It is 1802, six years since the events of Jane Austen's beloved novel, Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy are married and happily ensconced at Pemberly, Darcy's ancestral home, where they have a son, young Fitzwilliam. The entire manor is preparing for the annual ball when on a dark, stormy night, Lizzy's sister Lydia arrives unexpectedly in a coach, screaming that her husband, Wickham, has been shot.
Death Comes to Pemberly takes these familiar characters and casts them in a gothic mystery. A murder has been committed and someone close to the Darcys stands accused. Episode one begins a moody whodunit, while the second episode builds upon that to add a legal drama. At stake are not only matters of life and death, but also those of the heart, of courtships and marriages.
The series is adapted by Juliette Towhidi from the novel by P.D. James and it is mostly a faithful adaptation. Some events have been re-ordered, some characters have shifted or been omitted, and some revelations come in a different order from those in the book. The series also ramps up the drama: relationships are more tempestuous, symbolism and foreshadowing more ominous. Many will find it more entertaining than the book.
Matthew Rhys, from Brothers and Sisters and The Americans returns to his British roots to play Darcy. Veteran BBC and stage actress Anna Maxwell Martin plays Elizabeth, while Doctor Who's Jenna Coleman plays Lydia. Each actor knows they're in a somewhat pulpy mystery, yet maintains the dignity of starring in and Austen adaptation. Coleman is especially fine in what could have been a thankless role.
Death Comes to Pemberly ably recalls events from Pride and Prejudice so as not to rely some much on a viewer's familiarity with the novel. It does a good job on catching you up on those events as well as detailing others that impact present motivations. You don't get lost. It's a great murder mystery as well as a great way to catch up with these beloved characters.
Masterpiece Mystery: Death Comes to Pemberly debuts Sunday Oct. 26th on 9:00 p.m. on KIXE channel 9.
Chad Grayson has been a gas station attendant, sold video games over the phone, and even was the person who cuts the mold off the cheese in the cheese factory, but spent most of his career as a middle school Language Arts and History teacher. He is now a full-time stay at home dad and writer. You can find him on twitter at @chadgrayson and on his blog at cegrayson.wordpress.com.