Many of the TV series I get to watch are recommended to me by readers who know I’m just as interested in a good story as they are. Also, now Netflix is sending me recommendations, which, given my eclectic tastes, can be fraught. The odd whacky title they’ve recommended, though, I’ve still taken a look at and sometimes have been pleasantly surprised.
Death Comes to Pemberley, however, I tripped over completely by accident. It was at the bottom of another series I had been watching and the name, Pemberley, caught my attention.
I admit I was wary. I love and adore Pride and Prejudice, the book and the several filmed versions of it. Keira Knightley’s version is front runner in film still, but it’s been a long while since I saw the Colin Firth version…
Then there are aberrations like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I still can’t believe they filmed that. I realize it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, and I didn’t. Not for moment. But neither could I enjoy it. There are some historical inaccuracies I can put up with to enjoy a story–most often, women in modern historical romances have far more freedom and independence than they actually did, but to write a romance that features a properly subjugated woman would…well, it wouldn’t be a romance. And romance readers would quite properly toss it across the room in disgust.
So I’m not such a stickler for historical accuracy that I can’t unbend enough to enjoy a story for what it is. I just couldn’t bend that much for zombies. It doesn’t help that I don’t like zombies in the first place.
So I sat down to watch Death Comes to Pemberley with a fair amount of trepidation. I knew it was a murder mystery going in, because the best selling book was written by PD James. I mean, how awful could it be? The worst, I decided, was that James had dropped a modern murder mystery into the middle of Pemberley and Elizabeth ran around sleuthing and questioning everyone, which would make it a curiosity piece worth watching just once to see how Matthew Rhys went as Darcy (which is always the benchmark, right?).
I watched all three episodes of the mini-series, and I admit I was still holding my breath by the end of the first episode.
The problem was: Darcy wasn’t Matthew MacFadyen. Elizabeth wasn’t Keira Knightley. And Wickham wasn’t Rupert Friend.
However, I was conditionally prepared to move on because the story did not involve Elizabeth bent over a body with a magnifying glass. In fact the first episode nicely slotted into all the facts and characters in Pride and Prejudice and everyone was behaving exactly as they should, six years after the ending of Jane Austen’s novel. I suspect that PD James was very aware of the huge heritage she was tapping into and writing all over the top of. Kudos to her: She was respectful.
In fact, by the end of the three episodes, I had to acknowledge she’d done a brilliant job. All the characters behaved the way they should. Wickham, by the way, was absolutely perfect. The historical mores and morals of the time were maintained and in fact, the whole mystery could not have happened if they had not. That’s why I decided I loved the series. It was true to Austen, true to the times, and as a small bonus, the exteriors were all filmed at Chatsworth House in Derbeyshire, where the Keira Knightly Pemberley was filmed.
I really enjoyed seeing Lizzy and Mr. Darcy after their romance.
But the Pulse Pause Moment for me came right at the end, when Elizabeth, with split second timing, saves the day. I’m trying very hard not to spoil this, but Wickham’s reaction was so telling about the river of strong feelings running beneath his “I don’t give a damn” facade. Just lovely!
I enjoyed it so much I didn’t mind that I had pegged the killer early in the second episode (but that happens a lot for me).
Death Comes to Pemberley is currently available on Netflix. Do give it a try.