Death Comes to Pemberley: Anna Maxwell Martin continues to shine in this second instalment (Spoilers)
After watching the first episode of Death Comes to Pemberley I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Not being a particularly big costume drama fan, I was still taken in by the mystery element of the plot and the sumptuous visuals. At the same time I questioned whether the show would be able to hold my attention and if the story could be sustained over the next two instalments. It appeared as if my questions were justified as I found tonight’s episode to drag at times as the plot ground to a standstill. But thankfully, due to some fine performances, the series managed to maintain my interest with a final revelation making me incredibly intrigued.
We start with Mr Wickham, now in jail following his arrest for the murder of his supposed friend Captain Denny. Obviously, several of the mystery element of last night’s instalment are revealed firstly the whereabouts of the dreary Captain Fitzwilliam. It appears that, at the time of Denny’s murder, he was meeting a woman in a local inn to discuss a personal matter relating to her brother who was also one of Fitzwilliam’s colleagues. In addition, he confesses that the money found in Wickham’s coat pockets was given to him by Fitzwilliam who felt a certain loyalty to a man who fought alongside his godson and was with him when he died. Despite hearing this testimony, Silas Hardcastle decides to go on with the inquest as he wants to let the locals decide for themselves whether Wickham is guilty. Meanwhile, Wickham himself isn’t in an exactly repentant mood and instead is complaining about not having a nice enough cell as well the state of the food. It appears that Wickham is little changed since we last met him in Pride and Prejudice, and his status as a war hero has done little to curb his roguish behaviour. In fact it seems he as reckless as ever with his money and hasn’t been as faithful to Lydia as she thinks he has been. The relevance of the Bidwell family is also explored in this episode as we see the link between them and the main thrust of the story. With the mystery of Mrs Riley’s ghost explained last night, the supernatural element of the tale is intensified with the explanation of the Darcy grave that was uncovered by the serving girls in the series’ first scene.
As well as exploring the mystery side of the story, this episode is equally concerned with looking at the ramifications of Wickham’s arrest. With Darcy widely regarded as an upstanding citizen of the community, the arrest of his brother-in-law Wickham tarnishes this very reputation. The fact that Wickham and Darcy are purely related by marriage means that arguments begin to flare up between Darcy and Elizabeth. We see flashbacks to Darcy’s proposal and his confrontation with Wickham and Lydia; both of which add to the doubts in Elizabeth’s mind. In addition, the pair clashes over Georgiana’s suitors, especially when Fitzwilliam declares his intentions. While Darcy gives his blessing to the match, Elizabeth voices the fact that they’re all aware that Georgiana is attracted to Henry Alveston. As somebody who hasn’t been brought up as part of a respected family, Elizabeth only sees marriage as something one should do for love but Fitzwilliam and Darcy struggle to see it the same way. When Elizabeth later brings up the subject with Georgiana she too tells her sister-in-law that she doesn’t understand how things are done among respected families. She does admit to being fond of Alveston, but realises a marriage to Fitzwilliam would be the best thing for her family name. With his wife refusing to apologise to Fitzwilliam, Darcy is seemingly retreating to his former state and may well be regretting marrying below his own social class.
I personally feel that the most interesting parts of this second episode of Death Comes to Pemberley were the interactions between Elizabeth and Darcy which played upon our preconceived ideas about the characters. The script is soon to let us know that, while marriage has changed both slightly, their various bad habits are still lurking beneath the surface. For the uninformed, Juliette Towhidi peppers the story with a number of flashbacks filling in the viewers on key events from Pride and Prejudice and one particular moment just after Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding. These preconceived ideas are perfectly executed during the debates regarding Georgiana’s suitors and the resulting spats are well-executed. Less interesting are the appearances of the dislikeable Wickham and Lydia, both of whom are presented as characters with few redeeming features. I do feel that Towhidi’s script has stripped Wickham of any of the charm that he may have had and here he just comes across as a thoroughly horrid person. In addition I wasn’t a big fan of all of Elizabeth’s dithering around the Bidwell family and I feel the episode’s final big revelation could’ve still been done without a number of these scenes. Thankfully, the episode picked up towards the end due to the incredibly entertaining scenes involving Wickham’s outdoor hearing in the local community.
Of the cast, Anna Maxwell Martin continued to shine tonight as she portrayed the return of Elizabeth’s rebellious streak to full effect. I loved how she really demonstrated both sides of Elizabeth’s personality namely her current state as a lady of the house and her former role as a straight-speaking commoner. She continues to share a fiery chemistry with Matthew Rhys, who this episode was able to portray the more thoughtful side of Darcy’s personality. Coming into her own this episode was Jenna Coleman, who really excelled playing the bratty and haughty Lydia almost to the point of caricature. The only performance that really disappointed tonight was Matthew Goode, whose Wickham wasn’t charming enough to be roguish and instead just felt a little over-the-top. Praise must also go to Eleanor Tomlinson who is perfect at doing the wistful stares required of her as the lovelorn Georgiana.
Overall, tonight’s instalment of Death Comes to Pemberley wasn’t nearly as exciting as the first episode. I have to say I found some of the mystery elements the plot slowed it down and I was much more interested by the story involving the arguments between Darcy and Elizabeth. That being said, Death Comes to Pemberley is still well-played and exquisitely shot while the last ten minutes really got me interested in the show all over again. I’m just hoping that tomorrow’s instalment gives me a satisfying conclusion that makes it worth sitting through the last two hours.
What did you think to Death Comes to Pemberley? Did you enjoy tonight’s episode as much as last night’s?
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