Two young ladies wander around some very picturesque woods, looking for something. One of them’s nervous and decides to wait in a clearing while another, Joan, wanders off, still looking. After a few minutes, Joan comes running back, screaming her head off. As the girls flee, the camera travels a bit deeper into the woods, where there’s a grave marked ‘Darcy’.
At Pemberley, a cute moppet tears through the house, chased by his nurse, and finally attaches himself to his mother, Lizzy. The nurse apologises, Lizzy says it’s fine, kisses the kid, and sends him away so she can ask a man named Bidwell if the silver’s taken care of. Pemberley’s all in a tizzy getting ready for the annual ball, it seems. Mrs Reynolds, the housekeeper, walks through the ballroom with Lizzy, then accompanies her down to the kitchens so she can check out the food. While they’re examining half a dozen different types of biscuits, Joan and her friend from the woods come rushing in, babbling about seeing Mrs Riley’s ghost out in the woods. Lizzy is amused, but Reynolds yells at them for making a ruckus in front of Mrs Darcy. Lizzy asks who Mrs Riley is but all Reynolds will say is that it’s an old wives’ tale.
Upstairs, Georgiana—who’s played by the same actress who played poor Isobel Neville The White Queen—is gazing out the window. Lizzy appears and asks if she’s expecting someone, but Georgiana quickly (too quickly) says no. In a nearby room, someone drops something, and Darcy himself comes barreling out, screaming his head off about the racket. Woah, when did Darcy become an obnoxious yeller? That seems…rather unlike him. He’s usually so restrained. He and Lizzy engage in a little love bickering and he hands her a love note and offers to get out of the house. She agrees that’s probably for the best. Little Fitzwilliam Jr appears and Darcy cutely scoops him up, tosses him over his shoulder, and sets off.
To the stables they go, where they’re joined by Bidwell, who’s apparently the ex-head coachman and is reluctant to hand over the reins (so to speak) to a successor that isn’t his son, since a Bidwell’s been head coachman at Pemberley for ages. That eldest son is apparently too ill to take the job.
Bidwell returns to the house and gets to work on the silver, looking dejected.
A man gallops through the woods, towards the house.
At Pemberley, Georgiana tells Elizabeth she hopes to find such a happy match for herself. Elizabeth asks if she has someone in mind and Georgiana dodges by saying she’d never marry without her brother’s approval. Lizzy reassures her they both just want her to be happy and Georgiana hints that her choice might not be met with unanimous approval. They look out the window and see Colonel Fitzwilliam riding towards the house, a bit on the early side. Georgiana goes to greet him.
Lizzy goes for a walk in the gardens (guess these balls just plan themselves) and sees Georgiana walking around with Col Fitz. Later, Col Fitz catches Lizzy picking some flowers in the garden and tells her he’s interested in marriage, and his eye has fallen on Georgiana. He also exposits that his elder brother has died, so he’s now his father’s heir, which works out nicely for him. He asks Lizzy if Georgiana might be receptive and Lizzy evasively answers that Georgiana has always spoken affectionately of him, but she’s not confided in Lizzy about any attachments. Col Fitz admits that Georgiana hasn’t given him any specific encouragement, but he thinks love should come after marriage anyway. Lizzy, as you can imagine, disagrees. He asks if Wickham is ever received at Pemberley and gets a most definite no, from which he extrapolates that Wickham’s attempt to elope with Georgiana has been kept a secret, all this time. Lizzy asks if he’s spoken with Georgiana yet and he says no, but he plans to speak with Darcy first. Lizzy laughs that Georgiana’s old enough to make her own decision in the matter. Yes, but speaking to the father first was sort of the done thing, no? Then again, Darcy didn’t hit up Mr Bennet for his permission before asking Lizzy to marry him, so I may be wrong on that score. Lizzy will only say that, if Georgiana agrees to marry Col Fitz, she and Darcy will welcome the match. She also suggests he wait until after the ball.
Lizzy goes and visits the Bidwell family, who live out in the woods in a cottage so absurdly picturesque I expect hobbits to come spilling out of it. Mrs B greets her and explains that her daughter, Louisa, is back from helping her elder sister, who lives in Birmingham. And she’s helped by…bringing that sister’s baby back to Pemberley with her. Uh, why? And how is that even working? How is that baby being fed? You can’t just switch an infant from breast milk to cow’s milk, and it’s not like formula was available at the time. This is odd. The baby’s name is George. Lizzy asks after Will, the ill son, and Mrs B just says he has good days and bad days. Lizzy goes to see him. He’s in bed, but happy to receive some books Lizzy’s brought with her. He’s also fully aware he’s dying, though everyone else seems to be in some denial.
Some time later, Lizzy heads out and makes her way home through the woods. On the way, she spots a woman dressed in a dark plum outfit, creepily just standing in the path. The woman runs off when she sees Lizzy, and Lizzy gives chase, but all she finds in the forest is the woman’s hat. She picks it up, and suddenly the woman appears behind her. She grabs the hat back, hisses at Lizzy, and takes off. All kinds of strange things in these woods.
The Bennets have arrived, and as they come up the drive, Darcy and Elizabeth go out to greet them. She’s evidently told him about her encounter in the woods and he’s concerned but Lizzy’s sure the woman was just frightened. The Bennets’ carriage is preceded by a man on horseback, whose name is Henry. Georgiana comes running out to greet him and they cutely and quietly thank each other for the letters they’ve been exchanging. Mrs Bennet, meanwhile, is getting down from her carriage and already complaining about Lizzy’s driveway and her nerves and making slightly crass statements about how big Pemberley is.
At an inn not far away, Captain Denney, once a great favourite of Lydia’s and Kitty’s (hey, where are Kitty and Mary? Have they been married off? I guess so, because otherwise I can’t imagine Mrs Bennet wouldn’t have brought them to the ball for some prime husband hunting) hands Wickham some cash and starts a quiet argument with him. Wickham—who’s in civvies, so I guess he’s left the army—hushes him as Lydia joins them. They all pack into a waiting coach.
Pemberley. It’s nine o’clock and the family is just finishing up dinner and going into the sitting room. As they head out, Henry asks Georgiana to speak with her in private. She agrees, but suggests later. Mr Bennet takes refuge in the library, naturally, grateful for a little peace and quiet.
The Wickham party’s coach trots through the woods, Wickham drinking from a flask, Denney stewing and Lydia looking like she doesn’t have a clue. For some reason, even though they made a point of showing us specifically what time it is, it’s still full daylight out, or dusk at the very most. Now, it does stay lighter later up in the northern areas during the late spring and summer months, but it doesn’t stay that light out.
At Pemberley, Georgiana’s looking through a book at some pictures of Col Fitz’s future inheritance: a castle on a sea cliff right out of a Gothic romance. Henry observes that the place must be cold in winter and Col Fitz stiffly says it’s fine, though the odd wimpy Londoner complains. Henry, who’s apparently a lawyer, counters that it can get chilly in the Old Bailey as well. Col Fitz gets a little pissy, talks a bit about Napoleon threatening England, and goes out for a late evening ride.
It finally gets dark, and Denney yells for the coach driver to stop. He hops out, telling Wickham he’s had enough of his nonsense, and sets off into the woods. Wickham follows him, despite Lydia bleating at him not to leave her alone.
At Pemberley, Mrs Bennet finds a portrait of Wickham that had been stashed in a cupboard in her room. Why would that still be there? Why stash the portrait—why not get rid of it altogether? She wonders why the picture’s there at all and Darcy briefly explains that he and Wickham grew up together. Mrs Bennet goes on about how handsome he is and how he’s a national hero after having fought the French in Ireland. Lizzy interrupts and asks Georgiana to play for them. She agrees, as long as Henry accompanies her. He offers to join her in playing a dance, since he doesn’t sing. As they get started, Mrs Bennet starts bitching at Lizzy for not inviting the Wickhams to the ball. Darcy gets up and takes his wife off to dance, effectively ending the conversation. Henry comes over and partners Mrs B. As they dance, Lizzy tells Darcy Col Fitz has designs on Georgiana. He’s relatively happy to hear that. The conversation is interrupted by the sight of the Wickham carriage rushing up the drive at breakneck pace. Everyone rushes out to meet it and out tumbles Lydia, screaming hysterically and gasping that her husband is dead. Inside, they try to calm her, but the only person who can seem to intervene properly is Mr B, who appears and slaps her across the face, bringing her to her senses. She weeps and says that she heard shots in the woods and is sure Wickham is dead. She downs a glass of wine while Mrs B drama queens about having palpitations. Lydia manages to tell them that Denney ran off, followed by Wickham, and then she heard two shots.
Darcy goes outside, followed by Lizzy, and takes a moment to rage that he’ll never be free of these people. Well, Darcy, to be fair, you’ve only yourself to blame. You were the one who brought about the marriage between Lydia and Wickham, and then married Lydia’s sister. Yes, Lizzy’s made you happy (I guess, kind of hard to tell from this programme, really) but you kind of have to take the bad with the good, and when you marry someone, you marry their whole damn family.
Darcy asks the coachman what he heard and the guy tells him essentially the same thing Lydia did. Darcy asks him what they were doing out in the woods and the man answers that they were coming to the ball, as a surprise. Oh, Lydia. You idiot. Not that I would have expected her to have learned anything in the intervening years, since she’s never, ever had to face any consequences for her actions. Darcy says the man will have to direct a search party to the place where all this went down. Col Fitz arrives home and asks what’s up.
The men go back inside to start organizing a search party, while Mrs B does what she does best: screw everything up. Just as Lydia’s starting to calm down a bit, she urges her to hope for the best: that Wickham at least died in a duel. Lizzy rolls her eyes so hard her entire head follows and Lydia begins wailing all over again. Mrs B protests that a duel is a noble way to die, as she and Lizzy try to drag Lydia upstairs. Mr B practically begs Darcy to take him along on the rescue party, and Darcy agrees. Henry offers to go too, but Darcy urges him to stay behind and look after the ladies. Halfway up the stairs, Lydia stops and tells them to take her trunk out of the carriage, because her ballgown will be creased if they don’t hang it up soon. Wow. I mean, yes, Lydia’s an idiot of the first order, but I find it a little difficult to believe that even she would be thinking of attending a ball right on the heels of her husband’s violent death. That’s a bit much. Darcy sends Reynolds to send for the doctor and he and Mr B agree that drugging both Lydia and Mrs B is probably the best course.
The men head out, led by the coachman. Into the woods they go, where they spread out and start calling for Wickham.
Lydia’s blessedly passed out, thanks to the doctor, who now goes to tend to Mrs B. Reynolds says she’ll have one of the maids stay with Lydia. She and Lizzy make it clear they both think this is just some nonsense and Wickham and Denney will be found soon and sent on their way.
The men continue searching the woods, Mr B apologizing for is daughter’s crap taste in men. Like Darcy needed reminding.
Georgiana and Lizzy stand on the porch at Pemberley, looking out towards the woods, waiting for the men to return.
The men finally find Wickham, crying, drunk, bloodied, and dragging the body of his dead friend through the woods. Wickham weeps that he’s killed his best friend, and this is all his fault. Well, that made for one easy mystery. Darcy finds a recently fired pistol on Wickham. They can’t get any sense out of him, so they just take him and the body back to the house, as it starts pouring rain.
Lizzy comes out to greet the party as it returns. Darcy tells her Wickham is alive, but Denney’s dead. The body is carried inside, to a lower floor storeroom, while Darcy and Col Fitz take Wickham into the house. He’s starting to reach the belligerent stage of obnoxious drunkenness and insists the men let go of him, but they just keep on going, dragging him upstairs.
Later, Henry meets up with Georgiana and gently asks her if she’s ok. She tells him goodnight and goes to bed. He watches her go up the stairs, and she pauses once to smile at him, which seems to make his day.
Lizzy catches some shut-eye on a sofa, waking when Darcy comes into the room. He tells her Wickham’s sedated, but the doctor’s on hand in case he wakes and becomes difficult. Darcy now needs to go fetch the local magistrate, Hardcastle, because they’ll have to launch an investigation immediately. Lizzy brings him some coffee and asks if Denney could have died from an accident. Darcy says there was a lot of blood. And he doesn’t seem to care one way or another, because all he’s really concerned with is protecting his family and home.
He rides to Hardcastle’s estate, where he finds the man still up, despite the extremely late hour.
Reynolds bathes the blood from Wickham’s face, watched by Lizzy. As she looks down at him, she flashes back to the early days of their acquaintance, before she knew what a cad he was. Back in the present, distracted, she trips and puts her hand in the bowl of bloody water. Reynolds urges her to go and get some rest. Col Fitz, who’s been hovering in the background, tries to reassure her that everything will be all right, but she seriously doubts that, because when Wickham’s involved, nothing seems to go right.
Hardcastle dresses to accompany Darcy back to Pemberley and reflects that there’s a sad inevitability to the way Wickham’s ended up. He always thought it was odd and weak of Old Mr Darcy to indulge the son of a steward. He grimly laughs that raising people above their station never really works out. Careful, Hardcastle, you’re treading on dangerous ground there. I’m sure many people would argue that Lizzy’s been raised above her station. Darcy insists that the way Wickham ended up was not inevitable; he just squandered all his chances. Hardcastle tells Darcy that this whole thing could bite him hard in the ass, if it turns out to be murder, because Wickham’s essentially his brother, and the crime took place on Darcy’s property. Basically, this has every chance of becoming a huge scandal.
Darcy and Hardcastle arrive at Pemberley and are greeted by Lizzy. Hardcastle asks if Wickham’s the only suspect at present. Darcy admits that he is, but quickly adds that there were shots in the woods, so maybe Denney stumbled across a deserter or a poacher. Hardcastle tells Reynolds to fetch more candles, but she doesn’t move until Lizzy gives her the go-ahead. There’s clearly some weirdness between Hardcastle and the Darcy household. He goes to see Wickham and Lizzy asks Reynolds what’s up. Evasive ever after, Reynolds just says that the Hardcastles aren’t much liked around Pemberley.
Upstairs, Hardcastle says that washing Wickham’s face is tampering with the evidence. Both Darcy and Col Fitz take responsibility but Hardcastle figures this is women’s work. Yeah, men are totally content to let each other sleep in their own grime and gore. Hardcastle and the doctor agree that the scrapes on Wickham’s face are from brambles and Hardcastle figures most of the blood is Denney’s. He asks the doctor if there’s a way to tell one man’s blood from another’s (oh, come on) and the doctor’s like, ‘yes, totally, let me just whip out ye olde blood typing kit.’ Sorry, but that moment was just stupid. Hardcastle’s done here, and asks to go see Denney.
He’s shown to the gunroom, where Denney’s laid out. The doctor notes a wound on the dead man’s forehead that’s not from a pistol but from some blunt object. It wouldn’t have been enough to kill him, though. Hardcastle turns the body and they find a massive wound in the back of Denney’s head. Something large, blunt, heavy, and applied with a lot of force did him in. Darcy wonders who fired the shots that were heard and Hardcastle thinks Denney himself might have done it, to scare off his attacker. Except, the doctor just said that the first blow would have blinded Denney with blood, so what you’re suggesting is that he fired his gun to scare off someone attacking him, then managed to reload it while bleeding heavily from his head and unable to see, fired again, and twice missed someone who could have only been standing a few feet away. Yeah…
Lizzy, wandering about, sees Col Fitz in one of the sitting rooms burn a letter in the fireplace.
Hardcastle, in a moment alone with Darcy, acknowledges the awkwardness between their families but tells Darcy he’s really sorry about what’s happened here. He continues that the security of England relies on gentlemen being able to leave peacefully in their homes, and that decent landlords like Darcy are needed. Lizzy approaches them and asks what’s up. Darcy tells her that Denney was murdered. Hardcastle says he’ll have to speak with Wickham when he wakes and politely asks if he can beg an armchair and a fire to rest in until then. He’s taken away by a footman and Darcy and Elizabeth embrace.
As the next day dawns, Lizzy asks Darcy what the issue is between the Darcy and Hardcastle families. Darcy tells her that, when he was a kid, another kid from Pemberley poached a dear from the Hardcastle lands. Poaching’s serious, but everyone figured Hardcastle Sr would go easy on the guilty party, because he was just a kid. We see it all unfold in flashback, and yeah, he’s definitely just a boy. Hardcastle Sr was a total hardass, though, and had the kid hanged. Darcy and Wickham snuck into the inn near the gallows and watched the boy’s punishment. His mother, Mrs Riley, later went out to the woods and hanged herself in her grief. Hence the ghost legend, which says she appears every time misfortune is about to strike. Lizzy tells him about the two servant girls and wonders if the woman Lizzy saw in the woods the day before was also mistaken for this ghost and possibly has something to do with this. At that moment, Reynolds comes puffing over and tells them to come back inside.
Lydia’s up, making a fuss over not being allowed to see her husband. Georgiana tries to tell her the magistrate needs to speak to him first, and thankfully Lizzy and Darcy show up so Lydia can turn her ire on her sister, whining that, if she had invited the Wickhams to the ball they never would have had to go through the woods. Why did they need to go through the woods, even if they were gatecrashing the ball? Do the Darcys have guards along the main roads or something? Actually, if I had relatives like these, I’d post guards too. As Lizzy hustles her away, little Fitzwilliam comes out, woken by the racket, and Darcy goes up to be cute with him a little bit before sending him back to bed. Reynolds comes out and reports that Wickham’s awake. He and Hardcastle go to speak with him while Lydia drama queens and accuses Lizzy of being jealous (Lydia, look around you. Jealous of what?), refuses food until Georgiana plops a plate in front of her, and then she starts stuffing her face with cake.
Now sober, Wickham can tell the men what happened the night before. He claims he found Denney like that, and he saw someone fleeing through the trees, so he fired the pistol at them. Then he reloaded and fired again for help. But he knew Denney was already dead. Hardcastle informs Wickham that he’s the only suspect. Wickham insists that he had no reason to kill Denney, who was his only friend. Hardcastle asks about the ball gatecrashing and Wickham said that Lydia was complaining so much about being excluded he thought he’d just go ahead and bring her, figuring Darcy wouldn’t have the guts to turn them away. Denney apparently didn’t approve of this hugely rude plan. He tearfully admits that they argued and had both been drinking. He figures Denney stumbled across an assailant in the woods and tells Hardcastle that he’s wasting time while a murderer walks free.
Lizzy finds Georgiana in her room, weeping, and figures this is because it’s distressing for her to see Wickham again. Georgiana says she doesn’t really care much about Wickham and never did, and that she probably never really would have eloped with him, but she’s not sure that Darcy believes that. Lizzy tells her that Darcy’s anger is all directed at Wickham, not his sister, and Lizzy understands how convincing and charming Wickham can be. They can all just hope he’ll be out of their lives again soon.
Hardcastle inspects the carriage that brought Lydia to the house. He finds a man’s top hat—worn and battered looking, but with £30 stashed inside, which was quite a chunk of change at that time.
Inside, Darcy informs the gentlemen that Hardcastle wants alibis from all of them. Which is easy, because they were all together, except when Col Fitz went on his ride. Henry offers his legal assistance and Darcy asks what his immediate advice is. He asks about Wickham’s character: do they think he could do something like this? Darcy says he’s a dick, but he’s never known him to be violent. Henry turns to Col Fitz, who fought in Ireland with Wickham. Fitz says Wickham fought bravely. Henry delicately suggests that facing situations like that could corrupt even the most peaceful men. ‘There’s nothing corrupt about serving your king and country, you fool,’ Fitz says coldly. That’s not really what he was saying, Fitz, but ok, touchy subject, clearly. And what the hell happened to Colonel Fitzwilliam? Why is he suddenly such a dour character? It doesn’t jibe with the man I recall from the original novel at all. Darcy asks what kind of defense Wickham has. Henry says that there’s no motive as yet, which helps. He does wonder, however, why Denney suddenly took it into his head to run off into the woods instead of heading back on the road.
Hardcastle interviews all the men from the rescue party, and they all say that Wickham claimed to have killed Denney, or at least he admitted to being responsible for the man’s death. Darcy insists that it seemed Wickham was purely speaking out of guilt, taking blame because of their argument. Nonetheless, Hardcastle’s sure they have their man and gets ready to take Wickham into custody and call an inquest. He tells Darcy to prepare himself for a possible grim outcome.
Lizzy goes to the fireplace where Fitz burned the letter and recovers some fragments.
Wickham is taken away by Hardcastle and the constables, as a weeping Lydia rushes out of the house, begging for the men to let go of her husband. The men all ignore her and drive off with him, as Darcy flashes back to the Riley kid being similarly carted off. Lizzy watches the spectacle, but when she calls out to her own husband, he ignores her. What’s with their relationship? It really seems to suck.