The Bletchley Circle makes a welcome return to ITV.

by | Jan 6, 2014 | All, Reviews

Murder mysteries, no matter how complex or clever they try to be, all share one fundamental constant: there is always a victim, whether we see them or not. I reckon a reasonably reliable yardstick for measuring the quality of just such a TV drama is learning who plays the corpse; if it’s a nobody, then chances are you’ve had the misfortune to stumble across The Murdoch Mysteries or some such twaddle. However, in the first of a new run of The Bletchley Circle, it’s veteran thesp Paul McGann who comes a cropper after being shot in the heart, so we can rest assured we’re in the company of something a little special.

To be honest, anyone who caught the first run of the post-wartime series in 2012 will already know this. For those who missed out, the original run followed ex-Bletchley Park codebreaker Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin) and three former colleagues, Jean (Julie Graham), Millie (Rachael Stirling) and Lucy (Sophie Rundle) as they pooled their considerable intellects to unmask a murderer. The end result, even for a channel as swamped with crime dramas as ITV, was compelling stuff. Here, the drama – set just a year later – comprises a pair of two-part tales, beginning as Jean embarks on what she thinks is a desperate mission of mercy.

Another former Bletchley regular, Alice (played by the always superb Hattie Morahan) is languishing in Holloway Jail and facing a murder trial for the shooting her former lover (McGann). Jean is horrified at the notion and can’t believe her one-time colleague isn’t putting up the slightest defence – even though Alice knows full well her journey can only end in one place: the gallows. Eager to prevent what she believes is a miscarriage of justice, Jean gets the girls together again and starts to dig for the truth.

What could have been a run-of-the-mill opener is, thanks to the sparkling performances of the four leading ladies, gripping stuff, as they resort to borderline criminal activity, including breaking and entering, to prove Alice’s innocence. Of course, when it comes to the crunch, it’s Susan who realises the young woman their trail has led to is actually Alice and the dead man’s daughter, who they gave up for adoption years earlier. But there’s little time to congratulate themselves as the ladies realise their peril after discovering the British Army has played a sinister part in the rapidly thickening plot.

Pleasingly and following the same pattern as the first series, there are plenty of unanswered questions left hanging as we head into the second part of the story. Who is the sinister man in the tipped-down hat who followed our heroines about town? With no chance of appeal, will Alice really face the hangman’s noose? And will Susan, who is facing emotional upheaval on the home front, lay down the law to her selfish hubby and tell him there’s no way she’s moving abroad, just so he can satisfy his professional ambitions?

Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure: The Bletchley Circle is an intelligent and entertaining addition to the winter schedules.

Welcome back ladies – we’ve missed you.

The Bletchley Circle continues Monday’s at 9.00pm on ITV.

Contributed by Scheenagh Harrington

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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