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Review: Death Comes to Pemberley Part 2

Saturday 28 Dec 2013

Death comes to pemberley 2

© BBC

Yesterday’s dark glances and suppressed secrets have started to come to the surface.

Past histories, fears and resentments, are dragged out from the shadows of the forest and the ornate wallpaper.

As pressure mounts upon the Darcey’s ancestral seat, our protagonists are left cowering behind precedent, as it looks like heavily leveraged reputations, now short sold, are about to crash.

Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell, deliver stand out performances as Darcey and Elizabeth. We are shown credibly, with great psychological depth, the nagging worries that underlie their otherwise very strong marriage. She, that he secretly regrets marrying beneath him, he that she married him only for money and to raise her family’s status.

I complained after the last episode that the series is to egalitarian in its presentation of, especially Elizabeth’s, relationships with servants and others of a lesser social rank, I found this jarred with the rest of the well considered and complex script.
 
Thankfully in this episode the shear rigidity and folly of the system of social stratification that forms the bedrock of the program’s geology is fully restored. From the aristocratic magistrate who is entitled to be both investigator, prosecutor and judge, ensuring justice for no one. Through to the servant family, in this episode, evidently resenting and trying to frustrate Elizabeth’s well intentioned prying into their familial affairs when it threatens their own honour. We are led to see how each character is ensnared in their own private cage of society's making.

One character stands in the middle disrupting this. The horrible, yet highly alluring figure of George Wickham a man driven to booze and scheming by society that he is at once to lowly born to get on in, yet to intelligent to yield to. Exiled from the Darcey family he has always longed to be at the heart of, episode two sees him incarcerated and put on trial.

Pleasingly for a whodunit, set within the easily recognisable confines of a great house, it is not yet apparent who did commit the murder. There are plenty of motives plenty of secrets still to spill out. I know that P.D. James, who penned the novel Death Comes to Pemberley is a declared fan of Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities, a story with which even putting the commonalities regarding, class, death and the spectre of a decadent social order threatened aside, Pemberley has a similar air to.

Personally, guided in part by my own noir and gothic sensibilities, I wonder whether a David Peacesque defensive collusion, by corrupt, dark hearted, northern worthies is still afoot. Possibly suggesting that James Norton’s, Mr. Alveston, an urbane, forward thinking, and seemingly highly decent, barrister’s neck is at threat alongside Wickham’s.                 
With a lot still to unravel, not least the relevance, of the mysterious lady in red glimpsed throughout the last two episodes, an exciting finale is promised this evening.

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