The Bletchley Circle, Series Two (2013)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

When ITV finally aired season one of The Bletchley Circle, there was finally news there would be a second season thanks to fabulous ratings. Fortunately, for fans, that day has arrived and a second season is out on DVD for British aficionados to enjoy. 

During the war, there were top-secret government tasks that needed to be completed but with men away, fighting to protect the home front, it was left to the women to be sure the jobs were filled. Code breaking was one of the jobs and Jean (Julie Graham) was one of the women who worked at Bletchley Park. When she sees newspaper reports accusing Alice Merren (Hattie Morahan) of murdering a former colleague, Jean remembers having met both of them during her Bletchley days and is suspicious of the accusations. After speaking with Alice, Jean believes she’s innocent which sends her to recruit her former Bletchley friends including Millie (Rachel Stirling) who now works in a translation position and Lucy (Sophie Rundle), a Scotland Yard secretary who has to be careful to conceal her ability to commit to memory anything she reads. Then there is Susan.

Still suffering from being kidnapped by a serial killer, Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin) is in no hurry to jump back to sleuthing and were it not for a little nudging from her friends, she’d be still trying to busily fill her days. Instead she reluctantly sets about helping to string together the clues that will prove Alice’s innocence – or guilt.

This four-part series is different than the first. Not only its format but its sentiments are different also – primarily with a different mindset for its top-billed character, Susan, who is altogether a “changed” persona. She was one of my favorites from the prior set so watching her timidity was heartbreaking while at the same time I understood her reservations and sad as it was, respected, accepted and understood the importance of her decision in the end - which also offers a nice resolution to one major stumbling block in the first installments. Beyond that, there are two two-part stories comprised of series two which I suspect was the best format to better suit the goodbye to one character.

So many wartime dramas teach us either about the emotional aftermath of the war or what happened on the battlefield so like fellow BBC soap opera, Land Girls, it’s nice to see a series that takes a fresh approach by sharing the stories of the women of war. These five women were pivotal minds during the war and for some of them, life after saving lives and using their minds extensively becomes dull. I love how these stories set up and are eventually solved – the women use their minds to piece together clues, which would indicate that for the romantic among us, this series is virtually romance-free. Fans who saw the first series will smile over the sweet friendship between Lucy and her boss – and it’s made ever more cute for those of us who know what Lucy’s past is like, to see the sweet girl she is return is ever so rewarding. (Plus it was nice to finally see Sense and Sensibility's Hattie Morahan in something again.)

Beyond the characters (who are all unique and compelling respectively), I love the setting, costumes and mysteries. This season seemed a little “easier” than its debut though nonetheless is still immensely entertaining. From red lipstick to old model automobiles, everything about this series seems to be done to perfection when it comes to transporting the viewers to a past of what we now like to coin as “vintage.” The scripts weren’t quite as mysterious this go-round though the first two-parter does take some interesting turns, then we dive into the world of illegal goods and similarly, that takes a sinister turn.  Fans who don’t mind “grittier” drama should look into The Bletchley Circle. It has a sensational cast (I’m not at all surprised) and decent scripting that leaves any viewer anxious for more. By the end, there is “enough” resolution though lingering questions go unanswered which is likely an enticer for future series. Or that’s what this girl hopes.

(Parental review; there are implications that a woman is selling young immigrants into the sex trade [we see girls coming out of rooms buttoning their blouses and watch a sell in which a young girl is clothed in nothing but a slip while the men “inspect” her]; Millie is held against a van once as a man’s hands roam over her body and up her leg. Another woman has a child out of wedlock. There are a few “tense” scenes and one woman is shot – we see men with chemical burns in a hospital.)

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