Celebrating any Austen milestone is a delicate business. They dare not remake the crowning A&E/BBC masterpiece – the 6-hour Pride & Prejudice. Yet they cannot pass by the milestone without some recognition. It would seem the next best thing is, naturally, to turn the classic into a murder mystery.
Death Comes to Pemberley (2013) TV Miniseries Review
The Pemperley estate is abuzz with activity and excitement as the household staff prepares for its annual ball. Six years into her marriage, Elizabeth Darcy (Anna Maxwell-Martin) runs her home with kind proficiency while delighting in the joys of motherhood. Through it all, she has only fallen more in love with her husband. The young Miss Georgiana Darcy (Eleanor Tomlinson) grows into a beautiful young woman besotted by the charms of a lawyer (James Norton). Only Darcy (Matthew Rhys) is inclined to give permission to another man vying for her hand. Further complicating the busyness of the estate, just as the Darcy’s guests are to arrive, is two of its maids returning to the house with screams of seeing a ghost.
In the wake of this, trouble promptly finds the house when Elizabeth’s flighty young sister, Lydia (Jenna Coleman) arrives screaming that her husband, Wickham (Matthew Goode) is dead. She claims he’s been shot which forces Darcy and his cousin Col. Fitzwilliam (Tom Ward) to lead a search party for the one man Darcy vowed never again would step foot on Pemberley grounds.
Around here, there has been much discussion about my admiration of all things Austen. Whether it’s a “proper” re-make, an adaptation or something that’s more Austen parody than classic, I’m up for it all. This sequel is no different. When the news of its book-to-screen transformation first broke, the opportunity to see what’s next in Elizabeth and Darcy’s story made me excited. I even purchased the novel anticipating reading it prior to the series. (Of course I didn’t manage this feat.) All of that anticipation fizzled out when I saw who had been cast in primary roles.
Seeing an actor tackle a villainous role – and do it well, does nothing to endear him to an iconic role like Darcy. This is true of reading Matthew landed the role of Mr. Darcy. He plays a Dickens baddie in the recent re-make of The Mystery of Edwin Drood and is sufficiently creepy doing so. Once a girl sees Colin Firth and Matthew McFayden, there is uncertainty someone else will fill the very big footsteps. Much to my surprise, Rhys pulls it off quite well. He has the aloofness of Darcy yet we see a softer side of him after six years of married life. I’d not be honest if I didn’t confess to skepticism over Anna’s casting also. She’s a talented actress who wins me over time and again. But just thinking about her in the role of Lizzie is “off.” Aside from some unrealistic casting for the purpose of the character’s ages, these two prove me wrong to say nothing of their breathing fresh life into iconic roles.
FILM REVIEW | Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Around these two, supporting actors are equally marvelous. From the shrieking of Lydia (Coleman is really good in the role) to the new maturity haloing Georgiana, everyone is present. Although sisters Kitty and Mary make no appearance and Jane’s is far too brief. James Norton (Grantchester) is also a supporting character, playing an ideal regency gentleman. The most notable distinction between this and the glorified A&E miniseries is this BBC 3-parter is a more “casual” air. I’m really not sure how to describe it but Pride & Prejudice (1995) exudes elegance in everything. In Death Comes to Pemberley, nothing comes off as magnificent. Sure the grounds of the estate are stunning but maybe the costuming isn’t near as pristine or the actors don’t own the roles with the same kind of confidence.
Nevertheless, lest you think anything else, this series is really entertaining! At my house, putting the Darcy’s in a murder mystery is a stroke of genius considering our love of popular British crime dramas. Aside from the fact that it’s well written, it made for the “ultimate” fan experience worth its salt. Looking at this as a chance to see literary characters in cinema after the curtain closes on their love story opens new doors. Who wouldn’t enjoy the chance to see the “insufferable” Darcy flirt with his beloved Lizzie? Or finding out if marriage changed certain characters – you know who you are! – or left them unchanged.
This miniseries is the best of both worlds. There is enough elegance but has freedom to write its own chapters all while checking in with familiar characters. (As a bonus we get to experience Lizzie still sticking it to Lady Catherine.) Being able to watch this as an extension of Pride & Prejudice – which is really all this is, rather than an adaptation of Austen’s will help any doubters out there. Death Comes to Pemberley is something for the fans and in this girl’s opinion, I couldn’t ask for better.
You can find Death Comes to Pemberley digitally on Amazon Video
Have you seen this adaptation? If so, what’d you think or are you anticipating it? Do you have a favorite “non-traditional” film or book about these iconic character? Share any thoughts you have, friends!
Content: there is one scene of a married couple in bed – they undress one another before they lay on the bed caressing each other [his hand brushes up her leg] then we see them lying in bed together. There’s a few innuendoes about a married man who keeps a mistress; one girl has a child out of wedlock and briefly considers suicide. There are flashbacks to a man with bloody wounds being dragged through the forest and perhaps the occasional profanity. The series is TV12.