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The Bletchley Circle
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Bletchley Circle is a period murder mystery centered on a group of female sleuths. Audiences will see victims stalked and menaced, bound and gagged, screaming piteously. In other scenes, viewers see dead bodies being caressed by a faceless man, women being hit in the face, and bruised corpses. Actual violence and murder usually occurs offscreen, but there is a disturbing near-rape involving a main character in peril. Breasts are visible in a shot of vintage pornography. Characters frequently smoke and drink; one character drinks and then abuses his wife. There are double entendres about prostitution. A man threatens to fire a female employee for not having sex with him.
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What's the story?
Officially, THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE's Millie (Rachael Stirling), Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin), Lucy (Sophie Rundle), and Jean (Julie Graham) did clerical work during World War II. In reality, the women were part of a group of military codebreakers who helped the Allies win the war. Nine years later, they've all moved on with their lives. That is, until Susan starts seeing a pattern in reports of a British serial killer preying on young women. She thinks with the help of her three ex-coworkers, she can find the killer. The only problem? He might find them first.
Is it any good?
There's a thrilling moment in the first episode of The Bletchley Circle in which Susan assembles a crime-fighting team like she's putting together a vintage British all-female Justice League. Lucy's got an photographic memory, Susan's good with patterns, Millie handles maps, and Jean's a rough-and-tumble black marketeer who knows how to get secret official information. Yeah, Bletchley Circle! Wonder Twins power, activate!
Yet the Circle's crime-fighting team spends more time poring through railroad timetables and cross-referencing maps than chasing criminals over rooftops, so the action might be a little slow for those who like their serial killer dramas to be bam-bam-bam! The Bletchley Circle is more akin to an old Sherlock Holmes mystery than a modern crime drama, with plenty of plot twists and deductive leaps of logic; Agatha Christie appreciators should take note. Fans of lushly styled period shows like Mad Men will also enjoy the show's vintage details, from old school hats and hairstyles to plot points involving food rationing coupons and newspapers tucked under a commuter's arm.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why murder mysteries are such an enduring staple of television drama. Think about some modern murder mysteries such as Law & Order and The Killing. How is The Bletchley Circle alike? How is it different?
PBS has been making many period dramas that involve historical settings, such as Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge. Why do you think PBS in particular favors period shows such as these? Does the historical time period read as more cultured or intellectual? Why?
Why do so many shows feature male serial killers stalking young, attractive women? Why would an audience find that scenario particularly compelling?
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