Pride and Prejudice: Episode 4

“Perhaps the beauty of the house renders its owner a little less repulsive, Lizzy.”
“Yes, perhaps. Perhaps a very little.”

In which Darcy writes a letter, Lydia leaves for Brighton, Elizabeth takes a trip, and Darcy goes for a swim. Contains spoilers.

Episode 4 is my absolute favorite episode of the series and it’s not because of the infamous lake scene. Well, it’s not just because of the lake scene.

We begin with Darcy’s letter. This miniseries is the only version of Pride and Prejudice that I’m aware of to show the contents of the letter being acted out and not just read in voice over. I think it adds a lot. We get to see Wickham and Georgiana together which enforces the creepiness of his pursuit of her. He’s at least ten years older than her and it’s just gross that he would attempt to seduce a child for her money. We also see shots of Wickham and Darcy at Cambridge. I really like this little inclusion. Wickham’s actions towards the Darcys might have been explained by need or greed, but the scene at Cambridge helps make it clear that Wickham is just not a good guy and there’s really no excuse for him.

We also flashback to Jane and Bingley. Charlotte’s words of warning to Lizzy regarding Jane’s reserve prove themselves true. Darcy believed Jane was not in love because she did not seem to be in love. I’ve always found this a weak justification. Darcy disdains the other members of Lizzy’s family because they are too open and too loud with their opinions. Now it turns out he ruined Jane’s happiness because she was too closed off and too quiet about her opinions. Pick a side, Darcy. In addition, Darcy explains away his coldness by saying that he is (for lack of a better word) shy around strangers. Isn’t Jane just exhibiting similar shyness with Bingley?

Although Lizzy has clearly been crushing on Darcy for awhile (whether she admits it to herself or not), this episode is the one where she really starts to fall for him. It’s ironic, considering we begin the episode with her disliking Darcy as much as possible. The entire episode is about Lizzy softening to the idea of Darcy. His letter gets the ball rolling. He does little to acquit himself of wrongdoing in Jane’s case, but at least manages to explain away Wickham’s intense hatred. I like to think he partly wrote the letter to Elizabeth to warn her away from Wickham. It’s more than just pride that inspires him to set her straight, that’s for sure.

Furthering Darcy’s cause for him is his house mansion estate palace whatever you’d call that place and his effusive housekeeper. Yes, Pemberley does make Lizzy like Darcy a bit more, but I refuse to believe it’s in a mercenary way. It’s the little things that do it. For instance, Darcy still displays a miniature of Wickham, a man he absolutely detests, in what was his father’s favorite room out of respect. The furnishings of Pemberley also speak well for Darcy. While everything is beautiful and (one imagines) expensive, his taste seems to lack the gaudiness of his aunt’s. Perhaps he is not so obsessed with rank and fortune as Elizabeth thought.

Then there’s the housekeeper, Mrs. Reynolds. She unknowingly does her master a great service by talking him up incessantly to a complete stranger. Elizabeth gets insight into Darcy’s character that has heretofore been unavailable to her. He dotes on his little sister, he’s been good-tempered since childhood, and he’s an excellent landlord and a generous master. Glowing praise, indeed.

Following this barrage on Lizzy’s dislike of Darcy comes the man himself. My favorite scene in the series (aside from the aforementioned lake scene) is when a sopping wet Darcy is surprised by the woman who very recently rejected his proposal of marriage and his awkward politeness to her. He is so shocked, he does not have the time to assemble his familiar shield of haughtiness and pride. It is the most genuine Darcy that Elizabeth (or the audience) has yet to see. He remembers his manners, asking her where she was staying and how her family is (twice) but is thoroughly unable to remember that her “condition in life is so decidedly below [his] own.” As a result, Elizabeth’s opinion of Darcy, already softened, is raised considerably.

Lizzy is clearly thrown by Darcy’s good manners at Pemberley and tries to goad him into being his ‘usual’ proud and disdainful self by introducing her aunt and uncle to him as her relatives from Cheapside. She is disappointed however, as Darcy behaves perfectly. Not a flicker of surprise or arrogance crosses his face upon learning the Gardiners’ situation and he expresses interest in Mr. Gardiner and invites him to fish in his trout stream. He is still not as affable or open as, for instance, Mr. Bingley (who could be?) but Darcy at home is a completely different animal than Darcy abroad.

The episode ends with the tenderest moment we’ve had between our romantic leads, in which he asks her to meet his sister. This is quite the compliment. Girls of Georgiana’s rank and age were often kept sheltered from all but the closest family acquaintances. Georgiana’s case is likely more exaggerated because of her recent attempted elopement.

In addition to Elizabeth and Darcy, this episode begins to feature Lydia more than previous episodes, with good reason. She is soon to become a rather important character. Whiny, petty, spoiled, and silly, it is a wonder someone as respectable sounding as Mrs. Forster would want her to accompany her to Brighton. Then of course, we see Mrs. Forster (who looks about 15). She seems just as silly as her friend. This is the woman the Bennets entrust the welfare of their daughter to.

Mr. Bennet’s character is clearly communicated in his allowing Lydia to go to Brighton. His conversation with Lizzy is very telling. He knows that Lydia will make a fool of herself and of the family, but cannot be bothered to prevent it. He wants peace in his home, whatever the price and he consoles his favorite daughter by telling her that her and Jane’s good manners in general counteract the silliness of her sisters. While Mr. Bennet’s quick wit and sarcastic quips make him a favorite character, it cannot be denied that he is a neglectful parent. He is lazy and selfish and would much rather sit in his library than go to any trouble for the benefit of his family.

Historical Context:

Darcy hand delivers his letter to Elizabeth because correspondence between two unmarried persons was considered highly improper. In Sense and Sensibility, several people assume that two characters are engaged simply because they openly write to each other.

Georgiana Darcy’s dowry of £30,000 was a huge sum of money and one of the largest dowries in Austen.

Lady Catherine seems surprised that Mr. Gardiner “keeps a manservant.” Male servants were not only paid more, the government had levied a tax on the employment of a male servant. Therefore being able to afford a male servant was a sign of affluence.

As the Bennet ladies discuss the possibility of going to Brighton, they seem very desirous to go ‘sea-bathing.’ Swimming in the ocean was a recent fashion and believed to be extremely beneficial to one’s health.

Bits & Pieces:

Of all of Austen’s novels, Pride and Prejudice is the one that features the most travel. Lizzy goes to Kent, Jane goes to London, Lydia goes to Brighton, Lizzy goes to Derbyshire, Lydia goes to London. This is because Austen had originally intended the novel to be in an epistolary format. I’m very, very glad she went a different direction. I find epistolary novels (particularly from this time period) incredibly tiresome. And, yes, that was directed at you, Samuel Richardson.

The actress who plays Mrs. Gardiner is the real life mother of the actress who plays Georgiana Darcy.

Favorite Moments:

Maria repacking her trunks according to Lady Catherine’s instructions.

Mr. Collins’s feeble attempts to make Lizzy regret not marrying him.

Lydia meeting Lizzy and Maria on their way home. She “treats” them all to a nice meal via their own money as she’s spent all own on a hat she didn’t really like. How very Lydia.

The fencing scene, particularly the line “I shall conquer this! I shall!”

Lizzy’s first glimpse of Pemberley.

The lake scene, obviously.

Awkward, wet Darcy (Colin Firth has never been more adorable).

Pretty much everything that happens in Derbyshire, now that I think about it.

7 comments:

a.m. said...

I love this episode too! And you did a great job of listing all the reasons:)

My favorite is when Darcy runs in to change quickly and comes running back out to talk with Lizzie before she has time to escape...so adorable...that's the moment I fell in love with him too:)

sunbunny said...

He takes the stairs two at a time he wants to get to her so badly!! :) swoon

bekswhoknits said...

WET SHIRT DARCY!



that is all.

Juliette said...

I've watched this episode way more times than is healthy.

I love the sincerity in Lizzy's voice when she tells Mr Collins 'You are very good.' She must have hurt his feelings, though he'd never show it.

The wet shirt scene is genius. Quite apart from being more attractive than being sweaty from riding a horse as in the book (though actually that sounds pretty sexy too) it got the period-specific social horror of the situation across to 12-year-old me much more easily than somebody fully clothed. The scene in an earlier episode when Mr Collins is horrified to see Lydia in her (pretty concealing) petticoat helped too - otherwise, aged 12, I'd never have understood just how embarrassed Darcy was to be seen not in his normal state of dress and decorum!

ChrisB said...

How could anyone who loves this miniseries not love this installment? It's taken us four hours, but finally our two are coming together.

I wonder how much thanks is owed to the Gardiners. A normal, happily married couple who treat their niece and their new acquaintance as the adults they are; not pawns that need to be thrown together. Away from all the nonsense, Elizabeth and Darcy can look at each other with fresh eyes. And, wow does it work!

The look on Elizabeth's face as she drives away is marvelous. Sigh...

CrazyCris said...

Side note: I just discovered the Pride and Prejudice index post Sunbunny... You haven't included Bride and Prejudice!!! *snif* I'll take it on if no one else will! (I just have to re-order the dvd... don't remember who I loaned it to 2 years ago *grumble*)

CrazyCris said...

The Lake scene... I still don't get why it got so many people so excited... there really isn't all that much to see there! :p
Plus it's not in the book!!! :o(
I much prefer when he hastily dresses and rushes back out to see her again before she can "escape"!

But that approach to Pemberly... WOW! The beauty of that house definitely makes the owner a little less repulsive! (particularly in that society where you could avoid your spouse easily)

Historical context Sunbunny: it is gross to us to see Wickham chasing after a 15 year-old Georgiana for her money, but 200 years ago it would have been acceptable... had he been an acceptable match socially!

Definitely the episode where the situation between Darcy and Elizabeth does a 180... and they build it up wonderfullY!