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P&P 200: Death Comes To Pemberley (2013) Review

Continuing on and adding into the 200th anniversary celebration this year of Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice novel, with my thoughts, opinions, and review of the homage and tribute to P&P, which was based on PD James' similar title novel adapted to a 3-part murder-mystery drama Death Comes to Pemberley starring Matthew Rhys (as Mr. Darcy), Anna Maxwell Martin (as Elizabeth Darcy...née Bennet).

Watch the trailer (and Episodes 1-3) and read my thoughts and long series review below...

(source: BBC)

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Death Comes To Pemberley Synopsis
In this, the 200th anniversary year of the first publication of Pride And Prejudice, PD James' remarkably inventive homage to Austen brings her much-loved world to life in a dazzling and original way with Austen’s best-known characters, Elizabeth (Maxwell Martin) Darcy (Rhys) and Wickham (Goode) at its heart in the 3-part Murder-Mystery period drama.
Elizabeth and Darcy, now six years married and with a young son, are preparing for the lavish annual ball at their magnificent Pemberley home. The unannounced arrival of Elizabeth’s wayward sister Lydia, however, brings an abrupt and shocking halt to proceedings when she stumbles out of her chaise screaming that her husband Wickham has been murdered.
Darcy leads a search party out to the woodlands, and when they discover the blood-smeared corpse not of Wickham, but his traveling companion. Suspicion is at once
aroused. The dramatic and unnerving events of the evening have shattered the peace both of the Darcys and of Pemberley, and as the family becomes caught up in the ensuing murder investigation, a mysterious web of secrets and deceit will threaten all that the Darcys hold dear...
I had the pleasure in seeing all 3 episodes of this mini-series in the last few days, much earlier than I expected and was very glad and thankful to those wonderful YouTube uploaders, who uploaded all 3 episodes of Death Comes To Pemberley, a day after each episode were broadcast on 3 consecutive nights (December 26-28) on BBC One in the UK this past week. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to see it this early, which is very rare, as I don't live in the UK and is always waiting for my favorite British period dramas to air on PBS or BBC America several months or a year later after they already aired in the UK. I would've still be waiting and wondering when in 2014 PBS Masterpiece will actually air this in the US. So, it was nice and unexpected to be able to see this much earlier, for a change. I've been following and posting here in this blog about this new BBC production since it was announced, from the casting news and rumors all the way down to the filming of it last summer. Though I have not read the book based on PD James novel of the same name prior to seeing this, I've heard of it and was looking forward to seeing this because of the few things that really captured my interest which were the return of Chatsworth as Pemberley, the murder-mystery part of it, and of course, the iconic characters (and pairing) of Elizabeth & Darcy (that I love so much from Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice novel) were the central characters of this new BBC One TV Mini-series.

Speaking of Elizabeth & Darcy and a few other P&P characters that were part of Death Comes To Pemberley, I was very curious to who they will cast as Mr. Darcy and his wife Elizabeth Darcy. I was thinking these two characters will be a hard one to cast as there had been so many pair of actors that had played them before in various P&P TV & Film adaptations. Two of the most popular pair of actors amongst them that are still fan favorites as Elizabeth & Darcy were Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle (from another BBC production, the 1995 P&P TV mini-series) and Keira Knightley & Matthew Macfadyen (from Focus Features' P&P (2005) film directed by Joe Wright). Both actors have to have the right look, the acting chops, and chemistry to play their roles very well in this adaptation as they will be the main leads and will be compared to the previous and aforementioned pair of Elizabeth's & Darcy's. The casting was an interesting mix. The rest of the cast were good, but the two main ones were a disappointment as far as looks-wise, I just don't see either Matthew Rhys & Anna Maxwell Martin as Darcy & Elizabeth. They were definitely miscast (especially Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth Darcy)! Even they both agreed, laughed, and mentioned in their press interviews how miscast they both were for the Darcy & Lizzie roles. But they were offered and agreed to be cast...so, I can't blame them for accepting these iconic P&P characters. Who wouldn't want to play Elizabeth & Darcy, right? I'd say the blame goes to the casting director and producers for not bothering to find and cast the right and best Darcy & Elizabeth actors they could find for this adaptation. Not that I don't like Rhys & Maxwell Martin, I do. I like them both and I know they are both very good and experienced actors with acting chops. I loved Matthew in his other TV & Film work such as Scapegoat, The Edge Of Love (with Keira Knightley), and The Mystery of Edwin Drood (with Tamzin Merchant) to name a few. And I loved Anna in North & South, Bleak House (with Carey Mulligan), Becoming Jane (with Anne Hathaway), and most recently I saw her in Bletchley Circle. They're both very good with acting and their other movies, but as far as the Lizzie & Darcy roles, they were just simply miscast, in my opinion. But since they were cast, I didn't expect much other than I know they'll both gave a good performance, acting-wise. Interestingly, I was looking forward more for Chatsworth as Pemberley and the murder-mystery part of this mini-series than I was with seeing them as the Darcys.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on all 3 episodes...

Episode 1
The return of the stunningly gorgeous Chatsworth House as Pemberley (which was first seen in the 2005 Pride & Prejudice film) was the main background for this mini-series, which I loved and enjoyed seeing as the home of the Darcys in this adaptation. Great idea for BBC to use Chatsworth as Pemberley, because that was the same stately home that was inspired and described in Austen's P&P novel about Darcy's estate and was famously used as Pemberley in the 2005 movie. I loved that they used Chatsworth more prominently in this series. I had the pleasure in visiting the place a few years ago and it was as beautiful seeing it in person as it is on screen. So glad they used Chatsworth for Pemberley and also Howard Castle was used as Pemberley's other interior rooms, which are beautiful as well. Elizabeth & Darcy were shown in love and happy in that nice little moment at their beautiful home in Pemberley at the beginning, but should've shown more affection as they're married and now a loving parent to a six-year-old boy, the young master Fitzwilliam (no doubt name after his namesake father) as he was affectionately called by the servants. As soon as the Wickhams arrived, the Darcys became unhappy, cold and distant. I felt sorry for Lizzie here, she does not deserved to be ignored by the suddenly distant and cold Mr. Darcy. How dare he treat the woman he loves that way?! I suddenly dislike Darcy here...that is just wrong, lol...Good set up and opening in this first episode.

Episode 2
Good second episode. Though, I thought Lydia's too much and was too bossy in this adaptation...Makes me want to slap her, lol. So glad Jane came by to visit (why wasn't Mr. Bingley with her? And where's Kitty and Mary?) and took her and their mother away from Pemberley. I didn't like the Darcys in this episode. Poor Elizabeth, not only she was having trouble communicating with Darcy (he kept ignoring her and was not listening to her...that is insensitive of him and is so not Darcy), she had to deal with the embarrassment of her mother and Lydia's annoying behavior while staying at their home in Pemberley and Wickham's murder scandal. Loved the scene where Lizzie confides in her sister Jane about her fears of her marriage to Darcy and how she felt like he was regretting their match. The flashback scene to his first proposal to her was a nice inclusion to that emotional scene. It got me teary eyed a bit and sad for her. Interesting second episode especially towards the end, the surprising revelation about the father of Luisa Bidwell's secret baby. Whoa, I didn't see that coming!

Episode 3
Finally, we got to see some nice and happy Darcy & Elizabeth moments in a few scenes of this episode. They saved the best for last. To quote, the 2005 Mrs. Bennet, "Thank the Lord for that. I thought it would never happen." LOL! Great last episode! I love how Elizabeth Darcy was prominent in this mini-series. She was a loving, caring mother and a good wife to Darcy (as well as a good daughter to the Bennet's and a caring sister to Lydia and Jane), and a good mistress to her loyal servants at Pemberley. Also, she has her own things to do on her own and not just as Darcy's wife (Darcy's a good husband himself and a loving father as well)...she came to the rescue of a certain character towards the end too...What a nice twist and reveal as to whodunit and killed Captain Denny towards the end. I didn't see that coming! And I loved seeing the happy ending montage for the Darcys too at the very end, as I didn't like seeing them unhappy and always arguing in the last two episodes.

Casting
I thought Matthew Rhys did very good, acting-wise, but as far as Mr. Darcy, character-wise, his Darcy here was completely different. While his Darcy is 6 years older in this story, he was suppose to have soften up and happy when he married Elizabeth. Instead in the first episode, he showed very little of that and was less affectionate to his wife. He was far too serious in several scenes, often angry and loud in a few scenes. He was just not the Darcy I'm used to seeing in other P&P adaptations. It was like he was just playing a character named Darcy, but not Austen's Darcy. I know this was not a P&P adaptation, but the character was taken from P&P and should still have the Darcy character traits, which I didn't really see here. The same goes for Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth Darcy. She did very good with her acting, but she was completely miscast for her role. She lacked the spark, quick-wit, and beauty that Elizabeth's character was mostly known for. Also, she looked rather plain (she should've been cast as either Mary Bennet or Charlotte Lucas, but unfortunately, neither appeared in this mini-series) way much older (and seemed worn out) than her Lizzie character who was supposed to be 26 years old and happily married to Darcy for six years. As Mrs. Darcy, the mistress of Pemberley, she should've worn some elegant dresses/gowns and not recycled plain dresses (especially the green dress she seemed to love wearing repeatedly in most scenes) as she was no longer the poor Elizabeth Bennet, who couldn't afford to buy fine clothes. I guess she wants to remain humble, but come on, she is now Mrs. Darcy, she should look the part and at least wear some fine dresses. Her wayward sister Lydia Wickham wore more elegant dresses than her and she's not even wealthy, lol. I tried not to think about Keira Knightley & Matthew Macfadyen's amazing portrayal as Elizabeth & Darcy from the 2005 movie or other P&P adaptations, while watching this mini-series, but I couldnt help it...she and Rhys both looked much older than their characters' ages (Elizabeth, 26 and Darcy, 34) and just didn't have the look or the chemistry as the Darcys. I wasn't impressed with the actress who played Jane Bingley either...I suddenly missed Rosamund Pike's Jane Bennet, the most beautiful Jane Bennet of all. But I did love that scene between Lizzie and Jane when Lizzie was sad, crying, and feared for her marriage to Darcy as she thinks "Darcy regrets his match with her." It was nice to see Jane comforting her in that emotional scene. Jena Coleman as Lydia Wickham was way over-dramatic and too annoying in this adaptation. She was rude and bossy to the Darcys when she arrived to their home in Pemberley uninvited and Pemberley Ball crashing...and she had the nerve to order Darcy to find her troublemaker husband Wickham for her as if she was Lady Catherine. The girl has no shame or manners. She did get Lady Catherine to leave Pemberley quickly by just being introduced to her as "Mrs. George Wickham," lol! Matthew Goode, on the other hand, was great as George Wickham. He was very good as Wickham that I didn't even hate him in this adaptation, but rather felt sorry for him as he was accused for murder. Had he been cast as Darcy, he would've been just as good. Even Tom Ward as Colonel Fitzwilliam was good in his character. He could've been good as Darcy as well. He looks a bit like Colin Firth's Darcy.

Overall
Despite the miscasting of the Darcys (and unfortunately, their lack of spark and chemistry...at least their acting made up for it) and the barely tolerable Lydia Wickham, I thought Death Comes To Pemberley turned out to be really good and much better than I expected. I really loved and enjoyed watching the murder-mystery part of the story and the conflict of the Darcy's marriage, which started out happy (though briefly shown) and suddenly turned sour after the Wickhams sudden arrival and murder scandal they brought along with them. Loved the suspense, twist and turn, and the surprising reveal at the end of both episodes 2 and 3 that I didn't see coming. The little promos also did a great job of not showing much as well as not spoiling and revealing the surprising ending. That's what made this mini-series fun to watch as I was into the murder-mystery part and kept trying to figure out as to whodunit. The writer did a great job on that. Also, great locations especially (I can't say this enough...) Chatsworth as Pemberley was just exquisite to look at, good music (though I hear a bit of similar score from the 1995 mini-series, if I'm not mistaken...at the beginning at the Bennet's arrival to Pemberley, I thought I heard the opening music credits from P&P '95) throughout, and just good acting by everyone in the cast. So, yeah...Death Comes To Pemberley was really good and I really enjoyed watching it. I recommend you see this if you love the murder-mystery genre, you'll love this as well as the great locations.

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