The Bletchley Circle (2012) TV Show Review
When the masterful 2005 version of Bleak House premiered on Masterpiece Theatre, we met the talents of Anna Maxwell Martin. She plays the orphaned, ill-treated Esther who finally finds purpose at Bleak House. Now she is restored as a leading lady, and she does it all rather marvelously in this three-part mini-series, The Bletchley Circle.
Ordinary is not a word one can ascribe to Susan (Martin). She loves puzzles and cannot seem to shut off her brain no matter how hard she tries. Where there’s a riddle, she must follow. Some nine years after WWII, Susan is living simply, an ordinary life with two children and a husband whose career is on the brink of brilliant success. As a war time code breaker, Susan must sign a confidentiality agreement, a secret she keeps. But now a string of horrible murders remain unsolved. Through deduction, she comes up with information that may aid the police in their investigation.
When the information produces no results, Susan reaches out to her former colleagues. Lucy (Sophie Rundle), Millie (Rachel Stirling) and Jean (Julie Graham), all of whom have lives much akin to Susan. Lucy is in an unhealthy relationship, and Millie is hurt by Susan’s dismissal of their friendship.
Skeptical of Susan’s plans, the girls eventually band together, knowing there is more to Susan’s patterns than anyone is willing to notice. They use their training and any resources they can find to follow the serial killer’s path. Clues that may lead them right to his doorstep – and possibly endanger their own lives.
One day during my on-line browsing, this series popped up. It drew my attention for a pair of reasons. For obvious reasons, the first is its leading lady. Then there’s the references made to the brilliant Foyle’s War in other’s reviews. To judge the series by the original Anthony Horowitz script may not be fair, but it certainly is similar while holding its own. It proves that it’s just as exciting, clever and addicting. The only flaw in the otherwise spotless scripting is that the series spans a mere three one-hour episode run and there have been no plans to produce more. That is enough to earn a sad face from me.
I am not sure I’ve met a cast of this characterization caliber since Foyle’s War. It’s more fun than I expected to follow these women as they seek clues. Plus they have to convince the police of their findings! Like her prior roles, Anna Maxwell Martin is a fantastic lead. She manages to play each character with a quiet grace, and this role is no different. She’s compassionate, but elicits sympathy for her apparent inability to calm her busy mind. She has such a desire to do something that matters. What she doesn’t realize is that to her children, just being their “mummy” is enough. She’s an interesting character with complicated potential should producers ever see the merit in making the premise a serial. Each of the women has a field specialty which makes it easy to distinguish who plays what role in the crime-solving “book club.”
Though the audience has more to go on, the writer’s impress with how well they string along the viewers and clues. More than we might expect reveals itself before the end but it did not detract from the thrill of the chase or seeing the killer brought to justice. As a story, The Bletchley Circle works well, but there is a few places that its pace lags. But for its majority, the three hours is fills nicely and never seems to fall into boredom or come across as misused time. Filming and staging is impressive as it builds suspense, and displays character’s lighter sides. Unfortunately, The Bletchley Circle is not all “good.”
The premise may be written with precision but in all honesty, it travels to dark places. The criminal mastermind is not a pleasant place yet this British (ITV) show finds a compatible balance much like predecessors have. Even in the middle of a thoughtless crime, the characters remain center stage, and they make it jolly good fun.
(This post does contain affiliate links, which means – at no extra cost to you, I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through a link. Read the disclosure page for details.) You can purchase The Bletchley Circle on DVD or on Amazon Video.
(CONTENT: We see one victim tied up and later, when discovered, her clothing is in disarray in a pool of blood. Conversation reveals how victims die [they are murdered and then raped]. Lucy is nearly assaulted before she manages to escape; her captor tosses her around and roughly kisses her, leaving her body bruised. A man agrees to a favor in exchange for sex but it refused. We see provocative sex crime cards in two or three shots. Spousal abuse is also present. A man is shot multiple times. The rating is TV14.)