Earlier this year, the Wizarding World went through a lavish rebranding. The licensing and marketing arm of the J.K. Rowling enterprise, one that controls and oversees the various theme park attractions, spin-offs, videogames and Broadway shows, it got a nifty new logo just in time for the trailer for "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald," the second film in the prequel series of movies that nobody really asked for but we're stuck with anyway.
It's clear that much muscle and money is being put behind you getting excited for this, the next epic series from Rowling (she's writing all the screenplays, don't-cha-know), but it's okay if you're not -- especially since there's another series, this one also based on beloved Rowling books, premiering this weekend and in the comfort of your own living room.
"C.B. Strike," which starts this weekend on Cinemax after premiering on the BBC late last summer, is really the Rowling series you should be amped about. Wizard fetishists need not apply.
The series, which lasts a brisk seven episodes, are based on the first three books of Rowling's Cormoran Strike series (the first three episodes are based on the first novel, and the next four are built from the second two books), a series she initially published under a pseudonym (Robert Galbraith), before being found out. (Her publishers were undoubtedly thrilled that they could finally spill the beans.)
The intricate plotting and delicate character work that made the Potter books more than mere YA fluff are present in these new novels, and gone are the desperate Look at me! I'm a legitimate author! flourishes that defined her novel "The Casual Vacancy." Instead, these novels are just expertly constructed, wonderfully thrilling works (a fourth novel, "Lethal White," was announced last year), anchored by two main characters that we cannot wait to see translated for the small screen.
The titular character, Coroman Strike, is described in the novels as a kind of brusque, not incredibly attractive war veteran with one leg who runs a failing detective agency in modern day London. He's a great detective, but rough around the edges and a bit of a brute. (In literary terms, he seems to be a canny mixture of Sherlock Holmes and Jack Reacher.)
At the start of the first novel, he's on the outs, having just broken up with his effortlessly glamorous and attractive fiancé. Tom Burke is cuter (and younger) than the written-page version of the character would suggest, but we're still excited to see him hobble around London, wrapped in a natty coat. And it's good too that they chose a relative unknown (at least stateside) for the role; Burke can really inhabit the character, away from the baggage of iconic past roles.
But the character we're really interested in is Strike's put upon secretary-cum-partner, Robin. In the book, Robin takes a receptionist gig in Strike's office on a part time basis but ends up staying longer because the case they're investigating (the possible murder of an impossibly famous London supermodel) is so interesting. Also, she finds Strike so compelling (much to the chagrin of her fiancé). It's through her eyes that we understand who Strike is and how much trouble he's actually in (he's been sleeping in the office, on an uncomfortable pullout couch).
For Robin, the producers have cast Patrick Melrose"). She seems to be the perfect performer to embody Robin, who is intrigued but smart enough to know that she could get in over her head relatively quickly, either by the dangerousness of Strike's cases or, even scarier, because of his financial instability.
Quite frankly these characters, deeply flawed and undeniably human, have their own special traits and unique abilities, just like Rowling's super-powered magicians battling it out in the Wizarding World. And they should be celebrated and praised just as highly. These stories are easily as edge-of-your-seat engrossing as anything that Rowling has done before, and "C.B. Strike" is easily one of the most anticipated new series of the summer.
Prepare to be hooked.