has to confront his mother and stepfather’s past with it revealed that, although a complete arsehole, it wasn’t Whittaker who fatally overdosed Leda (though due to the nature of the series it won’t be a case she herself overdosed which would be far more realistic). In that case I expect some sort of bittersweet story involving Shanker who has been like a brother to him. That and Strike’s half-sister might be murdered.

Strike’s university friends Nick and Ilsa getting murdered is a possibility.

Shanker being murdered by criminals or being on the opposite side of an investigation and having his loyalties tested seems very likely.

Strike’s ex who we encountered at the start of ‘Cuckoo’s Calling’ no doubt will come back somehow.

Due to the number of tertiary characters I can imagine probably all of them will get killed off eventually if there are over ten more books left to write.

Another I feel is a certainty is we will have some contrivance where it turns out the gorilla mask rapist wasn’t the guy who was charged with Robin’s rape. As much as that latter one would require some issue with forensics evidence to occur it feels like that is being set up to be dealt with as a cold case or somehow be brought up due to a similar MO by someone who wasn’t the convicted guy.

You can just tell how the frequently referenced past event story lines deeply connected to Robin and Strike are inevitable full novel investigations we will have in depth explorations of because Rowling likes following preconceived narrative structures so much and ten books pretty makes addressing them inevitable…

Other C B Strike reviews/synopses/humour:

Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling

Strike: The Silkworm

Further commentary on the BBC’s adaption

A parody cross over with Line Of Duty

Another parody involving tease trailers at the end of episodes

Eurovision 2020 : Rotterdam, the Netherlands a.k.a. the year there wasn’t a competition

This year there was no competition so instead we got two shows instead!

The first programme was a retrospective clip show of previous winners throughout the years and a phone vote to decide what the best ever song is. That turned out to be ABBA’s Waterloo apparently. The version of this programme available online is different to the one shown on the BBC though most of the songs shown are the same but with different people interviewed.

A retrospective of previous years

The second, longer, programme was hosted from Rotterdam which was meant to be this year’s venue. It was hosted in a small studio by three hosts, probably thankful they got to wear the outfits they bought especially for the occasion, showing 30 second clips of the music videos for each performer who would have competed this year. The video clips were preceded with a brief message from them wishing everyone well during these trying times.

They did some additional interviews during breaks every nine songs or so. As we only got 30 seconds per artist many, no doubt, didn’t get fair representation as that brief a time is, at best, a preview of the songs and undermines any aspects such as escalation. It came across like the Eurovision committee wanted to do a show but also to keep costs down leading to a somewhat unsatisfying experience which will have frustrated many of the artists involved though many will return to compete next year. Later, we are told, all the singers will perform ‘love shine a light’ together.

This years songs and the interludes between them. This is not the version the BBC broadcast.

The above video is also different to the version shown on the BBC. So below I will present the entries in the BBC’s broadcast running order rather than the supposed official running order as the video above describes itself. It seems to play the videos in full but I’ll put them individually below for ease of reference.

We got to see an interview with Johnny Logan of Ireland who was on talking about winning three times live from Dublin. He is still wearing a white suit all these years later… then he sings ‘what’s another year’ with a choir of people at home.

Johnny Logan – What’s Another Year (including choir of Eurovision fans) – Europe Shine A Light version

This year we will see the videos for the songs instead of a live performance.

I’ll put my initial opinion formed by the 30 second clips shown on the BBC but then, in a second paragraph, also my opinion of the full music video or performance versions (whichever the BBC showed). There is no doubt many songs were underrepresented by the abbreviated format presented by the BBC.

Israel – Eden Alene – Feker Libi

Good energy, 90s nylon tracksuits.

I can imagine a soulful acoustic version of this. It is definitely very 90s with the garish neon yellow costumes of the dancers. The song is enjoyable but it’s definitely not one that would score high.

Norway – Ulrikke – Attention

power ballad. Sparkly dress from a cheap high street shop.

The opening strings remind me of the theme music to role playing computer games or fantasy films. The song is really good with a slow build up. The flickering lights in the background provide a minimalist, yet effective, staging. The shift between soft and projected vocals is far more effective in the full version so the BBC clip really misrepresented it. It’s reminiscent of many from the past so, while a good song in it’s own right, it’s an ‘also ran’ in this contest.

Russia – Little Big – Uno

Going for the camp vote with a weird pastel 70s look. Knee shaking 1920s sort of dance moves. Comical figures. Eurovision classic in the making!

After the controversies of the past few years Russia has done what the UK did around a decade ago – just send fun entries and enjoy the experience because there will inevitably still be countries who will refuse to give them points out of sheer political spite. The song is really fun and the dancing well co-ordinated. The pseudo prison tattoos on the lead vocalist is an amusing contrast to the see through shirt. Also the guy with the liberally applied black lipstick. Fun novelty track which will get effectively remixed into some club anthem potentially. They used that pastel retro aesthetic popular in British pop music about a decade ago with acts like OK Go or Benny Benassi’s Satisfaction music video.

Georgia – Tornike Kipiani – Take Me As I Am

Wants to be an anthem. In the back of a car. In the studio – black and white filming. Bit overly self reverential.

Usually they have interesting acts. This one is a bit more toned down and gritty. It’s a good pop song but… Eurovision wouldn’t reward it. The video is pretentious but I suppose every musician has at least one ‘in the studio’ music video under their belt. The lyrics are a bit ‘victim syndrome’ but probably talking of the Georgian nation’s experiences (or the singer’s experience with lovers) where people expect them to behave like others. Very good but not a Eurovision song.

France – Tom Leeb – Mon Alliée (The Best In Me)

5 o’ clock shadow and a guitar. One for the ladies…

Slow acoustic ballad. Very generic sounding. The video is very generic. ‘Please award him for he is handsome and plays an acoustic guitar so is clearly very soulful’ entry. Doesn’t really strike any real impact. It’s the sort of song that plays second or third during the credits of a film. The filming locations are nice in the video in a shopping arcade and theatre. It reminds me of venues in Cardiff.

Azerbaijan – Efendi – Cleopatra

Katie Perry music video… turns dark for a split second then generic female singer music video. In the desert.

In hindsight it reminds me more of Cheryl Cole (Fernandaz-Versini). The song reminds me of Holly Valance. It’s a good pop song and the costuming for her is very good. Not sure about the cut to the audio pitched lower section near the start really as it should have been repeated or omitted. Aside from the costume most of the video is a few vehicles in a desert… oh and some mummy dancers. Well made and above average points scorer probably if quite repetitive towards the end.

Portugal – Elisa – Medo De Sentir

Big puffy sleeves top. Sparkly pants. Makes me think of a song played over the credits of an anime series.

Nice gentle song with a piano accompaniment. Portugal won with such a song so they’re playing it safe. The sleeves look awkward but I’m not sure if it might be alluding to a form of national dress. Motivating uplifting song but also reflectively sad. Would give it another listen in future. Also woof. It probably wouldn’t do that great but it’s a nice relaxing song to chill out to.

Lithuania – The Roop – On Fire

Quirky dance. With standard basic beat dance music. An ‘I will…’ self empowerment type of song.

A magnifying glass… it’s been a while since I’ve seen one. The music video is very artistic. Fun song. The dancing reminds me of the eccentric moves actors perform when films or television programmes want to mocking the dance styles of certain ‘butt of the joke’ characters. Very enjoyable and would probably get some decent points during a contest. It’s the sort of song you end up looking for years down the line because you’ve forgotten the name of it as so develop a small self-imposed quest to relocate it.

Sweden – The Mamas – Move

Large backing singer ladies given their moment in the spot light. They’ve a Beverly Knight, soul diva, sparkly dresses style with a Little Mix style song.

Very ‘Muses from Disney’s Hercules’ style staging. Really good upbeat song. Definitely can imagine this being used in a television series or advert. Only downside is these sort of contests still have a bit of a stigma. It’s okay to be a funny ‘cartoonish’ woman doing a ‘chicken song’, like Netta, but doing a serious performance and not fitting the standard physique no doubt counts against them even if no one is willing to admit it. Body positive and talented ladies but they’re being judged by the old school when competing and they’re not being ‘comically fat’ so despite pulling off a flawless performance of a really good song they’ll not get more than middle points in a contest.

BREAK TIME

Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

An acoustic version of his song performed in his London garden. Good! Actually I prefer it to his competition entry for a previous year. Like every performance of the evening he offers good wishes to the viewers.

Then last years winner of the junior Eurovision song contest, Viki Gabor who represented Poland, was interviewed.

Then there was a performance by a past contender with children who participated in the Junior version.

Gali Atari & Junior Eurovision kids – Hallelujah – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

She was the female group member of the Israel entry which won 1979’s Eurovision contest singing a song titled Hallelujah. They say people still sing it but part of me feels they’re confusing it with Leonard Cohen’s version as much as I half recall hearing their song with the same title. They send Chinese lanterns off into the sky. Someone’s crops no doubt burnt to ash overnight when those eventually came down.

Then we get interviews with contestants by make-up tutorial vlogger(?) NikkeTutorials chatting to them over face time about what they’re doing over this period. Painting. Animals. Tik Tok videos. The Netherlands royal house hopes everyone well. It all seemed a bit ‘forced friendly interaction for the sake of good PR‘ in tone despite their best efforts but it might be that her make up makes her face look very artificial to the point of distraction – and not in a good way. The uncanny valley but with an actual person.

There were other interviews too but I’ll only post this one

Then from Italy a guy named Antonio with dodgy facial hair and a guitar performs a famous song titled Buona Sera. I suppose it’s meant to make us all feel more united. It was nice. I couldn’t find a clip of it surprisingly.

END OF BREAK

Latvia – Samanta Tina – Still Breathing

A very Lady Gaga style music video. Generic dance music song though…

This definitely had some inspiration from Benny Benassi’s ‘Satisfaction’ music video but also Kylie Minogue’s ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind’ music video too with some costuming like Sia. The song is a Euro-dance track. It’s okay but it would have been interesting to see what they would have done live at the finale with it. It’s a style of music that is very hit and miss with me. It’s okay. It’s advert music – especially with the ‘Dove soap’ moments of body positive lingerie inter-cut with the rest of the video with thin dancers which sends a mixed message. The video is just a compilation of ‘that would look cool’ ideas with no focus.

I mean you could pretend there is one and that when she was little she was bookish, then got into rigid exercise and lost her identity, then became comfortable with her body and then ultimately became herself at the end able to eat cake but still be confident in herself… but that’s me applying an ‘artist’s BS explanation via interpretation of vague imagery association’ filter to it. Ultimately they wanted sexy women but added ‘smart’ looking school girls (in the most blatant ‘bookish nerd’ stereotype possible) and body positive women in lingerie enjoying themselves so they avoided any criticism for the dancers in leotards from vocal Feminists. I wouldn’t have noticed except for the contrasts so at least that apparently made it mildly more memorable in a year of extravagantly kitsch music videos.

Belgium – Hooverphonic – Release Me

She is the 6th vocalist to join the group apparently. Subdued band video. Very Portishead in tone. The guys are much older than her… bit of a weird vibe unintentionally.

Yeah the Portishead overtones are really strong. Specifically the music video for ‘Glory Box’ during certain parts – you’ll know when you see both. It’s the sort of music I really enjoy, what most people probably associate with trip-hop of the 90s or those ‘lo-fi hip hop for studying’ type YouTube videos. You just know this isn’t the sort of song that does well in Eurovision unfortunately. The singer reminds me of someone… the actor who played Neelix of Star Trek: Voyager? One of my favourites of the contest this year nonetheless.

United Kingdom – James Newman – My Last Breath

Chunky guy could be 20s or could be in his late 40s. Video filmed in Poland. Trudging through snow like a bear. Upbeat modern song.

The music video is well made although it’s a strange juxtaposition to have a hardened, sinewy, rural living old man contrasted with a metro-sexual, well fed and groomed, young guy. The song is very ‘British boy band pop song’ tonally. I mean a lot of the song’s impact is from the backing singers rather than James. It’s… okay? It’s the entry from my country so I should be more supportive but… it’s decent but it wouldn’t stand out and is instantly forgettable. Put that in a compilation of boy band songs and you would be hard pressed to differentiate it as ‘the one we entered into the Eurovision song contest’. The most interesting parts of it were from the voice over monologue which frame the rest of the music video… and the music video itself is ‘guy goes for a dip in his freezing cold pool before his daily routine with his dog; meanwhile, elsewhere, a young guy goes wandering through the forest. I just imagine the old guy hunted James later and made a rug out of him.

Belarus – VAL – Da Vidna

very late 80s video. Enjoyable. Three women and a guy on a guitar. Reminds me of The Corrs… but Slavic instead of Irish.

Oh she is wearing a bejeweled headpiece like the one from The Cranberries’ music video for ‘Zombie’ or Metallica’s music video for ‘Until It Sleeps’ which had a similar aesthetic to it. Aside from that they wear black suits. Again a bit of a 90s vibe going on. As for the song – it’s enjoyable but I imagine forgettable. [editing note: I actually had to relisten to this while proofreading the post as I honestly couldn’t recall what it sounded like at all unlike other songs!]

I know what you’re saying – that ‘first impression’ and the ‘music video’ one don’t sound like I was watching the same thing. Indeed… I’m not sure myself either. Did I miss a song or something? At the time of uploading this there was no evidence of the version broadcast on the BBC unless I skipped it. [editing note: I went to double check and indeed I’ve no idea what it was I saw on the BBC broadcast…]

Finland – Aksel – Looking Back

Dressed like Kim Jong Il in a navy uniform/traditional east Asian styled suit. Nice staging. Good song. Overweight with a moustache so probably wouldn’t get the votes. Fat women are acceptable in society these days but not men unless you can grow a good beard and have a big cockerel’s comb of hair too.

That suit does him no favours and I don’t think anyone really pulls off those ‘grandfather’ collar’ styles really. The staging with the projected images is really nice. The song too is something that you can easily imagine scoring really well and probably being a contender for the top 3. Unlike other entries that feel like they begin to get a bit repetitive towards the end this one doesn’t outstay it’s welcome which is a bonus few tend to consider when you’ve heard the same lyric repeatedly for minutes on end.

North Macedonia – Vasil – YOU

The song is decent. The video is blatantly ‘we are dancing as a prelude to sex’ but done in a bar makes it feel a bit seedy.

An Enrique Iglesias style song and music video featuring what appears to be a man who likes to think he has the same level of raw sex appeal but is in fact just a deluded narcissist. He looks like a bloke down the pub on a Saturday night and the lady dancing with him looks like she is on a girls night out cosplaying as a Spice Girl. The video represents what drunks think they look when they dance – when in fact they’re just flailing their limbs about while groping at each other. The song is quite good but nothing really stands out. Another ‘song from the 90s’ or early 2000s’ sounding entry. It’s okay but an ‘also ran’.

Switzerland – Gjon’s Tears – Répondez-moi

Man with a puffy sleeved shirt… novel. Song is generic sounding.

The music video and singer remind me of Robert Smith and The Cure around the time when he was going through that ‘it’s not all about the make up’ phase except if that was happening now. The framing makes this guy seem so self involved it’s hard to assess the rest of it. Some nice visuals at times but very much in the mold of ‘French new wave cinema with a dash of surrealism’. The song is mostly him singing one line then holding an ear-piercing high note [editing note: relistening to it the note is even worse – it’s probably fine in person but through a speaker it’s like a stiletto dagger to the ear]. Okay… but it’s not that appealing. What let’s it down is the awkward high notes otherwise it’s a solid sounding piece. He reminds me of a singer here called ‘Passenger’ who has a high voice and both have good songs ruined by their voices which don’t really fit the style and tone they want.

Serbia – Hurricane – Hasta La Vista

Apparently their answer to the Pussy Cat Dolls. Indeed. Very like them but in shiny material. Enjoyable enough if your wanting to dance.

Yes… very ‘Pussy Cat Dolls’ era girl group with ‘sex sells’ attitude though the song is fun and well performed so could do well on it’s own. Costuming wise there are definitely Little Mix inspired choices there. Bare chested male dancers and all the things you would expect of pop music videos of this style. The ‘pastel boxes’ bits are nice though it reminds me of the British group the ‘Sugar Babes’ when they had Heidi in it. Another ‘also ran’ ultimately. They should have gone full blown into doing references to The Terminator having worn the leather jackets because that’s what a lot of people immediately thought of upon hearing the song title no doubt.

BREAK TIME

Serbia – Marija Šerifović – Molitva – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

Graham Norton referred to her as ‘Marta 2.0’ (pronounced as ‘Marta two point oh’). A Serbian singer performing in the empty streets of Serbia. She was Serbia’s 2007 entry nwon it that year. It’s a very good song… if it was competing this would have likely been my favourite. I think it was my favourite that year too. Admittedly the fact we can hear more than 30 seconds, during the BBC broadcast, elevates it but you can just hear the quality difference. In the video we also see medical staff and others doing their work. People in future will know exactly when certain songs came out as they are featured in so many right now.

Then the Rotterdam Philharmonic (though Graham Norton, for some reason, introduced them as the London philharmonic) performed ‘love shine a light’ as venues around Europe (and elsewhere) lit up. All very ‘spiritually uplifting and that…

END OF BREAK

Spain – Blas Cantó – Universo

Lot of modern filming techniques in modern aesthetic locations. Songs very good. Probably would have won overall. Has that energy.

It reminds me of the music videos for the group called ‘Hurts’ here in Britain about half a decade ago. People covered in glitter dancing in the sterile interior and then him climbing through a desert terrain to find people with chicken wire over their faces in white robes. Interesting imagery but what does it mean if anything? The song is enjoyable. Maybe it is the sort to grow on you but then he does that ear piercing high note which puts me off. It probably would have done okay. It’s a nice touch at the end of the video there are credits for the people involved as music video production tend to go uncredited.

Albania – Arilena Ara – Fall From The Sky

everything white in a white room. Most of the clip was her susptaining anote. Probably quite good.

The music video reminds me of that YouTube art piece/musician Poppy. ‘Hi, I’m Poppy.’ ‘Hi, I’m Poppy.’ ‘Hi, I’m Poppy.’ The ‘ultra modern/ultra art house art design makes it both interesting and yet essentially barren. The birdcage bit could honestly be from the 80s. The song is very nice. I would, in future, half recall it and that it was featured in the Eurovision contest probably. It’s just distinct enough. It would probably get a decent score. There is also a lyric video version but it’s essentially a static image with the lyrics along the bottom of the screen.

Ireland – Lesley Roy – Story of My Life

Very pop song of the moment. 90s baggy suit with mesh top style costuming. It reminds me of Billie Piper’s debut single’s music video. Retro-chic style music video. Song good video …. eh… okay.

Avril Lavigne. That’s whose music it reminds me of. Or someone like that. The video again has a lot of pastels with retro designs so fits the current British trend of design and style. It’s a really fun, infectious, song. I imagine it would do very well as it’s the sort that usually does well in Eurovision with a strong easy to sing chorus. Lesley has that sort of look where she could be in her twenties or well into her forties.

Slovenia – Ana Soklič – Voda

Filmed on a beach. Another power ballad sort with loud instrumentation then quiet vocals moment. Enjoyable.

Another case where the video shown and the one available on YouTube as the official video are different. Deep voiced lady singing a song from the 90s again. There are a lot which remind me of songs from the 1990s during this contest. Maybe the 90s are trendy now but I can’t imagine that being the case for people in former Soviet block countries considering the issues that caused unless everyone has rose tinted memories of the time now? Anyway… a plain white dress with attached cape makes her look like a character from a high fantasy film like Lord of the Rings. (Galadriel specifically). The song is slow and makes no impact to be honest. When it’s in direct comparison to others featured it’s a definite low scorer unfortunately. She has a good voice though.

Austria – Vincent Bueno – Alive

Crowd pleaser, Justin Timberlake like, song. Leather jacket in an abandoned building video… very good. Would have done well.

It’s a nice video and light song. Very enjoyable. An infectious club song making you want to get up and dance. It would do well. This is another video of people with masks… was that a trend this year or is it a political statement by a number of countries? Because it’s full face masks not ‘cover your mouth’ surgical style masks which obviously would be in reference to COVID-19.

Bulgaria – Victoria – Tears Getting Sober

Sort of gothy/Billy Eilish vibe to the video. Song a melody sort. Very good.

A nice gentle song. You can imagine this being on the radio, adverts, television series. It’s one of those songs that just feels universal. The video might not be the best fit but then it gives the vibe of ‘reflecting in the evening sat in the park’ so that’s the obvious allusion. Then you get the flashes of lightning and the fire flies. I would be surprised if it didn’t do well… but then other years I have really liked some songs and they’ve not done as well as expected. Woof! This is my favourite of the competition overall! Both modern and yet timeless!

San Marino – Senhit – Freaky!

Retro chic disco/dance pop number. Fun. Lots of different styles thrown at you in quick succession.

A dance music track from about 20 years ago. Epilepsy warnings were not given before it was shown or the BBC chose the 30 seconds when it didn’t need the warning. There are a lot of interesting visuals in the video but it’s so much you’ve no time to appreciate any one thing. To induce the sense of it being ‘freaky’ I guess but there is nothing bizarre… just distinctly variable. The song is fun and will get a lot of play on the radio and in clubs (you know… when the quarantines are lifted…) so while it wouldn’t get massive points in this contest it’s definitely one that will serve Senhit well career wise.

Iceland – Daði og Gagnamagnið – Think About Things

Video is very ‘Okay Go!’ from about a decade ago. Fun song. Would have done very well if not won. Lots of fun. The guy is 6 foot 9!!!

This honestly screams ‘this years winner’ when compared to everything else which is either stuff we’ve seen before or doesn’t have ‘the spirit of Eurovision’ which seems some mysterious level of ‘cheesy yet technically competent’ which marks certain performances out. The only reason it wouldn’t win is their staging would be less extravagant than some others on the night. An infectious beat. Easy lyrics to sing along to. Quirky presentation. Admittedly I’ve not posted Eurovision’s official video as that’s just a stage performance and the music video on the groups page is much more fun and is the one shown by the BBC. The only costume difference is they have boiler suits for the stage version with just the musicians though still retaining the pixel art portraits of their faces on their chests.

BREAK TIME

Michael Schulte & Ilse DeLange – Ein Bisschen Frieden – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

He was Germany’s entry in 2018 and is doing this year’s commentary apparently. Ilse is from ‘The Common Linnets’ who were the Netherlands 2014 entry. They perform a song from 1983 (actually it was the winner from 1982… so Graham Norton was wrong again?) by the German Entry Nicole. The song is called Ein Bißchen Frieden (A Little Bit of Peace).

It’s very Country and Western and yet ‘British pop’ of the era too. Good. I like the venue especially.

END OF BREAK

Greece – Stefania – SUPERG!RL

Girl imagines she can levitate. Very dance focused song but good energy would do well.

It reminds me of a song from last year due to the use of horns (albeit they’re electronic here). Her voice sounds like it is modulated electronically in the music video. The video is very good but… the song feels generic despite it’s good energy. I can’t help but feel this really wants to put itself forward to be the song used for YA novels adapted into Television series or films. It’s okay but I think the music video adds a lot to it while the song itself is good but it’s the sort soon forgotten. Like Holly Valance’s songs from years ago. It reminds me of that sort of energy.

Czech Republic – Benny Cristo – Kemama

90s style R&B music video – people in low lit areas… very 90s R&B video. The song is a light dance song. Okay, but nothing special.

The camera spins around. It reminds me of the Japanese action film ‘Azumi’ where they did that for the final showdown and I felt a bit ill… nothing to do with the camera work but I do recall it because of that. It’s a club song. Not my kind of song but it’s okay. It’s not a style I listen to much so can only say it’s a nice change to the usual stuff we have in the competition. The spinning was trying to do something with what was a relatively bland video when you could tell what was on screen.

Also wasn’t the Czech government trying to get people to call the country ‘Czechia’ nowadays instead of Czech Republic?

Poland – Alicja – Empires

Very fire filled video. Another power ballad sort. Seen it before. Poland used to have unique stuff but they’ve gone tame again…

The song would make a good theme song for a drama series or such. The video is okay. The is a lot of fire imagery. You would half think this is a political song and Poland was actively involved in a conflict. Either that or this is the theme song to a James Bond film. It’s quite good but this is the sort of song you expect to be in the Eurovision song contest. Another Galadriel dress. Alicja apparently has only one facial expression too.

Moldova – Natalia Gordienko – Prison

Lots of heavy bass. Music video in the desert again. Very good but wouldn’t win. Appearance in the video is model. In video to audience is girl next door… interesting

‘Look I’m a bad girl’ sort of imagery and ‘I’m an attractive woman who knows it and uses her sexuality to empower myself’ type music video with lots of close ups of herself and male models obsessed with her. It’s a good song (initially) but the video doesn’t serve it well. More walking through a desert like landscapes like other competitors. Then some blurry close ups. It would get some decent marks but end up somewhere in the middle. It gets repetitive quickly though thus becomes bland after a minute or so. The music video even more so. I half expect it to turn out to be an advert for a perfume.

Cyprus – Sandro – Running

Dance club anthem song. Basic video with some lights under a sheet suspended overhead.

Another music video where they have them dancing under a suspended sheet of fabric. Is that the visual theme this year? ‘If there’s a fabric ceiling then it’s a dance track’. Good rhythm and beat for dancing to but the lyrics are incredibly basic. A very meh song to be honest overall. You’ll enjoy dancing to the rhythm but it’s remix fodder at best. Costume wise its ‘t shirt and jeans’ so… yeah nothing to comment on there. Also that’s some weak moustache game you got going on there bro – have some self respect and shave that bum fluff off or grow it out properly because you won’t be able to grow a John Waters no matter how much you might want to.

Romania – Roxen – Alcohol You

Floating letters music video in neon blue night time. Very reflective soulful song.

Drifting letters in the air. An interesting music video. Good lyrics though the ‘alcohol/I’ll call’ pun is a bit of a stretch to be polite though it’s a nice try and better than the all too on the nose lyrics others have. On the whole yeah this is really good. Not sure about the face jewels. Kind of ends too suddenly. It would probably be in the top three or five at least.

Croatia – Damir Kedžo – Divlji Vjetre

Standard modern entry. Backing singers etc. Not much to add.

Clothing wise he just came from his waiter job in a nearby restaurant. The song is generic. Honestly sounds like if you averaged out all of this style of song this would be at the exact centre of the curve. There are a lot of backing singers, off to one side, to the point you wonder why they didn’t put them directly behind him for more symmetrical staging. It’s a nice effort but was never going to stand out. And it’s in his native language rather than English which, as with previous years, nets them extra points in my book. It’s just that it’s so pedestrian an entry unfortunately even in these tamer, culturally homogenised, times.

Germany – Ben Dolic – Violent Thing

Puffed up jacket. Slav gopnik ‘#1 with the hair clippers except for a fringe at the front’ hairstyle. High pitched singer trying to be cool. Ehhh…. it’s okay but bland really.

The video is a nicely cinematic effort. Clearly money was thrown at it. He facially reminds me of the little boy from ‘This Is England’ grown up. He’s got a high voice. It reminds me of the singer ‘Passenger’. I don’t like this modern castrato singing style he and others have used this year. It hurts my ears needlessly for to show off their range but not actually achieve anything with it in the song. The video is generic ‘in the club’ stuff. It’s the sort of song that would do well but not one I can appreciate. Aside from that the lyrics and instrumental are very good. If someone else had done this I would probably like it better.

BREAK TIME

From Israel we get an interview with Netta who has Bayonetta hair… Joking about what she has done in quarantine. Showing her opening last year’s ceremony. She wishes everyone well then presents a video of a song she has done.

Netta – Cuckoo – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

Much more toned down compared to her winning one. An excellent song. The sort you enjoy hearing repeatedly by a singer but it never really gets the notoriety of their louder bombastic songs. Ironically she wouldn’t have won Eurovision with this but it’s a much better song in my opinion as it doesn’t rely on gimmicks and has a much more impassioned emotional resonance. Very fitting for these times where people are distanced and having to face who they are when their socialising options are much more limited even with social media. As per usual it’s the songs not mean to be competing which seem to have the more impactful performances.

Then online stuff featuring someone watching the show with her dog. Then a montage of people singing song fragments. Who would the singers give their 12 points to? Performers admit they would give it to their neighbouring countries and such though some give to performers from elsewhere too. That’s sad to hear that even after the measures taken to deter block voting there is still that sentiment. Favoritism over meritocracy. Such is the way of the world sadly.

Duncan Laurence – Someone Else – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light version

Last year’s winner performing his song. Good stuff. Without question you can tell this is a well written and performed song. (cue someone looking at my comments from last year and noting what I said… no, actually no one will… no one will because no one reads these Eurovision posts but it’s nice to remind me of which I liked and which had no impact so Eurovision doesn’t, years later, say one song was good but actually wasn’t). Saying that he does look like he just came from his fast food restaurant job due to the shirt he is wearing. I guess that’s the fashion right now – to look like your wearing a retail/service industry uniform… then again military jackets and such are still a popular clothing choice so maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising but it says something about European culture that that’s where fashion has drifted. Maybe it’s meant to be like a male nurses shirt – I’m pretty sure I’ve seen ones that look like that.

Then finally a look in performers’ homes while they make reassuring comments about sticking together and such. Some seem more in context of the competition, some more regarding the virus… some just seem generic or self referential…

END OF BREAK

Malta – Destiny – All Of My Love

Energetic anthem – kids dancing in the rain. Would have done very well! Corto Maltese would be proud.

Another music video with some random inspirational narration at the start of it. I can see that be next year’s trend then. Really good song which would get a good reception outside of the contest. More ‘people looking off into the distance as if aspirational’ stuff in the video but the free running along an abandoned building and the lake/river/seaside is a nice change to the ‘in the desert’ ones.

Estonia – Uku Suviste – What Love Is

Boy band member striking out on his own. Open shirt in an empty theatre filled with candles. It’s okay but… it would have got girl votes rather than song votes.

In an abandoned building – which in hindsight is a trend this year for some. Slow start. Then BOOM it’s Hogwarts with all the candles! His style is very 90s boy band. You half expect the other members to turn up. Yes I stand by my first impression ‘wow being by myself is great… but so is love’… very ‘boy band member releasing his debut single independently’.

Australia – Montaigne – Don’t Break Me

Modern Art house music video – song is good ‘dance music remix’ fodder. It would get lauded there but here… ehhhh….

Sings very fast initially. Her costume is very out of keeping with the song. I like the dance routine parts involving her with the dancers acting as puppeteers (like Kuroko from Japanese Noh theatre) but… it’s also a bit try hard. That’s weird to say for a Eurovision entry but it really seems overworked and thus a bit mechanical and soulless. I want to like it but… I’m not clear what her costuming is meant to express save that the person she is singing to considers her a clown… but she isn’t. She reminds me of Taika Waititi in a way… who, of course, is from New Zealand so, unintentionally, I’m insulting her a bit…

Ukraine – Go_A – Solovey

Yes! That’s Ukrainian energy! They always deliver! And fantastic costume and stage design for the performance. Reminds me of HARD KISS in a good way. Would have been my personal winner.

Okay well either this or Belgium were the best song of the evening as far as I’m concerned personally. Belgium for the mainstream this for the ‘representing our nation’ option. It reminds me of ONUKA to be honest but less experimental in their use of techno/synthesizers compared to them while retaining some of the more traditional instrumental aspects.

Ukraine likes to put up very modern entries recently but it’s possible, after the issues when they had a very politically charged entry which courted some controversy, they’ve chosen the more noble path of showing how cutting edge modern and European they are as a nation in contrast to Russia who still wish to retain a certain level of distance and traditionalism to remain distinct from Europe. So there is still the friction there but it’s not overwhelming each countries entries as it did in previous years with the boycotting issues and such.

The costumes are very interesting. Woof! The firework from the guitar seemed a bit pointless. Their singing reminds me of ‘Tulia’ who represented Poland last year in terms of their harmony. So this is your answer to the question you never asked: ‘what would an ONUKA and Tulia collaboration sound like?’ Maybe I just have weird tastes in music. I would prefer something experimental over something bland though. Better to make an impression, good or bad, than none at all when it comes to the arts.

Denmark – Ben & Tan – Yes

Guy with a guitar. Lady accompanies him…. feels a bit wielded together. No chemistry.

A ‘couple’ where the woman sings while the man plays a guitar and sings in support. It’s a romantic cliche but it’s worked in the past. Both dressed fashionable though I don’t get the ‘half jacket’ dress trend for women in the past year or so. High fashion I guess. It’s not for someone like me to understand. It’s a nice song with good ‘sing-a-long’ potential. It’s a Eurovision classic style wise but probably wouldn’t win unless there was some lucky scores. Probably it’ll be the one cited from this year in future when looking back if it’s for entries that had ‘the Eurovision spirit’ if they want to overlook the global events of this year.

Italy – Diodato – Fai Rumore

Arena di Verona

Empty amphitheatre venue. Leather jacket. Good song. Apparently gone platinum in Italy already.

So there are both the above ‘Arena di Verona’ video and the ‘Official Music Video’ versions. I like the arena one. It really draws into focus his performance. It’s an impactful soulful song and will be looked back as showing the spirit of this year where we are separated and yet looking forward to reunion. It will no doubt be used in future to represent this year more so that the Denmark entry despite it having ‘the Eurovision spirit’ of other years. Probably with some sentiment that ‘we’ve never been further apart yet closer together’.

The music video version

Here’s the official music video with the English subtitles in the video itself. Italy always makes a really hard effort to win but rarely seems too. It is no doubt incredibly frustrating. It’s a subdued yet artistic video. I can see people enjoying this long after the contest is over. The lyrics really hit home due to current events so no wonder they wanted to perform it in the Arena di Verona’. Another contender for song of the year though not my personal choice because of my odd tastes.

Armenia – Athena Monoukian – Chains On You

Modern flashing artistic video. Very audio stabilised voice music video with Rihanna’s style from a few years ago. Good but wouldn’t win.

Yeah, this needed an epilepsy warning! A lot of ‘sexy yet stylish’ imagery. Woof. The song is good until it gets to the chorus part then it gets a bit flimsy. The ‘red’ parts of the music video and the backing dancers in the ‘white’ parts are the best aesthetics of the video. The song ultimately is an ‘also ran’ but might get some votes from people into Rihanna and her style of music as this really reminds me of Rihanna’s work from about a decade or so ago.

Netherlands – Jeangu Macrooy – Grow

Gospel R&B – people sat in a circle to make it confessional. Very good! Stands out amongst the others.

Excellent song. Really nice video. It would deserve high scores and could have potentially won depending on the running order and if other acts didn’t perform well on the night. A nice gentle song. It’s the sort of song you hear now and years down the line completely get taken by surprise realising this is where you first heard him because you’ve been into him for such a long time. It builds to such a great positive high by the end but hopefully had he performed it live he wouldn’t end it as suddenly as the video does.

FINALE OF THE EVENING

A message from Björn of ABBA. A retrospective because they were so successful. Talks of his grandson telling him people in school told him his grandfather was a pop star and him being incredulous about it. Then Björn praises the contest as being ‘so very European and letting people forget about Coronavirus for a moment‘. He ends by joking that he is glad they chose ‘shine a light’ and not ‘Waterloo’ for this years slogan.

Then Graham Norton. He joked earlier about the delay in the interviews and indeed it was something the host mentioned so they obviously heard him earlier but its only a split second. It actually came across as if the hosts were being a bit bitter about it – so even this year the hosts are a bit self-important… Maybe he rubbed Eurovision up the wrong way with the comment like Terry Wogan used to do (if so then that’s great as his acerbic commentary was always a massive part of the experience other nations sadly didn’t get to appreciate). Then some chat. Where was he when ‘love shine a light’ won Eurovision for Britain. ‘Face down on the floor drunk probably’ he jokes.

Then he returns to commenting and says it was awkward yet ‘strangely emotional’. Ha ha.

Love Shine A Light performed by the artists of Eurovision 2020 – Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light

Then we get all the competitors for this year singing parts of ‘Love Shine A Light’ as there will be no winner this year. Obviously all sang it at the same time they did their recorded song introduction parts regarding their songs as they’re in the exact same place as those clips. A nice way to round out the show with Katrina (and her poodle) doing the final part of the song.

Finally…

The odd thing is they could have had the competition anyway but with the caveat it’s based on the music videos or done via broadcast… but I guess they insisted it must be only judged based on a live performance on the night to ensure no foulplay. Still that feels a bit needless as it means everyone either returns next year or loses their chance to have participated. Some had tried multiple times to participate only to get through this year and for the pandemic to occur. Graham Norton joked maybe it was the universe trying to tell them something… Nonetheless everyone will return next year to Rotterdam if they can.

Apologies to those who expected this to be published within 24 hours of the event but it took longer than expected. Hopefully you enjoyed it. If you feel like leaving a comment, a like or following the site you’re more than welcome to.

Until next year.

Locke & Key: Netflix Series: Season 1 Review

Locke & Key is a Netflix adaption of the American comic book series written by Joe Hill.

Premise:

Rendell Locke is murdered at the hands of former student Sam Lesser, so his wife Nina is forced to move with her three children Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode from Seattle to Matheson, Massachusetts and take residence in Rendell’s family home, the Keyhouse. The children soon discover a number of mysterious keys throughout the house that can be used to unlock various doors in magical ways. However, they become aware of a demonic entity that is also searching for the keys for its own malevolent purposes.

The music in the series is not as effective sadly.

It’s an enjoyable, mild, adventure and seems to focus more on the fantastical aspects of the story than the horrific making it the inverse of the comic’s version of events. Certainly aspects of the original get toned down such as how scarred Sam Lesser’s face is.

The first season covers, more or less, the first 3 collected volumes of the comic series. It’s not scary but for a younger audience may be unnerving.

Is it faithful to the comics?:

For fans of the comic I would say it’s best to see this as a reinterpretation of the core concept, i.e. ‘a family moves into their ancestral home and discover a mystery involving magical keys’, than hope for a faithful adaption. There is more of a sense of wonder and charm here than impending threat. Some characters are amalgamated, others lost and a few incidents and keys work in a different way to the comics.

Is this like a Stephen King mini series?:

If you come to this with the mindset that because Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son you’re going to be getting a King like story… well I can’t say it’s a million miles away from his father’s work but there is a very distinct difference. Joe focuses on individuals and their interactions thus builds his characters up far more than his father. That is to say we spend more time seeing the effect of events on them personally, both in their past and present, than the development of a plot where people become pieces in the greater narrative with their past merely serving as a shorthand to indicate their archetype (e.g. King’s infamous favourite of a ‘divorced, drunkard, writer’ where we see no aspect of those affect the current narrative when faced with some supernatural threat). Joe is more focused on the inter-social impact of things than his father although you could argue Stephen King initially had a similar style, in his earlier works such as Carrie, before moving towards a more plot driven style of writing.

Is Joe Hill’s Locke & Key like Stephen King’s IT?:

To make a direct comparison, which is no doubt obvious, we have elements in Locke and Key which echo King’s novel IT and it’s adaptions. The ‘Keepers of the Keys’ (a.k.a. The ‘Tamers of the Tempest’ in the comics) come across like a ‘what if’ scenario of the youth parts of IT featuring the ‘Loser’s Club’. Dodge plays a similar role to IT albeit the intentions are somewhat different as one seeks to unleash demons into the world while the other is a predatory entity using the town as a feeding ground. At one point Dodge speaks to Sam via a mounted illustration print as IT did to the Loser’s Club children at one point via ones in a book. There is also the Downing cave which is easily comparable to IT’s inner sanctum in the sewers of Derry, as a pivotal location of confrontation, albeit with a few differences… and yet some similarities too really. Sam Lesser is clearly a parallel to Henry Bowers albeit slightly more tragic ultimately.

Locke and Key does address one aspect people often cite as an issue with IT and its adaptions – audiences enjoy the childhood losers club side of the story but less enamoured when we see how embittered they’ve become in adulthood so we have a much harder time identifying with that part of the story. In Locke and Key it is a multi-generational story instead.

The younger characters, discovering this world for the first time alongside the audience, allow us to enjoy the escapist aspects as they enjoy their adventure with discovery of the keys and their abilities, suffer some turmoil (both socially and plot driven) and eventually overcoming the villain. Meanwhile the adults, who have gone down this route previously but with a bad result barely surviving, are allowed to have more naturally drifted apart (without King’s ‘magic amnesia’ as often criticised in IT between the two parts and it’s ending) and in some cases become such damaged individuals it ultimately leads to setting in place all the circumstances required to lure the next generation of the Locke family back to their ancestral home.

The adults in Locke and Key hide some dark stories and repressed memories from their history and we see the consequences of it on the Locke children. However there is a greater sense of hope for the future in Hill’s story than his father’s which, despite his best efforts, ends on a somewhat more muted tone intentionally or not.

On a side note both King and Hill have an odd attitude towards depictions of mentally ill or neuroatypical/neurodivergent characters such as Rufus where there is no way for them to be ‘normal’ in what the media portrays as ‘normal’. It is never defined what his condition is, no doubt for fear of causing offence to real world individuals with such conditions, thus ironically making them ‘magical’ in tone as Rufus (at least in the comics though not yet shown on the show if they ever do address it) being immune to the effects of the ‘head key’ as if his undefined mental condition is something even magic cannot surpass. As for King there are multiple characters across his works, both depicted positively and negatively, who have undefined yet clearly presented mental conditions. You see this with characters in other series of course so it’s not just King and Hill who are guilty of it. For example Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory where he is ‘off’ due to his manner of social interaction and clearly there is an issue but it’s never honestly addressed by the people making the show even when directly asked about it as that makes writing it as a source of comedy more difficult (though you might compare Sheldon to the lead character in Netflix’s series Atypical which is a ‘coming-of-age comedy-drama’). The fact they chose, in the adaption, for the only person Rufus to be able to speak on equal terms with is the six year old Bode (via soldier terminology) creates a certain stereotype about his mental age. In the adaption he is clearly well into his later teens but was much younger in the comics making his interactions with Bode seem more natural. Why they chose to increase his age I’m not sure unless they had trouble finding a suitable actor of a younger age. Again it unintentionally delivers a certain message of normalising prejudice, about his ability to function effectively in society intentionally or not, to audiences regarding people who are not neurotypical. In truth it’s an essay all on it’s own. It doesn’t have much impact on the first season of Locke & Key but may come up next time…

What is the series like besides the similarities?:

Episode 5 certainly comes across as a ‘breather episode’ where the powers of one key is used to play pranks at school before the season arcing story line finally begins to come into the forefront with the end of episode six leading into episode seven which is primarily a flashback dominated where we learn why the Locke’s returned to their ancestral home is revealed. I am going to say that there are some scenes in episode one which you will have to accept at face value regarding the father being killed than only now will be given any real context so I partially feel maybe they should have omitted those scenes and left it until now to fully explain the reason for the move to the house so it was more coherent.

Steven Williams as Joe Ridgeway steals every scene he is in. Most, if not all, the young actors do very well with special note towards Jackson Robert Scott as Bode Locke for not coming across as overly precocious nor just rattling his lines off with no authenticity (and extra bonus Hill/King connection points as he played Georgie in the recent duology film adaption of IT). Patrice Jones, though he performs his role well, feels particularly misplaced due to his British accent unless I am missing something.

Dodge I feel is not well acted by Laysla de Oliveira but I don’t know if that’s the actor’s choices or how she was directed. She comes off more as a teen drama ‘queen bitch’ antagonist. For most of the series she only appears occasionally to bully six year old Bode (at least until the end of the sixth episode) rather than a demonic entity with malicious intentions. In a way it’s bizarrely comical. Even at the end of episode eight she comes across like she should be in a teen drama due to how she behaves now she finally comes to confront the Locke children face to face with what she is finally fully revealed. That stereotypical ‘teen drama antagonist’ interpretation is established early on with events of her going on an international shopping spree and generally only interacting with little boys for the majority of the first six episodes (though there is a twist I’m not addressing yet as it’s quite a big one if you’re unfamiliar with the comics which comes into play towards the end) which really undermines what a threat Dodge is supposed to be for nearly the entire first season.

Sam is introduced very early on but only really becomes relevant by the end of episode six and playing an active role in the narrative during episode seven in which his entire backstory is also told at the same time with everything regarding him wrapped up neatly by the end of that episode (including Tyler absolving himself of his guilt regarding Sam killing his father – at which point he also aggressively rejects Sam’s friendship too which felt spiteful but realistic for a teenager probably). The role is performed well but the writing doesn’t do the character justice although there is a potential way for him to return in season two’s events as a ghost so maybe there will be some interaction with Tyler there.

Overall tl;dr opinion?:

I would recommend checking it out if the premise sounds appealing. There is some teen drama in there but it’s relatively well done and doesn’t distract from the greater ‘find the keys, find out what happened with the adults and stop Dodge’ season long arc. The assumption that adults can’t see magic being subverted was good and seems a more developed version of a similar attitude in IT which in the connected universe of King’s works didn’t make much sense beyond some vague insistence that ‘what happens in Derry stays in Derry’.

My only real gripes with the series are relatively minor otherwise. The generic soundtrack is relatively forgettable with little impact on the scenes where it is used and they use licensed music at certain points which seems common right now for Netflix series aimed at a younger audience – if you’ve seen Suicide Squad it’s as jarring and as on the nose here as it was there. There’s a distinct chord played when Lucas appears which is a bit on the nose once you know the Dodge twist. Comic readers will already know it so it’s not that much of a give away but once you notice it it seems a bit of a poor choice to scream out to the unfamiliar that there’s something dodgy about Lucas. The role is very well performed when you consider the context of the role and how it had to gel distinctly with Dodge’s actress and interact with Ellie. It’ll sort of odd he carries the callous yet manipulative tone of the Dodge role off very well after the reveal but the main actress for the role couldn’t…

I would hope for a bit more intensity in the presentation of the antagonistic elements in the story. There is a lot of what people would deem teen drama padding which really slows the plot development between episodes 3 through to the end of 6. All you really learn in those episodes is some of the key abilities so in theory you could skip those episodes and as long as you had an idea of what each of the keys does and the consequences you wouldn’t lose anything in regards to the core ‘stopping Dodge’ storyline. I still enjoyed them though as individual mini adventures towards the great goal and they were good for character development but it does make the series as a whole feel poorly balanced overall.

The ‘echo’ key’s ability doesn’t really make sense in terms of what it does. Why it brings back who it does instead of the intended person? You assume it brings back the dead person completely not who was in the body of said person. That’s probably the one flaw that is inherent in the story which can’t be explained as it’s bringing the spirit back not the flesh presumably. Namely how ‘demon Dodge’ returns with the body and not Lucas Dodge as himself implying possession equates destruction of the soul but it’s never clarified. Also why did Dodge change back to their female form? Probably to be recognised by the children to intimidate them… but then they also got a dress when other times the key only seemed to change the face? I mean there are a lot of questions the end of episode 9 and start of episode 10 throw up to an audience really implying some keys have more extensive powers than are ever portrayed. The ‘ghost’ CGI is… cartoonish but I’m not sure if that’s intentionally stylised or not as it’s so obvious.

In hindsight maybe the season could have been a few episodes shorter to be honest. The pace doesn’t really pick up until episode six but the prior episodes help develop the characters and ease you into understanding the use of the keys.

Check it out as it’s stronger than many adaptions of Stephen King’s works and has some nice twists in episode 8. It’s not as tightly paced as Stranger Things but you’re getting a lot of similar aspects present in this production. If you are unfamiliar with the comics it is easy to get into and an enjoyable story. If you are familiar with them it’s an interesting take on the story with a few of the keys changed to produce different resulting powers.

Conclusion (a.k.a the real tl;dr):

It’s worth checking out but the middle few episodes might seem to go nowhere though they help develop the main and side characters a bit. If you want an IT like story it’ll scratch your itch. If you want an adventure series with a mystery you’ll be given snippets in each episode to deduce it yourself before it’s laid out plainly at the end of the season. There’s also a good twist at the end which will leave you waiting in anticipation for season 2 – and if you don’t want more it can be read as a downer ending befitting a horror series.

Amy Speace concert at Acapela, Pentyrch, Cardiff

Anyone wanting an update about how Acapela is doing these days can consider this an update from the previous post years ago.

Awkward text placement…

Amy Speace is a folk/Americana American singer-songwriter from Baltimore, Maryland. National Public Radio described her voice as “velvety and achy” and compared her to Lucinda Williams. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee. A former Shakespearean actress, her music has received critical acclaim from The New York Times, NPR, The Sunday London Times, Mojo Magazine, etc. Speace’s song, Weight Of The World, was recorded by singer Judy Collins on her 2010 album Paradise.

Seen on 5 February 2020 at Acapela Studio.

As soon as you walked in there was a guy in a t-shirt acting as the doorman with a clipboard checking if you had bought tickets. There seems a lot more space in this bar area now. If every person who had a seat in the performance room came in here there would still be plenty of room to move about. You can see the kitchen area behind the bar where there’s a stone oven to cook the pizzas which they seem to specialise in.

Every time some pizza came past it looked nice enough with some fresh salad. To me though there was a particularly acute rancid smell to them. It was probably a certain sauce or something I just found an unappealing smell. I’m not sure how to describe it but as we were sat near the door it assaulted me a few times unintentionally.

There were about 20 people initially and by the time it started 50 or so had assembled in the audience. It really wasn’t that many and no one was sat upstairs (well Amy’s mother along with the guy controlling the lights and sound on his iPad but not any paying customers). Amy isn’t that well known here ‘but is on the rise’ as far as people are concerned like some other American folk singers who didn’t get larger crowds until they had come here a few times to build up word of mouth. It’s an intimate venue but indeed it wasn’t filled to capacity sadly. Presumably it is the pizzas helping to keep things ticking over.

Since the last time I was here they’ve removed more of the hard wood church pews and replaced them with stackable chairs and small tables. I suppose it’s to create a sort of ‘cafe bistro’ performance venue atmosphere. The table I was sat at was wobbly so you dare not lean on it but I’m sure the other tables were more sturdy. There are rows of chairs on the side (under the stairs), a few rows of chairs at the back and tables to the front. So if you’re unlucky and arrive later when there is unallocated seating you not only are sat with far less space for yourself but will also be watching the performers from behind people eating too. Oh and there are pillars too but that only restricts a few very specific seats and they’ve clearly tried to counter that by giving more space for the performers more floor space, to stand further forward, than previously.

No one was eating during the performance, unlike the last time I was here, but I don’t know if that was enforced by the venue or just a coincidence. When Amy came out she commented on the pizza to the effect of something like ‘surprising to find nice pizza in Cardiff’. I think most performers find it odd but all really like the acoustics of the former chapel so it’s a bit of a trade off.

We were sat downstairs by a pillar but with a good ¾ view (i.e. not at the front nor side of the performance area). There isn’t a raised platform stage area and the floor looks very scratched up now as the varnish has gradually been worn away by equipment being moved about. Someone walked by before the start smelling of toilet fragrance aerosols… or maybe it was a very cheap perfume? And it lingered… nasty. Not the venues fault but it was such a strange smell I couldn’t help but note it. The venue is perfectly fine smell wise but this perfume and the pizza were very pungent.


8.05pm the performance began.

Amy was wearing a long navy dress with small diamond patterning and white pixie boots. It reminded me of the sort of dress country singers wore in the 1970s.

She told stories between the songs about her parents’ religiousness (the father is a lapsed baptist who gave her a big, leather bound, white bible while her mother is a Catholic and there was an unspoken agreement the children would be raised Catholic) and political e.g. How she is a folk singer so her being a liberal should be a given to some degree yet some complain saying they thought she was going to do songs like a Country singer (i.e. the stereotypical Texan republican who loves their country blindly). She had her son in her fifties and named him Huckleberry as her husband teaches Southern literature and she thought it would be unique… only to discover someone else had also used that name.

Amongst the songs she performed were the following:

She forgot the lyrics to this one when she was about to perform it
She felt the need to explain a Lorna Doone is a shortbread biscuit before singing this. I mean I immediately thought of the novel when hearing the name. Americans have awkward names for their snacks don’t they?
She told a story about when she had written this after a break up and later was performing it when her new boyfriend’s family were sat in the front row. She panicked worrying they thought it would be about him. In her mind she was running a script of ‘but I won’t write a song about your son…’ in tune with the instrumental. But fortunately her loud Texan friend, from the back row of that performance, shouted ‘AND YOU DID!’ at the end of it. Anyway she married her boyfriend and had her son, named Huckleberry, when about 50 years old. Her husband teaches Southern literature and people find it odd a Yankee (northern states) person would want to name their child something like that.
She finished with this song doing it without the amp.

She performed most songs with an acoustic guitar connected to an amp but one or two she did sat at the grand piano too.

At 9.03pm there was an interval. A staff member rushed in zealously seeking empty glasses to take off tables. It got to the point he seemed to be eyeing up half filled glasses as if ready to claim them as having been abandoned if people were not sat next to them to ward him off. Out by the bar Amy’s mother was selling CDs of three of her albums, t-shirts and apparently one album on vinyl. Amy would sign them too. About 10 or so minutes later the second half began suddenly signaled by the lights suddenly being turned off again.

While performing she forgot the lyrics to a few of her songs so a friend had to look them up for her. It was fortunately made more charming rather than awkward. Earlier she had joked at other performances she had had to do that too.

After she remembered and performed the first forgotten song a guy shouted “got there in the end” which the classic sardonic Welsh sense of humour. It’s not meant in a bad spirit but I imagine it so easily could be misread as such if people are not familiar with it… and let’s face it when you have visiting foreign artists I do often wonder if it gives a bad impression and if it’s affected the chance of people coming back again. However Amy mentioned how polite British audiences are as American ones have to be made to shut up and often will throw things at the performers. British audiences chuckle while American audience guffaw it seems. Probably it makes it easier to read the tone of the room compared to more reserved audiences.

She had gone up Snowden and it was the first time her parents were touring the UK. She seemed hung up, like all visiting American artists, on the whole ‘divided nation’ aspect of America at the moment regarding Trump and said Britain probably is too now due to Brexit. She joked politicians need to get better hair and some exercise in reference to Trump and Boris Johnson.

At 22:25 the concert ended after she said she would do a false ‘walk off and encore’ by turning away a few seconds rather than walk out the room. She did one of the last songs acoustically without her guitar plugged in. Oddly it might have been better to do that more in this venue but I guess everyone is used to instruments being amplified these days that just having the instrument sounds less ‘authentic’ somehow…

It was very enjoyable. The stories actually felt personal rather than just a script she rattles off to every audience. It’s a bit concerning she forgot the lyrics to her own songs though. But overall it was very enjoyable. I recommend seeing her if you’ve the chance though it is one of the few occasions where I’ve seen a performer forget their own lyrics which in a less seasoned act would be criticised as being unprofessional.

Parking is still the biggest issue the venue faces really even with it’s relatively small capacity. Park on the road side and if you can’t then you’ll have to park further down or in a residential space. There are no real alternatives to be honest but that’s the cost of it being in a community’s former chapel.

P.S. Here are some names of other acts coming here soon if you want to look them up… The Magpies / Daisy Chapman / Maz o’connor / Emily Mae Winters / Mr Tea and the Minions / Morganway.

On Bear Ridge

“One minute we had customers, the next minute there was no-one.”

In a lost village, blurred by redrawn borders, hidden under a crumb on the map, Bear Ridge Stores still stands. After a hundred years, the family butchers and grocers – a place for odds and ends, contraband goods, and the last petrol pump for 30 miles – is now silent. But owners John Daniel and Noni are going nowhere. They are defiantly drinking the remaining whiskey and remembering good times, when everyone was on the same side and the old language shone. Outside in the dark, a figure is making their way towards them…

One of Wales’ most celebrated writers, Ed Thomas (co-creator of Hinterland) makes a momentous return to the stage with this semi-autobiographical story about the places we leave behind, the indelible marks they make on us, and the unreliable memories we hold onto.

Ed Thomas speaks about writing the play

Writer Ed Thomas

Co-directors Vicky Featherstone & Ed Thomas

Designer Cai Dyfan

Composer John Hardy

Sound Designer Mike Beer

Cast

Noni: Rakie Ayola

The Captain: Jason Hughes

John Daniel: Rhys Ifans

Ifan William: Sion Daniel Young

World Premiere in Sherman Theatre‘s Main House

National Theatre Wales and Royal Court Theatre

Performed in English (though there are a few Welsh words present e.g. bara brith).

Contains strong language, scenes of an adult nature, loud noises & gun shots

Running time: Approx. 95 minutes (no interval)

I saw it on 25 September 2019 at 7.30pm.

The cast and staff speak of the play.

Synopsis

I usually give quite detailed, near exhaustive, accounts of a narrative but I feel due to how new this play is it would be a disservice to do so. I will just give a general outline for those who want it. A lot of the impact is in the dialogue and performance of this play, so much so it could easily be adapted for radio, so it may seem relatively uneventful. It’s an allegorical narrative regarding the playwright’s memories of his community and concerns about the challenges the Welsh language and culture face both from the past and going forward when there are so many foreign influences, most notably that of England. I probably have forgotten certain elements or omit them intentionally in the following paragraphs so there are some things for you to experience for yourself.

A man, John Daniel, awakens in the remnants of his burnt out butcher’s shop after an aerial carpet bombing raid. He laments he is all alone now in the dark as snow falls about him. He begins to recount the birth of his son with his wife Noni and how proud he was. (I’ve forgotten the son’s name ironically but he does have one).

We then see him and his wife waving their butcher’s cleavers as planes fly overhead. They condemn that they don’t know if they’re on their side or against them during an ongoing war. A war that apparently ended decades ago yet still seems to affect them currently. They then spend a while discussing how their community at Bear Ridge has dwindled as they relive the memories of their past both in terms of recalling their customers, food and events. Their young slaughterman Ifan William comes from out of the trapdoor and goes into the fridge and returns to the underground slaughterhouse after some brief chatter. The couple continue their discussion once he has left reciting their mantra of foodstuffs happily to each other relishing the memories.

John Daniel and Noni dancing to the radio

As the couple are dancing to a repeating song on the radio a captain, who was involved in the ongoing war, walks into their shop and holds them at gunpoint not sure if they are friend or foe. Once reassured he chats with them and says the song reminded him of his mother and youth. He recounts a number of things, including how his commanding officer gave him the order to clear the mountain before then shooting herself to his shock. Eventually he gains the couple’s confidence. They discuss memories and ‘the old language’ which only John Daniel now knows how to speak but laments he is forgetting. He only remembers it because he remembers speaking it to others but they’re all in the past so all he has are his memories with which to keep the language alive. His son spoke it fluently, Noni learned some but he is ultimately alone now in knowing it which throws him into despair.

Suddenly the captain is on edge when Ifan William comes from out of the trap door again. He demands to know why they didn’t tell him of this third person. ‘You never asked’ John Daniel replies drily. Ifan William recounts his childhood growing up and going to university with the now dead son of the couple. The son went to university and was very progressive, philosophical and wanted to keep the ‘old language’ alive. However the son and Ifan William (who the son taught Welsh) were beaten by others one day in the street accusing them of being Germans and other nationalities though they were not as these aggressors didn’t recognise the old language of their own country and assumed the worst (the identity of the characters in the play as native Welsh people is never explicitly stated but some words and phrases dotted throughout the dialogue suggest this along with the distinctly Welsh naming styles of the characters). The son died in the war and had so much potential the characters who knew him lament. Ifan William admits he truly loved their son and their son loved him (to the degree it’s implied to have been romantic in nature but this too is never made explicit). John Daniel silently embraces Ifan William for their mutual loss.

The captain holds his service revolver to his head as Ifan William watches

The captain, after offering Ifan William a swig from his canteen, again recounts his memories. How he was ordered to clear the mountain by a commanding officer who then killed herself immediately afterwards in front of him having fulfilled her duty. The couple refuse to leave, despite being the only people left, as this is where they belong as does Ifan William. The captain tells them he is on the same side as them. Noni, agitated by such a broad declaration, asks if he really is or not and compares it to a river where there are two sides – the side they are on and the other side. People who want to swim over can try but the current is strong and deep many drown in the effort (as if referring to the Severn river which acts as both the physical and metaphysical division between the Welsh and English identities). She asks the captain again if he really is on their side or not. He insists he is. Now they’re all assured Noni offers to make tea and the captain excuses himself asking to go to the bathroom. John Daniel says it’s around the corner, behind the rocks, outside the building (actually it may have been in the building but the actor exits the stage via the rear). The captain leaves silently.

Ifan William enters carrying a tray piled high with a china tea service. The couple and Ifan William sit down to drink. A single gun shot rings out (presumably the captain coming to the same conclusion his commander did and committing suicide). Nothing is said. No one reacts. They sit in silence drinking their tea and then, once everyone is content, a plane flies overhead and it suddenly cuts to black and it seems a bomb was finally dropped on Bear Ridge to clear it.

The End.

Arguably this loops back to the start of the play though you could also read the beginning as John Daniel lamenting his isolation as the only person who knows the old language… which he truly is if the play loops back to that opening scene as his wife (who was a learner), his son (who was fluent) and Ifan William (who was, I think, semi-fluent) are all now gone leaving him truly alone both in his memories, knowledge and physically.

Costumes

I won’t go into great detail. They’re all dressed in the manner one would expect of people left with little to sustain themselves during an ongoing conflict with few if any supplies available over a long time.

John Daniel is dressed in a worn jumper and the white, but now grubby and worn, coat of a butcher with an orange gilet over it. Around his ankles are scraps of cloth over his worn boots. A shaggy beard and overall dishevelled state indicate he has little time to pretend like he is at all at peace with life to attend to such things. Not just due to the situation they find themselves in but it seems like he’s always been a bit like this and the gilet is, as explained during a piece of dialogue, a birthday resent from his wife and the only clean thing on him. Life weighs heavy on his shoulders.

Noni wears an apron and cardigan with a tattered skirt and hobnail boots. Even in these bad times it’s evident she tries her best to maintain normality by taking care of herself appearance wise unlike her husband.

Ifan William is young and his clothes are relatively clean with little sign of wear. They are also of a much more modern, casual sportswear, design compared to those of John Daniel and Noni who, in comparison, could be from a hundred years ago or yesterday in their style of dress (except for the gilet which seems to act like a life vest keeping John Daniel afloat in modern times). The only dirt on the young man’s clothing is the dried, caked, blood from the job he does on his butcher’s apron. His beard and hair are relatively well trimmed in comparison to his wild, mountain man, looking employer John Daniel.

The captain has outerwear of a military design. I would say it reflects the clothing of a First World War office in the trenches but I believe it is meant to evoke a timeless militaristic style really. He wears heavy boots, a serviceman’s belt of pouches and a holster with his service revolver. A large, thick, scarf is wrapped around his neck obscuring any signs of a uniform and he wears a full length woollen, olive drab coloured, trench coat so little else is visible on his person beneath it.

Staging

A rough sketch of the stage layout. I forgot to include the debris at the sides of the stage.

Throughout the play the floor is covered in a light layer of fake snow as though the interior and exterior of the butcher’s shop is gutted.

There are three walls to represent the interior of the shop. On the left wall is a cupboard where Noni keeps the trinkets she has collected and which spill out at the start of the play. On the right is a fridge door which when opened lets the actor walk through as if entering a room sized fridge. Again this too is featured at the start of the play but neither plays any purpose besides establishing the characters of Noni and Ifan William.

The rear wall is in fact technically two pieces which sit either side of a green door frame and door. These are the shop front, gutted by a previous bomb explosion it can be assumed, and a broken window. The door itself is intact with a ‘sorry we are closed’ sign on it and a set of lace curtain netting across it. These are all removed about half way through the run time once everyone is, presumably, stood outside.

A pile of broken school desks and furniture sits left of centre representing all the furniture they’ve had to break up for firewood during the ongoing harsh weather conditions on the mountain without any outside aid arriving. Hidden within this pile are two milk crates used for seats at certain points of the play. Ifan William later uses a tin box as a stool too which I think he brings up from the trapdoor.

Beyond the ‘shop’ are black, dead, trees and high piles of rock to represent the mountain range. A path leads behind the rocks which is where the captain goes, off stage, at the end of the play.

The backdrop is a curved white sheet lit in a manner to give the illusion of a heavy misty skyline beyond which nothing can be seen. It becomes brightly lit when planes fly over to silhouette the characters against it.

Overall I feel it’s very effective though I question if you could actually reduce the staging to be even more minimalist to be honest as so much of the play is in fact grounded in it’s dialogue rather than actions. Throughout the only ‘actions’ that occur are the couple wave their tools at the planes flying overhead once or twice cursing at them, an overfilled cupboard spilling, the couple dance, the captain firing his gun in frustration, Ifan William going in and out of the trapdoor, in and out of the fridge and later kicking up some dust, John Daniel when lamenting the loss of the old language scrabbling about creating a dust storm in frustration and the tea service being brought on at the end of the play. In fact you could even embellish it if you wanted to be honest without detracting from the core dynamics of the play.

An interview, featuring clips, about the play in Welsh. Turn on the auto-translation of the Closed Captions if you want to follow the comments made.

Review

The allegorical play begins with an incredibly strong echo of Dylan Thomas’ lyrical dialogue style most notably heard in Under Milk Wood when John Daniel and Noni begin reciting a list of customers and the foodstuffs they sold and enjoyed in the past as if relishing and being nourished by the language and memories they share.

Throughout John Daniels has a phrase he often uses ‘no, you’re alright’ when he wants to assure others or dismiss something troubling. You could reflect he says this because he himself is not alright though I’ve often heard fellow Welshmen, admittedly of an older generation, use the phrase in the same tone Rhys Ifans uses where it is more akin to ‘I don’t approve but I accept the situation at hand’. There is a lot of the dour Welsh humour present in the play and I wonder if non-Welsh people will ‘get it’. Only when it’s performed in England will we know. I’m sure they will but sometimes it does seem people unfamiliar with that Welsh style of humour feel it can be harsh hence the stereotype some hang onto of us being isolationist when in reality we are very warm towards visitors.

Noni is a difficult character to categorise. She collects trinkets, she laments her sons death and she loves her husband who it seems is notably older than her. The only real information we get about her past, her memories, tends to be through John Daniels recounting the birth of his son and his first encounter with Noni where they both knew they were meant to be together. She fits the Welsh archetype of a valleys girl, that is to say bubbly, chatty, but not afraid of confronting people she doesn’t agree with, however it feels she has the least substance presented to the audience. She seems secondary to the male characters and even her dead son whose ghost echoes throughout the memories of the others. While it can be said that there’s an element of this enforcing traditional stereotypes of women place being in the shadow of the men in their lives it’s not as simple as that in Wales. We have been a soft matriarchy throughout history so a woman being quiet and ‘knowing her place’ is quite alien to us and only crept into our culture through the influences of the English. So there’s an underlying question regarding her character where arguably she is the most conformist of the ‘native’ characters but we don’t have a chance to explore that aspect of her characterisation during the plays run time and it has to be portrayed via the actress’ mannerisms more so than the dialogue.

Ifan William has two scenes, one at the start is somewhat light hearted and merely acts as a set up for the sudden shift in tone towards the end. The actor has some great material to work with as he confesses his feeling to John Daniel and Noni about their son. It could feel a bit laboured by a less skilled actor so to see the shift of the character from somewhat lackadaisical to heart-rendingly broken by his memories really delivers a contrast to John Daniel and Noni. The older characters recount happy times in the past and bemoan their current circumstances while here the younger man finds trauma in the past but, having survived an assault by bigots, seems to thrive in the current circumstances having found his place in the world. So through him we have elements of discussion regarding the ‘truth’ of cultural heritage and the effects of rose tinted memories on passing it to the next generation. While John Daniel speaks of a united community under one language Ifan William presents the harsh reality of conflicting cultures and of prejudice which isn’t acknowledged by the older generation.

The captain, in contrast to the other characters, is notably different sounding not just in accent but diction and phrasing. He is an outsider but I feel the role is being played far too safely so as not to feel jarring when contrasted with the other characters tonally. If anything I would actually like the play to be a bit more bold in this to truly challenge the audience in the later part when he is asked if he is ‘on our side’ or not so they question if he is sincere or playing along for survival. The actor performs the role well but I feel maybe there needs to be some work on the role. Whether it’s to make him more of an outsider conflicting with the other characters or truly get across his desire to be on their side by gradually emulating them.

As it is I assume the intention is for the audience to decide for themselves his motives and values by the end of the play’s events. Does he shoot himself just to repeat history as his commanding officer did; did he do it because, despite his words, he truly couldn’t be on their side despite his intentions as he lacked the language and other cultural aspects to do so; was it because he didn’t seek to become like them. Could it even be the case we should interpret his behaviour as PTSD where he keeps reliving the moment he saw his commanding officer shoot herself, after giving him his orders, thus leaving him to wander in a liminal state somewhere between constantly reliving that memory as a soldier and incapable of reacclimatising to civil society (as is the case for many servicemen who suffer trauma during their service).

I think my overall question about him is, PTSD possibility aside, whether he was a soldier carrying out his duty, but faltered when the opposition was given a face, or a refugee like figure trying to escape the war and ‘join’ the others in their world view of not being defined by the conflict. He feels vaguely defined and I’m not completely certain that was intentional to the degree it appears. Although, in fairness, we never learn his name and it is certain he was meant to be culturally ‘othered’ to the shared culture and history of the other three characters as an outsider.

The staging is good but perhaps needs some refining as I noted when discussing it earlier. At times when a sense of claustrophobia is required it feels there is a bit too much space inside the shop’s interior and yet when they’re meant to be stood outside it feels far too claustrophobic ironically. I’m not sure if that’s because the Sherman’s stage wasn’t quite right for their planned layout but maybe on smaller stages the rubble on the sides (which I omitted from the stage plan though it remains throughout the performance) could be removed to give them more space in the later parts of the play. I only say this as there is a moment later in the play when John Daniels is meant to walk away from the others to ‘speak the old language to the moon’ but unfortunately he is barely 3 metres away on the stage. In fact Rhys gave a cheeky look to the audience at this point as if acknowledging it. Perhaps for that moment he can go onto the ‘mountain path’ the captain later uses leading backstage instead as that would be more effective? It’s an minor issue to be honest.

The performances are excellent but certainly I feel there might be a need to work on the pacing of dialogue or where to emphasis certain lines as sometimes there were moments of speaking over each other with little narrative purpose for it. Also while the characters are distinct I feel there needs to be more confidence in the delivery by the captain as he doesn’t seem as affected nor distinct from the others as he needs to be. As much as none of us wants to see overacting I do feel for John Daniel and Noni to fit the Welsh archetypes they are referencing they may need to be slightly more embellished with John Daniel having a slightly more intense manner with some pregnant pauses possibly.

I understand why the performance choices were made however part of me feels, when the play moves onto the Royal Court Theatre, it’s been done early to ‘tone down’ the Welshness to be more accessible and that feels counter-intuitive considering what the message of this play seems to be. I’ve seen that done in translation of various works to localise things but it never feels like a good idea in the long run. In effect it seems to have caused a Welsh playwright, writing about Welsh cultural matters obliquely, to ‘other’ his message in his own work as if self censoring which speaks volumes about how entrenched the cultural persecution of the Welsh culture and language is in our mindset as a nation.

Part of me feels the refusal to actually name Wales or Welsh in any form is possibly part of the narrative in the sense it is self censorship as the ‘Welsh Not’ was in the classroom for a time in the early twentieth century. However it also in effect makes the play more universal while still retaining the irrefutable inclusion of Welsh things such as the characters’ naming (except the captain who is only known by his military rank title and never his personal name), a reference to bara brith and other elements which seem all too obvious in context to a Welsh audience but might not to a different culture if there was a foreign production of the play. (e.g. how Welsh seems part of the ‘Elder Speech language’ in the Polish fantasy literature series The Witcher and it’s adaptions going as far as the card card in it being called Gwent).

Wales has a number of Welsh playwrights who, when doing work for television, are lauded and award winning yet to set a play in Wales seems to ghettoise it unlike if you set it in England. Perhaps that’s just me recalling my issues with Niall Griffith’s novel ‘Sheepshagger’ which felt like it could have been set in England’s west country or elsewhere rurally without losing anything as it’s so devoid of inherent ‘Welshness’ unlike this play.

I fear, in later productions, this play might have the Welsh elements edited out of it to localise it and thus lose its inherent message. As I said with my review of Gary Owen’s adaption of The Cherry Orchard, which localised Chekov’s play to 1980s Wales, there is a risk of losing part of a message or altering it in adaption which I dearly hope doesn’t occur here as discussion of the trials Wales has faced in maintaining its culture seem to be muted whenever presented to a wider audience. Certainly in my experience few people from other countries know much about us without it being tinged by English imperialism to the point they assume we are part of England and not a separate entity.

There is great potential here but as I’ve seen it so early in it’s run I feel everyone is still finding their stride in their performances and no doubt, should you go see it, they’ll have worked out those nuances so what is already a thoroughly enjoyable, evocative, play about identity will become a modern classic. Already it is getting high praise and, despite the critical tone of this review at times, I thoroughly recommend seeing it!

Eurovision 2019 : Tel Aviv, Israel

Knee jerk, irreverent, reactions to watching the live final… a fortnight late because no one looks at these posts but it’s a useful reference.

This year themes and notable moments : Bland performances by singers with songs that don’t suit their voices, lots of 1990s feeling costumes and songs, conservative boybands, performers dressed like fighting game characters and zettai ryouiki.The sentences will be legible but I won’t tidy the grammar up so it retains that ‘instant reaction’ tone. Ukraine again makes a political statement regarding Russia but this time end up withdrawing an none of their chosen acts will perform for them due to the terms of the contract they proposed but Maruv is allowed to perform her song especially for the interval as a gesture of goodwill to her by the contest. Madonna is showing her age and gets a very muted response from the audience when she performs during the interval.

I’ll put the key sentences of each country’s commentary in bold for the lazy Tl;Dr casual scanning readers looking for specific content.

[edit: on a side note it’s the same ‘flame columns’ pyrotechnics very act seemed to have so I guess it was that or nothing which was allowed… which is very restrictive. In fact the ‘screen’ visual effects were also very limited this year. On the whole this year felt like a downgrade from previous years and really makes you appreciate how much effort other countries put into the experience while Israel puts out a ‘budget’ version and yet has the cheek during one of the intervals to hire Gal Gadot to promote the country to people for tourism].

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Malta : Chameleon – Michela Pace

Nice song but completely the wrong tone of voice for it. Staging isn’t much. One year someone will dress as the european comic character Corto Maltese and boom… there’ll be a mass flood of fan votes. Very 90s style of costume. The sacrificial lamb first act of this year. A generic pop song. I am certain I’ve heard songs exactly like this on the radio. Knee socks and a jacket with see through vinyl sleeves, ending with denim cuffs, on a denim jacket. Odd look once you pay attention and one not seen since 1990s British girl bands.

Albania : Ktheju Tokës – Jonida Maliqi

The song title means ‘return to your land’ – so there’s a mild unintentional xenophobic tone to the title until you hear the song. I like it as it represents the heritage of Albania’s music with a modern twist. Then again I’ve been playing Koudelka and the Shadow Hearts series of games and the soundtrack has echoes of similar ‘epic ballad’ aspects so it’s a mild unintentional bias by me there. Pretty standard staging of a singer in operatic looking dress with backing singers. I liked it in context. [edit: after hearing all the songs I favour it a bit more for at least taking a risk compared to the more pop song like entries].

Czech Republic : Friend of a Friend – Lake Malawi

Catchy song. For a moment the guy sounds like he has an Essex accent when saying the girl moved back in which caught me completely off guard… that was random. Yes, nice beat. The lyrics, just like many from the boy band One Direction’s, have a slightly sinister entilted misogynistic tone to them yet you never hear it commented on openly ‘he’s cute and misunderstood and I can fix him so it’s okay if he doesn’t treat me well and always gives be backhanded compliments implying I’m nothing without his love as he can see past how ugly I am to my true beauty in supporting him’. Boy bands and romance novels is where all those life long insecurities begin. Nothing new when you look back to Wuthering Heights and other classics. Three handsome guys in trainers, skinny jeans, baggy jumpers playing instruments playing repetitive inoffensive music… Every teenager girls wet dream… to be honest you can imagine them being drowned out by the screams of teenage girls at a concert. Inoffensive stuff but the longer it goes on the more low energy it feels.

Germany : Sister – S!sters

A blonde and brunette duet. Call each other sister.. but, plot twist, they are not sisters. It’s nice. A good solid entry with a good rhythm and perfomance with stripped back staging. Instantly forgettable though but you can imagine it being used in a pivitol scene in a feel good drama’s climax when two friends reunite after some disagreement or something. It’s a nice song but maybe didn’t capture people’s hearts. [edit: public vote = 0 points… so indeed it didn’t].

Russia : Scream – Sergey Lazarev

You already realise this blog will be biased towards this entry but in fairness they tend to have quite solid entries in fairness year on year usually. It’s a solid entry and a strong contender. Building chorus and everything. Again throwing everything at it instrumentally and staging wise though the vocals might feel a bit softer than you’d hope when listening to it. Actually the staging with the multiple screens gets a little ridiculous and I wonder if there should be some rule against some aspects used as it felt a bit like it ended on an echo effect/recording. Very good though… I’ll forget it it soon enough. He took part in 2008? or 2018?

Denmark : Love Is Forever – Leonora

A very 2000s song. It reminds me of someone like Kate Nash. It looks nice when you watch the video but bear in mind she starts off with her back to the audience so it’s not as good an experience when there in person. A giant chair… it reminds me of those American photos of workmen eating their lunch on skyscraper worksites miles bove the city skyline. It’s a nice simple song. I mean once everyone’s sat up on there you spend more time in anticipation of someone falling off more than anything…

San Marino : Say Na Na Na – Serhat

Serhat is a dentist and claimed this took 5 minutes to write. Well yeah with lyrics like ‘na na’ I’m not expecting it to have been a struggle. It’s… very karaoke friendly. Another ‘I swear I saw this in the late 90s’ entry. Staging wise they have that effect that looks like the video files got corrupted for the background imagery and just went with it. It’ll get in the highlight reel for the year no doubt. It’s enjoyable. You won’t forget the chorus. Then he begins getting ‘yeah going crazy’… yes. Na na na. Say na na na. Say na na na… sayonara San Marino. Everyone, costume wise, looks like they’re going to the tennis court immediately after performance.

North Macedonia : Proud – Tamara Todevska

Sincerity. Well this is hitting all the buttons for me. Opera length dress and husky voice. Motivational lyrics. Maudline tone. I’ll be honest it does look like her dress slipped down due to the ‘exposed bra cups’ design. That’s as sexy as it gets this conservative year. It’s enjoyable. Another ‘you’ll hear it on an advert or during a moment in a drama’ song. Never really hits the pinacle I was hoping might arrive before the end so it feels incomplete.

Sweden : Too Late for Love – John Lundvik

Striped back staging with the one ‘caught escaping’ light behind him. Strong lyrics. Nice lead into the beat and then cuts back to vocal priority. Yes strong entry. Enjoyable. It’ll do well I assume. I can see them twisting this for Brexit/other conflicts use in future. No doubt we will hear this again over the next few years.

Slovenia : Serbi – Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl

They met on Instagram apparently. The intro reminds me of a lot of Sting’s songs. She looks like she has Down’s Syndrome. If she actually has it’s very progressive to feature her. I would like more, staging wise, if they didn’t have her stood singing right into his face as he plays the guitar. I like the song for that sort of lamenting tone it has but… it probably isn’t going to do good if people want an upbeat song this year. Both wear white and hold hands later on but it’s very… teenagers at a school assembly talent show due to how they’re dressed. Bit of a mantra quality to it. It’ll be big with the normie ‘I like feeling creeped out’ audience and those who think that the couple look a bit incestuous. I like the song and her voice – it’s just they don’t look like they gel together visually and are a bit too awkward on stage which in turn makes the audience feel a bit awkward watching. The song is good though. I want to hear it again [edit: …and this is one of, if the only, song of the finalists I honest can say that about this year].

Cyprus : Replay – Tamta

Vinyl zettai ryouiki. [Other acts also feature it so maybe this was the only way to be ‘sexy’ this year due to the more conservative nature of performers’ costumes due some behind the scenes mandate the public never heard of]. She is dressed the way early 3D fighting game characters dressed due to low polygon counts. Then the pull the top off and it’s even more like a costume of that era of gaming! It’s a generic sounding dance track… nothing else to add really. I forgot it instantly in indeed I was even able to remember it as I was listening to it.

Netherlands : Arcade – Duncan Laurence

One of, if not the, favourites this year going into the finals according to bookies etc. Yeah this has ‘Eurovision winner’ written over it the way ‘a Hollywood film where an attractive actor ‘goes ugly’ for a role by putting weight on [Chris Hemsworth as ‘fat Thor’ is in the running no doubt this year by that logic] or portrays disability or depicting ficitionalised real life events of someone’s experiences during World War’ 2 has ‘Oscar winner’ written all over it. Anthemic. Sad. Warbbling. He mimes playing the piano. Yeah this will be top 2 if it doesn’t win. [Spoiler: It wins.]

Greece : Better Love – Katerine Duska

Distinctive voice… it’s the vocal equivilant of Marmite. Balletic sword fighters duel weilding. Dancers fluttering wings. A arched churchdoorway mini-stage. I like it but that voice is going to throw a lot of people off. ARGH when she goes for high notes! She’s one of those women who is single and you wonder why then you hear her voice… I joke. It’s a nice song and the staging is very nice. Nonetheless that voice is going to lose votes probably. Very ‘Florence + the Machine’ in style.

Israel : Home – Kobi Marimi

”Hometown Hero” – no one was allowed to see them rehearse so… could be amazing could be a shitshow. Those rhymes… I… he is losing me with every line. The chorus aiding him improves it… but indeed it’s very much f a ‘this is me’ generic rising chorus ‘confidence gaining’ song from a musical. I like the ‘beams of lighting’ staging watching it but having been at events using it it’s a death ray if you’re sat in the wrong seats and get blasted by it for minutes straight. It’s a nice song… the warbling highnote at the end kind of mutes it. Good response as he’s the home hero but… eh it’ll do okay but it’s not the best.

Norway : Spirit in the Sky – KeiiNO

George Harrison. Admit it you too were wondering if it was going to be a cover though those are not allowed at Eurovision. Primark military style jacket. Essex face lift pony tail for the lady and… IT’S THE YODELLING BALD MAN! INSTANT WINNER! Nice dance track but that yodelling man… damn that’s a winner addition! He even gets a solo!!! and Yggdrasil, the tree of life from Norse legend, makes an appearance! Eurovision gold!

United Kingdom : Bigger Than Us – Michael Rice

From Hartlypool. The British entry so maybe I’ll be mildly bias. It’s a nice ballad. I don’t think he starts on the right note… Anthemic but subdued. It could go any way to be honest. Who are we kidding he’s the British entry… as soon as he gets in the greenroom they’ll get him as drunk as possible to numb the inevitable pain of the low votes. If we get on the left side of the score board it’ll be a small miracle. It’s a nice pop song. I honestly feel a bit more impact was needed though. I mean the backing vocalists almost drown him out on at least one occasion. He thanks Europe and says he is living his dream performing there Cool, good manners. Good boy.

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Midpoint: The male presenter behind stage, in he green room, asks the San Marino entrant Serhat the dentist a question then cuts him off before he can answer properly. ‘Presenters being presenters’ as ever… can’t cut into that running time even to be polite.

Here are some comments by the British Eurovision commentator Graham Norton about the entries:

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Iceland : Hatrið mun sigra – Hatari

‘Hatred will Prevail’ is the meaning of the title. Thus very ‘anti-Eurovision’. Very anti-capitalist too aparently. Weirdly electro-punk with industrial style accoustics. I like. Eurovision needs more rock music like this and Lordi. Flame spikes. Edward Scissorhands outfit and mohawks. Well this is my favourite but it won’t win. No doubt people are claiming it scares them, for some reason or other just because it’s not mainstream, as if they’re going to wake up suspended from the ceiling in a gimp costume as part of someone’s sex dungeon… such people shouldn’t have been allowed to read 50 Shades of Grey as it’s given them ideas. Saying that it should have been about 30 seconds shorter as I got bored by the end.

Estonia : Storm – Victor Crone

Pretty guy in a leather jacket with an acoustic guitar. Mr generic cool guy to every generation… He will have a better than he would otherwise as a contrast to Iceland’s entry no question. Even got some clapping along early on by the audience wanting to spirit away the dark energy Iceland left them with. Nice breezy song. I enjoy it. Might be a bit too ‘seen it already’ due to others having similar songs though. Really the longer it goes on the more I think ‘I’ve heard that bit elsewhere…’ Enjoyable though. Apparently augmented effects were used. That’s becoming more common for the staging on the night of course.

Belarus : Like It – Zena

She reminds me of the blogger Angelika Oles. Then she has one of those hot pink and white with black accent outfits that looks like a cross between an F1 pit girl and a gogo dancer. She has B-boy backing dancers. Nothing really stands out. Zettai ryouiki again and a bared midrift. The only two areas acceptable in clean family entertainment to indicate sex appeal. [edit: when I typed that I was thinking of Princess Jasmine from Disney’s Aladdin only to find out in the live action film version they give her a most conservative costume with a corset like covering for her midriff]. The song is an ‘also ran’. Even when listening to it it wasn’t sticking with me. ‘Impossible’ you say? You’d be surprised.

Azerbaijan : Truth – Chingiz

Thumping beat. Robot arms. A laser on his chest like the Predator is about to kill him. Husky male voice singing. Good good. Goes into a higher register but fine. ‘shut up about it’ he chants.. in a song called Truth… interesting. Yeah nice song but not going to get too high. More about the staging with the electro girl head than anything really. He is dressed like a character from a 1980-90s SNK beat-em up. No really. Look up ‘King of Fighters’ and you’ll find his outfit on a guy with a ponytail. It’s the year of ‘beat-em up costumes!

France : Roi – Bilal Hassani

A feminine looking man. He is like the lead male character from the most recent trilogy of SNK’s King of Fighters games! Or Remy from Street Fighter III! He’s also deaf and doesn’t conform to gender stereotypes apparently. The ‘progressive’ vote then but also he would get the Japanese boyband vote too if there was one. ABBA outfit. On fleek eyebrows. Guy will launch his own makeup Youtube channel and brand if he hasn’t got one already. Obese dancer… she actually moves quite well. However they replace her with a tiny Asian lady soon enough. He reminds me of an anime Bishonen (pretty boy) or androgenous villain with his look. No seriously go look up anime and scroll down the images and I am certain you’ll find someone with his look. As for the song… it’s a standard Eurovision entry. Good but you’ll forget about it.

Italy : Soldi – Mahmood

The ‘I like rap’ option for what it’s worth. Badass in a hawaiian shirt and earring with one of those wallet chains you’ve not seen since the 2000s with American skater punk bands like Limp Biskit or Sum41. Clap clap. You’ll hear this in the clubs. It’ll get a really good dance remix. It feels a little lifeless on the night unfortunately compared to others. It really needed the audience participation to go wild for it and they didn’t. The backing dancers I swear pulled off a few American line dancing moves a few times by boot scooting… It’s a good song by itself but not one that will ultimately win Eurovision.

Serbia : Kruna – Nevena Božović

The title means ‘crown’. Slow ballad. Has the look of a rocksinger in the 1980s… like Bonnie Tyler. She reminds me of the film ‘White Chicks’. The design of her dress to show the leg with an intentional arch of fabric instead of a split is a bit forced as if they put the top of a jukebox on her. I like it. Of the ballads I probably like it best. I kind of wish she didn’t alternate language as it probably would sound better in just the one. Also thanks the crowd. Good good. Enjoyed it.

Switzerland : She Got Me – Luca Hänni

They last won in 1988 with Celine Dion apparently. The boy band entry… well ‘one man boy band’ entry. Flashing lights and all the tricks. Well choreographed. The backing dancers being dressed in red, in red light, with a red background makes them barely viewable if you’re there in the crowd and not by the front. It’s a nice upbeat entry. All the boys go… All the girls go… Everyone goes… eh, it’s alright and I can dance to it so it’s got that going for it. He’s got that leather vest under a sleeveless jacket look which no one can pull off… and again I’ve seen that costume on a fighting game character I swear. [edit: e.g. Robert Garcia in both SNK’s ‘Art of Fighting’ and ‘King of Fighters’ series]

Australia : Zero Gravity – Miller – Hedke

Australia is in Europe everyone jokes… and yet still they compete. At least others are geographically close if not in Europe. Ice queen outfight with tiara crown. It’s a flying Statue of Liberty. Yodelling woman… cunning. I like it. Then it goes all ‘electro-dance beat… well this is going to compete hard then. Are they all on stilts? Oh no they’re on… sticks. I’m sure the staging is amazing if you’re there but it looks comical at home. I’m getting ‘Christ at the Crucifixion’ vibes due to the crown and there being three of them. The ‘death of Liberty’ undertext. It’s pick up votes from oldschool Eurovision lovers no question.

Spain : La Venda – Miki

Comic panel staging. It’s meant to be a house but nope. Full on 6 panel newspaper comic look. Very upbeat and fun. This will get votes for it and by people who’ve forgotten all the others. Weird light giant thing on stage too. Fun. The backing dancers look like they are meant to be doing an exercise at home doe a ‘exercise at home with [insert name of a reality TV celebrity]’ moneygrabbing name recognition exercise video. This should get quite a few votes. Good one to end on. It’s been a bit of a dour year to be honest with far too many ‘safe’ entries.

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Apparently if you vote you get a thank you video from the artist you voted for. They did that for the Olympics too for some reason.

While you vote they showed previous years’ winners singing other winners’ songs and some favourites of the past. Quite interesting really. They did it as a sort of Cabaret thing. Conchita’s outfit took inspiration from Hakke Andrey a character from Atlus’ Maken X computer game it seems.

* * *

Madonna appears and does a song. Like a wild pokemon in the long grass. Wearing an eyepatch with a costume suggesting both pirate and pearly queen of London’s Eastend. Promoting her album Madam X. Then gives some inspirational words to the performers which come across as a bit patronising. A presenter says she knows what she is talking about which… yes please tell musicians to pay attention for some life advice as if it’s not their career and think it’s not at all insulting to them you grovelling little scab. Madonna? Knowing about being a successful singer? No really? Musicians performing at Euroviosn not knowing their stuff? Really? Then she quotes her own song and tries to get people to repeat it but it falls flat.

Then someone else performs.

Oh it’s Ukraine who pulled out of the contest! Except not really. Ukraine forbade Maruv to compete because she had toured in Russia and so Eurovision let her perform her song as a sign of goodwill on their part though not representing Ukraine obviously.

(Not Ukraine) interval act: MARUV – Siren Song (Bang!)

Well you can’t lose if you don’t compete! Oh yeah this is far too sexual for this year’s tastes. They’d have to tame it down immensely. Phwoar nonetheless. Going for that dad vote like Poland did a few years ago with their ‘My Słowianie – We Are Slavic’ milk churning women in traditional ress performance in 2014 but Maruv makes it clearly more dominatrix in tone.

However I recorded it as ‘a song called something like ‘Boee (Come With Me)’ was played at this point. I assume in hindsight it was Maruv as the lyric ‘come with me’ is mentioned.

I prefer music reflect the culture of the performers and this does. I wish more of the songs had followed this tone as it makes it much more interesting than the euro-pop that got humoginised over time and then got a slight revival due to developments in staging with back projection, slim large 4K HD monitors and such.

Also the ‘political protest is not allowed’ seems a rule very weakly enforced depending on which country is saying it. Here’s one video about the events happening outside the event.

Quavo appears. His first time at Eurovision. He is, like Madonna, dressed as if they’re filming a Mad Max or Waterworld sequel. He says his mom grew up listening to Madonna. Mikedrop moment as if he had been throwing shade intentionally or not…

Then a mentalist trick with a ‘not Derren Brown’ guy to pad the run time while the votes are going on.

Then ‘chicken song’ [a.k.a. ‘Toy’] singer Netta, who won last year, appeared in a yellow ‘na na banana’ dress with a new song. It’s like a song for preschool children got given a remix… When a 9 year old girl is asked what she wants at her birthday party I image something like this. She wants a classy evening dress affair dinner party but then she also wants bright colours and pop music.

Then Madonna, after the third or fourth reminder of all the entrants, fnally performed. Everyone was waiting for another ‘throttled by her cape’ moment of course. The staging screams Gregorian chanting monks even without the costumes. So it’s one more step down the ‘no, I’m not being blasphemous’ road like her videos in the 1980s which got her in trouble with the Catholic church back then. They’re trying to make her songs sound like anthemic hymns by doing them a beat or so slower tempo wise with chanting backing singers and a beats machine. I mean… okay. But it’s also weird considering it’s what you would hear if all the sound equipment failed at a concert.

Then the monks carry logs or pillars up the steps. She seems out of breath. Then she does a quasi-Shakespearean bit with one dancer to Tchaikovsky’s the sugar plum fairy… the dancer has a white gas mask on and a flower crown which seems quite political surely. Weird segway. Then the Quavo guy turns up with heavy vocal balancing effects on his voice and Madonna sounds like she is underwater.

She got a muted response in the hall…

* * *

The VOTES:

The.. vote… finally… the votes… it seemed shorter between the final act and the votes when they used to allow more entrants per year than it does with these never ending interval acts and padding.

Then the presenters have Gal Gadot turn up in a VT promoting the country… because what else can they do to pad it out even further. I don’t recall over host coutries doing this but maybe I’m forgetting them.

Jokes about Israelis but in a self-depricating manner. However only on light topics like music and things that come across as an advert for the country’s tourism board. Gosh ren’t we a quirky fun country? Nothing bad happens here. Just forget all the active warzone on the borders kind of stuff – we are all about the chicken song and Gal Gadot. Forget the whole ongoing conflict you might get caught up in as a visitor… it’s all good here we love everyone… well except ‘those people‘… but apart from them everyone is welcome.

Jury votes!!!

It starts off with last year’s host Portugal with Inez whoever she is… 12 to Netherlands…

We, Britain, gave 12 to North Macedonia…. the power of ‘dressing like your on the pull on a girl’s night out and it’s 2.30AM’ wins us over.

Russia has a piano player to do the point announcement…. after doing a brief recital piece. I mean all the point announcers are having a 30 second of fame moment I guess though they’re famous people in their own country anyway and it’s not enough time for people to remember them… presumably. Greece had an electric guitar rock band guy too.

And now I’ll just recount the ones who gave Britain points… any at all… and let’s not think ‘potential trade union deal partners post-Brexit?’ while doing it.

Norway – 2 points.

Hungary – 2 points.

Belarus – 5 points [also phwoar… shockingly the only true one this year it seems! Actually was she on a previous year?]

Armenia – 2 points

Georgia – 1 point.

Switzerland – 1 point

13 professional jury points in total! We are not ‘nul point’ this year! Others are doing worse than us and that’s as good as we can ask!

We gave Norway 12 points… wel they gave us two so that’s okay…

The public vote

3 points from the public. FUUUUUUUUUUUUUU…. well that’s this year’s sacrificial lamb done with.

Germany got no public points… brutal.

Once it was down to Sweden vs Netherlands they dragged out the final announcement to up the tension for no good reason repeating that Sweden needed 253 points. They got 93.

The winner was… The Netherlands with 492 points. 1975 was the last time they won. Last year’s winner hands the trophy to the new winner. The run up to get it is dragged out. The music loops. He holds it aloft. Someone, somewhere is shedding tears. Others are sat on the toilet evacuating their bowels. It’s over for another year.

So another year and another low ranking place. Once it as due to participation in the Iraq war… now it’s Brexit. In fairness some of the entries were bad and others were just throwing something at it and seeing if it would work some years. Some years we actually had good acts, others were ‘bring out the old horses to flog’ and a few were ‘sod it we just can’t be bothered’.

The presenters thank the broadcaster and it’s almost 2AM in Israel and they’ve still to wheel the piano out. They skip it and have him miming the piano this time (not that he was playing it anyway probably). He calls on the audience to sing the chorus with him as streamers fall from above.

Reign well God-king of the Netherlands, ride unto the shores of Valhalla all shiny and chrome upon the unplayed piano that is your steed. Let the thundering arsecheeks of the farting oarsmen clpa their rhythm in your wake. Let the warble of your voice be the birdsong that sends your opponents to their fate. Their defeat was a foregone conclusion as the fates foretold through their oracles bookie’s stakes…

* * *

Bonus: Those who didn’t make it to the finals

For the first year of doing these I’ll also include those who fell before the final hurdle. Sadly I actually liked some of them more than those acts who were in the grand final!

Semi-Finalists

Armenia : Walking Out – Srbuk

Zettai ryouiki again… it must have been the fashion this year. The only flesh allowed to be shown to be ‘sexy’ without offending Israeli TV censors I assume. Pyro technics which really punctuate the end of the song but… the whole song is in minor key though you feel it should be in major so… it was good but I can see why on balance some other acts edged it out into being in the finale.

Ireland : 22 – Sarah McTernan

The checkerboard pattern and popart featured gives the staging that aesthetic retro ‘1950s yet with a 1990s twist’ I recall a few British boybands having in some of their music videos. Red leather skirt ad strappy heels – again sexy in a conservative manner. She has a husky voice which I don’t feel fits the song and the syling they’ve used as you associate the 1950s with higher pitched singers of that era… this song if it was more upbeat with a different singer would definitely sound more like a 1950s hit but instead it sounds a little like it is meant to act as an ‘in those good old days’ reflective sad ballad but it just doesn’t work. A different song would have worked with her voice. So it’s understandable they didn’t progress to the final. Oh and obviously it’s a surprise Ireland didn’t get into the finals but this probably isn’t the first time ever though, from a British perspective, we tend to notice their absence.

Moldova : Stay – Anna Odobescu

Using sand/salt art projected onto a screen is interesting but I think it was done in previous years and… I’m not sure but I think that’s the Ukrainian artist, Kseniya Simonova, who is famous for it they have doing it live on the stage with the singer… wait yes I just confirmed it’s her. Well considering Ukraine pulled out this year as a protest [and yet did the interval somehow] I am assuming she is going to be getting a lot of criticsm in her homeland… [apparently not in hindsight]. Anyway the singer is wearing a dress which is half 1980s wedding dress and half modern ‘going out tonight’ dress. Heer voice reminds me of the American singer Anastacia. It’s very much a dramatic Eurovison style ballad and I enjoy it so I’m a bit surprised it didn’t get through considering how bland some of the fianlists were. Maybe some of the notes didn’t hit the heights the judges would have liked to give that extra punch to the songs impact.

Latvia : That Night – Carousel

I feel this and the Slovenian entry would have been an interesting juxtapositon to each other. Apparently there was only room for one soft song of this type this year and the young couple had the better ‘story’. A simple lace dress with boots and a wide brimmed hat to give that summertime mood when singing the reflective romantic song while accompanied by a 3 piece accompaniment. They all look much older in the official video. It’s a nice easy listening song. The singer has a charm making her appealling but I guess it was just too mellow for this year’s judges which is a shame as it would get my vote.. if I was the sort to vote for these things. Ultimately the stripped back staging with just a swaying dance, with a few turning walks, was just too little of an impact for a contest that seems to need more and more spectacle in the projected visuals nowadays.

Romania : On a Sunday – Ester Peony

Interesting costumes where it’s rhinestone/sequins covered eveningsuit wear on top with a punk-charcoal puffskirt rock lower half with platform Goth boots. Phwoar. You know who her look reminds me of? Missy from Dr Who a few years ago. The dancers look like they are meant to promoting a computer game… specifically the character designs of the fighter when the Mortal Kombat series first dabbled in 3D use. It’s going for that sort of alternative rock look but the song is a quite traditional Eurovison ballad. It’s an also ran entry ultimately. Take the dancers away and it’s not got anything unique in the song itself. Singer phwoar; song snore. The first line or so she has very odd pronunciation for Sunday as if warbling the line. The backing singers have an oddly ‘baby doll’ look to them. It’s all very ‘what fashion designers think of when given the brief to produce something ‘dark’ themed so they break out the black fethers, leather books and harsh tailoring or otherwise go to the Gothic Lolita side of the ‘dark’ spectrum. Indeed it is understandable why this didn’t get to the finale though I’m certain the singer is capable of better than this when allowed to do her own thing. I don’t get the audience’s reaction when the pyrotechnics go off unless they were not expecting them as they showed appaulled by them from their tone not excited as you might expect. Maybe they were too cloe to them.

Austria : Limits – Pænda

A soft uplifting song for the most part though it has one point towards the end where she sounds quite bad. Lighting gradually growing with the intensity. Her costume really doesn’t fit with the style of song. Is she wearing a dress or trousers? It’s just she has the look of a middle aged woman desperate to pull on Fridy night in the local bar kind of aura… [also considering the look of many of this years acts she is showing too much skin for the judges’ /broadcaster’s liking no doubt]. She sounds like she hits a lot of bad notes when she gets to the more intense moments. A very disjointed entry and indeed one I can definitely understand didn’t get through. If anything it represents my issue with this year everything is far too restrained and dull. The songs are all too focused on presenting something which appeals to the broadest dynamic and so instead of something memorable it’s all of the lowest common denominator.

Croatia : The Dream – Roko

Taking the lyrics and the whole ‘I’m an angel in a lake of fire’ aesthetic into account… is he meant to be playing Lucifer?! I mean that’s gutsy to be doing that in Israel of all places… Then the backing dancers come down and honestly it’s the look you see as a parody of an ‘overly pretentious pop act’. The song is nice enough but I think they shot themselves in the foot with their visual concept…

Lithuania : Run with the Lions – Jurij Veklenko

This would have been an interesting contrast with the Greek entry as both have distinctive vocalists. Visually there’s all the ‘generic stylish young handsome guy’ boxes ticked. He sings surprisingly high for a lot of the song if I’m honest. I know there’s singer/songwriters like Passenger who are like that but it’s not an easy sell for most people. The song is decent if generic. It’s quite bland and forgettable to be honest though there’s nothing wrong with it to be honest.

* * *

Non-Qualified Countries

Hungary : Az én apám – Joci Pápai

Straight away I feel this has a lot more impact than many got through to the finals. It really gets a good reaction from the audience there. Barring the ‘performing in bare feet’ bit he is very much in the standard ‘generic safe male performer’ visually. It’s actually shocking someone of this calibre didn’t get through. There’s not much to add. It’s disappointing this didn’t get through as it would have done well.

Montenegro : Heaven – D mol

Dance music start. Very conservative outfits… maybe a little too conservative as they remind me of American Evangelical preachers. The third guy is very nasal which sticks out like a sore thumb for his moment. It’s the sort of song you can imagine having been performed about ten years ago at the latest. They’re all decent but in a year of bland they’re the wrong kind of bland. They’re not ‘what a middle aged panel of judges thinks appeals to young people these days’ inoffensively safe but just ‘old fashioned’ safe. Too safe in a year I felt was overly safe… which is kind of tragic.

Georgia : Keep on Going – Oto Nemsadze

I still recall previous years entries by them. Georgia is the country always certain to do entries I thoroughly enjoy and would listen to independent of the Eurovision contest. Each year I forget and each year they surprise me and I recall the quality the country produces. I like this but it is in stark contrast to many other more mainstream, safely commerical, entries this year so got excluded for a ‘smoother’ running order experience I guess with only Iceland being the notable ‘see we let different acts take part’ token gesture entry. The wailing bit really adds support to his main vocals. Then a male choir chorus too! And pyrotechnics?! They really built this up throughout the song to a good climax. And he even thanks the audience which not every act does. They were robbed of a place! This is my ‘spiritual’ victor who sadly didn’t get placed!

Finland : Look Away – Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman

Leather jacket and blue jeans… is it the 1980s, 90s or 2019? A dance track song. Yeah it’s okay. Dance music isn’t my thing though it’s one of the pan European crowd pleasers. It would have stuck out a little this year but like some others feels like it’s missing the ‘punch’ it needed to just get a bit more traction. It’s better than some of the finalists to be honest. Generic for a previous year but for now it would have been distinctive. The dancer does very well considering all eyes are on her more than him during it. Oh it’s Darude… and he didn’t get through?! Shock result! Even I know who he is! Maybe he was felt to be a ‘ringer’ being entered into this contest and it would have been unfair as he would have taken so much of the popular vote from the public…

Poland : Pali się – Tulia

Nation of ‘we don’t take this serious’ with their milkchurning girls in traditional dress with ‘My Słowianie – We Are Slavic’ in 2014, a wheelchair user in 2015 performing In The Name of Love and now… they’ve early 90s girl band vocals like Elastica while wearing quasi- traditonal Slavic yet Mongolian ceremonial dress?! Their voices are cutting through me. Bit too repetitive but they get the audience on side. I would have liked to see them in the final as a novelty act to break up the monotony. Their floating heads on the screens seem more in keeping with this years tone than their costumes on stage. I can see why it didn’t get through but good on them thanking the crowd.

Portugal : Telemóveis – Conan Osíris

This should have got into the finals! The song has a very sort of Arabic chant style but mixed with Eastern mysticism style before exploding into a sort of Electro-synth dance beat reminding me of the soundtrack to Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost In The Shell anime film. It actually seemed really interesting costume wise in a ‘Mortal Kombat if Kazuma Kaneko did the costume designs’ way… On the whole this year felt very ‘safe’ in terms of most of the acts. At least this one had some style to it even if not to everyones’ tastes. Again thanking the audience. Maybe in the final they were not allowed to or their microphones got cut off when they did it?

Belgium : Wake Up – Eliot

Taiko drums? And this didn’t get placed? Let’s see why… drumming on the beat. Um… yeah his vocals are not strong enough sadly. Someone with a bit more power to their voice and this probably could have gone through but as it is it sounds like a teenager covering it for a school talent contest. The audience clap in time with the beat to support him. Well hopefully he can go away, train his voice some more and we will hear from him again. The drummers do very well in fairness. Smoke effects? I don’t think anyone else had those. Maybe he got cut so they wouldn’t have to fork out for those in the final?

* * *

Ukraine’s withdrawal this year: Maruv was allowed to perform by Eurovision without it being connected to representing Ukraine for the reasons detailed below. In hindsight is very good of them as it’s not her fault that the country she was to represent took umbridge with her touring obligations which inevitably included work in Russia despite the broadcaster imposing what were clearly politically motivated conditions of her contract if she were to represent Ukraine. Kudos too should go to the show of solidarity by ‘Freedom Jazz’ and ‘Kazka’ who were offered the contract when Maruv wouldn’t agree to the terms.

So what’s the story?

Ukraine withdrew from the competition this year. It was politically motivated, though they would deny it of course, hence why Eurovision extended a hand to let Maruv perform even if she wasn’t able to compete. A goodwill gesture by them to the performer surely should be applauded as there was no political intent behind her decisions though the Ukraine frame it as such because she honoured tour dates that had, by the time of the contract being proposed, been agreed upon long beforehand.

To quote the Wikipedia article’s synopsis of events:

“During the final of the national selection, it was announced that the broadcaster had reserved the right to change the decision made by the jury and Ukrainian public. Following Maruv’s win, it was reported that the broadcaster had sent her management a contract, requiring Maruv to cancel all upcoming appearances and performances in Russia in order to become the Ukrainian representative. After it became clear that she would be performing in two concerts in Russia the following months, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Culture Vyacheslav Kyrylenko stated that artists who toured in Russia or “did not recognise the territorial integrity of Ukraine” should not take part in Eurovision. She was also given 48 hours to sign the contract or be replaced. The day afterwards, Maruv revealed that the broadcaster’s contract had additionally banned her from improvising on stage and communicating with any journalist without the permission of the broadcaster, and required her to fully comply with any requests from the broadcaster. If she were to not follow any of these clauses, she would be fined ₴2 million (~€67,000). Maruv also stated that the broadcaster would not give her any financial compensation for the competition and would not pay for the trip to Tel Aviv.

On 25 February, both Maruv and the broadcaster confirmed that she would not represent Ukraine in Israel due to disputes within the contract, and that another act would be chosen. National final runner-up Freedom Jazz announced on 26 February that they had rejected the broadcaster’s offer to represent Ukraine as well, with third place finisher Kazka confirming they had rejected the offer as well the following day.

It is considered controversial for Ukrainian artists to tour in Russia following the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine.”

Countering by R. S. Thomas

Then there is the clock's

commentary, the continuing

prose that is the under-current

of all poetry. We listen

to it as, on a desert island,

men do to the subdued

music of their blood in a shell.


Then take my hand that is

of the bone the island

is made of, and looking at

me say what time it is

on love's face, for we have

no business here other than

to disprove certainties the clock knows.


by R. S. Thomas

from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)

Eurovison 2018 Grand Final

So as per tradition here is the list of the Eurovision grand final entrants with videos of their songs and the contest’s results along with my usual irreverent comments… not that anyone takes Eurovision that seriously anyway hopefully.

Each act drew in which half of the Grand Final they would perform. As host country, Portugal drew its exact starting position (8) during the Heads of Delegation meeting in March. The running order is being decided to ensure each act has the opportunity to stand out. The producers look at the genre of music, whether a song is performed by a solo singer or group, the use of props, music tempo and various other aspects of each act. In other words the run order is ‘quiet, LOUD, quiet, LOUD, slow, FAST, slow, FAST, etc’

The running order in the finale was:

  1. Ukraine – MELOVIN: Under The Ladder

He is a vampire… or one of the goths off South Park. During one of the green room interviews the presenter, via a translator, asked him about it… That aside the backing singers paw the air and he sets fire to a set of stairs leading up to a grand piano. Common practise for Eurovision then… The song is generic so I can’t really comment on it. It was okay but forgettable thus they sacrificed him as the first act in order to warm the crowd up.

  1. Spain – Amaia y Alfred: Tu Canción

She looks like a young Rachel Weisz. He looks like the Jonas brother Disney locked away but has escaped. This is the ‘we really are in love, no honestly! – we’ve been in love the past 3 weeks/months… around the time we were put forward for the contest’ entry. It was a good ballad. I wish it had done better. I wonder if they’ll be together now the contest is over.

  1. Slovenia – Lea Sirk: Hvala, ne!

Electro beat, lots of synchonised dancing and a costume that makes me think she is going to run off into a plane and go do a bit of wingsuit glding like a flying squirrel… It’s meant to a motivational song but… it comes across like an exercise class down the local recreation centre by a motivational speaker.

  1. Lithuania – Ieva Zasimauskaitė: When We’re Old

This is the first of the ‘wait is that being projected as a hologram so the audience there see what we at home are seeing?’ moments. A 1970’s dress, twee millennial song and baiting ‘isn’t being in love for a long time great?’ for votes. Then to cap it off her husband comes on and awkwardly gets her attention before giving her a hug. Rewatch the clip for the moment he taps her to get her attention. It was a hilarious micro-transaction. Also do Eurovision have a ban on kissing? Becuase that would have been more appropriate as it seems this was a planned moment and would have been more fitting. It’s a nice song… but like all twee minor key ‘girl in love’ music I would likely be out for blood if having endure it repeatedly over the space of a a short amount of time. This sort of music seemed to be everywhere a few years ago.

  1. Austria – Cesár Sampson: Nobody But You

A good, soulful, song. His shirt is of a fabric last seen worn in the early 90s. Actually seeing it again I notice a ruffle on it’s left sleeve. It looks jut like a basic tshirt with a rubberish surface but apparently not. The song starts off well by by the end gets a bit too repetitive for my liking but what are you going to do really? It was a good effort.

  1. Estonia – Elina Nechayeva: La Forza

Sing opera. Wear an elaborate dress they project imagery on. I like it but it feels ridiculously melodramatic even for the Eurovision let alone an operatic performance. I really liked it but it was inevitable something more ‘accessable’ would win… [rant incoming…]

  1. Norway – Alexander Rybak: That’s How You Write A Song

The second, and most motable of the ‘does the audience there see all these effects or do they just see him miming?’ moments. The song title is arrogant thus his manner and everything becomes ‘I’ve done it once and I’ll easily do it again compared to these Eurovision amateurs. The backing dancers look like they escaped from a 90s housing estate. The man’s face at 1:32 of the video sums up everyone’s reaction to this song… Then the guy pulls a violin out his backside and does a shuffling dance. No one in the audience is singing along though at one point in the song he calls on them to. Yeah…

  1. Portugal – Cláudia Pascoal: O Jardim

Pink hair = SJW agenda? It sounds like Dido or the XX but it’s an original song but the influence is there… It came in last place at the end of the night which really was undeserved as it had more merit than some other songs. Ultimately it was a victim of ‘on the night’ having a weak vocal performance. I don’t know if it was the best choice to have the second person come on stage for that one refrain really… who also hasa very retro 80/90s hairstyle. It was a good song so it’s a shame it did so poorly.

  • break position

    The hosts go about goggle eyed interviewing people, making jokes and coming across incredibly awkward even for Eurovision hosts… especially the one with the constant look of shock doing all the work in the green room unfortunately.

  1. United Kingdom – SuRie: Storm

There was a stage invasion during this performance and apparently they’ve chosen to not give the ‘grand finale’ version but the Jury Show version done the night before the final. But fear not for here is the moment!

It was a decent song but admittedly nothing spectacular. I think we should have done better to be honest but then as the memes of Twitter commented Brexit no doubt played its part and everyone joked we should win and then deny anyone coming for the contest visas. But then there’s hold over from the Iraq war resentment and such too no doubt. Some countries, a few which were surprises, gave us points and there were jokes they’ll be seeing a boost to their tourist as an act of their good faith. I think what got to people was the lack of sympathy votes of a point or two from all but a few countries. The audience at the venue however gave her a rousing cheer so t least she has that. She recovered incredibly well after the stage invasion and was given the opportunity to perform again at the end of the running order if she wanted but she declined. As for the stage invader he was rapper, political activist and serial stage invader ‘Dr ACactivism’, who was plugging his book with a slogan on his t-shirt.

  1. Serbia – Sanja Ilić & Balkanika: Nova Deca

Obviously the pipe player got ‘MVP of the night’ no question. The male vocalist reminded me of Rasputin from Hellboy. You know it’s around now I began noticing how few of the perofmrers seemed to be wearing any colours besides black and white tonight which is a massive shift from previous years… it’s ll getting a bit too earnest nowadays. Nonetheless I enjoyed it. Later on, in the green room, apparently the singer kissed the presenter there unexpectedly and people on twitter were commenting on informed consent and such…

  1. Germany – Michael Schulte: You Let Me Walk Alone

The song reminds me of James Blunt, David Gray and singers from the early 2000s. People compared him to Mick Hucknell. He, like the Lithuania entry, has old photos showing in the background to get the emotional response. He was decent in fairness but it’s not the sort of music I’ve ever found appealing.

  1. Albania – Eugent Bushpepa: Mall

I really enjoyed this. His jacket’s design was interesting. People thought he looked like Elijah Wood. I’ve not much to add really. It reminds me of any number of songs I hear as the title song for computer games or at the end of films during credits – but in a good way.

  1. France – Madame Monsiuer: Mercy

How did this not steamrolled over other acts when getting points? They performed 13th and came 13th… It had it all… a message, the performance, while a bit weaker than previous ones, was still strong, they won over the audience… Maybe it’s just it’s very up my street and it charmed me. Admittedly the ‘half skirt’ they both are wearing and her shoulderpads are a bit ‘odd but not in an eccentric way’. The red shoes seem a bit unco-ordinated with the rest of their outfits barring her lipstick and nail polish.

  1. Czech Republic – Mikolas Josef: Lie To Me

Geek chic… or I should say ‘unflattering depiction of intellectual characters in a comedy from the early 90s’… Everyone was wondering what was in the backpack and kept comparing him to the lead character in the film ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’. The dancing was good. The song was decent pop. Um, yeah nothing to be critical off except the costume to be honest. Probably a nice guy but the whole thing gave an attitude he probably is a bit of a wanker ‘lad’ going out on a drinking session on a Friday night in costume for some reason like a stag do…

  1. Denmark – Rasmussen: Higher Ground

Everyone compared the red haired singer to a character from Game Of Thrones. This was a great anthemic song… yet also only got middling vote numbers by the end. This year was baffling. Admittedly the ‘stomping in formation’ choreography is a bit funny but overall it was a good performance. I get it was too ‘one note’ or something compared to others who seemed to completely shift their musical style mid-song this year.

  1. Australia – Jessica Mauboy: We Got Love

Indigenous Australian lady performing for her coutnry and apparently had quite the heartwarming tory behind rising from an amateur ordition on a reality show all the way to performing here. As people noted her dress was far too short for some of the dance moves she was busting out towards the end. Or to be more exact the cameraman’s angle was clearly aiming to get a gratuitous shot or two. Nonethless it was a strong entry from Australia as per usual… but also came near the bottom. On Twitter were a lot of photoshopped maps reminding everyone that Australia isn’t in the southern hemisphere but actually just the other side of Ireland.

  • break position

I can’t remember what happened. More ‘comedy’ and interviews. I think this is when the presenter got an unexpected kiss and everyone suddenly began to decry informed consent and such. Who knows? I didn’t see the exact moment myself just the stillframe shots of her reaction… which looked just like her normal face as she had a PTSD stare the entire evening.

  1. Finland – Saara Aalto: Monsters

If this had been the second act of the evening you would think there was a horror theme to tonight’s finale. People said the backing dancers looked like Fascists or Star Wars rejects. People thought this, rather than the Irish entry, would be the gay anthem of the night. The spinning wheel and going upside down was good. The song is a bit too repetitive for me but there we go. This was second to last in the final votes of the evening which… well it was as good as many others but it wasn’t bad and at least had the backing dancers in interesting costumes.

18. Bulgaria – EQUINOX: Bones

As people said the female singer has a very Lady Gaga/1980s cyberpunk look though she reminds me of Gwen Steffani more so. The song is decent pop though its lyrics are a bit repetitive but whatever… Fun fact: I almost left this off the list by accident somehow.

  1. Moldova – DoReDoS: My Lucky Day

The staging and perfromance is classic Eurovision. The song is classic generic Euovision in sound reminding me of Abba… but that’s it. They’ll be on lots of ‘hilight clips’ no doubt. It’s just all very ‘Scooby Doo chase’ and cheesy 70s sex romp comedy really…

  1. Sweden – Benjamin Ingrosso: Dance You Off

Is this a remix of Justin Timberlake’s ‘Rock Your Body’ song and it’s music video staging? The intro part definitely makes you think of it. So that’s 80 seconds before he actually does his own song… then goes back to the copyright infringing part. Then he begins doing drunk dad at a wedding ‘I used have some moves in my youth’ dancing… The staging is nice for a pop song in fairness but it is quite bland to me.

  1. Hungary – AWS: Viszlát Nyár

It reminds me of a lot of recent rock music with the screamed lyrics. It’s in Hungarian so that’s novel but I swear I’ve heard parts of this in other rock music recently. Someoen joked it was nice to see the band ‘Bullet For My Valentine’ getting work. I can imagine this being on the soundtrack for an action film aimed at teenagers. I enjoyed it and it’s a change of pace for this competition.

  1. Israel – Netta: Toy

Chicken noises. What I’m assuming will get claims of ‘cultural approriation’ from certain quarters. It’s the sort of act that always gets included in the highlights for being flamboyant and eccentric. The sad thing is you can hear she has some ability as a singer but the nonsense noises and such just make it unpalatable. It’s not so much the act itself that bothered people as much as this is what won in the end… personally I’m fine with such entries but there were some that were seriously worth doing better and to have this as the victor feels like it rubs salt in the wound for those entrants.

  1. The Netherlands – Waylon: Outlaw In ‘Em

A Netherlands country singer, who worked with Waylon Jennings before his death so is definitely trained by the best, and his backing dancers who honestly must have been at a loss at what choreography to do to the song short of line dancing… so chose gurning and flailing. The costumes for this all seemed to be wrong. The song was good country music in fairness but I think no one was sure how to stage it at all… also… leopard print? Really?

  1. Ireland – Ryan O’Shaughnessy: Together

A milquetoast song. Due to this one having the dancers depict a homosexual relationship and the tattoos of other acts the showing of the Eurovision song contest was banned in China as it was against their broadcasting regulations. The dance choreography was good. The song is a bit too scchrine for my tates what with the sustained ‘whine’ sounding note. People want Dustin the Turkey to have another go at Eurovision and to go represent Ireland in Israel next year.

  1. Cyprus – Eleni Foureira: Fuego

People said she was a Poundshop (i.e. budget/cut price/cheap knockoff) version of Beyonce. In fairness the dancers are all incredibly well synchonised but this is definitely more about the dance than the song which I swear I heard last year or recently at least. Maybe the dance reminds me of those ‘man in high heels’ ancers that were on British adverts in Britiain a few years ago (if you don’t know what I’m on about by all means go look for the ‘Money Supermarket’ adverts on YouTube). To be honest if this had been performed earlier in the running order I don’t think it would have had the votes it got in the end but it did at least stand out amongst this year’s entries.

  1. Italy – Ermal Meta e Fabrizio Moro: Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente

This seemed like the definite winner to me. However on the night the staging and such was a bit bare bones. I still think, despite getting 5th, this should have done better. This was Italy sending out it’s big hitters with an anthemic song with a message…

THEN THERE WAS AN INTERLUDE WHICH SEEMED LIKE IT WOULD NEVER END. It was slow songs (ONUKA last year were brilliant and other years they’ve had people like Justin Timberlake but it fell on it’s face this year save informing anyone who wasn’t aware that last year’s winner had a heart transplant and is in good health now), terrible comedy sketches by the presenters, interviews, cut aways… it just seemed like an eternity to many people on Twitter with some professing they had lost consciousness or grown a beard in the meantime.

But then finally the votes came along. The world rejoiced… for a moment.

The highlight being the greeting ‘hello humans’… as if the woman speaking was a humanoid lizard or something. The low light being the needless booing when the Russian judge appeared. It’s hard to say things are not political when you have such pantomime behaviour like that…

The Voting results in full

  1. Israel 529

  2. Cyprus 436

  3. Austria 342

  4. Germany 340

  5. Italy 308

  6. Czech Republic 281

  7. Sweden 274

  8. Estonia 245

  9. Denmark 226

  10. Moldovia 209

  11. Albania 184

  12. Lithuania 181

  13. France 173

  14. Bulgaria 166

  15. Norway 144

  16. Ireland 136

  17. Ukraine 130

  18. The Netherlands 121

  19. Serbia 113

  20. Australia 99

  21. Hungary 93

  22. Slovenia 64

  23. Spain 61

  24. UK 48

  25. Finland 46

  26. Portugal 39

Thus Israel won. The gag entry won.

I guess, in a year of such diverse acts, it proves that in such situations where there is so much choice to suit different people’s tastes it’s ultimately the lowest common denominator which ends up rising to the top… and for Eurovision that is novelty acts.

I can’t wait to see how Israel deals with this. Everyone complained about going to Russia due to any number of reasons. Meanwhile everyone will act like it’s perfectly fine entering a country which [insert whatever is the current news coverage when you’re reading this regarding any middle east conflicts and such] happening on it’s borders if not inside them. It’s going to be fun finding out which acts will be barred from entering due to political reasons just as the Russian competitor was barred from entering Ukrainian territory last year and told to perform via satellite feed if at all… [Fun fact: it was the same person meant to perform this year but she didn’t make it through to the grand final].

Usually I enjoy the contest but the near silence regarding the stage invasion by the (even more wooden than usual) presenters acknowledging it and the underwhelming tone of the event, as a whole, really made this worse than many recent years. There were a few outstanding songs but the subdued tone of it all means this year will be quickly forgotten. I think we have all got used to the spectacle of elaborate staging in recent years and that was something that felt like it was missing this year. Perhaps there’s a much tighter budget or something and if so it has had a detrimental effect sadly.

Eurovision 2018 Entrants

These are in alphabetical order and I’ll do a follow up of the live finale in due course.

For coverage of the Grand Final go to Eurovison 2018 Grand Final.

Albania – Eugent Bushpepa: Mall

Uplifting song. It’s the sort of thing that’ll get used in advertising or a feel good TV drama. Not sung in English which hopefully will be the norm this year as I would prefer performers to do their entries in their native language since this is meant to represent each country and not compete for homogeneity. (fun fact: if you look that word up on Google the example sentence it gives is “”the cultural homogeneity of Europe”. But I would comment on that being British and therefore leaving the EU via BREXIT…)

Armenia – Sevak Khanagyan: Qami

Another ‘not sung in English entry’. Very soulful. It’s ‘end credits’ music for a story with a bittersweet ending. It really builds in intensity towards the end. I really like it.

Australia – Jessica Mauboy: We Got Love

I didn’t mind Australia being involved that one year but it’s a little odd to have them in the EUROvision song contest… Inevitably, as seems common nowadays with English language singers, she sounds slightly American. An energetic song and definitely a ‘get up out of your seats and dance’ one. Enjoyable but it doesn’t really stand out. A good entry nonetheless. I can see this becoming someone’s favourite song if it was released unconnected to the Eurovision. Good driving or motivational music for working out due to it’s driving beat.

Austria – Cesár Sampson: Nobody But You

He reminds me of Aloe Blacc’s song ‘I Need A Dollar’ from a few years ago. Kind of a generic pop song as it progresses. I mean I could say that of others but this actually made me think that particular thing… I like the official video for actually doing something a bit more experimental. It’s alright but it seems to rely on the refrain a bit too much for it’s impact. I like it but I can’t see it winning. It gets a bit too repetitous towards the end lyrically.

Azerbaijan – Aisel: X My Heart

This one feels a bit sped up as if you’re playing the video at 1.25 speed on YouTube and yet her voice is soft and restrained… then it kicks it up a gear. It’s a bit ‘Eurivosion anthem’ paint by numbers. There are elements in it that remind me of a number of songs of recent times. Especially with the alternating soft, LOUD, soft, LOUD, juxtapositioning. I feel like this will be an also ran unless the performance at the finale pulls something out the bag. This is the sort of song that is popular on the radio in the summer so maybe it’ll get votes.

Belarus – ALEKSEEV: FOREVER

Looks like the actor Stuart Townsend or musician Pete Doherty in his promo photo. Opens his video by ‘cutting’ his hand for ink and therefore lyrics to bleed out. Pretentious… The song sort of shifts tones a bit too suddenly. It starts off as one thing and shifts to a totally different style. Nevermind he says ‘its something me must call dream’ when you would probably say dreams in that context so the English used is questionable if it was double checked at all. It’s very late 80s/early 90s feeling. I can’t get a grip on it. There’s elements I like but others I just feel are too jarring to allow me to say I like it as a whole. Also it has that repitition of one line issue.

Belgium – Sennek: A Matter Of Time

Instantly I like this song! It reminds me of Moloko or Portishead – that sort of era of music. It, unsurprisingly, considering what she has worked on, has a ‘James Bond film theme tune’ feel to it. I wish the initial ‘echo, echo’ burst of energy was better incorporated; it would have been better to keep the more minor tone until where the second chorus occurs in order to make it have more of an impact towards the end. Another one I’m rating highly.

Bulgaria – EQUINOX: Bones

The intro is very ‘now’. The members haven’t worked together before but it really feels like a well oiled machine. The lyrics are a bit odd regarding ‘I love beyond the bones’. It’s trying to sound deep but it’s like they took a phrase from a randomised English phrase generator and worked it into the song. It’s well made but I can’t say it’ll get far though I hope the members work together again as there’s a seed of potential there. It’s an intro song for a murder drama on TV.

Croatia – Franka: Crazy

The official music video is a high quality production. Another slow, seductive, song. The ‘love, love,love’ bit is a bit too severe a break and then the ‘voice over’ like bit will be interesting to see incorporated. I can’t say it’ll get far to be honest. It’s kind of bland once you step back from it. Another where they add bits that break the tone as if there’s some obligation to do so for the contest and it ruins the song effectively.

Cyprus – Eleni Foureira: Fuego

There’s a nice setting for the official video. It sounds like there’s autotuning to a lot of the vocals which personally I don’t like. It’s very upbeat and another ‘get up and dance’ one. However it also sounds quite generic. I wouldn’t notice this standing out if it was playing on KISS FM or another ‘current music’ radio station. In the official video she has a few ‘nude colour’ clothing scenes but that won’t sway the judges in the end if that’s her costume for the finale. It will however for home votes by horny dads and teenage boys no doubt… except men tend to not vote for these things anyway according to statistics. Honestly this song could have come out ten years ago and you wouldn’t realise it. It’s ‘early era Rhianna’ if you wanted a simple description.

Czech Republic – Mikolas Josef: Lie To Me

Geek chic look. Upbeat but maybe a bit too harsh an intro tonally. The trumpet segway makes it stand out but… it’s clean cut pop but personally it’s a bit ‘rushed’ feeling in it’s tempo. The official video has some visuals reminiscent of Pharell Williams from a few years ago so maybe they got the same video director for this. It’s an okay song but not one I would want to hear repeated too often. Its’s a ‘wake up’ song they’ll probably put about half way through the running order.

Denmark – Rasmussen: Higher Ground

Visually distinct from the more clean cut, clean shaven, entrants. Much more sombre intro and becomes anthemic. Straight away I really like this immensely and it has that distinctly Nordic aspect to it. Their official video isn’t a ‘music video’ like the others but them performing to an audience. That’s refreshing. It’s the sort of song I would like outside the contest but it’s not got that ‘victory grabbing’ je ne sais quoi depending on the crowd on the night…

Estonia – Elina Nechayeva: La Forza

The song reminds me of the music from the Drakengard/NeiR game series. She also performs to an audience. This is a very traditional Eurovision entry. It’ll no doubt do well for that but is it enough? It’s interesting to have classical singing at the contest so who know this might just do it. Singing in Italian might get them some Italian votes potentially though, as I’ve said before, I would prefer nations perform in their native tongue.

FYR Macedonia – Eye Cue: Lost And Found

Eye Que… it’s meant to be a homophone of I.Q. But makes me think of some surrealist painting of eyes queuing in a post office… She sounds very American. It’s a very professional song and official video. It’s a good song but… will it stand out enough to make an impact? The ‘interludes’ seem to cover a variety of styles as if trying to have something for everyone which might put people off. It was enjoyable and eclectic while not being silly. Hopefully it gets them some international coverage and the band will see increased sales after since they’re definitely good albeit not my thing personally. Also cudos on having a guy whose got a receded hairline for once in the competition’s history. Either you’ve a full head of perfectly quaffed hair or our a shiny baldy man… there’s no in between usually.

Finland – Saara Aalto: Monsters

She was the voice of Anna in the Finnish dub of Disney’s Frozen apparently. The music video is good. The song feels generic. You’d dance to it in the club but honestly would forget it moments later. It’s very ‘Eurovision dance music entry’… even for a Eurovision entry…

France: Madame Monsiuer: Mercy

They look like a parody of the stereotype of the French Newwave or how people stereotype Beatniks and, in general, the French at a nation or people at a poetry reading… ‘Look how art house cinema we are’ The song is very good and I’ll listen to again though it definitely has ‘1980s’ tones to it. I have mixed feelings about this. It definitely stands out but it won’t win like other stand out performances have done in the past depending on how it does on the night. Also the pun of ‘mercy’ and the French word ‘merci’ is a bit laboured but then I could say that of a lot of lyrics outside the contest too. Very good. I would listen to more by them. It’s going to do very well, I’m certain, if not possibly win.

Georgia – Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao: For You

That name is a bit on the nose… it almosts sounds like a library classification of what they are. Jokes aside this is really up my street so I’m biased. I want this to win. Even if the intro sounds like it’s leading into a nursery rhyme… It’s just very emotive and has this wonderful soothing impact on you. The sort of song played over a scene of victory as people rejoice. I WANT MORE! In fact when going through the entrants in alphabetic order before the contest I replayed this a second time and it was the only one so far – so that should tell you how much I like it.

Germany – Michael Schulte: You Let Me Walk Alone

It’s bland. It’s a bit like James Blunt, David Gray or one of those singers from around that time.. He’s not a bad singer but it’s not going to get much of a reaction. I wouldnt be surprised if he’s put early on or very late in the proceedings as an also ran entry in the running order. The information on the site more or less described him as a YouTube sensation who sings covers… take that for what it means to you. Once the song’s tempo increased it was much more enjoyable but it was right at the end once most will have tuned him out.

Greece – Yianna Terzi: Oniro Mou

Celtic pipes like intro. It’s a good song and video (if a little pretentious)… but I can’t see it winning. It’ll do well based purely on the capability of the performer on the night. I can imagine this song playing over a montage of someone going over a landscape… which is what the official video depicts with her in a pit. It’s humorous in an all too earnest way.

Hungary – AWS: Viszlát Nyár

‘Modern metal band’ according to themselves. It will definitely standout and could win for being so different. It reminds me of a lot of the ‘soft rock’ sound in recent years. More about screaming than audible lyrics. Actually if you’ve heard the professional lead vocalist ‘screamers’ in such bands and wondered what they would sound like if the lyrics were audible then this is the case study for that. It’s enjoyable as a change of pace from the other entries but it depends who’ll be voting on the night how well it will do. As for me I’ve heard this sort of song a number of times by other bands and nothing stands out in and of itself save they’re of course singing in Hungarian.

Iceland – Ari Ólafsson: Our Choice

A 19 year old who has been in musical theatre. The ‘have a break’ song entry they’ll put after a more energetic one in the running order. It’s incredibly bland and inoffensive. This could have been performed in any year of the Eurovision and not been out of place. It’s the most generic song entry I’ve witnessed… I’m sure he’s a very good performer but the song is incredibly bland.

Ireland – Ryan O’Shaughnessy: Together

He was an actor in an Irish soap opera Fair City. A nice relaxed song. It’s enjoyable. Hopefully it’ll do quite well. There’s not much to add really. The official video depicts a, presumably, gay couple… the dancing is well choreographed as they dance through the streets.

Israel – Netta: Toy

Is she a ‘gag’ entry? The kimono and hair makes her seem so. The video all but confirms the ‘big character’ image… If you took out the bizarre vocal ‘clucking’ bits at the start and during it then this is a good, infectious, song with a very ‘of the moment’ looking music video. Will it win? Probably not but it’ll be a highlight of this year. [edit: Apparently she’s one of the favourites this year so what do I know?]

Italy – Ermal Meta e Fabrizio Moro: Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente

Italy bring out the big guns with an aim of winning at all costs. This will win or come within the top three without question. The official video has lots of political imagery to all but demand points being awarded by the judges viewing it as a protest song. I didn’t like when Ukraine did that a few years ago, let alone the outright ostracisation of the UK entries after the Iraq war, so I prefer politics or any allusion to it be a faux pas in the contest but then with the block voting, despite their best efforts to stop it, and what happened to Russia last year it seems unavoidable. The song is in and of itself excellent. It’s blown everything away so far while going through the entries in alphabetic order. Very anthemic. It’ll definitely be a highlight.

Latvia – Laura Rizzotto: Funny Girl

Woof. This is the sort of bittersweet song I enjoy so without question is one of the highlights for me. The music video is also good though the flashes of harlequinn makeup look needlessly silly like a teenager trying to be spiritually deep because they listened to some sad music. It stands out from many of the others but I think it wont win though it’ll get good scores. I would listen to more by her after the contest nonetheless.

Lithuania – Ieva Zasimauskaitė: When We’re Old

One of those chocolate box ‘spiritually uplifting’ singers like Nora Jones. It’s a nice slow piece and should do well but the winners of Eurovision usually have stand out presentation, a punchy tone or, as last year, some sort of story behind them if they’re a slower piece. It was good but might be too jarring a minor key shift when compared to other entries with the major key, bombastic, songs. She’s good though and I would be interested to hear what else she has done.

Malta – Christabelle: Taboo

The official video seems needlessly cinematic at the start with a Mad Max: Fury Road tone. It actually distracted me from the song. Once it gets going to reminds me of ‘Warriors’ from last year at times but can’t maintain the same impact. It starts building up then suddenly cuts into this song. Also the singer reminds me of the actress Shona McGarty who plays Whitney Dean on BBC’s Eastenders…

Moldova – DoReDoS: My Lucky Day

Folk-pop… sorry they won me over instantly within a few notes but it’s not anything special. Infectiously energetic and fun in the moment. In 2017, DoReDoS won the contest New Wave in Sochi, Russia and there they caught the attention of Russian singer, songwriter and 1995 russian participant Philipp Kirkorov, who composed the song My Lucky Day for DoReDoS’ entry for the Moldovan national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, O melodie pentru Europa 2018. The songs good as an entry but I won’t recall it after this year’s contest despite what I said… it’s somewhat forgettable and I can see that happening during the votes depending where it is in the running order.

Montenegro – Vanja Radovanović: Inje

I like the music video’s cinematography. I really like the song initially and its orchestral instrumentation. However he looks like the bastard half-brother of Peter Serafinowicz… um it’s okay. I think I’m just distracted too much to really say much about the song itself…

Norway – Alexander Rybak: That’s How You Write A Song

The video is well done. That song name though is a bit cheeky any entry let alone by someone who won the Eurovision contest in 2009 thus it comes across as quite arrogant on his part. It sounds like the sort of upbeat happy song with a ‘sing along’ bit that would win the contest… however I’m bitter and thus hope someone else wins because it kinds of screams he’s got an ego with this entry. It’s the British way: we like underdogs but once you’re on top we want to knock you down…

Poland – Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer: Light Me Up

Festival dance music. After the previous entries Poland has played it relatively safe this year with a strong entry. It could win but it’s not the sort of music I listen to personally. It just kind of washes over me and sounds like all ‘anthemic summer dance festival’ music. The guy with the hat looks like the white bastard lovechild of Pharrell Williams and Will.i.am…

Portugal – Cláudia Pascoal: O Jardim

YES! THIS SONG! A striped back focus on lyrics, vocals and accompaniment… however the lead vocalist in the video does sound like she’s risking having ‘off key’ moments when performing in the final… but at it’s core this is the sort of thing I would want to see more of. Then again it’s this sort of striped back, no hiding behind vocalisers and other tricks, performance which won last year so… maybe this year they’ll opt for omething completely different.

Romania – The Humans: Goodbye

The group name combined with the song title… that’s an interesting choice. Maybe they’re robots. As for the song… it’s a bit dreary at the start. On the whole it’s very Bonnie Tyler (or another 80s female rock singer) with a middle aged garage rockband doing a gig down the pub… Enjoyable but I can’t see it going anywhere.

Russia – Julia Samylova: I Won’t Break

A modern style music video. Auto tuning. Repetitous quasi-dance music… but it’s Eurovision so it fits in. The lyrics are good but I don’t think it’s enough. If it’s to stand a chance they’ll have to pull off something exceptional with the staging. She’s in a wheelchair which reminds me of Poland’s entry a few years ago. She did the opening on the Sochi Paralympics in 2014. In case you forgot Russia got ‘banned’ last year so she was meant to perform then but they let he do it this year instead. It’ll end up an ‘also ran’ and likely due to current attitudes receive few votes if the attitude from last year carries over to this year. It happened with Britian due to Iraq and it’ll happen to them too possibly…

San Marino – Jessika featuring Jenifer Brening: Who We Are

Dancing toy robots and an unflattering costume reminding me of the 1970s… then a rapper in a yoga outfit. It’s an also ran. I can’t add much really. It’s a talent contest entry and looking at the information about them that’s more or less confirmed…. a nice effort but… no where near the quality of others.

Serbia – Sanja Ilić & Balkanika: Nova Deca

Balkan traditional music styles fused with rock equates to music I like. I will defintely be checking out more of their music but I can imagine it’s not everyone’s thing. The costumes for the women aare a bit silly but then it’s Eurovsion so it’s all in keeping I guess. If anything I would have preferred it to stay closer to the traditional aspects or was something like ONUKA’s Vidlik…

Slovenia – Lea Sirk: Hvala, ne!

I read the information on her and it’s basically ‘she finished each stage of education early with flying colours’. The offical video is of her performance on stage. It’s good but the song starts with the lyrics ‘my name is Lea’ and then her offering the audience advice on not accepting negativity from others. In others words if she wasn’t a single person’s creation I would swear it was written by a commity of Disney writers the message so trite and the performance so by the numbers. Also epilepsy warning if you want to watch the video… though you probably watched it first before reading this and are on the floor convulsing… She is an excellent ‘technical’ performer and composer but like such people she has all the technique down but none of the raw je ne sais quoi of ‘creative’ genius… She’ll go far in her career but will be outshone by others inevitably which is a shame.

Spain – Amaia y Alfred: Tu Canción

A lover’s duet. I will be shocked if this doesn’t do well. It’s very honest and really should. Sometimes these things come off as cheesy but vocally this really works. Who knows maybe it’ll (hopefully) win! It just has winning entry written all over it without feeling overly manufactured.

Sweden – Benjamin Ingrosso: Dance You Off

1980s synth music. I like it but it’s a taste. Of course the 80s are on trend right now with the younger generations so it was inevitable someone would appeal to that era’s style as openly as this while mixing some moden aspects. It’s okay. I can’t honestly see it going too far though it might do okay during the votes depending how it goes on the night. It’s a bit ‘Justin Timberlake’ sounding.

Switzerland – ZiBBZ: Stones

Siblings who describe themselves as each others soulmates… incesty just like last year’s winners. The song was meant for a Canadian singer but they used it for themselves instead. She’s got a widebrimmed hat and he’s got a topknot. She’s toured with theatre productions and he won a drumming contest. They had five seasons of their own reality TV series. Anyway the song is pop rock and okay but doesn’t stand out really.

The Netherlands – Waylon: Outlaw In ‘Em

Wannabe American Country music singer… but he did go work with Waylon Jennings before he died in 2001 so… he is one. The song was written with Ilya Toshinskiy who was born in Obninsk, Russia but works in Nashville. It’s a very different song to what’s heard at the Eurovision but is this the slow creep of American influence into Eurovision when it’s been one of the few bastions where American influence had been minimal until recently? I don’t mind it but it’s at risk of losing distinctly European sounds despite the efforts of some acts to preserve, and bring into the modern era, their cultural influences. Unintended American imperialism. It’s a good song nonethless.

Ukraine – MELOVIN: Under The Ladder

His promotional photo makes him look like a male model. On stage he looks like a drama student who takes himself too serious to the point you cringe. I think it’s the shirt more than anything. He’s like one of the Goths from South Park… The song is okay and the staging with the on fire stair case is a nice touch but… eh he’s an also ran to be honest.

United Kingdom – SuRie: Storm

It’s a nice song. It will be used on TV promotions and adverts. I swear I’ve heard it used for those at some point but I can’t have. Tonally it’s different from many other entries and in the minor key. Really the UK is still clawing it’s status back after the whole Iraq thing years ago and now there are more competitors than ever doing their best and proving there are musical artists throughout Europe deserving of more recognition internationally than ever. It’s a good song. We won’t win but hopefully get a decent score and anything in the top half would be good. Pessimistic I know as actually this is better than quite a few I’ve been listening to while writing this but there we go don’t want to blow your own trumpet and seem elitist.

My likely high scorers and potential winners:

Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, FRANCE, Georgia, Ireland, ITALY!!!, Moldova (my dark horse bet), NORWAY (though I hope not), PORTUGAL (if they can pull it off on the night though they’re the hosts and you would assume not want to host it two years on the trot), Serbia, SPAIN (!!!), Netherlands (following the trend of ‘the, stylistically or presentationally, stand out performance usually wins’ logic seen in past years).

The running order in the finale will be:

Each act drew in which half of the Grand Final they would perform. As host country, Portugal drew its exact starting position (8) during the Heads of Delegation meeting in March.

01. Ukraine

02. Spain

03. Slovenia

04. Lithuania

05. Austria

06. Estonia

07. Norway

08. Portugal

break position

09. United Kingdom

10. Serbia

11. Germany

12. Albania

13. France

14. Czech Republic

15. Denmark

16. Australia

break position

17. Finland

18. Bulgaria

19. Moldova

20. Sweden

21. Hungary

22. Israel

23. The Netherlands

24. Ireland

25. Cyprus

26. Italy

The running order is being decided to ensure each act has the opportunity to stand out. The producers look at the genre of music, whether a song is performed by a solo singer or group, the use of props, music tempo and various other aspects of each act.

… well Georgia, of my favourites, got knocked out before the finale. Italy are the final act so that might work against them potentially or cause them to have a landslide victory. Spain is so early it might be forgotten by the voting time. Norway is also on early and France is exactly half way through.

I’ll try to cover the finale by the end of Sunday but as I do a post about the competition each year this will be put up just in case I don’t for some reason.

Strike: The Silkworm

An irreverent look at this case which today is about the murder of a novelist and the intrigues of the book publishing world. In other words Rowling, by the second book, was out of ideas and wrote what she knew – just like Stephen King does by having all his protagonists be writers of one flavour or another. Written by J. K. Rwoling under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith i.e. the pseudonym everyone tends to forget to use when referring to the author of the C.B. Strike series of crime fiction novels.

So is this a veiled jab at people Rowling herself, under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith though everyone knows it’s her, encountered in her career? We can only wonder.

Long story short this case is ‘wanker writer got killed for being a complete wanker and everyone around him in the publishing world was somewhere on the sliding scale of wankerdom themselves’. There are no likeable characters – pitiable ones yes – but no likeable ones. Except Strike and even then that’s more because he’s the leading man and isn’t an arsehole to anyone intentionally unless they ‘deserve it’ in Rowling’s mind.

[Editorial note: Did you see this broadcast on the BBC on the 10th and 17th August 2017? Did you see this elsewhere when it was first aired? Guess what – I typed notes the hour after the broadcast and only now got around to tidying them up so if this is in any way mildly inaccurate… roll with it please for humour’s sake.]


Part 1 (Episode 3 of the short series).

Today Robin happily risks her future marriage as she still has dreams of being a private dick… although as we will see the dickishness of last time wasn’t an isolated event and she only escalates further down the rabbit hole of being a Mary Sue.

We open with a mystery woman reading an article in a magazine, cutting it out and pinning it to her chest then putting her head in the oven to commit suicide. What’s that? ‘It sounds exactly like how Sylvia Plath killed herself’ I hear you mention? Yes, yes it does doesn’t it? Rowling is going meta-intertextual on us. Be in awe of her post-modernist genius! And I’ll ruin the little mystery of this stinger by telling you now that the mystery woman wrote a book which was parodied by a more successful author, Owen Quine, and this drove her to suicide. Or did it? Yes, yes it did – there was a corpse found in the kitchen. But did Quine author the parody? That’s the subplot of this murder investigation and the key to solving it. Thus Quine becomes the ‘main case’ murder victim and the woman’s husband a, if not the main, murder suspect. The adaption clearly wanted to get your attention but you don’t get context for this scene until far, far, later.

At the core of this investigation is the anonymous distribution of Quine’s Bombyx Mori a controversial manuscript in which its protagonist, ‘Bombyx’, is a writer who is repeatedly abused, tormented and ultimately eaten alive by the people in his life whilst going to extraordinary lengths to capture and preserve his talent for their own selfish gains. Bombyx is Owen Quine and all the caricatures in the book are the people around him in the literary world he hated and felt were feeding off his success. Yeah, no, this couldn’t possibly be Rowling venting a little whatsoever…

Did you think there would be different introduction music for each case? Well apparently not. I mean they paid for one song. What do you think they’re made of money? That in adapting a sure-fire ratings winner being shown on the BBC they could afford to take that extra step so it’s the start of a separate case and not ‘episode 3’ of an ongoing series? (Who do you think they are? Netflix?) But surely you realise that’s how TV adaptions of ongoing crime novel series are! Can you name the different cases of Morse? No. Anything by Agatha Christie doesn’t count as you tend to learn those by social osmosis so ‘case theme tunes’ are pointless.

[instrumental] Me and you… you and me… we’re in this together… we definitely don’t have sexual tension and will end up together, by the end, though it all, you clearly don’t love your fiancé, and I’m clearly single… you and me… me and you… solving cases, knowing one day you’ll steal my clients, if our relationship breaks down, once you’re qualified as a private detective… [fade out]

Next Strike is with his ex and she asks how he can still love her. But it was a dream. It’s always a dream. He’s a disgruntled protagonist. His lot in life is not to be happy. Ever. Just like real people but only more so.

He’s in a cramped loft/attic conversion bedroom. Robin pops in to wake him up… so he’s living in her attic? I mean the rooms never given context so… um,yes? And yet her fiancé has never met him… Or it’s a side room of the office… but that’s not as amusing to imagine and if it was he didn’t use it during the Cuckoo case.

This is followed by a mystery man walking through an office to meet another mystery man. Who are they? You won’t have a clue when we get to the next scene so it’s all smoke and mirrors which is meaningless as you’ll have forgotten what they said in a few minutes. It was Daniel Chard, the president of Roper Chard (played by Tim McInnerny a.k.a. Percy off Blackadder who everyone forgets because Hugh Laurie replaced his ‘role’ on the series as being the nice but dim upper class figures) and the publisher but good luck remembering their names. Daniel Chard says he, the other man in the office, Quine’s alcoholic editor, Jerry Waldegrave wrote the letter. Ooh intrigue. And yes I’ve had to go look up the names as all at once the ‘literary world’ characters are interchangeable looking and yet each has a very different position within it though really they could all have their dialogue said by the wrong person and you wouldn’t notice except Elizabeth whose clearly bitterness and miasma of cigarette smoke makes her distinct.

Back with Strike he has a pushy client called Mr Baker complaining. Once he’s gone Strike calls him a tosser and tells him to settle the bill of services he’s accrued. Yes that character’s name I remembered and yet any names from now on have had the help of Wikipedia to confirm. Next the dead author’s wife, Leonora Quine, comes and needs his services.

Unlike a film noir detective she ain’t a leggy dame whose legs go on and on for miles and won’t quit running through the gritty detective’s mind ‘cuz them’s ain’t just legs them’s gams!’ Nope she’s a housewife, maybe even a just barely allowable ‘TV ugly’ looking woman as they’ve made the actress look as plain as possible in bagging clothing, unflattering glasses and such to the point you wonder if Rowling spent a page or two languishing over a detailed description of how normal she looked in contrast to all the glamorous people from the Cuckoo case. ‘Look I can write normal, working class, people too!’ she declares to the one person on an obscure internet forum (or Twitter) she chanced upon in the early hours of the morning. Even if she does write them as if they have severe emotional problems or one track minds she can write them… sort of… but they need some single characteristic to make them vile to the reader’s refined middle-class sensibilities. COUGHtheblowjobwomanwhohelpedStrikeoutlasttimeCOUGH.

Leonora, which is a fancy name for such a ‘look how boringly normal she is’ character to be honest, said her husband went to a retreat called Bigly Hall and has been away ten days.

Strike phones the retreat pretending he is doing so on grounds he is giving Owen a medical report. Owen isn’t there. Strike, who seems fed up of having work, says he won’t charge and see her out though she protests. Who needs an income? Robin tells him who she was, who Owen Quine is… blah blah blah you know the usual ‘Rowling thinks female heroines are walking databases’ stereotype though in Robyn’s case she is using an online search engine (not at all Google of course otherwise they might have to pay some form of royalties) and looking at an encyclopedia entry (not at all Wikipedia for the same reason… in fact she might be reading the wiki page for the Strike TV series… and reading spoilers on some pages so she’s one step ahead of the game).

Then they go for drinks. Because that’s what people do after work as far as TV land is concerned. No one is ever tired, hungry or has responsibilities in day-to-day life… I’ve seen it done on Casualty and Holby City too to name one other ‘drama series’ that has this sort of mentality. Work is life. Work will set you free. Welcome the freedom of death. In the meantime get drunk in the evening to numb the existential angst of the middle class malaise.

But they take the case as Leonora insists upon it. Robin is pushed back twice to no avail. The police won’t help so Strike HAS to help. Because he has the protagonist disease which affects him like a very specific form of OCD where he is compelled to help people in need…

Thus literary agent Elizabeth Tassel appears on the scene at the pub, but not the same pub as during the Cuckoo case, and we get her life story all in one go though no one asked for it. We get her life story every time she is on-screen. Why do we learn so much about her and her hatred of the industry she works in? Have you guessed yet? No… well okay we can wait a little longer as this is only the first strike over the head we’ve got so far.

She is a failed writer who became a literary agent. She lives and works on the fringe of the London literary community, which she deeply resents, and expresses by bullying her staff. She smokes a lot and has a dog that’s very ill. She’s a bit of a bitch so is immediately unlikable anyway. Also she is smoking in a public space which you would think would have a member of staff telling her to stop, her giving a ‘witty’ putdown and then the staff member saying ‘No… really… you need to put that out according to the British law because you can go do one if you think we’re going to get fined because of you’.

She can help. But she won’t help. Does she have a reason? Hmm do you think there’s a reason she won’t help? Is she perhaps contrasting someone from the first case who was too helpful?

DO YOU KNOW WHAT ROLE SHE PLAYS IN THE STORY YET?

She claims she fired Owen as he wrote a thinly disguised attack on the people around him which made the manuscript unpublishable. Strike notices an old black and white photo of her and other authors. Why it’s not in colour as most if not all cameras by that point were colour ones would have been I don’t know… just that convention dictates ‘old photos must be sepia or monochrome’ in TV land. Which means anyone who possesses a monochrome photo is doomed to suffering by default as if it instantly becomes a cursed object.

Owen taught a creative writing course. He considered Liz a hinderance. Then she mentions her dog’s poo is like rocks. DOGGIE DUN A POO POO! DATZ FUNNY!

She asks a waiter for green tea. He asks if it’s for the dog. No, she replies sharply, it’s for her – for her throat. Well yeah if you’re going to wave your dog about in a restaurant and ask for a drink while doing so the staff are going to leap to conclusions inevitably. You see a lot of odd people in the service industry just by sheer force of numbers you come into contact with so this kind of request is expected. Also green tea isn’t going to solve that throat cancer you’ll be getting one day since you smoke like an industrial era chimney Liz…

Back in the office Robin is ‘working’ by watching an interview of Owen’s on ‘Not-YouTube’ and remarks to Strike that Quine wasn’t a fan of short sentences. [Unlike Rowling who is criticising some unknown writer it can be assumed… part of me secretly wishes it was David Foster Wallace – someone who is dead and whose legacy is secured as one of the truly great writers while for all her money she will never be held in anywhere near the same esteem as him… and at least it would explain the treatment of the dog by the end if you know how fond Wallace was of dogs…].

Strike takes this moment to do a job evaluation and have a slight heart to heart with her. He tells Robin she is worth more than he is paying her and that they’re in debt again. How?

Okay… more importantly:

  1. How many employers have ever said such a thing to an employee? Only one’s who want something. And by something I mean unpaid work or beginning a tryst via flattery.

  2. How the hell is he in debt again when he has to turn away business he is so overwhelmed with people seeking his help?! It’s never explained.

So the editor (or someone else) is at Quine’s house unseen by the audience. He leaves and Leonora says he smelt of wine. What does that have to do with anything? Nothing. It’s a red herring. The guy likes a drink and spilt some on himself… not that the story ever clears that up.

Meanwhile Robin is in a bookshop. Why? Because the theme of this investigation is literature… um… that’s it. Rowling’s the only author who could write about a book shop and make it seem as interesting as IKEA’s ‘zone of boxed flatpacks’ next to the checkouts. Robin doesn’t discover anything.

Liz visits Robert…

Um… okay… at this point I should note a lot of the book characters got cut out and I think some must have been amalgamated. The adaption has a guy called Robert but that’s not on the Wikipedia page. Anyway the woman in the stinger who committed suicide was his wife.

So word is he has read Quine’s manuscript of Bombyx Mori. Then its noted her dog is shitting on the lavender in his garden. IT’S FUNNY CUZ DA DOGGIE DUNNA ANOTHER POO POO AND SHE DON’T CARE LOLZ! ROFLCOPTER! … and in other words the mentality of the following level of humour regarding repition of a simple joke:

but in fact it’s not just humour but a clue as to… if you haven’t figured out yet I won’t tell you. Someone’s a bad egg and we all know animal cruelty is ‘Bad Person behaviour 101’.

Strike is with Leonora and Liz visits him. Leonora thinks Owen was, as usual, sleeping around, shagging around (wombling free, the Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we)… whatever you want to call it he wasn’t faithful because apparently writers get fangirls willing to sleep with them all the time. (So… meta-narrative time: Did Rowling get a lot of offers from her fans?) Which is a good time to mention Stephen King’s novel Misery…

for no reason except, you know, I just want you to remember there’s a dark side to fandom… it’s not all fans wanting to crawl up inside you like eels.

some want to cause harm due to obsession. Moving on.

So walking down the road Strike sees a newspaper kiosk. Shocking! Who knew those still existed in this day and age?

But that wasn’t the focus. He sees his ex, Charlotte, has done a photo shoot with her new husband for the May cover of a gossip magazine. ‘Hello’, ‘Now’… you know the sort. The ones you see ancient editions of in the waiting rooms of doctor and dentist surgeries… So old that you have ‘these two celebs got together, then under a mouldy children’s book the ‘they’ve had kids’ edition and in someone else’s hands across the room the ‘they’ve had a divorce’ edition sometimes all three published during the same year. Well it seems his ex met and got engaged in what seemed a matter of days or a fortnight during the last case so to be honest he should be happy he got rid of her.

On a side note: if she isn’t the victim of one of the later novels I will be surprised. Either that or she turns out to be the murderer – thus further enforcing the ‘it’s Strike and Robin’s destinies to be together forever [in accordance with authorial mandate]’ storyline Rowling keeps dropping hints about. Saying that Robin’s fiance is also high on the list of likely ‘series long’ characters up for a ‘dull shock’ murder of a long time cast member. Put money on it. It’s certain to be one of them if not both.

Next we see a woman burning pages in an outdoor fire. This is Katherine or Pippa… or an amalgamation of the two. She isn’t that important really.

At the pub Strike finally meets Robin’s fiancé Matthew Cunliffe. Get it? Cunliffe because, as heavy-handed as her caricaturisation is of him Rowling couldn’t get away with calling him the four letter word outright.

So Matt asks if Strike plays rugby and then talks about rugby a lot. Because he is a man and men play rugby. Rugger bugger. Strike jokes he used to be his highschool champ. (Wait… did England have high schools before recently? It’s a very American term for secondary school a.k.a. Comprehensive for the approximate age of the character). I guess Robin never mentioned the leg issue as the joke falls flat. Unless Strike was being serious in which case add it to the pile of ‘I can’t write characters who are not the very best in every single thing they do’ which, for Strike alone includes him being in the military police, the son of a rock star, Robin being… Robin and so on.

Robin and Matt have been together 9 years. I take it that’s meant to suggest that they never married because they didn’t feel like making that step rather than because they couldn’t afford to. They’re to wed in eight weeks. BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT DESTINIED TO BE! BECAUSE OMG, WTF, STRIKExROBIN IS THE OP! LIKE STRIN / ROKE SHIPPING! SO ROKE! CORMORANxROBIN = CORBIN… (um, wait… like the current Labour political party leader’s surname but ‘I’ instead of ‘y’… that’s a little cunning a political leanings suggestion hidden in there). STRIKE IS SO HER TYPE! STRIKE NEEDS A WOMAN LIKE HER TO FIX HIM! Etc, etc…

Matt jokes she was the only half fit girl with brains at school/university. Because yeah that’s how you write guys in relationships… I mean I hear that sort of joke made but under no context is it funny. Rowling has serious issues and is venting about someone she knew. Rowling just wants to make sure that at no point will we consider him even a flawed human being – he’s an obstacle to be overcome for Strike and Robin to be together. It’s not even subtle. I can only imagine he might get the old ‘redemption in death’ treatment somewhere down the line if he’s lucky. Matt also speaks derisively about detective work… because [rinse and repeat earlier ‘non-case related antagonism’ comments].

Strike goes to the bar to get a drink and offers to buy them a round. While he’s away, in what seems to be a distance of about 6 metres, Matt criticises him. Robin is sad as she could move up the ladder… really? How about ‘Matt shut up he’s stood right there’ or ‘shut up he’s a decent bloke’ or… not being a single-minded, career focused, selfish cow? She and Matt deserve each other. Matt doesn’t want Strike at the wedding. So either the adaption really failed to get across the animosity here or it’s poor heavy handed writing. Any way you look at it Matt is a pantomime villain in the level of complexity given to his character. A few months earlier in the Tom Hardy series Taboo they had a character who every time he came on-screen used racial slurs on the main character for being mixed race and it’s about the same level of writing albeit against a disabled man rather than a mixed race man.

Strike looks at the wedding invite he’s been given. He recalls Charlotte and her claim she was pregnant once when he broke up with her. Was she? Wasn’t she? We never know as she is an almost never seen satellite character.

The next day Strike mockingly calls Robin by her middle name. She tells him it was because she was conceived in Venice. Why do people get told such things? ‘Oh such fond memories of your dad and I rutting like wild rabbits while in Tuscany’. No, no one wants to know that sort of thing – especially not Tim Upagainstthebikeshedbehindthechippy’ Bristols, Gordon ‘slagheap’ Wells or Julie ‘Cockett’ Mouth…

Someone keeps a blog. Strike, when asked by Robin, is polite and says Matt seemed like a nice bloke.

Robin finds Katherine, a.k.a miss page burner.

They go visit her and she says she though she and Owen were friends until she read the book. Yeah she’s just a narrative device so not even worth flippant commentary…

Back at the office they find out Owen co-owned a house with Joe North, an American writer (with an All-American name) friend of Quine and Fancourt. He died of AIDS while writing about his experiences living with the disease. After lying abandoned for twenty years, the house where North died became the scene of Quine’s murder. I had to look that up as the information is thrown at you so fast and matter of factly you’ll miss it. It doesn’t have any great bearing on events but it is odd finding what bits they feel the need to tell you about and which bits they omit or skim over quickly.

Leonora gives them keys to the house. It’s never brought up who else has keys to the house and it’s one of the things they never bring up again despite that being something you would want to know about considering the circumstances while eliminating lines of enquiry. Leonora mentions she also has a copy of Bombyx Mori as it was left anonymously on the doorstep. It’s noted that this is odd considering a copy would be in the house already, as this is Owen’s home, and Owen kept numerous filing boxes filled with ideas for various books so Leonora would definitely have a copy of the manuscript somewhere in the house already. Owen and Leonora have a daughter named Orlando. To me Orlando is a male name, e.g. Orlando Bloom, but maybe it’s genderless and so fine – albeit it’s no doubt another ‘commemorating where we had sex’ name by the parents… She has down’s syndrome. She is the only person who doesn’t have a character based on them in Bombyx Mori implying she was the only person he truly cared for. So.. you know… even a nasty bastard can have redeeming qualities. That or he didn’t even consider her to have agency and thus was more a pet than child. But they dodgy that implication. [Although, arguably the ‘real’ writer of those controversial bits of Bombyx just didn’t know of the girl or chose not to write of her.]

Orlando likes to draw and steal things. She misses her dad and it’s not clear if she understands he is dead.

Strike introduces himself and notes he is named after an Irish giant. I can’t help but remember the whole Viktor Crumb thing in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where Rowling felt the need to correct people’s’ pronunciation of the name Hermione. It was fine then since it was a book series aimed primarily at children, with a far more limited range of dictional variants to call upon, but here she is definitely speaking down to the audience ‘look at the references I’m making – I’m so smart and have such a wide breadth of knowledge you can’t keep up so I need to put it in simple terms for you’. No… it’s just Cormoran is a rare name outside of Irish circles. I mean just because you choose rare names for characters that doesn’t make your writing better. If I called a character Islwyn ap Morgannwg that doesn’t mean my audience are stupid because they don’t know ap Morgannwg means ‘of Glamorgan’ but just because they’re unfamiliar with the cultural reference. The fact she has explained Robin’s middle name and Strike’s first name screams that she is trying too hard and just feels the overwhelming need to speak down to her audience.

Also Matt doesn’t care for Cormoran’s name. Because Matt is a bad man. Have you realised that yet or does he need to go into the town square and kill some puppies Caligula style before you’ll accept it? Rowling doesn’t think you do yet.

Strike reads the manuscript. On the screen grim imagery flashes depicting the Marquis de Sade style scenes of the book. Well it’s more de Sade crossed with Clive Barker and a side of Bret Easton Ellis I guess. So instead he watches the football. Because he’s a bloke and football is the default for relaxing television what with the inevitable screaming at the TV when your team isn’t doing well. Football for the common man, rugby for the elite – unless your Welsh in which cae rugby is treated like a religion. Hence it’s another Strike/Matt contrast. The next day he asks Robin to read the book.

Meanwhile he goes to the co-owned house which he finds is in ruins internally.

Here he finds the mutilated corpse of Owen Quine disembowelled and arranged like the cocoon a butterfly or moth has emerged from.

He photos it… because that’s another habit of his besides going to the pub for a pint and watching football. Because that’s what men do – just like women drink wine, are eternally fascinated by shoes, enjoy afternoon teas and watch soap operas in Rowlingland. This is Rowling’s standard of writing nuanced caricaturisation. Broad enough people can identify with it as it’s so blandly unimaginative you would forget the characters five minutes later if her name wasn’t plastered all over it.

He then phones Robin to tell her Owen is dead. It’s grim. Imagine one of the crime scenes from the film Se7en. Robin comes over and looks too. She, unused to crime scene viscera, has no reaction to it which is a bit psychotic really. In fact it’s incredibly suspicious. I secretly hope she turns out to be a villain later in the series. She shows Strike the book and he reads the ending of it. It’s exactly like the crime scene before them as it involves people tearing out Owen’s innards.

Matt calls Robin. His mother is dead. She had a stroke. Robin leaves to be at his side. Strike asks her to relay that he’s sorry for Matt’s loss.

Later Strike is chatting to Detective Steve at Richard’s house and the forensics is too difficult to process due to the use of acid which has all but stopped them using that for evidence. All they know is that there was a woman with a duffel bag seen coming to the property and leaving there.

POP QUIZ: How many female characters, assuming it wasn’t a transsexuals or transvestite, have we seen so far? Who can we eliminate from the inquiry? So is the murderer:

  • The bitter and twisted Elizabeth (with her dog whose got bowel issues mentioned whenever she appears CUZ DAT FUNNY… though it isn’t really).

  • The worried wife (who, if she did it, will have done exactly the same as the previous case’s murderer having needlessly brought Strike’s attention to the case and would have got away with it otherwise… just like a Scooby Doo villain).

  • The downs syndrome daughter (who loves her dad thus would be setting depictions of disabled people back about 50 years as ‘dangers to society’ who can’t be trusted to not act violently if left unsupervised and should be locked away in asylums so society may forget about them as was the case back then alongside single mothers, politically disagreeable elements, artistic sorts and anyone else who just ‘wasn’t our sort’ to ‘normal’ middle class people).

  • The disenfranchised student/friend/lover (who got the book after the fact to give her motive for the murder).

  • The rejected male to female transsexual lover (who is actually missing from the TV adaption hence why you thought I was being pedantic when mentioning transsexuals earlier).

  • Or it could be a man mistaken for a woman. It could be. It isn’t… But it could be.

It’s brought up that Leonora was a fan of Owen’s writing and was a butcher’s daughter in Hay-on-Wye before their marriage. So:

  1. Hay-on-Wye is a town of bookshops in Wales. She couldn’t come from somewhere more likely – No, it had to be from the town of books because this story’s theme is literature. Funny that really as she isn’t Welsh sounding but then there are so many wannabe Bohemian English people in that town it is technically an English town in Wales.

  2. There’s a hint of elitism here as this is revealed as if it’s something that should cause shock in the reader not seen since the Victorian sensationalist novels. How could a common butcher’s daughter be married to a successful author? It’s presented like there is some other aspect to it we are not told of. I assume in the book there’s some mention Owen knocked her up while at the annual literature festival in town and felt pressured into making an honest woman of her and the result of their union was their daughter. But the TV adaption skips that completely unless it was said so quickly in passing I missed it.

Strike says he knows the killer read the book. So we can remove a few of the remaining suspects can’t we? Apparently Owen and Leonora had an argument out on the street but Strike thinks Leonora wouldn’t have the ingenuity to commit the killing. Why is not explained. Working class people are cattle who can’t do something as elaborate as this sort of revenge murder. That’s the underlying message again from Rowling. Leonora throughout the case is presented as someone who is barely capable of coherent thought let alone being proactive in matters. She is presented almost as in need of care as much as her daughter if I’m honest as the show does everything in its power to demean her.

If you ever saw Harry Enfield’s depiction of the working class throughout his various sketch shows I feel this is very much in that ilk except it’s at the expense of the subject and not at the prejudice elitist arrogance of the ones observing.

Meanwhile Matt and Robin are in tears in their bedroom. He’s crying for his loss. Robin is crying she isn’t out and about playing detective as Strike’s sidekick.

Strike interviews Leonora but he can’t help her with the case. Police found photos. They take Lenora away into custody as the prime suspect. She screams out, Orlando becomes distressed, and Leonora is dragged away in tears. Leonora fears for her daughter as it’s only ever been her and Owen caring for their daughter. Except there is someone. Who they are isn’t known as they’re played by an extra whose presumably from social services. In fact that raises far more questions than it should but we never spend even a second on it.

In the next scene its morning and Robin makes Matt breakfast. He asks her to get the day off work. She tells him she will ask. Strike emails her at 5AM about the case. He then calls her and asks how Matt is doing. Because Strike’s a decent human being who wants to get on with both of them. He even tells Robin, unprompted, to take as much time as she likes. However, offended, she counters that they’ve already had clients complain because they’re behind schedule with their ongoing investigations. Um… no. Stay with your man in his hour of need Robin. Honestly Strike can’t win. He is considerate of a guy whose constantly belligerent to him, Robin is openly aiming to become a detective and likely take his client base from him after he’s paid for her training (which is what she wants to happen). He would be better off going back to doing it all by himself really. (and he kind of does later on in a later case but that’s a story for another time…).

So this is part one of this case’s ‘moments we are not meant to dislike Robin though we clearly will’. I mean seriously. I know there are people who justify themselves saying ‘oh I needed to get out of there! They were being so miserable.’ Well yes that’s what grieving is unsurprisingly. If he was like that six months down the line fine but Matt just lost his mother so I think he’s allowed a free pass for the moment to grieve. Rowling really just has some odd perspectives on things like this. Yes Matt is a thoroughly unlikable guy but to have Robin make excuses to leave him grieve alone is cruel. We get it. She really wants to be a detective and is single-minded in that pursuit but you can’t brush off this sort of behaviour time after time throughout the stories.

Strike has a meeting arranged with a man in Devon and Robin insists she will drive them there (in a hire car). And she does. As if you can just walk up and get a hire car instantly. Strike says why Devon. Robin remarks at least it’s not Cornwall. What, did Rowling have a bad experience in Cornwall too? That’s a bit out of left field save that it’s a further drive. She really is venting through this book it feels and the adaptions not being able to cover everything though no doubt some stuffs been left out.

They arrive at Daniel Chard’s country house with modern internal décor and are asked to take their shoes off before entering. Then Daniel, who has injuries to his hands from broken glass, says actually Strike doesn’t need to due to his leg. Daniel gets his… Thai?… servant to make coffee.

Daniel only wishes to speak to Strike so Robin goes to the kitchen. Sidekicks in the kitchen then. Send the woman to the kitchen… Rowling the feminist adhering to traditional gender role room allocation in a house.

Daniel reveals that Owen had an accomplice. He knows because there are things in the book which Owen couldn’t have known about. There is a reward of £10,000. This reward is never brought up again nor if Strike gets it when he dicovers the other author at the end. Daniel asks Strike if he’s read the book and confides it has things about him and Andrew in it.

Andrew’s wife was the suicide at the beginning. Liz says they were close. She considered Owen a genius and she had a crush on Andrew. Info dump…

Robin goes to the toilet. Manny, the Thai servant/boyfriend, blurts out he didn’t push Daniel down the stairs but in fact he fell down them by himself. This is never expanded on. In the book it was implied Daniel was gay. Well the TV series turned that up to eleven then… it’s implied there was a lover’s quarrel prior to Strike and Robin arriving. Not much to add… they just kind of leave it there as something they added but never developed. It therefore reminded me of a scene from Sasha Baron Cohen’s film Bruno unintentionally due to how petite the guy was. The one with the fire extinguisher. Go look it up. No in fact here’s a clip. It might even be the same actor for all I know…

Daniel adds Strike, and after a moment at Strike’s insistence, Robin on the guest party list so they can meet people involved in the events. That’s convenient of course but at least somewhat believable in contrast to the last case where they just seemed to walk in everywhere with little resistance.

Later Robin and Strike meet in a cafe and recount, in public, the key points of the case. Just to make sure the audience have kept up. I expect in a later book, if they do these in public cafes, for a suspect to sit in there and overhear what they’ve found out and used it to their advantage since this is so foolish. Ignoring too their poor manners in public but speaking so loud in a small cafe too.

Robin suddenly comes out and wants to know what Strike wants – as if he owes her something apparently. He says he wanted to train her he can’t consciously do so if she’s marrying someone who hates the work. He needs a person who can do the hours and tells Robin it’s the reason he and Charlotte broke up. He would pay for a partner to go on a training course but not an assistant. Then jokes, to try to lighten the mood now he’s said this, by asking for a bite of Robin’s sandwich. Robin says it’s not a good sandwich. GET IT? SHE’S SAYING SHE’S DAMAGED GOODS SUBTEXTUALLY… also no employer has offered training without some sort of price to be paid and Robin has done nothing but badger him about becoming a detective as if he owes it to her from the moment she first entered his office as an agency paid office temp helping put his paperwork in order.

Later they’re on a country lane, in the hire car, where there is a build up of traffic as a vehicle has broken down and it’s created a bottleneck. That it didn’t completely stop the traffic was a miracle from my experience where many country lanes are barely wide enough for one vehicle let alone have enough you can create a bottle neck where there is still movement. But then I know what I’m talking about here in Wales unlike a writer who is secluded in her mansion who had a somewhat comfortable, urban focused, life beforehand.

So what does Robin do? Wait and go past the traffic issue in a few minutes like a normal person being safe on the road? No. Of course not. She reverses, drives into a field and pulls off some off-road motor rally driving stunts drifting around gates and such. Strike is of course nervous as she is doing this with the mad, glassy-eyed, smile of a sociopath mowing down pedestrians.

They get past the block in the road… all 20 metres of it down the road though Robin seemed to drive about four times that distance through the fields and probably could have made their trip that much shorter by not doubling back.

So.. yeah. Those fields are private property of the farms and she just caused what could legally be deemed property damage. They were not on a tight schedule or anything either to thinly justify this little action sequence. She just felt like it and thus did it because she got frustrated for a few minutes having to deal with the reality of traversing rural roads. Prime detective material there… no wonder Strike wanted to train her.

Strike asks what she was doing. She tells him she did an advanced driving course. She says this smugly implying ‘see I can do anything’ as if driving in a field is the same as deducing the facts of a criminal case , potentially, having an innocent person prosecuted if you’ve got your facts wrong. But let’s face it Robin is becoming a textbook case study example of sociopathic tendencies. She didn’t get what she wanted so she intimidated Strike through reckless behaviour. You can argue it was ‘girl power’ showing him she was capable but he had good reason not to arbitrarily turn to his office administrator and ask ‘why don’t you become a detective?’

Strike has a voice message on his phone. He should also have his last will and testament after Robin’s actions today if he’s sensible. Andrew says he won’t read the book and he didn’t like Owen.

Leonora is taken into prison from the house and for no real reason they have her daughter on the doorstep there to further distress the girl. Classy. I half wonder if this was some criticism of the social services depicting them negatively in the book because Rowling once, and just once, had some trouble with them before Harry Potter took off.

Robin drives to the train station, jumps out and runs to the train to go back to Matt.

Oh great. Yes, let’s pretend like you care now. She even sits in the first class carriage to make sure she doesn’t associate with the common people. In fact she comes across like the subject of Pulp’s song now I think of it. She wants the detective life but doesn’t seem to appreciate what it entails.

And in the meantime she leaves Strike stranded in the ‘loading/unloading bay’ in the car… that’s not even a joke. I’m not sure he even knows what is going on for a moment as she ditches him so suddenly.

He offers a passing Irish girl £20 if she will drive him home. That doesn’t look dodgy at all… but what else can he do? There’s a whole mini-adventure here we never see occur on-screen.

Then he gets a call about Leonora telling him she’s been taken to prison.

DUN DUN DURR.

But no really how did he get home? What was the Irish girl’s reaction? What happened after? Questions that will never be answered.


Part 2 (Episode 4 of the series).

Fun fact: I lost most of my original notes on this episode – hence the long delay after it’s broadcast to the point the next case ‘Career of Evil’ has already aired the first half – so this is mostly working off an edited compilation of scenes uploaded by Katerina Varela. Give her page and videos some support on YouTube please as they’re a great help thouh they omit anything not featuring Strike and Robin.

Robin watches an interview of Owen again. His first wife committed suicide. Nothing comes of this oddly. Maybe it was discussed more in the book.

Strike is in a mystery location. Robin calls him and asks ‘are you awake?’ when he answers. Well I don’t know if ‘sleep phone-answering’ is the 21st century version of sleepwalking but I would hesitate it’s a yes – unless his phone was stolen… They discuss the wife and she offhandedly thanks him for letting her stay a little longer with her grieving fiance… but quickly goes back to discussing the case so clearing it was just an empty courtesy and she wasn’t grateful really…

Next thing you know Strike is walking down the stairs to his office and Robin is there. He says it’s Sunday. She knows. She says ‘I think we should start taking a closer look at Andrew Fancourt, don’t you?’ which of course is a loaded question. She is dictating that they should. Honestly could she be any more thirsty to become a detective… she says she’s got his address and ‘let’s go’.

ORPHANED SCENES FROM MY ORIGINAL NOTES WHICH OCCUR AT SOME POINT DURING EPISODE TWO

  • Robin reads a section. Strike says Leonora is innocent. He even goes as far as to bet his good leg on it. If he lost the bet this would become a British remake of Ironside…

  • At the prison Strike has his female lawyer friend (who we’ve never heard of before) represent Leonora. The dilapidated house couldn’t be sold and the items used in the murder had been bought with the Quine family credit card. Her husband spoke to her of the novel. Strike warns her that could be used against her. Yes apparently it’s Strike who needs to say that and not the legally trained person he brought along. Is she just arm candy for him or as a blunt diagesis narrative excuse to explain how he got access to Leonora in the prison?
  • Leonora is angry Strike didn’t keep her out of prison. She just wants to see her daughter again.
  • He later has lunch with his half-brother in a bar. The actor, if he isn’t Tom Burke’s real life brother, looks a lot like him. They have the ‘we are related but not close though we like each other’ sort of dialogue you can expect of characters who will become more relevant later in the series once Rowling has a use for them (as murder suspects/victims most likely). The brother flirts with the waitress at this exclusive place and gets the information Strike needs as they catch up with each other.
  • We cut to Robin running in the countryside as if there’s nothing else happening in life at the moment. No doubt it’s excused as a bit of trendy mindfulness – which right now is a bit selfish really for her to be doing. Matt, still holed up at home, answers her phone when it rings. So Robin, who so desperately wants to get back on the case left her phone behind? I’ve seen plenty of runners have their phones on an armband so this seems coincidental. This convenience allows him to discover she hired a car for ‘being Strike’s taxi’. She could afford to do that but not stay and help him arrange his mother’s funeral he decides. In fairness he has a very good point as she put career (or more exactly her desire for a career she is unqualified for as of yet despite throwing it in her employers face constantly) ahead of emotional support for someone she is engaged to and you would assume loves though we are shown no signs of it. Are there any negative consequences for Robin’s decisions ever? No. No, there are not. Because Robin is perfect and untarnished in the mind of the writer.
  • Back at the prison Strike and his friend are leaving and she warns him to have no relapses regarding Charlotte. He laughs it off but indeed both wordlessly know it isn’t that easy for him. Even tertiary characters are more emotionally developed than some of the main cast… Now her use to get Strike access to Leonora is over she disappears from the story never to be seen again.
  • Strike goes to see Richard. a.k.a. Mr police detective. Strike can’t believe Leonora is stupid enough to buy a disguise. I don’t know if that’s a compliment or further needless debasement of the Leonora character. Which writer’s partner wound Rowling up the wrong way at a few dinner parties for this level of venomous writing exactly?
  • Back with Robin she and Matt are lying in bed and there is clear tension between the two. He was there for her when she needed it but clearly she can’t be there for him. (spoilers: eventually in the series it’s revealed she was raped. Hence her over compensating and need to be proactive). He tells her he doesn’t want Strike at the wedding because he wouldn’t give her a day off for personal reasons like bereavement. You can understand his view with the limited information he has but of course we’ve seen Strike be nothing but kind and actually offer all the time off she needed. Robin is manipulating both of them and there are no real consequences to her. However she admits it was her choice as she wanted to be an investigator. She justifies it saying she was doing a Psychology degree and… blah blah justifying her selfish actions. She says she ‘doesn’t want to do this’ and they make up instantly. No consequences and she gets to dictate terms and the conditions of their relationship. No wonder he’s such a passive-aggressive ass everytime we see him as it’s the probably only way he can do anything albeit out of frustration.
  • Strike goes and has dinner with friends. Who are they? We don’t know but apparently it needed to be made clear he wasn’t a loner because ‘eww loners are icky and up to no good’ societal clichés. Disposable characterless friends are better than being alone. Even if they are cardboardcutouts from a stock photograph. (Look at how things ended for one of the characters from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series to get an expansion on the concept). The lawyer friend says she hasn’t met Orlando, Owen’s down’s syndrome suffering daughter, yet.
  • At some point Robin goes to the Quine house to meet Orlando and… well long story short Orlando likes to ‘steal’ things and hide them in her bag. Robin offers an exchange but ultimately steals the contents of the bag. In the bag was Owen’s copy of Bombyx Mori. Robin leaves quickly as she has made Orlando incredibly distressed in a flood of tears. Nothing ever comes of this and in fact in the conclusion Orlando even gives Robin a friendly wave. Because Robin can never do wrong…

Strike finds Robin in the office on a Sunday. He says she doesn’t have to be there but she insists. So she shut her grieving fiancé down when he calls her out on her behaviour and she gets to go play detective too? Protagonist centred morality…

Robin says they should go see the house. Thus they go to snoop around someone’s house. And, lo, did Robin say until Cormoran ‘let us venture forth unto the garden’s of burial’ and lo it was so… for her’s was the way and the just as according to the creator…

They approach a garden gate and Robin asks Strike to give her a leg up. Strike doesn’t make a pun about his leg but instead looks over the garden gate himself by doing a pull up. Hench blud, mah boy is hench yeah? Look at him raising himself up like it ain’t no ting. Well no he huffs and puffs a bit but the TV version is in far better condition than his book counterpart. He sees it’s a cemented over patio so burial would have been impossible. When he drops down, instead of slowly lowing himself, he hurts his stump inevitably. [Also there was a sickening crunch which definitely didn’t sound healthy so… maybe got to the hospital’s A&E while your out and about?] He mutters shit and doubles over in agony. Robin calmly asks ‘are you alright?’ Why yes because that’s what people do when they’re in good health doubling over mutting shit and rubbing parts of their body… But then she tells him to lean on her which after initially refusing he accepts and he apologises about it. Commandery… and by that I mean it plays into Robin’s YOU NEED ME! View that she is more than capable of doing his job for him…

Thus they go to the pub. For the pub’s alcohol shall numb all pains of both the flesh and spirit… plus they’ve nothing better to be doing...

Robin notes it’s Strike’s birthday. For lo Robin is not only perfect in action but also knowledge. She even knows Strike’s passport number. Thus she gives him a gift which consists of a number of Cornish food and drink items. She asks how it is and he replies it tastes of Cornwall. (it’s his hometown or something to that effect so… nostalgia). They discuss the case – again in a public space. Strike keeps talking of the guts, how the police investigators were not brought in on it and that Fancourt writes the sort of stuff suggesting this so they should find him tomorrow. Robin asks if his leg will be fine for that and he says ‘yeah, it’ll be fine’… which she doesn’t believe it seems.

The next day he hobbles into the office using a crutch and Robin offers to tail Farcourt but Strike tells her she hasn’t been trained but she insists she wants to do it. Also she informs him Liz has agreed to talk to him about Fancourt too over lunch ‘which will be okay, you’ll be sitting down’. Yeah go on Robin kick him while he’s down. That’ll motivate him to get you trained!

Then she shows Strike the parody of the ‘Sylvia Plath style suicide’ woman’s novel written by Quine. The woman being Fancourt’s wife. The parody was taped to her grave… with what? Duct tape? Seriously in British weather that thing would have blown half way across town in reality. They think either he’s being taunted or blackmailed. Strike compliments her work. She downplays it regarding how she messed up and he walked right past her. Then Strike says maybe some training will help.

Next think they’re at a swanky penthouse suite, him in classic black shirt and tie while she has a figure hugging black dress on. Daniel Chard invited them Strike tells the doormen… who are stood in the middle of the apartment making you wonder how secure it really is. Robin scoffs ‘plus one, he’s not keen on me is he?’ Well you’re there so… it’s not like he refused your presence…

They go out on the balcony. Strike mocks that ‘nevermind declining booksales everyone I’ve met so far in publishing either has a drink in their hand or arranging to meet for lunch’. Rowling can’t help be salty towards the industry that fed her and put her kids through school apparently. Then Robin quips ‘It’s not a bad life is it?’ so Rowling can have her cake and eat it…

They wander around for a while then Strike lights a cigarette and asks when Matthew is back to which Robin replies he’s back already. Strike gives Robin his coat as it’s cold.

Chard taps a wine glass to call everyone’s attention as he is about to give a speech. Do people still do that? It feels pretentious but it works. He speech is basically ‘publishing has rapidly changed but on things remained true: work with great writers and your readers will come. After 20 years elsewhere Fancourt is returning to this publishing house’. So yes Rowling blowing smoke up her own trumpet there ever so subtly saying ‘I’m one of the greats after one book series and a few spin offs’. Yes you can no doubt quote Baum, C.S. Lewis and other ‘one series’ children’s writers but it still stands they did other stuff too. In Rowling’s case this is it… and it was under a pseudonym until the publishers wanted a boost in sales.

Fancourt thanks them all and that it feels like a homecoming (which if you know the Greek mythos origins of that phrase is actually always a bad thing). He waxes lyrical about writing for Chard then Roper and how they were good days alongside saying how he was an angry young man now he’s an angry old man. Everyone does that ‘middle-class polite’ chortles laugh. Then he finishes saying he looks ‘forward to raging for you’. And they applaud as he leaves. Strike leaves thus leaving an opening for Fancourt to approach Robin… because hey he’s a villain and not a single man of mild success who thinks maybe he can use the boost to his confidence to chat up a woman… nope this is villanous despicable behaviour… He noticed she is taking a while to pick a drink and offers suggestions. Sex on the beach? A long, slow, screw up against the wall? No not really… He says the champagne won’t kill her as he picked it out. She flirtingly smiles and says that’s what she’ll have then and he orders two. Then he asks if she’s read anything good lately in what is, in the context, a very cheesy chat up line. She says Bombyx Mori. He calls it a poison pen letter and asks what she thinks of his depiction. She asks if he has read it but he says people have told him of it. He considered Owen a very minor writer with a very large ego and that their conversation would have pleased him enormously. She asks if she can introduce him to someone and brings him over to Strike. Fancourt immediately addresses him as the one-legged detective… which let’s face it is exactly what people called Strike before these BBC adaptions as it’s his U.S.P. compared to Hercule ‘the moustache’ Poirot, Sherlock ‘you know my name’ Holmes, C. Auguste ‘murder at the Rue Morgue’ Dupin, Robert T. ‘in a wheelchair’ Ironside, Endevour ‘shot of whiskey til I die’ Morse, Theofilides ‘I got a lollipop with your name on it’ Kojak, ‘Frank’ [no official first name]‘ah one more thing’ Columbo , the various Swedish detective of recent, Miss Jane ‘little old nosey women busy body’ Marple, John ‘I’ma LUNDUNAAAA’ Luther, Erast ‘different style every case’ Fandorin and so on.

He tells Strike he’s read about him. Strike wants to talk about Owen Quine’s death. Fancourt compliments him on his choice of bait. They talk of how he was co-owner of the house the corpse was found in. He says he’s not been there in ten years at which point Robin chips in saying he inherited it from a friend who died the same year as his wife. She says she’s sorry for his loss at which he spits he didn’t lose her as he tripped over her corpse in the kitchen. Strike asks if he ever confronted Quine about the parody which he says he didn’t but was certain he wrote it. (Yes because a writing style is like a finger print you couldn’t possibly copy someone’s style could you? Seriously… the logic here even if it’s for egotistical writers is incredibly flawed to the point the resolution wouldn’t hold in court save the culprit began running away like an idiot giving away their guilt). Fancourt changes the subject to Strike being a footnote who pops up whenever the topic of his ex’s marriage comes up in magazines. Strike considers it high praise. Fancourt asks him if he’s attracted to trouble women or they become troubled because of him… but then thinks maybe he should ask Robin instead. Robin says they just work together. GET IT? GET IT? ROWLING WANTS YOU TO WANT THE MAIN DUO TOGETHER! GO WRITE A FANFIC OR DRAW SOME FAN ART! NO IMAGINATION? IT’S OKAY AS YOU CAN JUST DRAW THE ACTORS INSTEAD! Strike wonders why Quine would use Bombyx Mori to deny writing the parody if he did. Fancourt says his wife thought if she married a writer it would change how people saw her but when it failed she tried being a writer herself. He thinks Quine saw himself reflected in her. ‘Most writers are not very imaginative Mr Strike, they end up writing about themselves.’ At this point I laughed for a while thinking of the irony of the line…

He felt Quine was a failed writer struggling to gain some status through writing but was in his shadow. He tells Strike to take care, shakes his hand says ‘respect’ and leaves. Middle aged man talking like he’s from the streets yeah? Strike and Robin look at each other. The patented ‘what a wanker’ look.

The next day the pair are walking down a road to a house with a tree growing up it’s front. A man, the editor Waldegrave, answers the door and shakes their hands as he invites them in, offers them coffee. The whole nine yards. Strike thanks him for seeing them. The man says ‘anything for Owen, ha, bastard’. The guy had been at the party the previous night but disappeared after Fancourt’s speech… well yeah not much point hanging around really. Though part of me thinks Strike probably was too busy staring into the distance in his little ‘BOOM GOTCHA’ trap corner of the penthouse roof area rather than watching where the guy went.

Strike asks what he thinks of Fancourt. ‘Terrific writer, absolute shit of a human being’. He asks if they’ve read Bombyx. Strike confirms they both have though the guy wonders if they know what it’s all about. Robin interjects she didn’t recognise him in it. The guy says he was the cutter because… put your junior detective hats on for this revelation… he was the editor! Quine had used a rumour that Fancourt had fathered his daughter as part of the storyline of the cutter in Bombyx.

Strike says it must have hurt to which the editor replies ‘if you want life long camaraderie join the army; if you want peers to glory in your failure, work with novelists. No loyalty. Of course it hurt me.’ At which point he decides to have a drink as he’s got little to be sober for this afternoon and invites them to join him. Strike accepts a perolo and Robin wonders why. ‘It’ll help him feel we are on his side… and I like perolo’ he mutters to her metres away from the editor. People in the Strike universe are deaf to any noise more than three metres away from then it seems. Chatting of Liz the editor says even on a good day she can be an utter bitch and toasts to new-found cadre. After this he recounts some interesting information.

Liz made a pass at Andrew Fancourt after Ellie, the oven wife, died and Andrew saw it as a badge of honour that he couldn’t get it up for her. He mutters ‘prick’ under his breath and Strike admits he hadn’t been told that story by her. He continues that injured pride is exactly why she went with Quine over Andrew. Strike asks if Fancourt had a motive to kill Quine. The editor cites the claim in Bomyx that Fancourt wrote the parody of his wife’s work himself thus leading to her death. Strike asks if it could be true. The editor wonders as he’s very good at writing it. ‘It’s the kind of viciousness from somewhere even if it’s disguised. A writer can give himself away like that. In variably puts himself in the text more than he knows.’ Strike remarks Chard had a theory about that in regards of Bombyx. The editor confides that Chard didn’t like what Quine said about him. Strike says Chard though the manuscript could have had more than one contributor. The editor finds that an interesting thought and gives Strike a draft of the novel. He says there are many parts which feel like classic Quine with shock horror stuff but there are other parts where… DUN DUN DURR is some use of semicolons which in 20 years the editor never saw him use them once. WELL THAT’S CONCRETE EVIDENCE! (Oh, wait… no it is apprently. Really? Yes…). In the Bombyx manuscript there are several. ‘That is not something a writer embraces late in his career’. Strike thanks him assuring him he’s been very helpful. Robin sits with her mouth open aghast like a blow up doll. That was a weird moment… also it implies she hasn’t a clue as to how it proves the manuscript wasn’t Quine’s effort alone. Good detective skills…

Thus Strike announces he is off to Fulham.

But it’s time for the ‘detective explains their deduction’ scene at the denouement. Strike is in his office’s reception moving a chair to the desk to sit by Robin. Many pieces don’t fit together but this might be the thing that explains it.

  • Silkworms are boiled but in Bombyx it’s cut open. The book features the hero burned by a liquid and the murder site had acid. Katherine kent was expecting a very different book.
  • Waldergrave (aka the editor) and Chard detected foreign influence in the text (RUSSIAN HACKERS!) thus Strike deduces they repeatedly hear the same thing: Something is not quite right with Bombyx Mori.

THEY NEED A LITERARY ANALYST… wherever you go to hire one of those on the fly to compare the writing styles. Robin says she’ll get on that like it’s nothing.

  • The only person they know who spoke to Quine about the book was Liz so Strike is going to go to lunch with her again. ‘Needs must’… which I’m sure is a ‘you fat bastard’ type joke in the book no doubt as he is said to be so unfit but in the TV adaption they’ve only got Tom Burke who, at worst, you would say has a rounded face…

Next thing Strike is at the window reading a sliver of paper noting it has no baroque archetypes before he and Robin dramatically walk out the office into reception. It’s quite silly when you notice the Dutch angle and rising musical chord used as if something incredibly dramatic is about to occur only for it to be the literary analyst. Young and handsome of course as we can’t have any normal people on-screen unless they’re baddies or figures of ridicule. He congratulates them on getting it and Robin says Oxford often ask for it as it has Fancourt’s earliest published story in it. Long story short favouring certain irregular punctuation and such marks out who wrote it due to Quine never using the Oxford comma. Strike asks if it’s proof?

One word: No…

But it does suggest whoever wrote the parody piece also wrote Bombyx Mori. Which… let’s be honest is exactly where the pair were before hiring this expert. Though he does add it probably was the same person who wrote the short story as well.

Strike remarks it’s a sophisticated revenge ‘the story of your grudge in the form of a secret parody of Quine himself’. Robin adds that it leaves all the people around Quine hating him. But Strike feels it’s too complicated. Well they’re all conceited and ‘better than thou’ faux intellectuals so it probably isn’t to be honest. I mean… Finnegan’s Wake if nothing else proves how conceited writer’s can be about their genius and how easily people go along with it…

Strike makes a call to his detective buddy asking he trust him he needs to get a search warrant.

Strike and Robin walk down a road dramatically. She asks if he’s sure about this and he says absolutely. At the private dining club Robin comments it’s like a Bobyx reunion. The music is tense so you know this will be the ‘ah, it was old groundskeeper Willy all along… I would have got away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids’ scene.

Strike asks Chard and Fancourt if they have a moment to discuss something concerning Bombyx Mori. The three men head away from the table. Strike tells Fancourt he read the parody of his wife’s novel. He notes how spiteful it was. At this moment Liz begins to wander over. Strike says both Bombyx and the parody were written by the same person BUT Owen Quine was not the author. DUN DUN DURR (for those who didn’t figure it out much earlier when we had only been hit over the head 3 times instead of 12 with that possibility). Liz excuses herself saying she couldn’t help herself when hearing the name of that ‘wretched book’ raised and not ‘apologise’ to them both. Strike says good evening to her. Quine had written ‘a’ Bombyx Mori and intended to publish it but not ‘the’ version everyone else had read. The original ‘buries a few old sparring partners’ but his anecdote about Mr Fancourt’s limp dick isn’t in the original text they were given.

But then who would have known of it? Was it the editor or….

Everyone turns silently to Liz… who immediately tries to do a runner because that’s what everyone stupidly does when found out in these things so there’s a bit of action and tension to end on an adrenaline high.

Strike can’t chase her due to his leg so he calls to Robin. Liz smashes a vase into Robin’s face like this is an action movie but she continues to give chase a second after Strike checks on her. Outside Liz does a spot on impression of the T-1000 from Terminator 2 as she runs down the road. She nearly gets knocked over as she crosses the street. Apparently for a heavy smoker in her late 50s or so Liz is easily out running healthy, keen exerciser, Robin easily. Let’s say it’s because Robin has heels on otherwise it feels a little ridiculous…

Strike slowly follows and Robin tackles Liz to the ground but not without a tussle and some cat fighting. At this exact moment the police sirens wail and they arrive to take Liz away. Because they can’t announce their arrival until someone else has pinned the culprit down. Have to consider those health and safety and the possibilities of insurance payouts…

The next day and life moves on at the office. Strike calls Robin into his office. He says it might be good news so she should call them a cab… why he doesn’t just do it himself after finishing the call he’s on I don’t know but she has to earn her pay somehow.

Then outside in the sunlight the camera pans and we see Mrs Quine released from prison who trundles up to them like a child gleeful at seeing them… for you see the working class are not like Robin and Strike They are a lower order of intelligence equitable to a grapefruit and thus are like primary school children even after long having children and such. It is for the higher order to have dominion over these Luddites and ensure they are put to good use. That’s the tone of the Leonora character and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that in the book she actually is developmentally challenged considering how she is depicted here…

Liz is in prison on suicide watch. Strike tells Leonora they found the real copy of the book in her house. Chard wants to read it with a view to publishing it and ‘it might even sell a few copies’ he adds. Robin gives him a look and he mouths ‘what?’ as he doesn’t realise how rude it sounded. Ho. ho, ho silly emotionally dense man – don’t you know it’s a woman’s world…

Leonora runs up the steps and joyously reunites with her Down’s Syndrome daughter. A carer… social worker… old woman who is never introduced… looks on happily. The daughter, Orlando, waves at Robin (as if she’s forgotten how she was tricked into giving away her treasure from her bag, and all ends happily. Strike and Robin get back in the black cab and next thing they’re discussing the detective just being glad the right person got locked up. Here we are told they checked Liz’s freezer and that she had been feeding Quine’s guts to her dog… hence all it’s digestion and defecation issues it had. DID YOU GET THE CLUE OR THINK ANIMAL SUFFERING WASN’T A MASSIVE GLOWING RED NEON SIGN OF EVIL? Robin remarks it’s disgusting. Not hoping the dog is okay or if it’s alive but just ‘disgusting’. Strike asks about Matthew and she scoffs about seeing him worse after a rugby match and says she is going to get the tube. She remembers to mention his ex sent in some photos and he laughs she isn’t his problem anymore. He tells Robin he has something for her and pulls and envelope out of his coat. He is paying for her to go on a surveillance training course. Or more exactly ‘you find it, I’ll pay for it’… which on the grand scheme of gift giving is a bit crap. She might find the most expensive course going. ‘So partners yeah?’ he smiles. She shakes his hand and he kisses it. I half expected a ‘M’lady’ and a fedora to fall out his pocket… and he goes upstairs while she walks smiling down the road. Again Robin gets everything she wants.

The End.

Review:

So this time around it’s the second person Strike meets regarding the case that turns out to be the killer. Taking Cuckoo into account that leads me to deduce that in the third case it will be the third person Strike meets who will be the killer in that story.

This book, in a meta-narrative sense, will no doubt be revealed one say as Rowling’s thinly veiled attack on people she doesn’t like in her own literary career and feels are leaching off her. Whether done knowingly or unconsciously will have to be seen.

Robin again is a thoroughly unlikable individual. It’s one thing to bluntly tell your boss you expected to ‘climb the ladder’ though being an administrative assistant and being an investigator are incredibly different skill sets even if you seem to think being an Oxford psychology degree drop out somehow qualifies you by default. Yet throughout the story she keeps on trying to persuade Strike to allow it.

Then she repeatedly leaves her grieving fiancé to go off on what comes across like adventure to her and not work. He might be an arse but that’s vile behaviour.

Hires a car and goes off-road with it. Not to mention she just so happened to take an advanced driving course as if that’s just something you do off the cuff.

The ‘ha ha I’ve got what I want’ trade with Orlando seems… cruel isn’t even the word. Did she take the necklace back as well?

There is just nothing redeeming about her as a character so far in these stories. What challenges does she actually face during these events? That Strike won’t make her a detective when she isn’t qualified? That her fiancé, who admittedly is unremittedly unpleasant to the point not once have we seen why she likes him save it was convenient, is going through the natural process of grieving and needs her to be there for him like… oh you know… a life partner he’s going to marry?! But she wants to go play detective. That a person with severe learning difficulties has incriminating evidence that can solve the case? No matter what scenario she is in she is in control and it’s incredibly difficult to identify with her. Yes I know that it’s eventually revealed she was the victim of rape so her need to be ‘always prepared’ so she never feels vulnerable again could be justified but not to this extent. It’s gone past self empowerment and falling into the abyss of Mary Sue. She has no flaws and thus suffers the Superman syndrome where there is nothing for her to overcome with any difficulty. Solving the problems in this case is as difficult as… well as you reading this right now.

As an example of how her character’s development so far in the series has come across: You needed to learn to read English but once that hurdle has been crossed here you are relaxing reading this like it’s nothing. Meanwhile there’s someone who can’t read English but can translate it and get the gist to find out what is being said and then there are people with dyslexia. This is how I feel any challenges are represented in the Strike novel series. Robin does things like it’s nothing, Strike has to interpret the clues he finds to work things out and the rest of the characters seem to be completely incapable of even comprehending the events of the murder (which is more an issue with the negative portrayal of the police, who’ve blamed the wrong person in both cases so far based on little to no conclusive evidence, than other figures in the story).

So let’s look at another aspect. Robin manipulates a mentally disabled young woman intentionally causing her distress. It’s hard not to read into that since Robin seems like such a glorified self insert. Does Rowling have issues with disabled or ‘deviating from the norm’ people? I mean let’s look at the end of harry potter.

  • Peter Pettigrew – (hand missing) – dead
  • Lupin – (werewolf i.e. infectious disease) – dead
  • Mad Eye Moody – (missing an eye and limbs) – dead
  • Voldermort – (orphan of a broken home and mental illness re: psychopath/sociopath) – dead
  • Severus Snape – ( bad upbringing and a Mudblood i.e. mixed race) – dead
  • Dumbledore – (undisclosed at the time homosexual) – dead

You could extend it to a number of the dead characters really…

Okay the last few are not disabilities but those communities do face persecution to varying degrees even nowadays. ‘Oh but lot’s of people are dead by the end’ you cry… yes but a few of these are ‘list of the dead’ deaths and not given details or any dignity considering how invested people became with the characters over the course of the series while the ‘villainous’ ones above are made to suffer for the most part or a great amount of time is spent noting how deviant they are compared to the social norm. Rowling has an issue with working class people and generally anyone who doesn’t agree with her sensibilities it seems and thus they get reduced to caricatures who are somewhat lesser than the figures she wants you to identify with.

It was an amusing case but the whole ‘you could never replicate another person’s writing style’ seemed a weak keystone piece of evidence to hinge the case on. It suggests the culprit was negligent and that’s disappointing. Most of all it’s hard to ignore the sense that this is Rowling’s own ‘Bombyx Mori’ criticising people she knows in the industry.


Please give Katerina Varela’s YouTube channel a look as it is thanks to her the videos of all the key scenes of the case are all here for your viewing pleasure.

Other C B Strike reviews/synopses:

Strike: The Cuckoo’s Call

Further commentary on the BBC’s adaption

A parody cross over with Line Of Duty

Another parody involving tease trailers at the end of episodes