TV: The Bletchley Circle (Season 1)

The Bletchley Circle (2012) is an earnest three-part period mystery that doesn’t exactly hit its strong premise out of the park, but I found it well produced and quietly likable. Set in 1952, the story centers on Susan Gray (Anna Maxwell Martin), a brilliant former intelligence analyst at Bletchley Park, now struggling to adjust to normal life in the shadow of the war. She spends her time at home, the dutiful wife and mother, until a serial killer starts terrorizing London. Listening to the radio reports, she detects a pattern to the killer’s behavior and tries, without success, to bring it to the police’s attention. Because she’s signed the Official Secrets Act, she can’t explain, even to her husband Timothy (Mark Dexter), why she’s qualified to render a theory. So she calls in her old wartime colleagues Millie (Rachel Stirling), Lucy (Sophie Rundle), and Jean (Julie Graham) to help her analyze the case and solve it outside the system.

It’s an intriguing scenario, and Martin gives an effective, understated performance, a window onto the struggles of the women who served important roles in wartime only to be forced into the background with the return of peace. The period is nicely recreated and the performances are solid. I didn’t find the mystery particularly compelling, and its attempts to generate tension and suspense are modest. But it’s a unique concept attractively realized, and succeeds nicely as a quiet character study. I’m happy to hear it’s been picked up for another season.

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