The Bletchley Circle 2.02: “Blood on Their Hands” Part 2

The Bletchley Circle widens.

We begin this episode in an unusual position: a step ahead of the women of the Bletchley Circle.

A man is in the hospital, his body covered with ugly, blistery chemical burns. He’s expected to die, and when he does his cause of death will be falsified. We know this; our heroines don’t. So we have a few minutes to feel clever or to try piecing things together on our own before the “Circle” closes in on the truth.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Alice Merren declined her opportunity for appeal and her execution date has been set. Only five days remain for the women to determine who really murdered John Richards and why.

A crash involving a truck carrying chemicals is the pivotal event in this mystery. Why was that crash so significant to John Richards? Why did he collect newspaper clippings about it? Why would that collection of clippings lead to his death?

Alice (Hattie Morahan) in happier times, and civilian clothes

That the government is involved seems inevitable once Millie’s security clearance is revoked and Susan’s telephone is tapped. And the man who’s tailing them and keeping tabs on when and where they meet? He must be a government spy, right?

The answer is both complicated and somewhat predictable.

Tension remains high throughout this episode, but it pains me to say that in “Blood on Their Hands” the characters don’t seem as sharp or as sharply defined as they did in Series 1. It’s not water tight, and there are some genuine problems. Topping the list is the relationship between Alice (Hattie Morahan) and Lizzie (Faye Marsay). They’re supposed to be mother and daughter, but they look like peers (in real life, Morahan is just eight years older than Marsay) and, given the timeline of the first episode, it’s hard to imagine how Alice could be Lizzie’s mother. I’m no math whiz, but the numbers seem a little funky to me.

Who’s your mama? Lizzie (Faye Marsay) just found out.

We all forgive discrepancies in the shows we love, and I know very well that an actor’s real-life age can have little bearing on his or her ability to play the parent of another actor. Dame Angela Lansbury  was only three years older than Laurence Harvey when she played his mother in The Manchurian Candidate and no one would dispute her suitability for that role. Still, when you’re making a series that relies so heavily on teasing out every detail, as a creator, you must be precise or risk disappointing the faithful who are hanging on every word and nuance.

I’ll admit to a bit of disappointment here, if only because The Bletchley Circle has such potential…

Maybe I should say “had” potential. As I write this, ITV has announced the show’s cancelation. Boo hiss. Or, to quote Den of Geek, “The Twitter response to the cancellation has been characterised by disappointment, with messages displaying quite understandable ‘There are obviously already too many women geniuses being awesome on TV’ frustration.” Yes. That. Definitely that. It doesn’t take a genius to know that a series can’t develop momentum if it’s not allowed to evolve.

Next week begins a new mystery for a slightly augmented “Circle.” I’m looking forward to it. Let’s savor the female geniuses while we have the chance, Tweet for their survival, and hope this isn’t the last we see of them. That would be a crime.

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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