[TV Review] Death Comes to Pemberley

death_comes_to_pemberley_dvdBased on: Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Original network: BBC One
Series run: Dec 26 -28, 2013
Status: Ended (Three-part television series)

Synopsis: In their six years of marriage, Elizabeth and Darcy have forged a peaceful, happy life for their family at Pemberley, Darcy’s impressive estate. Her father is a regular visitor; her sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live nearby; the marriage prospects for Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, are favorable. And preparations for their annual autumn ball are proceeding apace. But on the eve of the ball, chaos descends. Lydia Wickham, Elizabeth’s disgraced sister who, with her husband, has been barred from the estate, arrives in a hysterical state—shrieking that Wickham has been murdered.  Plunged into frightening mystery and a lurid murder trial, the lives of Pemberley’s owners and servants alike may never be the same. (from the publisher)

WHAT DID I THINK OF THE SERIES?

I haven’t read the book, so I can’t really comment much on how closely or not it followed the story. My remarks would all be based on the TV series.

Death Comes to Pemberley is a three-part British TV series that aired on BBC One. It serves as kind of a sequel to the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice (P&P). Frankly, I try to avoid any books or adaptations that are this closely based on P&P, but curiosity got the best of me. A murder mystery set in Pemberley, well, that intrigued me! Although, quite honestly, what sealed the deal for me was more of a curiosity of the actors than the book, I think.

I’ve seen Matthew Goode (who plays George Wickham in the series) in Chasing Liberty and Leap Year, and I think he’s a pretty good actor. Matthew Rhys (who plays Mr. Darcy), I’ve seen in The Americans, where he shines in one of the lead roles. I hadn’t seen much of Rhys’ other works, so I was curious how he is when he isn’t acting like a tough (and scary) Russian spy pretending to be an ordinary American family man.

While I was watching the series, I thought Mr. Darcy was characterized as a bit too chipper from what I remember him to be in P&P. I suppose he does have a bright side to his mostly serious personality in P&P. We heard about bits of it with his interactions with his beloved sister in P&P. George Wickham and Lydia have prominent roles in the story. Lizzie and Darcy now have a young child, and we also see a bit more of Darcy’s sister, Georgiana.

George Wickham… Lots of him in this series. And what a fantastic job by Matthew Goode. He managed to portray Wickham as an annoying, proud, often despicable man that can get to your nerves while also having an occasionally caring and vulnerable side. Wonderfully acted, methinks. I liked the scenes with him and Darcy. It reminded me that they did spend their childhood together and were pretty close, until Wickham got all ambitious and jerked off by treating Georgiana poorly.  Jerk of the year awards, he wins. Every time he seemed to show some good qualities, it gets negated by something stupid he does. I was hoping he would redeem himself somehow.

I found Lydia annoying in P&P, and by gollywobbles, I found her even more annoying here since she had a lot of screen time! She annoyed me to no end. I wanted to give her a good slap several times while she was on screen. Props to Jenna Coleman for her portrayal.

Col. Fitzwilliam… He had a minor role in P&P, expanded role here. I was quite disappointed. I liked him and P&P, however small his role was in that book. He came across as an overall good guy to me. A pity he turned out to be quite unlikable in this story.

I felt a bit sorry for Darcy. I saw Lady Catherine’s point about the Bennet family having a negative impact on the good name of the Darcy family. A reputation that his family worked hard to achieve and maintain. It was evident throughout the story(the impact, that is.) Goodness, Lydia and Mrs. Bennet were truly the most unnerving of the Bennets. You can see Darcy’s patience being tested and Lizzie trying hard to keep those two from doing anything too embarassing. It was Lydia and Wickham who threatened the Darcy family name this time.

Now, I must ramble about the story.

—– Warning: Some spoilers ahead. ——

Murder. Secrets. Lies. Death. Tragedy. Happy endings? The story starts off with the Darcys getting ready for an annual ball at Pemberley, but this gets canceled because of a murder that occurs within the premises of the Pemberley estate. George Wickham and Lydia shows up uninvited. Really, those two know not how to take a hint and leave the Darcys alone (“Ugh, the nerve! ” was one of the first things that popped in my head)

George Wickham turned out to be the primary suspect rather than the murder victim, and he had some major secrets. His association with the Darcy family and the fact that the murder took place in their estate allowed Darcy, Lizzie and company to be part of the drama.

Lizzie still had that headstrong and opinionated characteristics of hers. She’s been juggling being a mom, wife, and overseeing the household. It was nice to get to know Georgiana a bit and see how much she cares about her brother. She was willing to do her duty to the family first over her heart’s desire. I liked how she and Darcy resolved their little conflict.

The murder gets solved, pasts are revisited, and secrets are revealed. At the end of it all, I think Wickham learned something. I think. I hope Lydia learned something too, though I kinda doubt it will stick. She really seemed to love Wickham, though, and he seemed to really care about her, despite his indiscretions and her shallowness, or at least they liked what they have together. I don’t know.

In addition to some new characters, we see most of the characters from P&P and how their lives have been six years after the events in that book. A murder mystery set in Pemberley with the P&P characters involved and one of them being the murderer seemed like an interesting idea. But I think the story lacked a bit of consistency in pace or something. It felt a bit disjointed in some parts. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something seemed amiss with the characters or the story, or both. I did get bored in some parts such that I was tempted to press the forward button (especially the parts with Lydia – Oh, how she annoyed me so!)

TO WRAP THINGS UP…

The case was interesting, but nothing to write home about. It wasn’t a bad story at all. It had its merits. However, I think it would have been a better story if it didn’t make use of the characters from P&P. It could have stood on its own, without relying on previously established characters. It would have made more of an impact, I think.

That being said, the three-part TV series was quite well done (despite some boring bits) and well acted. Even if the story didn’t quite satisfy me enough to want to buy and read the book itself, the acting alone in this production was good enough to hold my attention. The actors did a fine job. Matthew Goode stood out among the rest, in my humble opinion. His portrayal of Wickham was a fine job indeed. He made me want to root for an all-around jerk like Wickham and hope he would redeem himself somehow.

If you’re really, really curious with the story and how it turns out, go ahead and read the book. But if you feel no pressing desire to do so (like me), I think watching this series is good enough to satiate one’s casual curiosity.

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