TV Ramblings 14 – Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)

I love Jane Austen’s novels and look forward to any movie or series adaptation produced, especially by the BBC. Imagine my joy when I found out a new 3-part adaptation aired in December. I’ve always been interested in lives my favourite couples led after they got married; Elizabeth and Darcy are certainly at the top of my list. An opportunity to see familiar faces among the cast is another bonus of this series.

Adaptation of PD James’s bestselling homage to Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy, now six years married, are preparing for their annual ball when festivities are brought to an abrupt halt. (BBC)

Two young kitchen aids wander in the woods, one running ahead and meeting a mysterious woman who scares her half to death. The girls run back to the estate, screaming about seeing the ghost of Mrs. Riley. It’s one of the local legends that supposedly warns of impending calamity at Pemberley. Lizzy doesn’t put much stock in their story, partly because she too had met the woman, but as events unfold there seems to be more to woman than previously imagined.

Elizabeth focuses on being the perfect hostess and keeping the peace in the house, which is somewhat harder than imagined. Darcy is worried about Georgiana, who’s being courted by two men: Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Alveston. It is clear her heart lies with the younger man, so Elizabeth gently encourages her to follow her heart. Darcy is not so sure it is the right decision, but decides to bow to his wife’s superior understanding of the matter; all that is changed when a rushing carriage with a screaming Lydia Wickham comes to a halt at the door.

Her husband and his friend Denny are in the woods, shots having been fired. She’s playing the hysterical woman, the consummate actress, and it does not take long that the mother joins her in the performance. No wonder Darcy’s face is stuck in a perpetual sour expression whenever his in-laws get even mentioned, but actually experiencing the shrieking and wailing, fainting and such proves to be rather too much for him. He’s glad to be out of the house, his cousin, and loyal servants searching the woods for his missing brother-in-law. The man, I must add, who was not even supposed to be near Pemberley for the ball.

They find Wickham dragging his dead friend in the forest and immediately everyone assumes the worst. Authorities are called for in the middle of the night, the ball cancelled, and a prospect of a ruining scandal hangs in the air. Everyone feels there’s more to the story and several characters behave in a suspicious manner – burning letters, odd hours, secrets, mysteries and cover-ups just abound. Wickham is hiding things and still feeling awfully cocky about the whole trial; so much so that he tries to squeeze more money out of Darcy, knowing only too well how hard his brother-in-law will try to save him. This man has no scruples and is impossibly evil.

Elizabeth slowly but surely starts to buckle under pressure, especially once her husband dons his cold persona again, talking about honour, family obligations, and propriety. She feels she’s losing him, the words and actions a terrible reminder of the first proposal and the subsequent rumours of her sister Lydia. Understandably, the daily reminder of the unfortunate connection with Wickham and the impossible and insulting behaviour of Lydia (and Elizabeth’s own mother!), only add to her pain.

Darcy knows only too well how precarious the position really is and what would be the repercussions were Wickham convicted a murderer. We can see him struggle with his beliefs, doubts, and fears. It pains him even more that his wife doubts his cousin’s motives in pursuing Georgiana. He’s angry and heartbroken, so he retreats before he says something he’d regret. I love this portrayal, and the story behind the estate and Darcy’s nature. It explains a lot about his manners and beliefs in the original novel, which is the reason why I love the meticulously timed flashbacks. They bring back many a feeling I experienced whilst watching the 1995 Pride and Prejudice.

Colonel Fitzwilliam is a completely different character from the one we saw in the 1995 series. There he was almost my favourite in the few short scenes we saw him. He appeared sensible, kind, and very similar to his cousin, albeit with better manners and a more outgoing disposition. Here it is almost the reverse in some way; he appears overly strict, harsh, jaded, an almost cold character. Perhaps he’s only a man changed by the battlefields, the blood and death of his friends. His behaviour towards Georgiana, however, is not something I will easily forget; he treated her like a child unable to know her mind. Admittedly, he is one of the people who raised her, so he might still view her in that way, but then he can’t expect to marry her. I was very uncomfortable with this situation – it sends all kinds of creepy signals to me. It’s almost like marrying your student, only worse.

It is no wonder Elizabeth is not happy when Georgiana believes that marrying him could save Pemberley honour. She’s of the firm belief that one should marry for love. It breaks her heart when Darcy voices his doubts about it. When he finally comes to his senses and offers his support to Georgiana and Alveston, his speech offers us the romantic peak of the drama. Elizabeth and Darcy fall in love once again, stronger and more beautiful than ever. Darcy is a great man but it takes a great woman to make him amazing.

Summary:

I recommend this drama for all period drama enthusiasts; purist might find several problems with it, but those of us who watch dramas for entertainment, fabulous costumes, and mansions with the most vivid colours decorating the rooms will be more than satisfied. The actors do a fabulous job bringing these characters to life. This drama will keep you warm and at the edge of your seat at the same time. I don’t even know how many times my guess who’s the murderer changed. There’s mystery and intrigue everywhere you turn and it appears that there’s hardly a place without a dark past to be found.

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