Just Bananas About: Week of 4/29/13

I usually watch PBS’ Masterpiece on the weekends and it’s mostly made up of British miniseries but lately the channel has been adding some new programs that’s not part of this hour.  I’ve briefly mentioned Call the Midwife recently but this week I got addicted to The Bletchley Circle.

The interesting thing is that they’re both female driven dramas.  In the case of The Bletchley Circle, it’s only 3 episodes long.  It’s about four women and their lives after the conclusion of World War II.  While the men were off at war, the woman at Bletchley worked in intelligence as code breakers helping to save the lives of the soldiers on the ground.  However when the war ended and women were sent back into the homes, they had to sign a secrecy act vowing them to not reveal what they did for the government even if that means keeping the secret from their husbands.

Susan Gray (Anna Maxwell Martin) has the ideal life: a loving husband, two kids.  But she doesn’t quite seem satisfied.  She misses her days at Bletchley.

The news of a series of murders catches her interest and as she follows the news, she notices a pattern in the killings.

She brings her findings to the police and convinces the chief that they had missed a body but they are unable to find it.  So she reaches out to her colleagues at Bletchley again and tells them that they are the only people who will be able to find this killer using the skills they learned during the war.

Most post-war reunion shows and dramas typically feature men.  I like that these women experienced the war in their own trench but unable to publicly celebrate their accomplishments afterwards.  Within Susan’s groups, each of these women bring their own strengths to the team.  Susan is good with numbers.  Millie (Rachael Stirling) is good with maps.

Lucy (Sophie Rundle) is good at memorizing tons of data and Jean (Julie Graham) can get access to confidential files.

The series hasn’t finished airing here in the States but I couldn’t wait to find out what happens with the case and what happens to these women.  The show is paced so well and smartly written that it has you coming back for more.

The show doesn’t only delve into the mystery at hand but also gets into the social issues women faced at the time.  Abuse at home, inappropriate advances at work and men underestimating women.  Through this group, they’re able to find a renewed purpose but it doesn’t come without some danger.

I love that each of the women are so distinct from each other. I found it a little hard to watch these women, especially Susan, having to keep her efforts a secret from her husband.  While her husband was loving, he wasn’t quite supportive of Susan looking into the murders.  As for Millie, she is one independent thinking woman in a time when perhaps being independent wasn’t kindly looked upon.  My favorite scene was when her boss as the diner suggests that he’ll grant her the time off if she’d provide him other favors.  Her response is awesome and what tops the cake is that her tone is cool but gentle and her words cuts her boss right off.

As for Lucy, she’s not so lucky as Susan and while she can’t reveal what she’s been up to, her husband takes it out on her in different ways. While Lucy is meek, I found it hard to see her brilliant mind being wasted over ironing shirts, a hot stove and an ungrateful husband but that’s a sign of how far women have come and where our predecessors have been.  And Jean, perhaps it’s because she supervised these girls during the war, but she still takes on a matronly figure.

It’s a dark, thrilling ride and the drama doesn’t hold back when it digs into the mind that commits these crimes.  At times, I did find it a little spooky to watch but nonetheless enthralling.


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