Finding His Edge
♦ Tom Burke as Cormoran Strike and Holliday Grainger as Robin Ellacott return for Strike – Career Of Evil, the third story from the major TV series for BBC One, The Strike Series, based on J.K. Rowling’s best-selling crime novels written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Here’s its writer Tom Edge talking about the third season…
Can you tell us how you approached adapting Strike – Career of Evil?
Career of Evil is really a story about people coming to terms with their losses. On the one hand these losses are being inflicted on people by a killer who intends to cause loss in people’s lives. His motivation is revenge – he feels that he has had things taken from him by Strike and some kind of reckoning is at work. But amidst all of that, and what we’re really discovering about Robin and Strike is that Robin has suffered catastrophic losses in her past. And we understand that Cormoran Strike’s relationship with his mother is sort of an unhealed wound.
All of these losses come together in a story where Robin and Strike are placed under enormous pressure, both personally and in the context of the case. Ultimately, that pressure causes them to reach a point of fresh resolution where they see each other and each other’s value, warts and all. It really feels like it moves their story along enormously and it creates an intimacy between them that we haven’t seen before.
Having to condense the journey of that relationship from a substantial book, how do you tackle that as a writer?
It is a real challenge and part of the more heartbreaking side of that is that some of the choices you make exclude parts of the book that you might have really fallen in love with.
What the book offers you is this terrific through-line of a killer who intends to make Cormoran Strike suffer, and has chosen an assault on Robin as his opening salvo for doing this to Strike. Because that places Robin in jeopardy, even as she’s Strike’s partner in attempting to unpick this case, we have a natural focus on what is emotionally at stake for both of them.
That then becomes the spine of the two-hour piece, even more so than the plot that spins around it. Really, what we’re watching is how the two of them behave and react under pressure, how the people in their lives see them changing as a result of this pressure and see how under duress, the decisions they make reveal deeper character beyond the polite ‘good mornings’ we might have seen before.
With Cormoran you have a certain number of certainties about his character, that he’s ex-Army, he’s an amputee, he’s got a rock-n-roll father… Robin is different, we learn about her as we go. You’re having to unveil her back story and her strength.
What Robin has done, ever since she finished university prematurely, is attempt to heal from the events that befell her. She has done something very brave, ultimately, which is to reach a point where she is able to articulate that ‘these are the things that I always wanted’. And a refusal to let those things shape her any further.
But it’s a difficult process and I think the Robin that we see joining the agency at the beginning is not the Robin who we know at the end of Career of Evil.
By the end of Career Of Evil we have seen her outright disobey her boss and take enormous personal risks. What we’ve also seen is tremendous courage from her. Beneath the polite, effective, efficient personal assistant that we have met in Cuckoo, there’s someone with enormous integrity and bravery whose courage ultimately shapes the end of Career Of Evil’s narrative.
Such that when Cormoran goes to meet one of the victims of that story, a child who’s been abused and whom Cormoran feels very guilty that he was unable to do more for, that person recognises and is grateful for what Robin has done for her in delivering a kind of justice. It’s late in the day, but is justice all the same, and that forces Strike to see Robin for who she really is.
For me that’s the point where we really understand Robin, really deeply, and love her all the better for it.
How is Robin’s relationship with Matthew at this point?
In Career Of Evil it was perhaps a little easier to construct that spine. In Silkworm it is more of a challenge. I think some of the richer emotional stuff with Robin comes as she grapples with her burgeoning ambitions for a career alongside Strike, with all the sacrifices that entails, when her partner Matthew so clearly disapproves of this line of action.
We find Robin in a very difficult spot, torn between her desire to be the good wife and the good partner, to help Matthew on what – to date – has been a shared vision of what their life may be, while at the same time she’s drawn closer and closer into Strike’s world. Which is, I think we would all feel, the world where she truly belongs.