The Bletchley Circle: Episode 1 Review

The former code-breakers return with a big neon sign!

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‘The Bletchley Circle’ was all about cracking codes, but I’m pretty sure most viewers were one step ahead in cracking the codes and the mysteries within the first episode in the second series of this ITV drama.

The programme kicks off with a short scene involving a man and woman sharing an intimate goodbye from Bletchley Park, before swiftly skipping forward ten years to the sixties, where we are then hit with scenes post-murder. It’s all very dramatic, and at this point, nothing really makes any sense.

The victim is distinguished scientist, (Paul McGann) and one of the women from the former Bletchley gang, Alice, (Hattie Morahan), is arrested for his murder. Soon after her arrest, Alice receives a visit in jail from leader of the old Bletchley group, Jean (Julie Graham), who makes a vow that she will see Alice get’s out of jail, despite the fact that the prisoner is refusing to speak about the case, and therefore appears very much guilty. What is Jean to do? The advice of her lawyer?… “if she wants to live she’ll have to say something, if you’re really her friend, then tell her that.”

Within the first few minutes of the programme it became explicitly clear that for the next fifty minutes, everything was going to be overtly explained to the viewers. The camera panned slowly in close to faces as important decisions and realisations were made. We were basically hand-held and guided through the evidence and results of research and, as an audience, given no opportunity to think for ourselves. Granted, every now and again it’s great to switch off in front of the tele- but I don’t think this should be the case when tuning into a crime drama and particularly when tuning into a crime drama focused on Bletchley Park, a subject that could have been incredibly interesting.

Don’t get me wrong; some parts of the programme are slightly cleverer than others. There’s one particular scene during which the ladies head to a flower shop to try and source an address. They pretend to have sent some flowers that were undelivered and convince the sales assistant that they need to check the address. I think one of the reasons that this scene works more than the others is that we’re watching a problem being solved with action rather than just conversation and heated discussions, with cameras zooming into faces. It’s more fun when we see realisations happening than when we’re told they are. But unfortunately, this sort of process and action doesn’t happen very often.

Another positive is that the episode becomes slightly more shocking and exciting once Alice is actually found guilty of the murder and therefore is sentenced to hang. This essentially acted as a redeemer for the episode as it added a hint of desperation and rush to the case and led to further adventures and action in solving the mystery. From this point, the ladies break into a flat, encounter a stalker and are almost involved in a car accident.

But still, everything is almost exciting and it’s just not engaging enough for me to really stay interested and to play along in trying to solve the crime. I already knew that there was no point trying as I would be served the answers hot, with added explanation and a great-heaped spoonful of exposition to go with it. Essentially, the whole thing wasn’t really my cup of tea.