“Millie, it wouldn’t work. You’re- you’re tall. And you’re confident!”

There is one thing Brits can’t do, and that’s make good tea. But what they can do, and what they’re excellent at, is murder. For a country where the police don’t carry guns they’re sure obsessed with it. And I’m not sure it’s a bad thing, because they make some brilliant fiction because of it. Whether it be the chilling and gritty urban psychological thrillers or the cosy Midsomer romps through picturesque villages, it’s almost always sharp and enjoyable.

So when I realised there was a murder mystery that had sprung forth in the wake of Bomb Girls 1940s feminist revival I simply had to give it a watch. It’s called The Bletchly Circle and the premise is; four former code-cracker girls trying to navigate through a post-war London that has them once again cast as wives and whores. A series of murders occur and the lingering longing for work of their own and influence over their surroundings soon has the four reuniting after many years apart, with the obvious intent to solve yet another code, this time in the shape of brutal murders and rapes of young women. Took me 3 minutes and I was sold. I am that easy. I’m a feminist anglophile with a history fetish. So yes, that easy.

Four different archetypes of women that feels surprisingly alive despite the lack of character exploration. This is much more of a murder mystery than a character drama, so all of them are second to the plot. Yet neither of them feels subordinate to the plot. If that makes sense. They’re given enough emotional complexity to help fill out the story with human beings rather than act as flat background as the thriller plays out.

Despite being absurdly white, the show at least passes the Bechdel test by a mile or so. This is a solid team of women who respect each other and cooperate to solve the case but also increase their own strength in dealing with their lives. No simpering, sampering, blubbering fools. Simply women working together. Also there’s Millie. The tall and confident woman living alone in a one room apartment (which by the by I want that one room) and who scoffs at the idea of having children and after the war travelled the world on her own (after Susan turned her down and “fell pregnant”…!) and likes to wear trousers. She’s no Betty Butch that’s for sure, but her independence and aversion to male flirtation, is as always, refreshing and she’s enough of a queer duck for you to read her as a queer duck with lipstick if you’re so inclined.

It’s not going to change your world view and you will be cringing at how white it is (I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen London this colourless). But if you can get past that the writing is as good as you expect of a British thriller/mystery and the few instances where you get to see four women lead and control a show are rare enough that you will probably enjoy it despite its faults. Besides it’s only three episodes, perfect for a rainy afternoon.


~ by Ape on September 26, 2012.

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