The critics were dismissive about this show (BTW – it’s on Amazon Prime) but don’t let that deter you – it is a hoot! Yes, it’s a mashup of a Pride and Prejudice storyline and a zombiefest, but that’s the the idea, and if you can’t suspend disbelief, you probably shouldn’t even be reading Pride and Prejudice.
One of the fun things about viewing more than one movie version of P&P is to see just what they will do with the various characters. Since no movie can have the detail of the book, it’s a matter of what they choose to play up and what they leave out, plus which characters achieve prominence both due to screenwriting/directorial choices and performer virtuosity.
In this case, it’s fun to see what aspects of the P&P story survive, how zombie elements fit in to replace certain aspects, and how surprisingly close they get to the original story.
This iteration is smack in the middle of the alternate history genre, though this time it’s set in a fictional world where zombies are a factor. In such a setting, martial arts training is an essential skill for respectable young ladies, though in the case of the Bennett daughters they had the less prestigious Chinese training as opposed to the Samurai variety. Since your disbelief is already suspended, just how such daughters got to a Shaolin temple in the days of wooden ships should not trouble, simply move on.
The result is a set of redefined characters. There are the Bennet young ladies who are dressed to the nines but easily transition into an undead killing machine at any time. Darcy is not only an upper class wealthy, but also a sort of zombie detective and executioner. Wickham is as usual dastardly, but this time he has a hidden alliance with the undead, which adds an added layer of menace to his usual misdeeds. Lady Catherine DeBourgh is not an egocentric elitist, but a deadly assassin.
One thing that well-budgeted contemporary shows share is high production values, and this show enjoys a profusion of great costumes, CGI effects, and other elements that shows even 10 years ago can’t match.
The casting also astonishes, with Lily James (Rose, Downton Abbey) as Elizabeth Bennet, Charles Dance (Lord Tywin Lannister, Game of Thrones) as Mr. Bennett, and [OMG] Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister, GOT) as Lady Catherine.
One of the things that every production of Pride and Prejudice wrestles with is what to do about the fact that our hero Elizabeth Bennet is described as less beautiful than her sister Jane. Having the lead female character in any show be less lovely than the 7.8 billion other people on the planet just doesn’t fit the typical Hollywood model. The difficulty in some productions appears to be simply ignored (without naming any particular shows where Jane rhymes more truthfully with plain).
The hurdle for casting directors is set inordinately high in productions such as the 2005 show, in which Keira Knightly is cast as Lizzie. Finding anyone lovelier than Knightly is a big ask. That production does its best by filling in the Jane role with blonde beauty Rosamund Pike.
The zombie show asks the nearly impossible as well by leading off with Lily James, a world-recognized blood pressure stimulant. They try to tone down the adrenaline a bit by turning Lily into a brunette, but the ensuing calm is ruined by casting Bella Heathcote as Jane, since Heathcote actually may be more of an overkill device upon entering a room than even Miss James.
In addition the profusion of scenes somehow featuring Lily’s bare shoulders and upper chest surging with martial arts-induced breathing does nothing to restore calm.
Things aren’t much easier for for those whose visual preferences run to the masculine set, considering the presence of Douglas Booth as Bingley. One just has to imagine the linguistic training of such an actor, when 35% of the sentences he heard in infancy were “Oh my God what a beautiful baby!” and as he has matured the sentences but not the sentiments have evolved so that now the percentages are the same but it’s just “Oh my God” whenever he walks into a room.
He not only resembles the Romeo in Zeffirelli’s 1968 Romeo and Juliet, he played Romeo in the 2016 version. It’s not really necessary for Bingley to be so beautiful. More overkill.
But no matter, campy over-stimulus and overkill are apropos in any zombified movie, and if you can’t enjoy this show, you simply don’t have a pulse. In which case don’t let Darcy see you.
PS- The Reverend Collins and Mrs. Bennet characters in this show are the least distasteful ever, and any zombie would eat their brains out with relish (but they’re not picky).
|Elizabeth Bennet||Lily James|
|Fitzwilliam Darcy||Sam Riley|
|Charles Bingley||Douglas Booth|
|Jane Bennet||Bella Heathcote|
|Mr Wickham||Jack Huston|
|Mr Bennet||Charles Dance|
|Mrs Bennet||Sally Phillips|
|Lydia Bennet||Ellie Bamber|
|Kitty Bennett||Suki Waterhouse|
|Mary Bennet||Millie Brady|
|Reverend Collins||Matt Smith|
|Lady Catherine DeBourgh||Lena Headey|
|Anne de Bourgh||Bessi Cursons|
|Caroline Bingley||Emma Greenwell|
|Charlotte Lucas||Aisling Loftus|
|Georgiana Darcy||not cast|