Miniseries Review: Death Comes to Pemberley

I’ve been waiting months to see Death Comes to Pemberley, after I read and reviewed the book by P. D. James earlier this year. Apparently the UK got to watch it last Christmas, and the USA earlier this year, but down here we’ve had to wait, and wait, and wait. By the time I finally found out it was being aired here, I’d already missed the first episode. 😦 Fortunately it was on a channel with a great online catch-up service, so I watched the first two episodes back to back. 🙂 Then I was disappointed to learn that I had to wait a whole week for the final installment. 😦

At first glance, the casting is not exactly what I’d have chosen, but all the actors did a great job bringing their respective characters to life. I was a little disappointed that Mr and Mrs Bennett stayed the night at Pemberley at the beginning, instead of Mr and Mrs Bingley, but it did make for some interesting exchanges between Mr Bennett and Mr Darcy.

It is fairly obvious that Death Comes to Pemberley is not part of the Austen cannon. It has the same piercing insight into the characters, but without the genteel restraint of Austen’s novels (and consequently, the film adaptions of them). Both the book and the miniseries assume that the audience are very familiar with Pride and Prejudice, but the miniseries is perhaps less subtle about it, using several flashbacks to events from the characters’ pasts throughout the series.

As usually happens in film adaptations, things did not always occur in the same way or the same order as in the book. While nothing vital seems to have been missed out, there were times where I feel the drama was heightened – whether to make the series more interesting or to give Elizabeth more air time I couldn’t say. The big reveal at the end of the series was, in my opinion, slightly overdone, and did not maintain the strict adherence to the social niceties of the time that had been otherwise generally well portrayed. That said, I still enjoyed the series, and would recommend it to Austen fans, but should point out that it has little in common with most of P. D. James’ other works.

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