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Death Comes To Pemberley

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An adaptation of "Death Comes to Pemberley," P.D. James' sequel to Jane Austen's "Pride & Prejudice." Elizabeth and Darcy—who now have a son—host a ball at their lavish estate. The fête takes an unwanted turn, however, when a murder occurs. One of the involved parties: Wickham, the cad who swept Lydia off her feet years earlier.

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... Should I read the book first?. 

 

I wouldn't at this stage.  I love the book but then I'm a PD James fan from way back...never been an Austen fan but this book made me go read the original story!  I'm prepared to judge the movie as a separate entity to the book.  

 

I'm a bit perplexed at the casting choices to be honest but will reserve judgment till I've seen it.

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I wouldn't read it at this stage either, SierraMist. I read it over the summer and wouldn't say I loved it. I'm unsure about how I'll enjoy the adaptation but am trying to keep an open mind. Anyway, I say watch it and then see if you feel like reading it.

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I liked the James well enough, but I thought it played the mystery safely. There will be room for some scenery chewing, which I'm hoping will be fun.

 

Longbourn is now out in paperback, if you're looking for some P&P related bookery. OMG, it's really lovely. It's in development for a film treatment, I see. Can't wait for that, neither.

Edited by attica
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I liked the James well enough, but I thought it played the mystery safely. There will be room for some scenery chewing, which I'm hoping will be fun.

Yes and hell yes.

 

Longbourne is on my long list of things to read. I am not sure I knew it was coming to the screen. That and your recommendation will make me bump it to the top!

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I'm hoping that the story line will be clear and the characters fairly easy to tell apart.  (One of my pet peeves in these dramas is characters who look too much alike.)  Years ago, Mystery did a P. D. James novel in four parts, and after all four hours I had no earthly idea what it was about.  As a test I got a different PDJ novel from the library, read it in three hours, and understood it.  So it wasn't PDJ's fault, and I hope this dramatization will be better.

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Good lord, that really was "spot the British actor". Elizabeth should be much better dressed than that and I couldn't stop staring at Trevor Eve's bad wig and makeup. / shallow 

Edited by Pyralis
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Shallow comment here. Jane Austen always portrayed Lizzie as plainer than Jane, but still attractive. The actress playing Lizzie is much plainer than that . Sorry. 

 

Also, not sure if this is a problem with the book or with the screenplay, but 19th century social events were not just an evening at someone's house. How can you cancel a huge event like a ball the day of? Most people would have been en route, since many would be coming from far distances. How did she expect to inform all the guests? It's not like she could call them on the phone. 

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Despite chomping at the bit to get it from my library, I found the book boring as fuck and gave up on it halfway through.  I was hoping this adaptation might be better.  However, the casting choices are disappointing all the way around.  Both Darcy and Jane should be much more handsome than they are (Why on Earth are Lydia and Wickham the pretty ones?).  I too thought Lizzie should be far better dressed. No she was never a fashion plate, but still she would want to look the part of a Darcy once she joined the family.  Worse than all of this, Darcy has little personality and as a result, he and Lizzie have very little chemistry.  Also, just as in the book, precious little actually happened. I will say the direction is interesting, and it's shot beautifully.

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I spent the first fifteen minutes messing with my pic-shape, thinking it must be stuck on zoom, until I realized the actors' faces cut in half was a directorial choice. Then, when I finally managed to get a good look at the Darcys, all I could think was that they certainly hadn't aged well.

I've never understood the British casting directors' love for Anna Maxwell Martin. Her looks, her lisp and her slightly smug attitude, all put me off.

Lydia was almost unbelievably silly. I would have expected a little bit of growth or change there.

I was really most interested in the woman in the woods. but I guess she'll be off hissing at someone else now.

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I also tried to read the book, but abandoned it after the first few chapters, due to boredom. I don't normally read P.D. James, but I thought that taking the characters that Austen created and basically plopping them into a different setting was lazy on the part of the writer. Of course Lizzie is the level headed one, Darcy is still in love with her after years have passed, Lydia is still silly, Wickham is still dastardly, Mrs. Bennett is still a PITA and Mr Bennett is still trying to get away from her and get some peace. Really? Zero character development. It would have been more amusing to  see SOME, or ANY changes in the characters. 

 

The other thing that bugged me, and I know it's just superficial, is that the story opened the day before the ball. Lizzie is down in the kitchen inspecting the food. So the table is lined with trays of food that will surely go bad before the next evening. It's not like they can put it in the fridge. It made no sense to me. 

 

Also, what's wrong with the young man that Lizzie keeps visiting? I must have missed that. 

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I've never understood the British casting directors' love for Anna Maxwell Martin. Her looks, her lisp and her slightly smug attitude, all put me off.

 

See, now, I find myself entranced by her. Something about her seems so good, so warm and empathetic, so thoughtful. She's value-added in a cast for me.  Although yeah, that green dress is getting more of a workout than is reasonable.

 

I think the cancelling of the ball is the kind of thing that was done, so even people who had to travel a few hours to come wouldn't already be on their way, if they got the news early enough in the day. Nobody expects a phone call, of course, so whatever means of communication were at hand would be acceptable. Nobody would expect a ball to be held in the wake of a MUUUUURDERRRR; they would make do.

 

I know the costume houses in Britain reuse a lot of their Regency frocks for these productions, so it's always a bit of fun for me to spot a piece I've seen before. For instance, the mauve Spencer jacket with the purple velour collar that Jane wears on the visit to the Bidwells? Well, if that's not the same jacket worn by Sally Hawkins during the Bath Marathon in Persuasion, I'll eat my bonnet. It still needs fitting.

 

Jenna Coleman is cracking me up here.

 

I think the cinematography in this is just gorgeous. I especially like the scene of Jane and Lizzy on the balcony, lit by the fire lamp below.

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Also, what's wrong with the young man that Lizzie keeps visiting? I must have missed that.

 

Maybe a spoiler because I don't think they actually said last night 

If I remember, he's dying but I can't remember from what disease.

 

I wasn't a great fan of the book even though I like PD James.  Others have done the Elizabeth and Darcy stories better - especially Carrie Bebris who writes a great mystery series about the Darcys (during the series they interact with the characters from the other JA books).  But I liked the tv version.  Probably mostly for the casting which I thought was great.

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I know the costume houses in Britain reuse a lot of their Regency frocks for these productions, so it's always a bit of fun for me to spot a piece I've seen before. For instance, the mauve Spencer jacket with the purple velour collar that Jane wears on the visit to the Bidwells? Well, if that's not the same jacket worn by Sally Hawkins during the Bath Marathon in Persuasion, I'll eat my bonnet. It still needs fitting.

 

 

The Bath Marathon! LOL I have the DVD and the marathon still cracks me up.

 

I found this show kind of boring, but I agree with everyone about the direction and cinematography.

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I think the cancelling of the ball is the kind of thing that was done, so even people who had to travel a few hours to come wouldn't already be on their way, if they got the news early enough in the day. Nobody expects a phone call, of course, so whatever means of communication were at hand would be acceptable.

 

It might be done, but only those within a day's ride would get notice.  There simply wasn't a fast way of getting a message out, what with no trains or telegraph; it was horse and rider (or public coach) or nothing.  In all likelihood, a lot of the out-of-the-area guests would show up because there simply was no way to let them know not to come.

Lydia was almost unbelievably silly. I would have expected a little bit of growth or change there.

 

I wouldn't have.  Other characters, yes, but Lydia (and, for that matter, Mrs. Bennett), no.

 

I'm finding the casting overall to be very spotty.  Jenna Coleman was a good choice, I thought, and James Fleet, as well as the actor playing Col. Fitzwilliam, but the rest of the main characters seem very dull, lackluster choices to me.  I usually like Anna Maxwell Martin, but she just isn't giving me Lizzie's wit and spark here.  And the less said about Matthew Rhys' boring and charmless Darcy, the better.  But I'll keep watching, I think.

Edited by proserpina65

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I wasn't a huge fan of the book because I didn't think PD James really did a good job with the characters.  I like the miniseries even less.  I can't tell any of the men apart!  They're all roughly the same height, build, and coloring.  For each scene, until the character started speaking I didn't figure out who it was.  And the casting of Elizabeth is very unfortunate.  She looked sickly and thin.  Elizabeth might not be a beauty but she was spirited and dynamic and personable.  This version is not only dressed badly, she has no personality.

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FYI on mail delivery during the Regency Period: http://www.jasnanorcal.org/ink9.htm

 

 

Beginning in 1784 Royal Mail stagecoaches, shown here in 1805, made a revolutionary improvement in English mail service. Before that time the mails had been carried by “a very low or worthless boy, mounted on a miserable hack . . . too often suspected of being in collusion with the robber.” Post boys were robbed so frequently that a contemporary account described the mail as “very unsafe, and to avoid loss, people generally cut Bank Bills in two, and send the parts by a different post. The Postmasters General advertised directions to the public how to divide a bill, in such a manner as to prevent its being of any use to a robber.”

Royal Mail coaches set standards of speed and safety by which all other travel was judged. The blunderbuss and four pistols of the guard and driver gave excellent protection from highwaymen, and the coaches could outrun many pursuers. In Austen’s time dozens of Mail coaches set out from central London promptly at eight p.m. every night, carrying mail to 320 destinations across the country. The guard on each coach was provided with a watch that had just been checked and locked, and at the end of the trip he was required to provide a written explanation of any delay that occurred. Although as many as seven passengers were allowed on a coach, the primary concern of the guard and driver was the safety and speed of the mail. Mail coaches were not required to stop and pay at a toll gate, and circumstances sometimes allowed a Mail coach to hurry through a town at its top speed of 10 miles an hour, picking up and dropping off mailbags without even slowing down. Schedules allowed only five or six minutes for changing horses at a posting station, and some ostlers actually learned how to change out a four-horse team on a Mail coach in sixty seconds. On the four hundred mile trip from London to Edinburgh the Mail coaches often arrived within five minutes of their scheduled time. Do we do as well today?

 

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In all likelihood, a lot of the out-of-the-area guests would show up because there simply was no way to let them know not to come.

 

I don't think the number of out-of-area guests is going to be that large, actually. The ball is mostly for their neighbors, not for the court or anything. Some will be far enough away that they'll need to stay the night, but those further would arrive earlier than the day of, such as the Bennets, or would be staying with local families and could be notified where they're lodging. 

 

Anyway, I'm giggling over imagining Joanna Scanlan (Mrs. Reynolds) and Rebecca Front (Mrs. Bennet) regaling the cast and crew with some of the choicer profanities learned on the set of The Thick of it. I bet Mrs. R wanted to give Trevor Eve a hearty 'fuckity-bye'.

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I've never understood the British casting directors' love for Anna Maxwell Martin. Her looks, her lisp and her slightly smug attitude, all put me off.

I absolutely loved her in Bleak House. I think she's fine here.

 

I could have sworn that Henry was being played by Zach Gilford (aka Matt Saracen). It seemed weird that an English production would use an American actor to play an Englishman. Of course it wasn't Gilford but James Norton, whom I recently saw in Happy Valley.

 

As far as the show itself, I'm a little lost -- I never read Pride & Prejudice, and I'm not even sure I saw a production of it -- but I'm being patient. For instance, I was wondering what was wrong with the young man that Elizabeth visits, but since M. Darcy said it hasn't been revealed yet, I won't click on that spoiler.

 

I am able to keep the actors straight, though I've had that trouble in the past. I know Matthew Rhys (The Americans) and Matthew Goode (The Good Wife), so it helps being familiar with at least some of the actors.

 

I think I've already figured out who killed the guy, but I'm probably wrong about that.

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I absolutely loved her in Bleak House.

You know, I actually loved her in that, too. It was around the time of, "The Bleckley Circle," that she started seeming smug to me and, of course, she plays someone who is smarter than almost everyone in that so maybe it's part of the role.

She just isn't my idea of Elizabeth and the ages seem out of whack. The actress in 37. This is supposed to be 7 years after P&P. When that novel began Giorgiana was fifteen and Elizabeth twenty. Georgiana and Lydia still seem very young, as they should be, but to me Elizabeth seems much older than they are.

Lydia was 15 in the novel which is why I expected her to have changed. Almost no one acts the same as they did when they were 15 after they've grown-up and married.

Edited by JudyObscure
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I absolutely adore P&P, and I was pretty disappointed by this. I thought it dragged, and the casting and even characterization were awful. Only Lydia and Wickham seemed like themselves from the book.

Col. Fitzwilliam was a lot sterner than I remember, and Lizzy doesn't have the spark that makes her Lizzy. Plus, I agree with a lot of you that the actress is just too plain.

I'm not sure I want to watch anymore, but I probably will just out of loyalty to my love for these characters, even of they don't ring true here.

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I usually like Anna Maxwell Martin, but she just isn't giving me Lizzie's wit and spark here.

 

Agreed.  I like AMM loads, but she's really more of a Charlotte Lucas. 

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I saw P&P years ago and enjoyed it, but I'll be damned if I can remember who Jane married.  I thought she married Fitz William (the Col), no???  Maybe I'm mixing up P&P with Sense and Sensibility? One of these Austin girls married an officer...

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Maybe I'm mixing up P&P with Sense and Sensibility? One of these Austin girls married an officer...

 

Yeah, Marianne from S&S married Col. Brandon.

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Lydia was 15 in the novel which is why I expected her to have changed. Almost no one acts the same as they did when they were 15 after they've grown-up and married.

 

I don't know, there are plenty of people who never grow up.  I've just always imagined Lydia being perpetually that vapid, self-obsessed airhead she was at 15.

I don't think the number of out-of-area guests is going to be that large, actually. The ball is mostly for their neighbors, not for the court or anything. Some will be far enough away that they'll need to stay the night, but those further would arrive earlier than the day of, such as the Bennets, or would be staying with local families and could be notified where they're lodging.

 

Not having read the book (and not really paying that much attention to the ball talk), I can't speak to how this particular ball would be handled.  I was just speaking more generally based on my reading of historical accounts of the time.  But yes, if the guest list is mostly comprised of local people, then cancelling the ball would be less problematic.

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From what I remember from the last chapter of P&P (she describes the future of the marriage), it doesn't seem that JA had Lydia becoming any more mature after her marriage so PD James is probably pretty close on in her imaging of Lydia in the book.

Edited by M. Darcy
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OK,  I'd forgotten that I had pre-ordered the DVD on Amazon:  it arrived today and I "cheated" and watched the whole thing, including re-watching the first two episodes I saw during broadcast on Sunday.  I guess I must have been half watching on Sunday because I really felt I saw a lot more tonight than I remembered seeing on Sunday...

 

No spoilers here but the big problem with this production (other than the really weird casting) is that they've done 21st C sensibilities.  So we see the houses, the landscape, the clothing, but these people do not act like 19th C people and therein lies the problem.   There's no way that amount of emotion would EVER be shown in public, in front of servants, in front of each other! etc so therein lies the dissonance.  It's not necessarily wrong but I think what we see in this production and what we've been trained to expect (and I admit to being over 55) causes the dissonance.  And maybe that helps explain the casting... 

 

Having said that, watching the DVD revealed to me some very sly and amusing moments -- a wry smile, a cynical glance etc (again, very out of period, but reflective of how we today would react)  

 

BUT I really could have done with Elizabeth having some color choices other than green, blue/green: what was with that????

Edited by DHDancer
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I almost stopped watching during the first episode as it was just so....boring.  All of the characters seemed stagnant.  It seems like a common situation when a different author tries to further the story of another (there was a horrible follow up to Gone With the Wind in the 1980s or 1990s).  It's hard to sustain characterization when the author has a primarily different perspective.  I'll probably keep watching although I'm not quite sure why.

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I too almost stopped watching the show...but soldiered on.  The episode felt clunky, somehow.  The opening scene, for instance, of young Fitzwilliam running away from his nanny, only to be scooped up by Mama with no rebukes..felt odd.  The Colonel's chat with Elizabeth in the garden regarding Georgianna felt heavy-handed, too.  He revealed too much of his intentions, and I wondered why he was speaking with Elizabeth, shouldn't he have spoken to Darcy, as Georgianna's guardian?  During the scene of leaving Pemberly at night with a search party to find Wickham, I thought Elizabeth rather passive.  Shouldn't she have waked more footmen to provide light and assistance on the driveway/road?  Shouldn't she have better directed servants to prepare food/refreshment for the search party and for the Magistrate?  She just seemed to hang around, instead of acting like a proper Lady of the Manor.  Finally, I was distracted by the actress who plays Elizabeth...her mannerisms and delivery very, very similar to The Bletchley Circle role.  Rise above yourself, girl!  You're an actress!  Give us something fresh for each character.

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Geez, all those servants and no lady's maid to do Elizabeth's hair?  I don't know who was making the costuming decisions, but her plainness of dress, and especially her extremely modest wedding ring, just aren't remotely credible.

 

I've liked both Anna Maxwell Martin and Matthew Rhys in other shows (Bletchley Circle and the Americans, respectively), but they are so miscast here that I almost didn't bother watching the episode.  Everybody else seems fine, although I think of Superintendent Innocent every time I see Mrs. Bennett.

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I guess I must have been half watching on Sunday because I really felt I saw a lot more tonight than I remembered seeing on Sunday...

It's probably not your attention span that's at fault.  I once watched an episode of Foyle's War on PBS, only to get a disc with the same episode from Netlfix a day later. It turns out the DVD version had at least 5 minutes more footage than the PBS Mystery version - and I'm not talking deleted scenes - I mean the same scenes only fully extended.  I don't know why it was edited for PBS.  There was nothing that would be considered objectionable material in it.  It helped the scene make more sense, actually. The same thing may be happening here.

Edited by 7-Zark-7
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Whatever image you might have of Elizabeth, the one requirement is that she have fine eyes.  It's even in the damn script!    Elizabeth Garvie was no traditional beauty, but her eyes were stunning, and she had a lot of personality, so the casting was perfect, once you got to know her.  Jennifer Ehle was just lovely, period.  But alas, this lady I'm sure is fine in other roles, but miscast here.

 

Lydia is Mrs. Bennett at the same age.  That's what Mr. Bennett had the hots for and what he has paid for every day since. 

 

I remember the book was kind of dull and the show is too, but I do like to look at the pretty.

 

For those who haven't read the original, Col. Fitzwilliam was a very nice man in the original. 

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Agreed, kassa. To quote my mother, "whoever cast that actress as Elizabeth apparently never read P&P. She's supposed to have 'fine eyes'!"

Also, she seems closer in age to her mother than she is to Lydia. I know Elizabeth is a grand lady now, and Lydia a perpetual child, but the actresses even look twenty years apart in age.

Whenever I find myself playing Hey It's That Guy, it's a bad sign. Well, hello, Finn Polmar! Good to see you, CS Innocent!

I'm thinking I might skip the second half and just read the book to find out the conclusion. :-/

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I don't mind the actress that plays Elizabeth because I have a soft spot for her ever since she did a kick ass job in "North and South." Now that is a sequel I would love to see (as long as Richard Armitage is still in it).

Lydia is so ridiculous, as is her mom. I know that's how they are written but I just can't with their scenes.

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I missed the final scene.  I assume that Elizabeth got there in time?  Will Lydia and Wickham stay in England or will he give the family a break and emigrate to the US? (Not that we want him here, but maybe he falls overboard during the passage.)

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I am not familiar with the actress playing Elizabeth, but I'm not impressed with her in this.  Actually, the story wasn't impressive either.  In every scene, Lizzy looks more like she is one of the servants instead of the Lady of the house. In fact, "Daisy" on Downton Abbey looks "higher born" than Lizzy (yes, I know, different era -but even as a scullery maid, Daisy had more spark).  Austen wrote Lizzy as a sensible and smart girl of her time, but she also had spirit and vivaciousness, even if she wasn't as physically attractive as Jane.  None of that is apparent in this production.

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"Death Comes To Pemberley"?  More like ridiculous Victorian melodrama comes to Pemberley, starring woefully miscast caricatures of some people that may or may not have been in Pride and Prejudice.  The only characters who came close to resembling those in Austen's original were Lydia and Mrs. Bennet, and, to a much lesser extent, Georgianna and Lady Catherine (great to see you again, Penelope Keith, don't be such a stranger).  Seriously, what the hell was up with ruining Col. Fitzwilliam, who was by far the nicest and most-easying going person in all of the original book?  Even the attractiveness of the actor wasn't enough to keep me from hating the character assassination performed on him.  And the entire notion of poor Louisa being able to raise her illegitimate baby in an area when everyone would've known the child was illegitimate, I'm to assume without anyone caring, was utterly absurd; obviously the writers and producers knew nothing of Georgian societal mores when they wrote that crap.  Or maybe that falls on P. D. James' shoulders, but still total crap.

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This production made significant (and to my eye, less successful) changes to the James text. I'll spoiler the biggies in case readers want to check it out for themselves:

 

First, the dynamic between Lizzy and Darcy was kind, loving, and supportive
thoughout the book. No bickering over suitors at all. The show's impulse to
introduce conflict there made me quite wrinkle my nose. Second, the bastard kid
did not get kept: a nice family from Highbury named Woodhouse adopted him.
How do you leave that out when it's such an adorable nod to the rest of the
Austenverse?!?

 

Lastly (and of least consequence), no, of course Lizzy didn't brandish the confession up on the scaffolding. That's just nuts.

Edited by attica
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The weird thing that I did enjoy watching it but I have no idea why.  Maybe it was just an enjoyable way to end the weekend. 

 

I do think the solution to the mystery was stupid.  Oh, the guy who is dying was the killer.  Plus, wouldn't have Louisa have known who Wickham was?  His picture at least used to be on display at the house.  Oh well, if I don't think too much about the logic, its more enjoyable.

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I do think the solution to the mystery was stupid.  Oh, the guy who is dying was the killer.

 

Yeah, not only that, but it was a servant, not an upper-cruster. All the aristos get to keep the cake.

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Yeah, not only that, but it was a servant, not an upper-cruster. All the aristos get to keep the cake.

This ^

 

I can't help but think my reaction to the ending wasn't supposed to be rolling my eyes at Lizzie's arrival to save Wickham, saying to myself, "Or course they save the aristocrat!  All you other guys (who were probably dying for stupid crap like poaching a deer, animals which regularly commit vehicular suicide on modern roadways) you're still gonna hang!" 

 

And... they did.

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Thanks for the info, Attica. 

Glad to be able to place the blame on the producers/writers of the show, rather than on P. D. James, whose writing I generally like.

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Yes, the age before cell phones, but did they have to do a corny 'saved at the very last second' reprieve?

And very odd that they're setting up Wickham's son to mirror Wickham's own childhood relationship.  As a kind of companion (more than a servant )  to Darcy's son.

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I'm glad to read all these comments - I had to stop watching just as the trial started, but I taped the rest and was wondering if it was worth watching it.  Now that I know what happened, I think I will watch and just fast forward to Lady Catherine's part in it - I love Penelope Keith!

 

As for what I did see of this mystery...disappointing, for all the reasons mentioned in this thread.  I missed the real Lizzie, the "reputed beauty" with the "fine eyes", and the wit and sparkling nature!  Sorry, Jane Austen, nothing to see here...

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For those who haven't read the original, Col. Fitzwilliam was a very nice man in the original.

This bothered me so much. He inherits the estate after the death of an older brother and suddenly he's an asshole? And what would he be doing still in the Army? Soldiering was for 2nd sons.

 

I also couldn't understand why Will - the guy who was dying and couldn't even get out of bed - was suddenly able to get to the front door, bash Capt. Denny with his stick and then run into the woods after him. Really? Really?!!

 

I thought it unlikely, but I really wanted Wickham to hang. And I think it would have been a nice P.D. James 'twist' to have the guy that everyone was sure committed the murder actually commit the murder.

 

Whatever other anachronisms there were, nothing bothered me so much as Lizzy running up the scaffold crying "Stop the hanging!" Shit like that you might expect from an American screenwriter writing for a least common denominator American audience. But English writers writing for an English audience? For shame.

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