Death Comes to Pemberley – Part Three

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The closing episode of the Death Comes to Pemberley adaptation was extremely satisfying from a character point of view, but the cheesy “last minute rescue” resolution to the murder trial had me half-cringing and half-laughing. Too Hollywood to take seriously!

Without giving anything away, I’ll just say that the resolution of the murder case was the 19th century equivalent of, stopping the bomb with one second left on the clock. I cringed. But at least it was very well-acted!

However, the character development was great. The Elizabeth and Darcy dramas were resolved. I especially liked a scene that happens at a point when they’re barely talking to each other, but Darcy still stops to tuck a sleeping Lizzie in before leaving for the trial. It spoke volumes about their relationship.

Death Comes to Pemberley Dacry and Elizabeth Episode Three Pride and Prejudice Sonya Heaney

I really didn’t watch this series for the murder mystery. In fact, anybody who has read a few crime books will probably figure everything out long before the characters do, well filmed and acted as it was.

What I did watch it for was a chance to see fabulous actors bringing famous characters to life. I honestly think I got more of a sense of 19th century life from this series than I have from many Austen adaptations. I also enjoyed seeing the slightly more mature characters going about their days. Romantic historical fiction tends to focus solely on the very young, and until now I didn’t really realise how much we miss out on because of it.

Death Comes to Pemberley Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Elizabeth Darcy Pride and Prejudice Sonya Heaney

Penelope Keith’s brief appearance as Lady Catherine de Bourgh was interesting. To see a very different dynamic between this formidable lady and Elizabeth was interesting. She seems to have accepted things, even if she doesn’t like them. Keith played the role very differently to how I’ve seen it played before.

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So, was Death Comes to Pemberley worth watching? I’d say yes, definitely. Absolutely. It hasn’t inspired me to run out and buy every Pride and Prejudice spinoff on the shelves, but I’m really glad I watched it. I maintain that Anna Maxwell Martin isn’t ever going to be Elizabeth for me, but seeing her work with Matthew Rhys to bring two famous characters to life was amazing. I could watch them forever!

One final question: Why does Elizabeth only have one gown?! In the first episode she refers to her fine clothes. I was wondering where those fine clothes were! And the messy hair! No matter her personality, everything from her posture to her appearance made her seem more like a servant than a very rich lady married to a very important man!

Death Comes to Pemberley – Part Two

The middle instalment is always the dark one. It’s the rule!

As the murder investigation gets going, you’re going to want to punch a few characters as their stubbornness and obsession with class and title almost ruins them – Darcy himself being the worst offender! It’s a good thing I like angst (and am great with anticipating a good grovel), because there’s a lot of tension at Pemberley now!

Death Comes to Pemberley Elizabeth and Darcy Argument Pride and Prejudice Sonya Heaney

It has occurred to me that Matthew Rhys’ Darcy is almost exactly how I picture Marcus, Lord Westcliff, Lisa Kleypas’ biggest player in her various historical romance series, and the hero of It Happened One Autumn. He’s a little shorter than the other men, but built strongly. Not gorgeous, but with an intensity that draws you to him. Always taking care of family history and title, and sometimes so intent on doing the right thing he messes things up for those closest to him.

Though this isn’t Pride and Prejudice as we know it, I think Rhys’ Darcy is my favourite of all the men I’ve seen tackle the character.

Elizabeth Darcy is not in a good place in this episode. She’s been completely emotionally abandoned by her husband, and we get to see the thing many have been wondering about since Pride and Prejudice ended: how does she actually cope in society so elevated and so much snobbier than what she is used to? The show gives us a few flashbacks (including a couple of recreated scenes from P&P), and I really appreciated it. She might be happy in her marriage, but most people she now mixes with are obsessed with class and rank.

Jane and Elizabeth Death Comes to Pemberley Pride and Prejudice Sonya Heaney

The second episode of Death Comes to Pemberley gives us a look at another Pride and Prejudice main player: Elizabeth’s sister, Jane. Alexandra Moen was good in the role; exactly the way you’d expect an older, married, contented version of Jane to be.

Death Comes to Pemberley Mrs Bennet Lydia Pride and Prejudice Sonya Heaney

I can’t stress how much I think Lydia has been over-publicised and over-praised (largely by Doctor Who fans). Yes, the character might be the comic relief, but she’s also ridiculous, and sticks out like a sore thumb considering the manners of the early 19th century.

Emotionally frustrating, this episode does exactly what it’s supposed to: make you need to see the final instalment just to know things don’t turn out as badly as they currently seem to be.

Death Comes to Pemberley – Part One

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I wasn’t ever going to watch this. I had no interest in Jane Austen fan fiction. Never have, probably never will. It’s not that I’m opposed to it as much as I’m just not interested. It’s not the way I feel about all the current (Twilight etc.) fan fiction of books not in the public domain that people are getting rich off at the moment.

I simply was not interested.

And then I saw some publicity stills from Death Comes to Pemberley, and everything changed. It looked really, really pretty, you see. I liked the looks of Mr Darcy and Georgiana in particular. I was pretty disappointed with the Elizabeth they cast, but I liked the actress in North and South.

What the hell, I thought. At least it will look nice, even if I hate it.

It turns out I found the first episode very interesting, and I liked seeing the more “human” side to the characters we know from the real Pride and Prejudice. This isn’t about fancy balls and perfect manners; these are people of the early nineteenth century going about their daily business, living their lives.

We’ll just ignore the fact that six years in the future, with implied passionate marriages all around, with a distinct lack of contraception, there’re so few children being produced by our Pride and Prejudice characters. This may be a murder mystery, but it’s still Romancelandia, where the past is always pretty and nobody who marries for love has to suffer the drudgery of a life of endless pregnancy and childbirth (followed quite commonly by death in childbirth)…

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While Anna Maxwell Martin looks nothing like any Elizabeth I’ve ever seen before, nothing like I ever her imagined her to be, and significantly older than the character she plays, I actually think she’s pretty much perfect in the role. They would have been better off setting this a decade in the future, as many of the actors are at least that much older than their characters.

Maxwell Martin may not look much like the part, but she certainly acts it. She’s all warmth and intelligence and just such a “real” person. She carried the show. Lizzie after marriage is a calmer, softer, more mature woman who has adapted to her higher station in life better than I expected.

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Matthew Rhys’ Mr Darcy is equally as good. While I appreciate some of the other actors in the role, I don’t have an obsessive love for them, as many do. Rhys made Darcy a very human sort of person, while maintaining all those things people love about him in the original text. He’s a powerful man with a lot of responsibility, but his private persona is everything you could hope it to be.

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The best thing is the scenes between the two of them, the way their relationship has matured, and the equality that is obvious.

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Georgiana is not exactly the proud, not as handsome as her brother character we meet in the original book, but I think Eleanor Tomlinson is excellent in the role.

One thing I didn’t like was that, for all the talk of the close relationship between Darcy and his sister, you saw hardly any evidence of it here.

I also have to say I like the very early 1800s hairstyles compared to what came a decade or so later (this sequel is set in 1803). So elegant!

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As Mrs Bennet, Rebecca Front was a relief. I thought Alison Steadman in the 1995 adaptation was absurd, and all her screeching hurt my ears. This Mrs Bennet is still all the things we despise her to be, but she actually fits into the era. A little crazier than Brenda Blethyn’s interpretation, but I think she works really well for me.

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There’s a lot that can be said about the others, but I’m not going to go on forever! The actress playing Lydia is getting plenty of attention online from the Doctor Who fanatics, but while I think she’s great in the role, she’s not a standout performance in the cast more than many of the others.

You might notice I don’t have a lot to say about the actual murder mystery. Firstly, because that’s not why I watched it! Secondly, because I looked up spoilers, just to make sure nobody I cared about was spoiled too much. I’ll make up my mind about that part when I watch the rest.