‘DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY’ (2013)

April 15, 2014 31 Comments

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.

‘DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY’ (2013). Adaptation of the novel by BBC and starring Anna Maxwell-Martin. All text is © Rissi JC / RissiWrites.com

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. 

Death Comes to Pemberley Mr. Darcy

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.

Death Comes to Pemberley James Norton

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. 

(Disclosure: this post does contain affiliate links; if you buy anything through these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Read the disclosure page for details. If you have purchased anything through our links, thank you. We’re grateful.)

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.

About Rissi JC

amateur photog. #bookblogger. downton abbey. inspys. internet-photo-shy. writer. the aspiration is to someday write professionally. a girl can dream, right?

Rissi JC

amateur photog. #bookblogger. downton abbey. inspys. internet-photo-shy. writer. the aspiration is to someday write professionally. a girl can dream, right?

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31 Comments

  • Ella April 15, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    I really enjoyed watching this.
    I would have never thought of making a P&P murder mystery sequel. Props to the writer of the book.

    • Rissi April 15, 2014 at 11:29 pm

      I agree, Ella! I thought this one was really clever and it was such a treat to revisit these special characters. I'll have more of this, please, BBC. ;)

  • Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com April 15, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    OMG this is one I've been meaning to read soon. I had no idea they made a show of it. Oooo I want to see it terribly!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Rissi April 15, 2014 at 11:30 pm

      I've NOT read the novel yet, however the few chapters I did sneak in prior to watching this was very complimentary to Austen's style and that's cool. Hope you enjoy the miniseries, Juju. So fun. :)

  • Rosie W April 15, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    I didn't know this aired! I listened to most of the audiobook but I haven't had time to finish it. From what I've "listened" to of the audiobook, the author writes in an Austen style. I look forward to seeing what BBC does!

    • Rissi April 15, 2014 at 11:36 pm

      Yay, glad you agree about the style, Rosie! I think you'll enjoy if you were liking what you heard of the audiobook. From what I know, I think this is supposed to air in the states this year… not sure as I haven't seen anything official yet. Cannot wait to know what you think – be sure to let me know when you see it! :)

  • Kristin April 15, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    I'm looking forward to seeing this! As for the guy who plays Darcy, I've never seen him in anything else, so I don't have any opinions of him so far (but Matthew Macfadyen is definitely my Darcy :). I love Anna Maxwell-Martin and Jenna Coleman, though.

    I've heard very mixed things about the book, so I've never felt inclined to pick it up. But I'll definitely be seeing this at some point. I love murder mysteries and Jane Austen, so it sounds like something I'd really like. :)

    • Rissi April 15, 2014 at 11:45 pm

      Matthew McFayden… *sigh* Yes, I really love him in the part now. Once upon a time, I was a skeptic but each time I watch the 2005 P&P, I fall more in love with everything about it – it's simply gorgeous. Anna and Jenna are both fabulous in their roles here!

      What I read of it was reminiscent (in my mind) of Austen's style which is perhaps a good… or bad thing depending on the reader. I think it's lovely! Hope you enjoy the book if/when you read it, Kristin – I don't know if I'd be able to get through it now or not. Either way, this will be something I'll rewatch and would love to get your thoughts on book or film once you read/see it. :)

  • Faith April 15, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    So glad you enjoyed this one, Rissi! My sister told me about it, so I watched it. My biggest worry (like you) was if they could make it feel like these actors were Pride and Prejudice characters, not just random "Austen-world" people. I think they did a really good job of it. A fun watch!

    • Rissi April 15, 2014 at 11:46 pm

      Yay – happy you enjoy this, too, Faith. Did your sister? The characters and world were well done and I was pleased to be able to revisit beloved character. Just talking about it makes me want to go play it again. Definitely a fun watch – and one I'll enjoy multiple times. :)

  • Missie April 15, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    I have never watched or read Pride or Prejudice – I think it is definitely one I need to add to my summer TBR!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

    • Rissi April 15, 2014 at 11:48 pm

      Cool. Hope you'd like, Missie – and if you've not seen Pride & Prejudice, you must see a version of it sometime. Unless you aren't a fan of period drama, in which case, it's probably not your cup of tea. :)

  • Bekah M. April 16, 2014 at 1:21 am

    Yay! I was absolutely ecstatic to read your review on Death Comes to Pemberly. My sister discovered the series a couple of weeks ago, but we haven't gotten to watch it yet. It's such an interesting concept, making a mystery sequel to P&P. I also was not as excited when I saw the cast, but I am very happy to see you liked it. Ahhh! My favorite "non-traditional" P&P based movie is Austenland…my family and I thought it was hilarious. Great review, Rissi!

    • Rissi April 16, 2014 at 2:31 am

      Aw, fun! I'm always hopeful that reviews can be helpful. :) Your sister and you will probably – *fingers crossed* – enjoy this one, Bekah; I know my mother and I both enjoyed it thoroughly. I think the cast is a bit "off-putting" at first just because they aren't our vision of Lizzie and Darcy (thanks to the magnificent prior P&P adaptations, plus the actors are older than what the characters would be – particularly Lizzie), however I thought everyone did a lovely job and wasn't sorry at all to see them cast. Let me know what you think of this if you see it. :)

      Yay! Adore Austenland. My aunt has my copy right now but when she returns it, I *need* to see it again. :)

  • Jack April 16, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    I've been hoping to watch this but I keep forgetting about it. I will have to see if I can find it

    • Rissi April 17, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      Happy watching when you see it, Jack – it's really quite fun! :)

  • Tressa S April 17, 2014 at 4:22 am

    I have been dying to see this! I've been waiting for it to air, but I might have missed it. I'll have to look it up or see if it's finally available for purchase. I'm so glad that you enjoyed these. I wish the bedroom scene was out just because I watch P&P with my kids and I won't be able to do that wit these.

    • Rissi April 17, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      I'm not sure it has aired yet, Tressa… in the U.K it did, but I am thinking it hasn't in the states yet. I read it was supposed to in 2014 (and am still seeing those reports) so maybe this Summer. Yeah, the bedroom scene isn't "graphic" by any means though I get parent's not wanting to let their kids see it – mine certainly wouldn't have let me watch this as a young girl. Cannot wait to know what you think if/when you see it, Tressa! :)

  • Rachel Hoyt April 17, 2014 at 5:52 am

    Read this post days ago and meant to come comment but I forgot! I'm here now! :D

    I had no idea that this existed! I've seen the book, but I'm not one to read P&P continuations so I never picked it up. But I will most definitely watch this, especially since you enjoyed it. The casting looks a little iffy to me, too, but I'll take your word for their abilities until I see it. :)

    Rachel @ Paper Cuts

    • Rissi April 17, 2014 at 5:16 pm

      Glad you came back, Rachel. ;)

      I wondered how many Pride & Prejudice fans knew about this one! It's really quite fun. There is still a light-hearted touch to it despite it being a murder mystery and it was of course, a blast to catch up with favorite characters. Not everyone will like the cast, however I was pleasantly surprised and hope you enjoy them in the roles. :)

      Happy watching.

  • Birdie April 17, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    Yay, you watched it and enjoyed it! You know what I thought about it, I really liked it as well. It was great seeing all the beloved characters come to life again!

    • Rissi April 17, 2014 at 5:18 pm

      YES! I liked it very much, Birdie. Saw it a while back and suddenly realized I needed to finish this review and get it up! So glad to see all your excited anticipatory comments and to chat with those who've seen it. As you say, it was a joy to see beloved characters again – because as good as it is, the ending kiss was never quite enough. :)

  • Lizzie April 19, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    I'm going to be negative… ;) I'm generally an Austen snob, so I never read "continuations" of Austen's stories, and DEFINITELY not re-imagined versions like "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" which just seems like a mockery. I've only watched two Austen knock-off movies, "Lost in Austen" which I found to be extremely annoying, and "Austenland" which was more enjoyable, and downright cute in some places (I'm obsessed with JJ Feild!) but still a little irritating in some places, too. I'm not sure if I think "Death Comes to Pemberly" would be worse for the murder mystery aspect (that is SO NOT Austen) or perhaps distance it from Austen enough that I could somehow enjoy it for the murder mystery (because I do enjoy murder mysteries…) but I'm really not interested in seeing it, mostly because I can't see Anna Maxwell Martin as Lizzy. From your review, I'm pretty sure it's a good thing that I've avoided seeing it so far.

    • Rissi April 21, 2014 at 4:52 pm

      That's okay, Lizzie! I totally get these "spin-off" offs of Austen aren't for everyone. :)

      I've never been an Austen snob or I wouldn't put that label on myself. Sure, I "get" that some of the parody's go over-the-top but I'm having too much fun to be offended or honestly, to care. P&P and Zombies isn't something I'm "into," though that could just be because I'm not a zombie/vampire girl. However if some of the casting rumors for the film adaptation are true, I may have to hold my breath and rent it. ;) Lost in Austen was fun as was Austenland – I particularly liked the latter for its wonderful cast! So much fun and it looked like they were having a blast to boot!

      I'd say, you've made the right choice by not seeing Death Comes to Pemberley if you aren't cool with these untraditional Austen stories. Like you, my mom and I love mysteries especially Brit ones so stretching Austen's stories that way didn't bother me. Austen does deal with some "dark" things, and this isn't even anywhere close to "Dickens dark." There is still humor and it's definitely a light-hearted approach to the subject. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Enjoyed reading them.

  • Lianne @ caffeinatedlife.net April 21, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    I read the book and absolutely enjoyed it (one of the better Jane Austen "spin-offs" I've come across) and have been meaning to watch the mini-series from start to finish. From the bits I have seen so far: a) I love the cast. I was a little sceptical at first with Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin only because I never would have considered them as Darcy and Lizzie but I was sold, and b) the cinematography was gorgeous <333 Really need to just sit down and watch this sometime during my break…Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

    By the way I nominated you for the Liebster blog award! :) http://www.caffeinatedlife.net/blog/2014/04/21/ramblings-liebster-blog-award/

    • Rissi April 21, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      Wonderful. I don't know if I'll finish the book, however what I read was great – or at the very least, it read very Austen-like. Lianne, I cannot wait to know what you think of this start-to-finish. Sounds like thus far, it's going to be good! :)

      a.) I was the queen of skepticism about this cast. After seeing them, I know that was unwarranted – I think they were all quite good.
      b.) the filming is pretty. Love the grounds of Pemberley

      Me, too! Makes me happy to know this is one I'll like to revisit. It was sad to leave. :)

      Thank you for the award! I'm honored, Lianne. :)

  • Anonymous May 25, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    After what seemed like over a year of waiting, I was finally able to watch this recently with a friend, and MAN do I love it!! Seriously, Matthew Rhys has skyrocketed to my Top Three Favorite Portrayals of Mr. Darcy; his interactions with everyone were just spot on, but where he really stole my heart were the scenes between him and his son…it was just cuteness overload!

    In my opinion, it would be fantastic if we could see him, Matthew Goode, Jenna Coleman, and Eleanor Tomlinson in a proper adaptation of Pride and Prejudice; they just completely captured their character's personalities, and also added some very interesting dimensions (especially to Lydia) we haven't seen before. Anna Maxwell Martin, while not who I would have imagined as Lizzie, did suit her in this adaptation very well indeed; I have no complaints there. I regret I cannot say the same for Colonel Fitzwilliam. All in all though, the different perspectives and spin this series put on these familiar characters was a very enjoyable and exciting thing to watch.

    My favorite story line, however, has to be the sweet romance between Georgiana and Henry. Though I would have loved some more time devoted to developing their relationship, it was still sweet beyond words (and it doesn't hurt that the actor playing Henry is also the esteemed Sidney Chambers on Grantchester!)

    Thanks for a great review, and the chance for some fan-girl gushing!!

    God Bless,
    Eleanor Rose

    • Rissi May 25, 2015 at 8:29 pm

      Hooray! I'm so pleased to know you liked this, Eleanor. This comment is making me want a re-watch. It's different than the "classic" Austen, but so good on its own. Matthew did a lot better than I gave him credit for. I'll confess to lots of skepticism before hand. But all that doubt was wiped away when seeing him as a sweet, loving husband. Definitely worth it all.

      Though I adore the more recent Pride and Prejudice adaptation, I could go for a new spin. It might be fun with all the British talent that has cropped up since then. Eleanor is currently starring in Poldark and did you see Matthew in Downton Abbey? I'm kind of hopeful he'll be in the last season as well. Cannot say as I remember the Colonel, so I'll have to note his performance in my next viewing.

      I've always liked Georgiana as a character, so seeing more "depth" to her story was nice. Right!!?!?! How could I forget that "Sidney" starred in this!? Now I *will* for certain need a re-watch. Love Grantchester. Bring on more costume drama awesome-ness.

      Thank you for fangirling! It's always great fun. :)

    • Anonymous May 26, 2015 at 7:02 am

      Don't you just love it when actors surprise you?! Though what I enjoyed the most was seeing more of his sweet and flirty side with Lizzie than we got in the book, as well as his affectionate brotherly relationship with Georgiana, and even Wickham, to a certain extent, Matthew also managed to pull off those angry, brooding scene really well, proving what a versatile performer he is; what do you think of him in The Americans?

      Matthew Goode in Downton (there certainly are a lot of Matthews!!): YES!! If there was anyone who could make Mary fall in love again, I think he would be the one; there is just something about the two of them together that 'sparked' on-screen. Can't wait to see how it develops!

      There really was not much exploration of Georgiana's character in the book at all, so seeing how meeting Wickham again affected her, and the after-affects of the eloping incident on her relationship with Darcy, was very gratifying to watch; I LOVED the part when he broke off her engagement to the Colonel!

      I have watched the first 5 episodes of Poldark, and Eleanor is brilliant in that as well (her chemistry with Aiden Turner is off the charts!!); the whole show is just fantastic. I am also so excited for James Norton’s next role, as Andrei Bolkonsky in the latest War & Peace!

    • Rissi May 28, 2015 at 11:52 pm

      I do love that unexpected sense of surprise. I confess, like you, I might have liked to see someone else as Lizzie (though it's not because Anna isn't talented), but she didn't ruin the film at all. As for that flirty side of Darcy… that was spot-on cuteness perfection. Where did that come from!? ;) All-around, Matthew was really a perfect Darcy – we see a softer side and experience the side of him that made us swoon in the beginning.

      As for The Americans, I've heard of that but – *gasp* – haven't seen it!

      You know I bought the book in anticipation of seeing the "Pemberley" miniseries and never read it. Everyone says that it's really good though and it pays great homage to Austen's works. It's nice to hear that in some respect the adaptation does a better job.

      I agree about Matthew Goode's DA character. Plus, I thought it was ironic that he was into fast cars given that Mary's beloved Matthew died in a car accident. If he returns to the sixth season, I wonder what kind of issues that might raise!?

      Poldark = *high five* It's amazing, isn't it!? As for War and Peace, right there with you. I rather enjoyed the recent translated version, so seeing a BBC (British) adaptation sounds amazing. :)

  • […] as a “sort of sequel” to Pride and Prejudice. That’s right, the BBC Commissions Death Comes to Pemberley! Don’t know about you, but this is an exciting prospect! Considering its an anniversary year, […]

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