After watching the first episode of Death Comes to Pemberley I commented on how I felt it was perfectly suited to the week between Christmas and New Year. Beautifully shot and easy to follow, the series has so far been an uncomplicated treat of a period drama. Despite some of the story dragging yesterday, I still had confidence that the drama would provide a satisfying conclusion to its murder mystery plot. Indeed tonight’s final instalment was packed full or revelation as Elizabeth continued to play detective to get to the truth of Captain Denny’s death.
Last night we were given a massive cliffhanger concerning the identity of Louisa Bidwell’s lover and the father of her child. The mysterious Freddy was revealed to be Mr Wickham, who had lived up to his caddish ways by conducting an affair with the lowly serving girl. It seemed that while Lydia was visiting Jane, Wickham was indulging in an affair that he didn’t realise would produce a child. We later learn that Captain Denny was aware of the affair and attempted to put the matter to bed by having Louisa sell the child to the woman who had previously been identified as Mrs Riley. Louisa’s further revelation to Elizabeth is that Fitzwilliam also knew of the affair and the child but neglected to inform either of the Darcys. Bringing this information to her husband, Darcy feels that Elizabeth is simply attempting to discredit Fitzwilliam as a potential husband for Georgiana. At the same time, Georgiana’s sense of duty leads her to accept the proposal of Fitzwilliam, much to the disgust of Elizabeth who knows of her sister-in-law’s true feelings. Meanwhile, after discovering Wickham’s affair, Darcy feels that Wickham is guilty of the crime and killed Denny in an attempt to silence him before he could tell everybody about Wickham’s dirty little secret.
It appears as if Darcy isn’t the only one who is convinced of Wickham’s guilt as the trial seems to be as one-sided as yesterday’s inquest was. The baying crowd are seemingly out for Wickham’s blood and jeer every attempt he makes to voice his innocence. Darcy has enlisted Alveston’s help to act as Wickham’s defence however Fitzwilliam is doubtful of his love rival’s abilities and sees him as a radical thinker. It does appear as if Alveston is fighting a losing battle when the prosecutor attempts to be the leading the witnesses and the judge does little to stop him. The wife of a local landlord also adds extra flames to the fire by recounting the argument that Wickham and Denny engaged in shortly before the latter’s death. Even Darcy, who is determined to act as an impartial witness, does little to help Wickham’s case but at the same time doesn’t seem that bothered about besmirching the Darcy family name. As Hardcastle takes the stand, Darcy is worried that he will reveal all about the Bidwell affair and therefore give a concrete motive for Wickham’s murder of Denny. Meanwhile, worried that the affair will be revealed in court, Elizabeth attempts to inform Lydia of what her husband has been up to. But it appears that the revelation may fall on deaf ears as Lydia still refuses to believe that her husband is as evil as everybody says he is.
After not being a particular fan of the middle episode of Death Comes to Pemberley I’m happy to report that this final instalment brought the quality of episode one back. Part of the reason for this was the well-paced story that split its time between Elizabeth playing Miss Marple and Wickham facing his trial for murder. I felt the trial scenes were incredibly well-presented with the cold walls of the courthouse perfectly counter-balancing the warmth of the Pemberley Estate. I personally enjoyed the segments of social commentary injected through the fact that Alveston wasn’t allowed to object by any of the leading statements made by the prosecutor. While the story concerning Louisa and Wickham’s affair was slightly melodramatic it lent itself well to the Wickham character and I could totally believe that he’d start yet another affair behind Lydia’s back. To me the most unnecessary element of the entire episode was the brief appearance from Lady Catherine de Bourgh who just popped up to tell Elizabeth how disappointed she was with the whole sorry state of affairs. While I’m a big fan of Penelope Keith’s I felt that she could have been better utilised in the drama and this one small scene was almost an insult to an actress of her abilities.
Aside from Keith’s brief cameo, the cast were as brilliant as ever and have really added to my enjoyment of the series as a whole. Though some are complaining about her being too old to play Elizabeth, I feel that she’s more than talented enough to pull off the part. I completely believe that she’s a grown-up version of the character but has yet to fully comply with the duties that are required of her as Mrs Darcy. I personally felt this episode belonged to Matthew Rhys, whose Darcy faced a crisis of conscious after discovering the truth about Wickham’s affair and Fitzwilliam’s knowledge of it. Rhys excels during Darcy’s quiet brooding scenes and is great at demonstrating how Darcy has changed since being married to Elizabeth. The chemistry displayed by the two actors is at full force during the series’ most passionate scene which comes after the Darcys have reconciled. Lending brilliant support tonight was Trevor Eve, who’s Hardcastle has been the most ambiguous character of the bunch. Eve excelled at wondering if we could trust this wily magistrate and whether or not he’d do the right thing when he was on the dock. Once again I have to mention the masterful direction of the series, with the many external shots of Chatsworth House being a personal highlight of mine.
While Death Comes to Pemberley was never going to be a critically-acclaimed period drama, I feel its excelled as being the perfect sort of populist entertainment that should air over this last week of December. Full of wonderful scenery, an easy-to-follow plot and great costumes; I feel that Death Comes to Pemberley’s strength is in its visual splendour. Thankfully it has been bolstered by a fantastic ensemble cast and an intriguing story that doesn’t alienate non-Austen readers while at the same time providing extra treats for fans of Pride and Prejudice. While not a particularly original drama, Death Comes to Pemberley has more than entertained me over the last three nights and for that it should be commended.
What have you thought to Death Comes to Pemberley as a whole? Did tonight’s episode provide a satisfactory conclusion?
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