Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
The Bletchley Circle: Treat it Like a Code
Gray and her colleagues were not Rosie the Riveters, but they made enormous
contributions to the war effort. They
served at Bletchley Park in highly classified capacities, sifting through data
and cracking enemy codes. Then the war
ended and they returned to the lives they were expected to live. However, as a serial killer’s body count
mounts, they start detecting patterns the cops invariably miss in the
three-part British series The Bletchley Circle (promo
premieres on PBS this coming Sunday.
is Gray, the profoundly bored housewife, who first applies Bletchley methods to
a rash of murdered women. She soon
recruits her former boss, Jean, now working as a librarian, and their
colleagues, Millie a waitress with black market sidelines, and Lucy, a berated
young wife with a photographic memory. Since
their work at Bletchley was subject to the Official Secrets Act, they are honor
bound not to explain to their husbands or the police why they think they have
skills to bring to the investigation. As
a result, they get a lot of head-patting and condescension as they narrow in on
the themes and post-war time period, Bletchley
could be considered the mystery equivalent of Made in Dagenham. Aside from
an old spook, none of the men seem to think the four women can walk and chew
gum at the same time, which is the show’s real shortcoming. There ought to be at least one male character
hip enough to say “the cops are idiots.
I bet you and your friends can find something they missed. Just be
Bletchley’s criminal elements are
smarter than average. Writer Guy Burt
smoothly integrates numbers, patterns, and critical thinking into the story,
while steadily raising the stakes in each episode. Their nemesis also turns out
to be suitably diabolical, nicely played by Steven Robertson (a name so
unremarkable it should not be spoilery).
Yet, in a bit of a disappointment, it all ends in rather standard
Maxwell Martin’s Gray is an earnest, down-to-earth protagonist. Yet, of the quartet, it is Julie Graham who
makes the strongest impression as their senior member, Jean. Rachael Stirling brings a bit of verve as
Millie, but her character and backstory are the least developed, whereas the
mousy, put-upon Lucy becomes tiresome over time.
has a great concept and it nicely conveys the
experience of unraveling a puzzle through logical analysis. Like many numbers people, it is a little weak
when it comes to interpersonal relations.
Still, it is a decent fix for British whodunit fans when it begins this
Sunday (4/21), following Mr . Selfridge, on
most PBS outlets nationwide.
Labels: Bletchley Park, PBS