Sunday, March 16, 2014

Death Comes to Pemberley, the Television Adaptation

I was very excited when I heard that a television series of Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James was being made, and I was looking forward to it. Christmas Day I received book and then Boxing Day the series began! I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the series actually. It was quite dark and serious, but that is the nature of the story, but I still really enjoyed, and I am looking forward to reading the book (which I still haven’t gotten around to reading yet!). It will be interesting to see how similar the adaptation stayed to the book.  

"Elizabeth and Darcy, now six years married, are preparing for their annual ball when festivities are brought to an abrupt halt. An adaptation of PD James's homage to Pride and Prejudice."

Book blurb...
"The year is 1803, and Darcy and Elizabeth have been married for six years. There are now two handsome and healthy sons in the nursery, Elizabeth's beloved sister Jane and her husband Bingley live nearby and the orderly world of Pemberley seems unassailable. But all this is threatened when, on the eve of the annual autumn ball, as the guests are preparing to retire for the night a chaise appears, rocking down the path from Pemberley's wild woodland. As it pulls up, Lydia Wickham - Elizabeth's younger, unreliable sister - stumbles out screaming that her husband has been murdered."

What I will say was that really it is just a murder mystery which happens to use Miss. Austen's wonderful characters, and it wasn’t, in fact, very Austen-y at all! But I enjoyed it nonetheless, and even my sister, who is not an Austen fan, also really, really enjoyed it and wishes to watch it again.  I thought it was well cast and acted, Mr. Wickham in particular, and I loved the use of Chatsworth for Pemberley again, like in the 2005 film.

So let’s start with the most important thing, the mystery. I am pleased and proud to be able to announce that I guessed “who dun’ it” correctly! Ok, so I didn’t quite get all the small details and ins and outs of the case as it was quite complex, however I worked out some of it and who was responsible. Although I did fathom some of it out, that is not to say it was not a good murder mystery, because I think it was clever and quite involved with a few unexpected twists and turns, and characters you wouldn’t expect to becoming involved.

I thought that, on the whole, the characters were cast and acted well, some particularly well. Let’s begin with the two characters everyone was waiting to see how they were portrayed; Elizabeth and Darcy. I liked the portrayals. Beginning with Lizzy; I have heard some comment that they found her lacking in screen presence and didn’t seem to be lively enough to be the Lizzy we know and love, however, I think she was shown to be a good mistress who can handle Pemberley, still the Lizzy we love but clearly now a wife and mother. Changes between the 20 year old, unmarried Lizzy from Pride and Prejudice and the 26 year old, married Lizzy from Death Comes to Pemberley are to be expected. I will admit that she had to grow on me, however, as the series progress I very quickly warmed to her and I think Anna Maxwell Martin did a good job.

As for Darcy, I very much enjoyed Matthew Rhys portrayal. I think he was suitably handsome enough for Fitzwilliam Darcy (and his appearance grew on me even more through the series and I considered him completely handsome by the end!) Aside from his looks, to the more important question of his character, I think he did well. Again, Pride and Prejudice Darcy is going to be different from Death Comes to Pemberley Darcy. What I particularly loved seeing was Darcy as a father. He seems like such a wonderful father and it was nice to see this side to him.

In this story, while Darcy is off trying to get to the bottom of the case, Lizzy is left at home (law courts and such not being a suitable place for a lady!) doing some investigating of her own. Both Darcy and Lizzy go through a lot during the story, and this causes a few problems for the couple. I think this was something I was not keen on, the rifts and coldness which arises between them as a result of the events going on, however I do understand why this happens, and it does add to the drama of the story (and of course it all ends well!)

One of the characters I feel for the most is Darcy. He is married, a father and finally settled and happy and then what happens? His nemesis Wickham turns up to ruin his happiness and invade into his life once again, this time in a very serious manner indeed, being the chief suspect in a murder investigation, of a murder which has taken place in the grounds of his own home! I think Rhys did a very good job of portraying all the struggles and pains Darcy goes through trying to work out whether or not Wickham, his childhood friend turned enemy, could really be capable of murder.

Now the other main characters of the story are Lydia and Wickham, but mainly Wickham. I think I can say that George Wickham was my favourite character in this story (shocking I know!) as Matthew Goode’s portrayal was just outstanding. It must have been, for I found myself pitying Wickham! I have always hated Wickham the most out of all the Austen bad boys, but yet, I grew to feel sorry for him, pity him and hope that he is in fact innocent and not hung! I never thought I would be able to say I feel sorry for Mr George Wickham!  Matthew Goode could portrayal the full spectrum of emotions Wickham experiences; we see the roguish, scoundrel side that we know him for, but also the afraid, anxious and fretful side, as things start to look worse and worse, and he edging closer and closer to the noose...

Lydia also was acted very well by Jenna Coleman. She was just as insolent and annoying as we expect her to be, that is until things start to look rather shaky and take a turn for the worse for her beloved Wickham. There is one scene in particular which springs to mind when Lydia is visiting Wickham in prison and the scene between them is very moving and full of emotion. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them both many times throughout the story.  

Georgiana was all that was sweet and lovely and she seemed to have a wonderful, sisterly relationship with Elizabeth, which was nice to see. Georgiana has her own problems to deal with through this story and I think Eleanor Tomlinson did Georgiana justice and I felt she was very much like the Georgiana we would expect to see, 6 years on. There was a fun new addition of a Mr Alveston played by James Norton, who is also a love interest for Georgiana. He was a nice addition to the story; a very amiable, charming young man who offers all the help he can with the murder inquiry.

Although their roles were not massive, I thought Mrs Bennet very well acted. Rebecca Front captured her spirit and she is just as we know her to be - you can imagine what such a thing as a murder investigation would do to her poor nerves... I liked Mr Bennet’s portrayal by James Fleet, however, I felt a little of the sharp wit we love him for seemed to be lost, but his relationship with his daughter was shown to be just as strong as ever, which was lovely to see.

I think my main problem with the story would be what happened to Colonel Fitzwilliam. This, I assume, is not down to the adaptation but to what P.D. James had chosen to do in the book in the first place. All I will say it that Colonel Fitzwilliam fans out there might not like the alteration and changes to the personality and character of the Colonel. I shall say no more but you have been warned. But I do think Tom Ward did a good job, given the new side to the Colonel which comes to light which is vastly different to the Colonel Fitzwilliam we know.

The other things I wished were different were that I would have liked to have seen more of Jane and Bingley – in fact, Bingley didn’t appear at all and Jane’s appearance was very fleeting. Lady Catherine, played by the wonderful Penelope Keith, had only a very small amount of screen time as well, which was a shame. Again, I cannot comment on whether this is the TV adapters or whether this is just as it is in the book. I really must read the book to find out!

On the whole I found it a really, well done series which was highly enjoyable. There was intriguing mystery, plenty of drama, moments of comedy, some romance thrown in, and the return of characters we already know and love as well as a few new additions; a good series worth watching for both Janeites and mystery lovers alike.

Georgiana comforts a distraught Lydia as she watches her beloved husband being taken off to prison...

         Mr Henry Alveston arrives...

Is Wickham guilty and to be hung for murder?

Lady Catherine offering Elizabeth some... useful advice - well she thinks it is useful anyway!

Jane comforts her sister as the whole ordeal is starting to become too much, especially now that her husband seems to have turned a little cold towards her...

Mr and Mrs Bennet arrive for the annual ball. All is still well at this point...

Darcy and Elizabeth walking around the grounds of Pemberley, talking over all that has happened in such a short time...

Your affectionate friend,
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  1. Disliked the book so much I wasn't sure whether to watch the adaptation - but I finally did and yes it is better than the book but that is hardly difficult

    1. This is the opinion I keep hearing! It will be interesting to read the book to see the differences.

  2. I looked foreard to the book so much having met PD James a few times and was bitterly disappointed. The TV series was much changed but will let you find out how, I will say for the bettet. I agree with the critics about Lizzy, she seemed too worn down, but the worst was indeed the personality change in Colonel Fitwilliam. Please read the book so that we can discuss!!

    1. Again, you agree that the series has been changed for the better! I am intrigued to find out what is different and why the series seems to have gone down better. I will read it and I look forward to discussing it! Thanks for commenting!

  3. I read the book. A difficult read, but by the end I thought it well tonight out. Here in the states we haven't seen the video adaptation yet.

    1. Thanks for the comment and your opinion. I hope you enjoy the series when it makes it to you :)


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