Mur­der? May­hem? How very vex­ing!

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - BRAD OSWALD

FOR decades, PBS has catered to the whims and de­sires of two dis­tinct groups of im­ported-drama fans: those who revel in a lav­ishly ap­pointed cos­tume drama, and those who love try­ing to un­ravel a rol­lick­ing, old-fash­ioned who­dunit. This week­end, both get what they want at the same time in the form of Death Comes to Pemberley, a clever, com­plex and beau­ti­fully ex­e­cuted yarn that com­bines the heart­strong char­ac­ters of Jane Austen with the crime-ca­per-craft­ing bril­liance of P.D. James. The two-part minis­eries, which pre­mières Sun­day at 9 p.m. on PBS and con­cludes next week in the same slot, takes the beloved char­ac­ters of Austen’s Pride and Prej­u­dice, vaults them a few years for­ward into what seemed des­tined to be a hap­pily-ever-after fu­ture, and then drops them smack-dab Wife) — had in­tended to crash the party, but their jour­ney to Pemberley was in­ter­rupted when a trav­el­ling com­pan­ion, who had been ar­gu­ing with Wick­ham en route, bolted from the car­riage into the for­est and, soon af­ter­ward, was found in the un­der­brush with his skull caved in. Darcy du­ti­fully sum­mons the lo­cal mag­is­trate to in­ves­ti­gate; it’s quickly de­ter­mined that Wick­ham is the prime (and, in­deed, sole) sus­pect in the mur­der. Us­ing James’ se­quel-ish novel as their foun­da­tion, screen­writer Juli­ette Towhidi and di­rec­tor Daniel Per­ci­val have cre­ated a lovely and fully en­thralling story that melds the oblig­a­tory cos­tume-drama class-strug­gle de­tails with a sharp and pleas­antly wit-test­ing mys­tery. There’s much at stake as the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, car­ried out by long­time Darcy-clan en­emy Sir Sel­wyn Hard­cas­tle (Trevor Eve), un­folds. Wick­ham, while not of the Darcy blood­line, has a con­nec­tion to the fam­ily that could put its for­tune and es­tate in peril if the scan­dal of a mur­der con­vic­tion should en­velop it. And while all this is go­ing on, Darcy’s sis­ter Ge­or­giana (Eleanor Tom­lin­son) is un­der pres­sure to choose pru­dently be­tween two suit­ors seek­ing her hand in mar­riage — their cousin, the dash­ing (but some­what shady) Col. Fitzwilliam (Tom Ward), or the less­flashy but more de­pend­able bar­ris­ter Henry Alve­ston (James Nor­ton). Choices must be made, and truths must be un­earthed. The Darcys’ good name de­pends on it. What makes Death Comes to Pemberley ex­tra spe­cial is the man­ner in which the bond be­tween Darcy and El­iz­a­beth is shown to have evolved. They are still very much in love, but the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of on­go­ing up­per­crust life and the pres­sures of this sud­denly ar­rived tragedy put a de­cided strain on their re­la­tion­ship. Rhys and Maxwell Martin do a note-per­fect job of por­tray­ing two peo­ple strug­gling might­ily to main­tain the one thing that truly mat­ters while ev­ery­thing else spins out of con­trol around them. It is, on ev­ery level, great fun. And de­spite a last-minute twist that some might con­sider a bit con­ve­nient, Death Comes to Pemberley will give both mys­tery lovers and cos­tume-drama afi­ciona­dos all the Brit-ac­cented en­ter­tain­ment they re­quire.

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