'Masterpiece: Death Comes to Pemberley'
(Anna Maxwell Martin, Matthew Rhys, Matthew Goode, Jenna Coleman, et al / DVD / NR / 2014 / PBS)
Overview: 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.
DVD Verdict: Darcy and Elizabeth are happily married with a young son, living in their glorious big house Pemberley and about to hold an annual ball. The night before the ball Elizabeth's estranged sister Lydia Wickham arrives in a carriage screaming. A man is subsequently found murdered in the woods nearby. The story is mainly about the murder, the reappearance of George Wickham and the subsequent effect of both on life at Pemberley.
Without revealing too much the story pretty much goes like this: Dark secrets come to life; Darcy goes all stoic and cold again; Lizzie gets frantic worrying he doesn't love her any more because she didn't come from money as he did and people are gossiping; Lydia and Mrs Bennett milk the Darcys' hospitality for all their worth; an innocent man nearly gets hanged; Wickham continues being a scoundrel and Darcy's little sister Georgiana has her hands full trying to choose between two men.
It goes without saying that you have to have read Pride and Prejudice first, or at least seen the 1995 version with Colin Firth. (The one with him in a wet shirt cliché). I haven't read the P.D.James novel so I can't comment on the similarity between the two. Watch if you like period dramas and murder mysteries, it combines them very well. It captures an accurate picture of what life might have been like 6 years down the line from Darcy and Elizabeth's happily ever after and life in Georgian England at that time.
The stories below stairs are fascinating although not seen very much. The setting and scenery are amazing. The score is surprisingly modern and sparse at times, very effective. Elizabeth is still a confident young woman and her relationship with her parents is much the same as the Austen novel. The relationship between Darcy and Wickham is explored in much greater depth albeit a murky, confusing depth. Georgiana has grown up although she still seems shrouded in cotton wool by her brother.
Highlights: Jenna Coleman's simply stunning portrayal of Lydia and Penelope Keith as Lady Catherine.
Downsides: Some of the secondary story lines can be hard to follow and seem irrelevant at times and there seem to be a few too many red herrings for me. I forgot how irritating Darcy is.
Verdict: Worth a watch for a few days entertainment. Not exactly great art, but an intriguing mystery, good story and mostly well acted. In truth, I was also hoping for a host of special features, but PBS doesn't go in for all that, sadly. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.