INTRODUCTION. It appears that Death has come to Pemberley. I’m a touch early with this review – those of you who missed it in December or on iPlayer may look forward to the DVD release of the BBC mini series in early February. As a fan of the original book and an admirer of detective stories, reviewing this was a no-brainer decision.
STORY. Six years after where Austen left off in Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth and Darcy are immersed in elaborate preparations for their annual ball. Plans go awry when an unexpected arrival reveals that a murder has taken place on Pemberley estate! As many of us know, murder mysteries can be all about the atmosphere; and boy, has the BBC got that in spades. P.D. James was most astute in realizing how well the intrigue of murder could mesh with this particular brand of 17th century social witticisms. It has been pulled off quite well, with splendidly Austen-ite pacing and thrills dramatic enough to satisfy a Wilkie Collins yarn. Also enjoyable is how the upstairs-downstairs stories intersect, an aspect that doesn’t really get much attention in P&P.
There are a couple of lagging, repetitive instances – common to any conundrum requiring accounts – but eventually, each thread falls neatly into place and with subtle, satisfying elegance. Note, however: you would need to at least tolerate period dramas to enjoy Death Comes to Pemberley.
CHARACTERS. Here we are, the point at which the show could have easily fallen apart. How fortunate that it did not! The characters have been carefully and credibly written; a trait that separates this production from less earnest attempts of a genuine homage to Jane Austen’s most popular novel. So I am here, fellow Janeites, to say that you have nothing to fear. There are few to no crude occurrences of out-of-character behaviour. Elizabeth is a marvel: Elizabeth always walking, always pensieve, mistress of Pemberley with her fine eyes and ardent heart. It takes an episode or two to realize how well each figure has been written – more than simply faithful to Pride & Prejudice, the personalities of Death Comes to Pemberley have been made meatier. A bloody, human core to balance against the fineness of their words. Whether Austen would have approved of this emotional, adrenalized portrayal is beyond my estimate. I enjoyed the entire affair – it does what a good homage must, by entertaining in the present and reminding us of everything that has made the original content perennially great.
CONCLUSION. At three episodes, each an hour long, Death Comes to Pemberley is no mean feat of accomplishment. It is stirring and tense as a murder mystery ought to be – yet still undeniably saturated with the charm of its winsome inspiration.
P.S. Still on the fence? The cast list alone might be enough to win you over.
CHARACTERS: 7.5/10 STORY: 7/10 REWATCH FACTOR: 6.8/10 OVERALL: 7.3/10