Previously on Death Comes to Pemberley: Wickham was brought before an inquest, which declared him a murderer, so now he gets a full-blown trial. He’s also apparently been a busy boy, having fathered a child with Louisa Bidwell under a fake name. Georgiana’s decided she’s being forced to marry Col Fitz, so Henry’s heart is broken and things are super tense between Lizzy and Darcy.
Wickham, less smug now, tries to settle in his jail cell, but it’s no good. He flashes back on time spent with Louisa, walking through the woods and probably carving that heart in the tree. He seems sad.
Pemberley woods. Louisa carries the baby to a high bridge and very nearly throws them both off of it, but at the last minute she pulls herself back and flops to the ground, weeping. She does that a lot, poor thing.
At Pemberley, Darcy’s looking seriously distracted and devastated. Hardcastle’s there, asking about Louisa, whom he saw fall to pieces. Lizzy insists she’s upset about something that has nothing to do with the case. He calls BS on that, so Darcy admits that Louisa bore Wickham’s child. Lizzy adds that he called himself Freddie Delancey. Hardcastle asks how they met and Darcy says that while Wickham and Lydia were staying with Jane he would sometimes ride over to Pemberley and spend his days roaming the woods. First, how would Darcy know that? Did Wickham tell him? Also, that seems like a slightly strange way for a grown man to spend his days. Though if I were married to Lydia, I’d probably want to spend entire days elsewhere too. Hardcastle warns them that this won’t look good for Wickham if it comes up in court. It’s the type of thing that can really prejudice a jury.
Darcy goes to see Wickham, who tells him he’s decided to go to America when all this is over. Darcy should be so lucky. Wickham’s been moved to a different prison, I think, and his cell is far less palatial than the last one. It also overlooks the gallows that’re being built. Wickham asks after Louisa and the baby and tells Darcy that he loved her, after a fashion. How charming. He asks Darcy not to mention this ‘situation’ at the trial. Darcy says he’ll be under oath, so he’ll have to answer anything he’s asked. He accuses Wickham of going out and deliberately ruining an innocent girl and Wickham fires back that that isn’t why he came to Pemberley during those rides, he came by because it’s the place where he’s been happiest in his life. He asks Darcy to at least keep Lydia away from the trial. Darcy asks if there’s any connection between the Bidwell affair and Denney’s death and Wickham insists there isn’t.
Lizzy, meanwhile, sits down with Louisa and Mrs Bidwell. Mrs Bidwell begs her not to tell Mr Bidwell and Lizzy promises to keep him busy up at the house to give them some time. She then asks Louisa about a lady that Louisa said was with Wickham the last time she saw him. All Louisa knows is that the woman’s name is Eleanor. Lizzy asks when she saw her last and Louisa admits it was the morning of the murder. She was supposed to meet with her at some nearby ruins to hand over the baby. Eleanor was waiting there with Denney. Eleanor, of course, is the lady in purple. Something about her made Louisa feel nervous, so she refused to give them the baby, despite the fact that Denney was prepared to pay her £30 for the kid. Louisa says the woman was furious and thought Louisa wanted more money. Mrs Bidwell’s upset, because they can’t keep the baby there, especially considering the circumstances. Will Bidwell appears in the doorway and urges Louisa to tell Lizzy there was yet another person on the ruins that morning: Colonel Fitzwilliam. Why in God’s name did he allow himself to get mixed up in this sordid business?
Back home, Lizzy tells Reynolds they need to find a home for Louisa’s baby and asks the woman to make some discreet inquiries. Reynolds agrees, and then looks out at little Fitzwilliam playing outside and wonders why children must always pay for the sins of their fathers. Lizzy shakes her head.
Hardcastle’s interviewing the proprietress of the inn where Wickham, Lydia, and Denney were staying before going on to Pemberley. For those interested, she’s played by the actress who played Bertha the lusty kitchen maid in Gosford Park. Hardcastle informs her she’ll have to give evidence in the trial and she’s excited by the prospect of a trip to Derby.
Lizzy reports what she knows to Darcy, telling him Denney was apparently working as Wickham’s messenger boy, delivering the money Fitz gave him to Louisa on Wickham’s behalf. Darcy mentions keeping Lydia away from the trial and Lizzy agrees to invite her back to Pemberley, and give Jane a little break. She mentions that Col Fitz was at the ruins that morning but Darcy refuses to believe it and insists Lizzy’s just out to blacken his name. But…but why? Seriously, what happened between Lizzy and Colonel Fitzwilliam between the events of the novel and now? Why should Darcy believe she’s taken against him? And why are she and Col Fitz so chilly towards each other? This is some seriously sloppy writing.
Inside, Fitz informs Georgiana that, if Wickham is condemned, Pemberley will be engulfed in scandal. Darcy will be disgraced in society and who knows what’ll happen after that. He reassures her that she has his full support, as does her brother. She says she’s grateful and they agree that, in troubled times, family must stick together. He decides this is a good time to try and propose, but she begs him not to, not just now. He tells her he’s a soldier and therefore not so good with words, but he wants her to believe that his feelings are most sincere and he feels real love for her. He takes her hand and asks her to marry him and she agrees, forcing a smile as she does so. She leaves him quickly, and he looks a bit bewildered. To be fair to him, he does really seem to be in earnest, but it’s a bit dumb of him to seem confused by her lack of enthusiasm when he knows she has the hots for someone else. But, oh, wait, he thinks she’s making this decision of her own free will.
Early in the morning, Darcy checks on a sleeping Lizzy and tucks her in before getting on the road to the trial, I suppose. He spots Hardcastle’s horse in the woods and gets out to have a word with the man, Hardcastle tells him the initials on the tree are indeed mischief; that Wickham chose his fake name just to further discredit Darcy. Why would he do that? This is a man he’s hitting up for money, so doing something that could piss him off seems monumentally stupid. And if anything, Wickham does seem to be quite the plotter, so this just seems unreasonably unwise. Not to mention petty. Hardcastle asks if anyone else besides the Bidwells live in the woods and Darcy tells him no. Hardcastle thinks Denney jumped out of the carriage at this spot deliberately, to go see the Bidwells. How did Denney know exactly where they lived? He met with Louisa elsewhere, and this seems like a strange thing for Wickham to tell him.
Darcy insists that the affair with Louisa has nothing to do with the trial, though why he’s taking Wickham’s word for it I don’t know.
Darcy arrives at the trial in Derby, which seems to be attracting quite a crowd. Inside, he meets Fitz and is informed by the defence lawyer—Henry—that the bloody stone found in the woods won’t be admissible as evidence because it’s too inconclusive, so they have no murder weapon and no motive. The prosecution is led by a Mr Cartwright, by the way. The judge takes his seat, and Wickham’s brought in, to universal jeers. Oh, yeah, he should be able to get a fair trial here. He pleads not guilty and Cartwright gets started. While he gives his opening statement, Darcy spots the purple lady in the crowd and recognizes her: she’s Mrs Young, whom he once hired to act as a governess to Georgiana and who very nearly helped Wickham abscond with her young charge. In flashback, we see her callously shake Darcy down for money. Just like Wickham did. She creepily smiles at Darcy.
Well, look who’s come to Pemberley, it’s Lady Catherine. Because things weren’t tense enough for Lizzy already. Lady Catherine says she heard what was happening and came right over, because her presence acts as an extraordinary tonic and she knows she’s needed. She goes on that she’s come from a cousin’s bedside and that the man’s been ill for a year and she told him he really needs to make up his mind whether to live or die already. Fair enough. She takes Lizzy off to talk.
Wickham gives evidence regarding his friendship with Denney and his war record. And yet again we get to hear the story of the fatal night. We can skip that bit, right? Henry asks if there’s any reason Wickham would have attacked Denney and Wickham says there isn’t.
Catherine tells Lizzy that all of society has been buzzing about this matter. Lizzy doesn’t seem to much care, which doesn’t really jibe at all, because this is something that threatens her entire family, including her husband, sister-in-law, and child. Catherine insists that Darcy must disown Wickham and disassociate himself from the trial. She’s shocked at the idea that Darcy will have to give evidence at the trial and Lizzy almost seems gleeful at the opportunity to tell her otherwise. They’re suddenly joined by Lydia, who whines about some ladies in town who snubbed her once she introduced herself as Mrs Darcy’s sister. She goes on to say that she walked right up to them and told them she wasn’t the slightest bit ashamed of Lizzy, completely missing their meaning, naturally. Lizzy presents her to Catherine, who hastens to leave before she can be polluted by Lydia’s presence. That’s pretty much the only good Lydia’s ever done in her life. And, what was the point of trotting Catherine out for just one scene like that? It totally feels like useless fan service. We got about six times more Mrs Bennet, and she’s a far less amusing character.
Back at the trial, Cartwright produces evidence of Wickham’s debts from his army days. They’re considerable. Wickham doesn’t see how that’s relevant. It isn’t, really, this is just a way to prejudice the jury. Cartwright accuses Wickham of moving Denney so he could conceal the scene of the crime, which was never found. I’m guessing the rain they had that night washed away what must have been a considerable blood trail. Henry objects to these accusations but the judge tells him to sit down and relax.
Cartwright asks about the argument between Denney and Wickham. Wickham claims it was about the ball gatecrashing. Cartwright finishes his questioning and dismisses him. He calls up Mrs Piggott, the innkeeper’s wife. She testifies that she overheard the quarrel before the Wickham party left the inn and saw Denney hand money over to Wickham. According to her, Denney said he was done with the whole matter with Wickham and that had deceived him from start to finish. Henry asks if Piggott saw the men fight physically. She says no, adding it would have been foolish for Wickham to fight Denney, who was armed. Henry asks why she wasn’t at the inquest and she says she was using the facilities when she overheard the argument and didn’t want the town laughing at her. Well, now she has Derby laughing at her instead. The judge adjourns the court until the following morning.
Darcy follows Mrs Young out and asks what the connection is between Wickham and herself. She claims he’s her brother, and they somehow grew up ignorant of each others’ existence. I’d guess that means she’s illegitimate, but I seem to recall Wickham Sr being described as a thoroughly honourable man. Then again, that description came from Darcy, who may just not have known any better. She says their connection is a deep and sincere one, and that when she learned he had a son she had to meet the child. She flashes back to almost getting the kid from Louisa, but Louisa snatches the baby back and flees and Young blames Denney. She begs Darcy to get her the baby and he disgustedly tells her there’s no way in hell he’d ever entrust her with the wellbeing of an innocent child, not after what she did with Georgiana. He accuses her of having posed as a respectable woman so she could take the girl to Ramsgate and throw her at Wickham. That was a seriously long con the two of them were playing, there. She insists that Wickham would make a fine husband to any woman. Uh, Eleanor: all evidence to the contrary. He is a husband to someone, and he had a child with someone else. He’s a terrible husband! I think this woman’s a bit crazed. She goes on to say that girls like Georgiana won’t have to worry about anything, with men like Darcy looking out for them. He asks about her extorting money from Col Fitz and she laughs and says he came to her of his own free will. Why?!?!?!
In the carriage on the way home, Darcy coldly asks Fitz about his involvement with Mrs Young. Fitz claims he was just trying to protect Darcy, but Darcy looks about finished with his own kinsman. So, he immediately believed that Lizzy was willing to blacken this man’s name for no reason, but he then instantly believes that Mrs Young, a woman he knows to be duplicitous in the extreme, is telling the truth in this matter?
Apparently Wickham, for some reason, went to Fitz with the story of the mess he was in, so Fitz tried to avert a scandal for the whole family and he tried to deal with it quickly and easily. Darcy yells at him for acting on Darcy’s behalf without his consent and accuses him of having ulterior motives. Fitz admits he did want to protect Georgiana from further taint, as she’s to be his wife. That seems fairly reasonable, but Darcy takes offense at the implication that his sister’s tainted at all and gets out of the carriage and heads into the house in a snit, yelling at Fitz not to see or speak to his sister ever again. Guess she doesn’t get to make her own choices in this matter after all. Fitz, acting like he’s doing a super noble thing, tells Darcy he’ll take her even if Wickham hangs, which really pushes Darcy over the edge. He screams at Fitz and tells him to get out of the house immediately. Georgiana comes down the stairs and Darcy apologetically tells her he’s done a terrible wrong by encouraging her to accept a man she didn’t love. She says she accepted his offer of her own free will. Darcy still feels badly for not stopping her. He admits Fitz is not the man he thought he was (he’s not the man any of us who’ve read the novel thought he was) and that Elizabeth tried to warn him but he wouldn’t listen. Lizzy, of course, is overhearing all of this. Darcy begs for his sister’s forgiveness and of course she gives it. He urges her to marry for love and never doubt that person, not for a single moment. He finally looks up and sees Lizzy there, kisses his sister’s cheek, and meets his wife on the stairs. He tells her how sorry he is and she hugs him tearfully. Then they go to her room for the obligatory make-up sex scene.
Afterwards, he admits he believes Wickham’s guilty. He thinks the argument was over the Bidwell affair and that Denney got down from the carriage to warn her that she’d been abandoned. He thinks Wickham killed Denney to stop him. He tells Lizzy it might be time for Lydia to be clued in on the affair.
You know, I just realised another problem with this Bidwell situation—if Louisa believed that her lover had just gone off to London to get money so they could run away together, why was she planning to fork over the baby in exchange for £30? I don’t think she was lying when she told Lizzy that she expected the three of them to be together again soon. Strange.
Early the following morning, Darcy reports his suspicions to Henry, who doesn’t think that fooling around on one’s wife is proof of anything or a reason for a man to hang. He insists that Wickham has to be tried on the actual evidence, and he just needs Darcy to answer his questions and not elaborate. The courtroom starts to fill up and soon Darcy’s on the stand reporting what Wickham said when he was found in the woods. Again, he says that he believes Wickham blamed the disagreement for Denney’s death. Cartwright refuses to believe that Darcy, faced with such a terrible scene as a man dragging a dead body around, would have jumped to that particular conclusion. Darcy floats the theory that Denney stumbled across a poacher in the woods who lashed out but Cartwright pokes a hole in that by asking why Darcy didn’t send a search party out for said poacher that night. Darcy doesn’t really have a good answer for that.
Hardcastle’s called up next. Cartwright asks who he thinks fired the shots. Hardcastle says they were probably fired by Denney at his assailant, Wickham. Henry protests that this is speculation, and gets slapped down by the judge again. Wow, criminal trials really have come a long way, haven’t they? Cartwright asks Hardcastle if he’s found any motive, and Henry again protests. Hardcastle glances at Darcy and then says he has not. Cartwright seems disappointed by that answer.
Lizzy drags herself off to see Lydia, who’s in a really perky mood for someone whose husband’s on trial for his life. She babbles about how she and Wickham are going to America once all this is over, so clearly she’s just deeply in denial. Lizzy starts to tell her about Louisa but Lydia hushes her and tells her she really doesn’t want to hear it. She and Wickham manage to muddle along. Wow, I never would have expected to feel sympathy for Lydia Bennet, but there it is. Lizzy squeezes her hand and leaves her to her thoughts. Lydia looks in her mirror, sad.
Col Fitz takes advantage of a break in the trial to tell Henry that Georgiana’s single again and Henry really should make his move, because she was always his, really. Well, that was sweet. He barely has time to absorb that before the jury reappears. Henry knows this has to be bad news, because they weren’t gone long enough. Sure enough, the jury declares Wickham guilty, and the judge sentences him to death. Mrs Young rushes out, and Darcy follows her. She pauses briefly to take in the sight of the gallows being built, and then she either runs in front of or throws herself in front of an oncoming carriage, which kills her. Darcy calls out to her just a little too late.
Later, Darcy writes a letter to Lizzy, telling her the outcome of the trial and about the fate of Mrs Young, which he also told Wickham. He plans to stay on in Derby to provide what comfort he can.
Lizzy goes to church to pray and the vicar tells her he’s heard about Wickham and promises to pray for him. He further tells her that Will Bidwell’s on his last days, and that he’s been a little strange since the murder, refusing to see anyone.
Lizzy drags the vicar to the cottage and demands to see Will. Mrs Bidwell tries to stop them but Lizzy, apologizing, brushes past her and quickly tells Will that Wickham is to hang. She asks if Will has it in his power to save the man’s life and Will says he does. He tells her that a man came to the cottage the night of the murder. It was Denney, but at the time he thought it was Louisa’s seducer. He was enraged to see him, so he struck him with a cane. Denney staggered off and stumbled down the nearby gulley, striking his head on the side of the old Darcy grave. Will tried to help him, but Wickham got to Denney first and fired the pistol at Will, who rushed home. He cries and says he didn’t think it would come to this. Lizzy nods and asks him to sign a confession. He agrees, and as she goes for paper, we see Bidwell in the doorway, having heard all. Will tearfully apologises but Bidwell says he should have been there and, equally tearfully, asks his son for forgiveness.
Lydia finally gets to see her husband in jail. He observes that he’s led her a merry dance. She stays brave and tells him she’ll have none of that and that she thinks it was the best day of her life, when they met. He tells her he didn’t do it, and she believes him. Looking up at him, she says they certainly lived their life together to the full. He asks her to choose the brightest and best memory of him and hold on to that. She throws herself into his arms. These two have about 300 times the chemistry of Lizzy and Darcy.
Will signs his confession, and the vicar begins to give him last rites. That was some really good timing on Elizabeth’s part. Once it’s all over, she folds up the confession and declares an intention to get it to Derby. The vicar tells her it’s too late at night and she’ll never make it on time. Bidwell comes out and promises to take her, because he knows every last inch of the roads. She agrees and off they go.
In Derby, Wickham shaves and prepares himself for death. The cell lightens and the guards appear to take him away.
At Pemberley, Lydia, wearing her nightgown and her absolutely fabulous brocade robe, sits by the lake crying.
Wickham is escorted through the jail as Darcy and Hardcastle join the crowd waiting for the hanging. Hardcastle tells Darcy he’s sorry it’s come to this. Darcy asks him why he didn’t reveal the affair with Louisa and Hardcastle says it would have made no difference, because he knew at that point that Wickham was toast, and he saw no reason to drag Darcy’s name through the mud. I fail to see how Darcy’s name would have been further tainted by an affair of Wickham’s.
Lizzy arrives at the judge’s house with the confession.
Wickham is slowly led to the gallows, where he joins three other condemned men. A clergyman starts saying the same prayer the vicar just used with Will. Wickham locks eyes with Darcy, and then Lizzy and the judge arrive, calling for the execution to stop. Lizzy climbs onto the gallows, waving the confession and declaring Wickham innocent. No way would a woman in her position have been acting this way. It would have been considered practically indecent, and the Lizzy I know from the novel, though spirited, always behaved appropriately. She’d have handed the confession over to the judge and let him make a spectacle. Nevertheless, Wickham is released and helped down from the gallows, as the other three men are executed. Yeesh.
Darcy and Lizzy head home and Lizzy tells him that Reynolds has found a new home for the Bidwell baby. Darcy wonders why she has to give it up and says Pemberley should be able to look after its own.
In a voiceover letter to Jane, Lizzy reports that Lydia and Wickham have, indeed, gone to America. For some bizarre reason, a crowd actually gathers at the inn to see them off with applause. What are they applauding for? Is it relief that these two people will be gone from their shores forever?
Louisa kept the baby and Darcy’s already decided he’ll be a nice head coachman to little Fitzwilliam.
Georgiana and Henry got engaged, he galloping up to the house with his shirt all undone like he’s just stepped off the cover of a romance novel.
Lizzy and Darcy stroll around the lake and he apologises for having been kind of a dick during the whole trial and investigation. She tells him not to dwell on it and tells him that she’s pregnant. He’s ecstatic. They kiss and then go play with their kid. Congratulations, show, you managed to hit on nearly every happy ending trope there is: a last-minute reprieve, a wedding, babies ever after; they even got rid of Lydia and Wickham. Not easy to pull off.
I don’t know about this, there were a lot of problems. I’ll admit straight up that I came into this with some trepidation. I’m a huge fan of the novel and I tend to be wary of sequels written by authors who didn’t do the original work. I also love the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle miniseries from the mid-90’s, and while I didn’t feel either here or there about the casting of Matthew Rhys (mostly because I didn’t really know him as an actor), I was really unsure about Anna Maxwell Martin as Lizzy. I’m not a big fan of AMM’s, mostly, I think, because I’ve really disliked everything I’ve seen her in. And in the last thing I saw her in, I absolutely loathed her character. I couldn’t see her as Lizzy and, well, I still can’t. Sorry to be mean and blunt, but she’s a bit on the plain side to play Lizzy, who is supposed to be attractive. I’m not sure why this was, but she was also styled and dressed to look like shit. Her hair was all over the place, and her dresses were painfully plain and all in the same two colours: blue and a really hideous acidic green. What was up with that? Other characters—Georgiana, Jane, hell, even Lydia—dressed and styled themselves nicely, appropriately for their station. Lizzy, as the chatelaine of a great house, would have been expected to look and dress the part. It was pretty much part of her job, and after being insulted by guests at the very first ball she presided over, you can be damn sure she’d have made sure to look right. Novel Lizzy liked a good walk through the countryside, but she knew how to present herself properly too. Overall, I felt like AMM lacked the spark and charm of the Lizzy of the novel as well (that may have been more a fault of the writing, though). This Lizzy was, well flaccid. She wasn’t witty, she was kind of a bitch. And the relationship between her and Darcy was terrible. The two actors had very little chemistry, and mostly they just seemed distant with each other. There was no warmth there, no wit, nothing interesting. Just Darcy being kind of like he is in the first half of P&P, which at this point makes almost no sense.
As far as the other actors go, I was pleased, aside from the bizarre re-characterisation of Colonel Fitzwilliam, which I’ve already discussed. Eleanor Tomlinson as Georgiana was charming, Lydia was hilariously Lydia-esque, and yes, I was mostly fine with Matthew Rhys as Darcy, just not in his scenes with Lizzy. And I thought Matthew Goode made a decent Wickham, which surprised me a bit, because I always have trouble seeing him playing a more villainous character. Maybe because he has such a pleasant-looking face.
Story-wise, I thought this was ok, though the histrionics about scandal got to be a bit much after a while. Yes, it would have been a big deal if a relative of Darcy’s had been hanged for murder, but would London society have gotten itself that worked up over Wickham’s illegitimate child? I kind of doubt it. Especially considering his notoriety. Everyone knows how he and Lydia wound up together, so mostly I think people would have just nodded and figured it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. And we never found out what that letter Colonel Fitzwilliam burned was all about. Presumably something about the baby, but it was just sort of dropped. And I think we could have done without the constant repetition of everyone’s evidence from the night of the murder, which started to seem like padding after a while. I also wish that Lady Catherine had actually had a role to play that wasn’t a walk-on. Her presence seemed completely unnecessary, ultimately, and she was clearly just thrown in to please fans who do love a good snarker. But as holidaytime evening viewing goes, this pretty much fits the bill. It was definitely pretty to look at and easy enough to turn your brain off to, and really, at this time of year, that’s what a lot of us want, right?