TV Review: “Death Comes to Pemberley” – A Riveting Murder-Mystery

Written by Caitlin Cooper November 11, 2014

Death Comes to Pemberley

Jane Austen’s most well-known and beloved novel is, without a doubt, “Pride and Prejudice”. It tells the tale of family, love, and heartbreak. The main characters, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, have both pride and prejudice to overcome before they can have their happy ending; they’re from wildly different families and circumstances, and happen to cross paths and exchange biting conversations. There’s a happy ending for almost everyone in the novel. No wonder it’s been adapted to film so many times. If only there was a sequel to delve into the characters even more, and show us less of the idealistic world of England in the 1800s and more of what real life could have looked like for these characters. Enter “Death Comes to Pemberley”, a film adapted from the novel of the same name by crime writer P.D. James.

 

“Death Comes to Pemberley” shows us the lives of Elizabeth (Anna Maxwell Martin) and Darcy (Matthew Rhys) a few years after the events of “Pride and Prejudice”. They’ve settled into married life and have a child. Georgiana (Eleanor Tomlinson) seems to have opened her heart to someone despite Wickham’s (Matthew Goode) attempts to use her. They’re planning a ball, but Wickham and Lydia (Jenna Coleman) aren’t invited due to the discord between Georgiana and Wickham. The servants have spotted what they think is a ghost in the woods which foretells of an impending tragedy. So when Lydia and Wickham decide to go to the ball anyway and there’s a fight in the woods, someone ends up dead and all evidence seems to point to Wickham being the murderer. But not everything is as it seems; people are keeping secrets which could change everything.

“My concern is protecting Pemberley and my family.”

One of my favourite heroines is Elizabeth so it was nice to see the character explored in her new life and show how she did and didn’t change since the events of “Pride and Prejudice”. She’s still smart, independent, witty, and caring. She’s much more mature, however, since she’s now a mother and sort of runs the household. It only seems fitting that in “Death Comes to Pemberley” Elizabeth was the one to solve the mystery and save Wickham since these are characteristics she held in Austen’s novel. Mr. Darcy seems soft and vulnerable much like he does towards the end of “Pride and Prejudice” when he and Elizabeth become engaged. A downside of the writing is that he, unintentionally or not, pressures Georgiana to almost marrying someone who she didn’t love. It seemed the exact opposite of what the character would do given his relationship with Elizabeth. Also, that Darcy believes Lydia’s statement that Elizabeth’s motivation for marrying him to be his wealth was absolutely out of character. He would never believe such a thing of Elizabeth. Aside from that, seeing how these characters grew together was wonderful.

Death Comes to Pemberley

Aside from the intriguing plot, what really convinced me to watch the mini-series is to see the characters, and not just Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Sometimes when a book ends, you wonder how the story could continue. In “Death Comes to Pemberley” we get to see how Georgiana grows from an adolescent to a young woman who is brave. I was sad for her with all she suffers, but incredibly glad she finally got her happy ending. We get to see the dramatic Lydia who can be more smart than she lets on, despite how ultimately vain she is. Lydia is revealed to be more complex than she originally seems. Wickham, of course, is still not a good person. Each thing we learn about him in “Death Comes to Pemberley” convinced me of that until we were shown that of course no one is as black-and-white as that. Even though I didn’t particularly like him, I still rooted for him to be saved. The dynamic between Lydia and Wickham is almost sweet at times, and it’s easy to see they do care for one another in their own way.

“No one can say we didn’t live it to the full.”

While the writing of this Austen-inspired adaptation is good, “Death Comes to Pemberley” wouldn’t have been as riveting without its truly talented cast. Martin is a wonderful Elizabeth. She’s the right mixture of vulnerable and strong for the character. Rhys plays a good interpretation of Mr. Darcy as the usually terse but actually sweet man. Tomlinson seems to gravitate to period pieces and, thus, excels in them. Jenna Coleman – most recently the Doctor’s companion, Clara, on “Doctor Who” – is like a completely different person in this role. She is the right touch of dramatic, vain, calculating and vulnerable as Lydia. Goode is known to be an excellent actor, and he brings something to the character of Wickham that almost makes the character likeable at the end, and certainly makes us hope for him to survive the show. All of the cast are what make “Death Comes to Pemberley” such a success.

Death Comes to Pemberley

“Death Comes to Pemberley” is, first and foremost, a murder-mystery. I can say without hesitation that it is a superb crime show. It’s true that what we know of Wickham makes it easy to believe he’s guilty, particularly given his exclamations at the crime scene. That being said, it seems like there are multiple suspects and guessing who is the murderer was like an intense game of Clue. Over the course of the first two episodes, however, I became fairly certain that Wickham hadn’t done it – if he did, he still shouldn’t be sentenced to death. A character that is generally an immoral jerk became someone I was very worried about. The minutes up to his execution date had me leaning forward and glued to the TV screen.

“I swear on my soul that I did not do this.”

Overall, “Death Comes to Pemberley” is a must-watch crime mini-series set in the 19th century. It’s a bold sequel to Austen’s much loved “Pride and Prejudice” but it can be enjoyed by people who are totally new to the story. The plot is riveting and keeps you guessing about who the murderer is. The characters are complex in surprising ways and are the driving force of the show. The acting is very top-notch. All of this makes “Death Comes to Pemberley” a must watch murder-mystery period show.

My Rating: 8/10

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About Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin is an avid watcher of movies and television shows so she decided to use her passion to write about them. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a Minor in Creative Writing.

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