TV Review: ‘The Bletchley Circle,’ Season 2

The Bletchley Circle TV Review

As good as “The Bletchley Circle” was the first time around, there was reason to worry that a second adventure would risk stretching this clever little premise beyond its expiration date. Those fears are at least partly realized by season two, which not only reassembles its team of female World War II code-breakers to solve a new mystery, but also bifurcates the four-episode run, raising the question of how much trouble these now-ordinary gals can keep credibly stumbling into. Still fun on its own terms, the encore takes an unexpected little gem and transforms it into “Murder, She (and She and She and She) Wrote.”

The two-case format essentially follows a template used on “Luther,” but that show has the benefit of focusing on a world-weary detective who has an excuse for running into serial killers.

Here, the story begins promisingly enough, as the four central women are spurred back into action when a former colleague (Hattie Morahan) from their code-breaking days winds up on trial for murder. She’s accused of killing a scientist with whom she’d worked and had an affair during the war, and she refuses to disclose why she’s reluctant to provide information that might exonerate her.

The narrative rather quickly turns to a fairly obvious plot that has to do with chemical-weapon experiments, as the four, spurred on by Jean (Julie Graham) but ostensibly led by married wallflower Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin), unearth clues against a Cold War backdrop.

Yet with that mystery resolved in the second hour, attention turns to a second conspiracy, at which point Susan takes her leave, and it starts to feel like this latest “Circle” is doing little more than spinning plates.

“Bletchley” caps off a night of 20th-century PBS drama that includes additional seasons of “Mr. Selfridge” and “Call the Midwife,” but it’s gone from perhaps the most enjoyable of that trio to the one least suited to a return engagement.

And it’s an unfortunate endorsement of what the male authorities around the intrepid “Bletchley” alums keep telling them — namely, that even with those mad code-breaking skills, it’s important to know when to leave well enough alone.

TV Review: 'The Bletchley Circle,' Season 2

(Limited series; PBS, Sun. April 13, 10 p.m.)

Production

Produced by World Prods. in association with Content TV for ITV.

Crew

Executive producers, Jake Lushington, Greg Phillips, Geoff Webb; producer, Trevor Hopkins; director, Jamie Payne; writer, Guy Burt; camera, Adam Suschitzky; production designer, Claire Kenny; editor, St. John O’Rorke; music, Nick Green; casting, Rebecca Wright. 45 MIN.

Cast

Anna Maxwell Martin, Julie Graham, Rachael Stirling, Sophie Rundle, Hattie Morahan, Faye Marsay

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  1. Sheryl says:

    A brilliant backstory and engaging episodes. Too bad PBS doesn’t see the potential here.

  2. esrher says:

    This was a entertaing and informative show about smart ordinary women I would love to see it continue Kristen comments about having them recruited as a unit solving cases Noone else could slove would be fantastic .don u have someone maybe a women who could writ this

  3. cami melton says:

    I love anything to do with murder/mystery, but I have to say that this was such an awesome inspiring series to watch. it’s so refreshing as a female to be able to watch other smart female role tv shows which has always been lacking for young smart women. I wished there were more season… so disappointed that it ended with only 2 seasons. My husband is a very manly man and he thought the story was great, the actresses were wonderful and the historic time setting was refreshing.

  4. Eileen says:

    We’re loving the acting & mysteries, but more importantly it brings important historical stories to light, And, it shows strong female characters making their way in a time when their skils & ideas were much harder to exercise, and the costs of those efforts to the women & to their society. As to the complaint of implausibility, all TV and most written mysteries depend on the same device. So far The Bletchley Circle writers have done a great job arcing off those tangents, and my husband & I have loved the shows. I wish ITV would give the series more time to build an audience!

  5. Andrea M. says:

    Love the show!

  6. Kristen says:

    This show is terrific! I agree with the jaded Mr. Lowry that the start of the ‘tangle’ is limited in its current state, but seriously–how many MILLIONS of cozys or other PI series manage to ‘plop’ into a murder day after day. What I would LOVE is if some clever, debonair high society secret service type would recruit them as a UNIT and assign them cases that the army can’t solve. Just think of all the delicious lying to family and significant others that would go on….

  7. L Rodri says:

    How could you possibly compare Bletchley Circle negatively to Mr Selfridge? I’m very disappointed, but I can’t say I’m surprised. There just aren’t that many shows worth watching on TV anymore.

  8. Kate says:

    How does one go about being a “married wallflower”?

  9. J. Gordon says:

    Candace, you deserve a much better answer than you have gotten so far! You are absolutely right — the age of the daughter makes absolutely no sense given the timeline. It is a glaring error that is not explained. We can suspend our disbelief about a story, as we do with Sherlock Holmes. That is not the problem here. Stories might be unrealistic to a degree, and that is OK. But they have to be internally consistent or they risk losing integrity. On the whole, however, I agree with you — this is a wonderful series in many ways and I am looking forward to the rest of Season 2.

  10. Candace says:

    I love this series–love the ladies, but I’m not getting the time line of this 2nd season. Starts out in 1943 with the two parting ways at Bletchley. Then it says it’s 10 years later, but their daughter is 17 or 18 years old. Her mother said that she was given up for adoption–that her father was engaged to someone else at the time–I’m confused about how the daughter ends up being 17 or 18 years old–help!

    • Holly says:

      If you watch closely, the mother says that she and the scientist were involved before the war and that their daughter was born in 1936. They were together again during the time they were at Bletchley, but their daughter was conceived and born years earlier.

  11. ismslive says:

    Just a lot of meaningless “I don’t like chicks being clever” running in circles complaints here. Unreasonable that investigators keep encountering trouble? Oh, please. Would you make the same complaint about Sherlock, or suggest he is merely “spinning plates?” Thinly-veiled, indeed.

  12. Candace says:

    “Gals” ?

  13. Please excuse my unlady-like comment…this is fucking bullshit! Finally, an intelligent TV program (if posssible) and you guys scratch it! I watch about 5 programs a week, this included. This is complete misogynistic CRAP! While such hedonistic CRAP like “Family Guy”, “American Dad” and other embarassingly childish euphemistic droll entertain the educated & idiotics of our society. I am so fed up! Seth MacFarlane may have credos here, however, I believe he should stick to singing & leave drama to the pros. SM, being an example, not just an adjective. People need something to entertain and educate!

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