Tue
May 6 2014 12:30pm

The Bletchley Circle 2.04: “Uncustomed Goods” Part 2

It’s disconcerting to see Millie in distress. When her confidence is shaken so is ours.

We know she has a perfectly good reason to feel traumatized. In last week’s episode of The Bletchley Circle, Millie stumbled upon the body of her happy-go-lucky pal Jasper, “co-pilot” in her scheme to provide cut-price luxury goods to fashionable women. Not long before that , someone described Jasper as a bookie’s best friend. Apparently he wasn’t everyone’s best friend, though. Jasper was brutally beaten and left where someone would find him. Someone like Millie.

The women of the Circle have already been advised to “tell the Old Bill and go home,” if they discover Jasper’s fallen afoul of a certain group of Maltese gangsters. Those heavies are trafficking in more than ciggies and silk stockings; they’re bringing in young women from eastern Europe for nefarious purposes.

So, Millie and her friends dutifully make a report and wait for an investigation. Surely Scotland Yard won’t ignore such a heinous crime. Yet they do...

And that’s where we begin this week’s episode, the conclusion of “Uncustomed Goods” and the final episode of The Bletchley Circle.

Lucy, who’s conveniently placed on the Scotland Yard clerical support staff, is shocked to hear that by the time the cops arrived Jasper’s body had vanished and the whole crime scene had been scrubbed clean, hospital style.

Murder? What murder?

Knowing what they know, the ladies figure someone in the police is in cahoots with the crooks. So they hatch a plan to catch the smugglers with their “uncustomed goods,” black market cigarettes as well as human cargo.

Knowing what we know, which is that The Bletchley Circle has been canceled, makes this a melancholy outing. In episode 2 of “Uncustomed Goods,” the team is back on form—solving puzzles, cracking codes, using their brains, working together with each person contributing to the end result. We’re left with hope for all of them.

Alice is regaining her confidence and  turns out to be clever with machines. (It helps if you talk to them, apparently.)

Millie remains tenacious, guided by her sense of justice even more than her sense of entitlement.

Lucy, after her unhappy marriage in series 1, is turning out to be tougher and less of a romantic than we might have expected.

And Jean, always the dark horse, hints at a past of adventure and intrigue.  “I wasn’t always a librarian, you know,” Jean tells Millie. (No, Jean. We don’t know. And now we won’t know. Grrr!)

Then there’s Lizzie, already a scrapper and now a sort of Bletchley Girl-in-training. What does her future hold?

It’s a shame we’re losing The Bletchley Circle. The series is intelligent and original, and the cast—Rachael Stirling, Hattie Morahan, Julie Graham, Sophie Rundle, Anna Maxwell-Martin, and Faye Marsay—are a pleasure to watch. Here’s hoping that someone pays attention to the viewer dismay over the cancelation. It might not bring The Bletchley Circle back, but it could remind the powers-that-be there’s an audience for “genius women being awesome on TV.” You don’t have to be a genius to figure that out.


Leslie Gilbert Elman is the author of Weird But True: 200 Astounding, Outrageous, and Totally Off the Wall Facts. Follow her on Twitter @leslieelman.

Read all of Leslie Gilbert Elman’s posts for Criminal Element.

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6 comments
Lori Provenzano
1. Mountainesque
Sorry about the cancellation of this terrific program. Must be because I like it!
Susan Stokes
2. Susan
I thought I read it will viewed as Part 2 in 2015... Became so attached to The Bletchley Circle.., Now that the Women have "Moved On" The Writers are Exploring other Story Lines so Beautifully..Thanks Leslie for the Update...Will Sleuth around their Twitter Page...
Leslie Gilbert Elman
3. Leslie Gilbert Elman
@Mountainesque It's not you; it's me. :) From what I can tell, the cancelation came as a surprise. The show had an audience. Who knows how these decisions are made?

@Susan I hope someone picks up on the idea of a historical series about smart women solving crimes.
Caryn Stardancer
4. cstardancer
@Mountainesque That's how I feel ... if I like it, good chance it will be cancelled.
Laurence Coven
5. Holmes
Cancelling The Bletchley Circle is really ashame. First, there just aren't that many truly smart TV crime shows out there, but getting axed if your are bright and dare I say it, even literarte, is nothing new for Television. A few have had long runs like Columbo and the original Law & Order, but by and large we have had to trust to the BBC to put thoughtfulness and character above "bang bang". Even more rare here was a great vehicle for intelligent, mature female characters and thus mature actresses. I've been an actor most of my life and have seen so many so talented women just not be able to work, at least not in anything decent, because of lack of full rounded women characters over 35, and maybe I should make that 30. At least few that Meryl Streep doesn't get. Outside of Woody Allen, whose probably created more brilliant female roles since anyone this side of Tennessee Williams, especially in America, we depend on you, BBC, to fill in that void. Cancelling The Bletchly group is a mistake, and I hope it's not the beginning of a trend.
Leslie Gilbert Elman
6. Leslie Gilbert Elman
@Holmes I agree it's a shame, but these actresses won't disappear.

Sophie Rundle, who played Lucy in The Bletchley Circle, is in a new contemporary crime series called Happy Valley that's receiving a lot of positive attention in the U.K. Fingers crossed it comes to the U.S. soon.

Anna Maxwell Martin, who played Susan, is in Death Comes to Pemberley (based on the PD James book), which will air on PBS Masterpiece starting in late October.
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