“Death Comes to Pemberley”: A few comments
What can bring me out of a blogging rut? Why, the combination of Matthew Rhys, Mr. Darcy and a BBC miniseries!
Perusing BBC iPlayer, as I am wont to do, I stumbled upon Matthew Rhys’ face in a video blog on his experience playing Mr. Darcy. Internal commentary: “Oh, Matthew Rhys! AS MR. DARCY? WHAT. What. Whaaaat…” And thus I discovered “Death Comes to Pemberley” the self-described murder mystery sequel to Pride and Prejudice. Having never heard of this sequel to begin with, of course I was intrigued. And, Matthew Rhys as Mr. Darcy: it’s literally someone I love in real life becoming someone I love in literary life. Catnip.
I quickly got into the three episode series, but with mixed feelings about the whole enterprise. The cast was great: Anna Maxwell Martin (recently of “The Bletchley Circle”) as Elizabeth; Jenna Coleman as Lydia; Matthew Goode as George Wickham (is he not perfect casting?); along with a host of other recognizable faces. It’s enjoyable, especially to imagine this as a potential alternate timeline for Jane Austen’s beloved characters. I’m not willing to accept it as canon (as I’m sure few are) and that is the only way I could accept the plot. (Although I think the author and actors both had a clear hold on the essence of these characters.)
If you love Pride and Prejudice like I do, then I’m sure you’ve mentally extended the ending of the novel into what you saw as the future of Elizabeth and Darcy. But do you really want someone laying it out for you? No, I don’t think so. But envisioning potentials is fine with me. (This reminded me of Billie Piper being included in the “Doctor Who” 50th Anniversary special; I didn’t really want to know what had happened in Rose’s life, because I already have my own ideas. Luckily Moffatt agreed with that and included her differently). This is, I would argue, a story written with the possibility of redemption in mind for George Wickham. With his connection to so many characters from the novel, I think he is an excellent plot motivator for this sequel. Being accused of murder causes everyone in Wickham’s life to question just how bad he is versus being just a scoundrel.
My two biggest problems are personal; I suspect everyone comes with their own checklist of what they want to see in a sequel to a beloved novel. Elizabeth’s parents, Lydia acting crazy, Jane, etc. I obviously wanted a lot of Matthew Rhys brooding, but I really wanted to see their married life. I wanted to see Elizabeth and Darcy happy because we get so little of that before Pride and Prejudice ends. You go through a couple of circles of hell before everything works out and you can let out a happy sigh of relief. Then finis.
But no. This story wanted to echo the original novel by having Elizabeth and Darcy deal with the same BS that was a primary conflict in Austen’s story. AFTER SIX RELATIVELY HAPPY YEARS, I suspect. I threw in the “relatively” to be realistic. Now, Wickham returns and Elizabeth thinks Darcy regrets marrying for love and he thinks Elizabeth married him for the money. I didn’t particularly like being put through the ringer over this again, but in the end I was rewarded.
The other thing that I, personally, need a break from is societal duty and the ruling class. I know it’s a fundamental aspect of this time and place, but…it seems to be a heavy focus on television today. And I’ve got the point now. Georgiana will marry the man Darcy wants her to because it is her duty to do what he asks without question. If someone associated with Darcy gets arrested for murder, it could ruin Darcy’s reputation. And risk the continuation of Pemberley. Thankfully (I say sarcastically), Elizabeth and Darcy already have a son, the line is secure! I don’t know; this is probably related to “Downton Abbey” viewing and the fact I’m currently reading Brideshead Revisited.
Those two criticisms aside, I really enjoyed the three hours I spent checking back in with Pemberley. Matthew Rhys was an excellent Darcy, in my obsessed with Matthew Rhys opinion. I’m tempted to read the novel with him standing in as Darcy. I’d love to see further explorations into the lives of these well-known characters. Hmmm, what about “Pemberley,” a series that follows Bennett/Darcy/Wickham/Bingley shenanigans on a weekly basis?