So I just saw the BBC dramatization of P.D. James’s novel Death comes to Pemberley, and I have to admit, my reaction was somewhat “meh”.
But some background first. Death comes to Pemberley is a continuation of Pride and Prejudice wherein poor Captain Denny is killed, and Mr. Wickham is immediately accused of the murder. Only, Mr. Darcy and Lizzy aren’t convinced he’s actually guilty, and much as they dislike him, they find themselves trying to help him and locate the real killer. Meanwhile, there are romantic complications, especially involving Mr. Darcy’s sister Georgiana.
First of all, I love the portrayal of the characters from the BBC series from 1995, including Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. In fact, I love it so much, I had a hard time sinking into the story with these other actors! But after some initial “That’s not Elizabeth/Mr. Darcy/Jane/Mr. Bennet! etc.” I got used to it, and even if none of the actors charmed me as much as those in the 1995 series, they still did a decent job at portraying these much-loved characters.
What I enjoyed the most was probably the sheer fun in seeing an imagining of what happened “after”. What is life like at Pemberley? What happened to Mr. Wickham and Lydia? Plus, bonus, we got to see a bit more of “belowstairs”, though if you like that sort of thing, Gosford Park, the movie directed by Altman, is in a whole different league. That’s also a mashup of period drama and mystery, but with fantastic actors, a wonderful screenplay, and a better mystery, in my not-so-humble opinion. 🙂
And I guess that’s what my “meh” comes down to in the end. Because, much as I was surprised considering P.D. James is such a big-time mystery author, I found the mystery itself to be the weakest part of the series. There are simply too few suspects, making it fairly easy to figure out who must have done the deed. Or at least, the general gist of what happened, even if not every detail. But perhaps the novel had more characters than what was included in the show?
Anyway, to sum up, Death comes to Pemberley was certainly an enjoyable three hours, and even if it’s perhaps not a masterpiece of its kind, the mix of Pride and Prejudice and mystery is so enticing, the whole of it becomes more than the sum of its parts.