Season two of The Bletchley Circle more or less matches the quality of the first, but never quite elevates the game. I come away from the series — which has, alas, been canceled — only modestly a fan, feeling that perhaps its execution never quite lived up to its premise. But it’s still a respectable period mystery, engaging and attractive, with strong female leads and terrific production values.
The show revolves around a quartet of brilliant women whose meaningful work as codebreakers and analysts at Bletchley Park during World War II proves to be a career highpoint difficult to match in their post-war lives. As the season begins, they’re still struggling with the peacetime patriarchy, but with a serial murder case under their belts they’re more than ready to tackle a new mystery when a fifth Bletchley colleague, Alice (Hattie Morahan), is implicated in a murder she seems unwilling to challenge, even though her guilt seems unikely. Alice’s situation proves to be the first of two double-episode mysteries that comprise the season, and also introduces her as a full-fledged member of the team for the second case, in which Millie (Rachael Stirling) gets mixed up in black market trafficking and falls afoul of a Maltese smuggling ring.
Of the two stories, I found the second more engaging, but neither quite hits it out of the park. Unfortunately, the writing on the series never quite raises itself to the level of brilliance required of the characters and premise. Fortunately the show has other attributes — refreshing gender politics, likable and sympathetic characters, a superb look — to distract from this problem. But ultimately, a crime-solving show involving ingenious detectives calls for ingenious plotting, and The Bletchley Circle generally falls a few twists short. I’m glad to have watched it, and sad to see it go, but not, alas, surprised.