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Death Comes To Pemberley: Part 1

It's been years since I've reviewed a DVD on this blog, but I had a lot to say about Death Comes To Pemberley (the mini-series, not the book) and no one to say it to.  So I decided to review it on the blog.  Death Comes To Pemberley is the BBC/PBS Masterpiece three-part mini-series adaptation of the P.D. James novel of the same title (which I have not read).  James's Pemberley is basically a mystery genre sequel to Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  I've decided to write about each of the three episodes in the mini-series, and to avoid a rather long blog post, I've split the review into three parts, one for each episode.

Ya'll know I love a good Jane Austen adaptation.  Of them all my favorite is Pride & Prejudice (2005), the one with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen cast as Lizzie Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy respectively.  It holds a special place in my heart.  I can't even describe the feeling I get when I re-shelve the library's copy of the DVD or check it out to a patron.  Just the sight of the DVD case instantly lifts my spirits.  Honestly the actors from this adaptation of Pride & Prejudice were wonderful in the film, and if I were casting Pemberley, I would have cast Knightley in the Elizabeth (Bennet) Darcy role and Macfadyen in the Darcey role again.  Because in my book nothing and no one can top them.  Which is why when I heard that Matthew Rhys was cast in the Darcy role and Anna Maxwell Martin in the Elizabeth Darcy role for the mini-series, I had some misgivings.  But once I started watching the episodes, these actors quickly grew on me.

Before I move on to the episode, a disclaimer: discussion of the episodes may contain some mild spoilers.

In episode one:

In this story, it's six years on from the Darcys' wedding and it's time for their annual ball at Pemberley.  But one evening their dinner party is interrupted by a woman's hysterical screams of "MURDER" and a speeding carriage that careens down the drive to the main house.  The woman is Lydia Wickham, Lizzie's sister, who fears her husband, the ne'er-do-well, George Wickham, has just been shot dead deep in the woods of the Pemberley estate.  When a search party goes to investigate, George is found traumatized, drunk, bloodied, and blubbering about how his friend, Captain Denny's death is all his fault as he's hauling said friend's corpse through the woods.  Both men are taken back to Pemberley where a magistrate (whose family just happens to be at odds with the Darcy family; an estrangement that goes back decades, if not generations) is immediately called for in the dead of night.  

The magistrate, after concluding a half assed investigation (in which he'd pre-determined the culprit; I hate Wickham as much as the next person, but it's true), charges George Wickham with his friend's murder.  Yet questions remain about the puzzling circumstances.  Oh, and matters may be further complicated by a love triangle between Georgiana Darcy, a young attorney named Henry Alveston, and her cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam.  And there is also a madwoman roaming the woods of the estate whom people are mistaking for the ghost of a local woman who died years ago.

My thoughts on the episode:

The drama of the murder mystery doesn't crank up until half way through the episode so we have time to get to know the characters again.  We also see that the Darcys have a loving, contented marriage of partnership and mutual support.  Unfortunately that partnership is about to be sorely tested.

The Wickham couple, whose plans to show up to the annual Pemberley Ball uninvited (and to which they never receive an invitation owing to the machinations of George regarding the then minor Georgiana and her fortune many years before), are thwarted by the murder.  Honestly, George and Lydia deserve each other.  Lydia is insufferable, and George is an infuriating, manipulative liar and scoundrel.  Did I mention that his wife's hysterical histrionics are INSUFFERABLE?  Mrs. Bennet is also insufferable though to (a very) slightly lesser degree.

I'm already rooting for the successful marriage proposal of Henry Alveston to Georgiana because these two clearly love each other.  Also I think there's something sketchy going on with Col. Fitzwilliam in regards to the murder perhaps or his connection to George Wickham or both. Either of which deeply disappoints me about Col. Fitzwilliam.  Also the colonel is Georgiana's cousin and that ain't right even if it was right back then.

The magistrate Hardcastle is working my last nerve.  He's not even open to entertaining any other possibilities regarding the events surrounding the murder other than his own.  He's not curious, he doesn't care to question the slightly puzzling circumstances surrounding the murder.  He seems to take thinly veiled pleasure in showing up at inopportune times to witness (what he probably believes) is the downfall of the Darcy family.

I have questions because the magistrate doesn't, and somebody has to ask these questions.  First of all, George Wickham's friend, Captain Denny, seems angrier than is warranted about the Wickhams showing up to the Pemberley Ball uninvited and unannounced.  At least this is the story George Wickham puts forth regarding his spat with his friend.  This makes me think the spat was about something else entirely.  And what did the letter that Colonel Fitzwilliam burned say and why did he burn it?  Also who thinks that Elizabeth Darcy is going to end up putting on her detective hat and solving this whole mystery/murder/mess?  Somebody has to do it when the magistrate lets you down.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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