Episode four of Cinemax’s C.B. Strike turns the page to the second book in the series, The Silkworm. Whether it’s the new mystery or something else, this episode almost felt like the season premier of a second season, not the fourth episode in the freshman season.
The episode’s opening sets the tone for the entire mystery with an uncomfortable scene in which an unknown woman cuts an article from the newspaper and safety pins it — to her actual skin (!!!) before sticking her head in the oven and killing herself.
We find Strike plagued by visions of his ex-fiancé, Charlotte, and oversleeping while clients are waiting patiently (and not so patiently) on the floor below. It looks like Strike’s money problem are somewhat over, with him trading in the cot in his office to the flat above and a waiting room full of paying clients. Robin’s up for the challenge, managing sexist clients, Strike’s erratic sleep schedule and trying to coordinate drinks between her, Strike and dull-as-dirt fiancé Matthew.
We’re introduced to Leonora Quine, a dowdy character who wants Strike to call her husband at a writing retreat. Owen Quine, the husband in question, screens his calls while he’s there apparently. What starts off as a simple missing-person-but-probably-nothing-serious (due to a pattern of him seemingly going missing, only to turn up days later) turns into a darker mystery as the pages pull back to reveal a cast of characters who all seem to hum with suspicion.
Strike and Robin’s chemistry has been dialed up even more, with them feeling more familiar to each other than ever (with that famous sexual tension still in tact). Robin is itching to be seen as an equal in Strike’s eye, and Strike feels guilty for underpaying her and possibly harming her future marriage with long hours and stakeouts.
We’re introduced to Quine’s editor, Liz Tassel (and her nasty cough), who informs Strike that she fired Owen recently due to a heinous, gothic manuscript he’s written entitled Bombyx Mori, that makes thinly veiled accusations about many in the writing community. Sacking him while they are out to dinner in a public place, the gruff editor isn’t one for sublty.
Strike visits Leonora and is introduced to Daniel Chard, Quine’s publisher and another suspect in the disappearance of the famed (formerly so, unless you ask Owen Quine’s wife) author and sometimes-community-writing-professor. What was Chard doing visiting Leonora in the first place?
As Strike is on his way to grab drinks with Robin and Matthew, something that appears to have been rescheduled quite a few times based on Robin’s constant reminders, he sees a magazine with Charlotte and her new beau on the cover. During drinks, awkward conversation abounds as Matthew proves to be anything but an expert in small talk and Strike is too busy putting his foot in his mouth about hiring a new investigator. Robin’s face visibly falls as her work ethic and drive were seemingly shoved off in leu of someone new.
As the episode progresses, Robin finds a lead on one of Owen Quine’s students (and lovers), Kathryn Kent, who says she’s read the hateful manuscript, wishes him nothing but ill will; solidifying her place on the growing suspect list.
Visiting Leonora again, in an effort to learn more about the house Owen Quine owns with rival author and former friend, Andrew Fancourt, Strike is given a key to the house in question, along with the Bombyx Mori manuscript (artfully decorated with crayon drawings by the Quines’ daughter, Dodo, who suffers from a mental handicap).
Strike tries to read some of the graphic manuscript and hands it off for Robin to research as he heads to Fancourt and Quine’s property. There, Strike finds the gruesome display of Owen Quine’s dead, gutted body. Back at the office, after showing her a photo of the crime scene, Robin puts the pieces together sees that Owen died the same way as his character did in the Bombyx draft.
Throughout the gore of the episode, we see Robin grapple with balancing work and her relationship with Matthew. She has to decide between going with Matthew to his family’s home for his late mother’s funeral, or sneaking away to Devon with Strike to question Daniel Chard (she picks the latter and lies to Matthew all in the same breath). At Chard’s mansion, we learn that Quine and his wife got into a public argument before his disappearance (check; added to the suspect list). We also learn of his suspicions that Quine didn’t write Bombyx alone due to the tonal shift throughout the manuscript.
After the visit, Robin confronts Strike, wanting to know why he wouldn’t choose her for the investigator position. It was a heartfelt moment when we learn just how much Strike cares about Robin, and how much dedication Robin has to Strike and her job (read: the sexual tension was sizzling and these two need to get hitched already).
A race against time to get Robin back in time to catch the train to Matthew’s parents’ house leads to a fun scene in the Devon countryside. Stuck in traffic due to a broken down truck, Robin goes off road with the car, displaying some high-caliber driving skills. We learn that she took lessons during the year following her leaving school; a skill that aided her in catching the train in the nick of time. She leave Strike behind, who gets a call that Leonora Quine has been arrested for her husband’s murder.
I thought this cliffhanger was perfect, as it set the following hour (and conclusion of this mystery) up to be just as dark and fast paced, hurtling our sleuths into even more uncharted territory, both professionally and personally. What did you think of The Silkworm: Part 1?