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TOP 50 REVIEWERon February 14, 2014
The January airing of this thrilling crime/spy investigative series' 2nd season brought back the cast's key 3 nucleus. Some of the most intelligent British women during WWII were brought to Bletchley as code breakers. They helped win the war. At that time it was a secret, hidden operation, and remained a national secret for decades afterward. This dramatic series reveaed some of the history and aftermath. In the early 1950s Bletchley gals have moved on to marriage and kids. However, the stellar code breaking abilities are yet keen in the minds of these women. That can't be forgotten so easily. And now, they operate independently, without protection of the British forces.

The second season expanded to four episodes, one more than season 1. The story continued from one episode to a second. That pattern was repeated for a second lengthy two-part drama. The suspense never slowed, so expect no difference in series two. The women that found themselves caught between wartime and post-war normalcy were tough, smart, strong, and determined. Yes, it is a female focused series, but content is for all who enjoy strong thriller/suspense and a challenge to never being sure of the conclusion. Code breaking revolved around patterns, and a pattern could change in a heartbeat. So could lives. A realistic look at what it was probably like for the gals who worked at wartime Bletchley, followed by their struggle to blend into the subdued British lifestyle after the war.

It's intense period suspense with costumes, sets, and props doing the appropriate 1950s era. I know, I lived during those years.
Blood on their Hands: pt 1 & 2
Uncustomed Goods: pt 1 & 2

Link: The Bletchley Circle: Cracking a Killer's Code
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon April 1, 2014
First off, it you have not already seen Season 1, I recommend that you do as you'll learn the background on the characters. (You can find my review on Amazon.) With that said, I will proceed with my review of this wonderful "series" but I should also point out that this is a review of the DVD version (from PBS home Video - which they sent to me) which includes bonus features. Amazon has a policy of grouping ALL review of all formats of a show (broadcast, streaming and DVD and BD). You should always sort reviews by "newest first" and then look at format the reviewer is commenting on.

A bit of background on what is here. Unlike US TV series which go on for at least 13 episodes, British TV series can be much shorter. The first season of The Bletchley Circle (TBC) was a three part story running 135 minutes. This "Season Two" DVD contains two independent "stories" (each divided into two 45 minute "episiodes"). The show was created, and aired, in the UK on the commercial ITV network (not the non-commercial BBC) and later aired on PBS in the US. To my knowledge these are the ITV originals. I did not see the US-PBS broadcast version but they are usually edited for some graphic images of violence.

I do not believe in "spoilers" and you won't find any here. Just some basic info: Season One took place in 1951 or 1952 after giving us scenes from their 1940s war years. This season bring the characters - a group of female "code breakers" who were based in Bletchley, England during World War II - up to 1953 when they are now in civilian lives during the Cold War. (There is a brief sojourn back to 1943 at the beginning to set up the story - but I can't say much more about that either. In each of the two stories this time, one of the women is a victim of a crime and the others band together to solve it.

The script is written by a male but nearly all the actors (and the directors - there are two) are female.

The DVD has one bonus feature and it's well done. It's a 27 minute featurette featuring interviews with all the cast and production crew (with a few clips from the show, but - thankfully - not many). It is bookended with a new interview with one of the actual Bletchley Project members. And for those following the series, the interview with the director of the second story on this DVD, will bring some real surprises (I said NO "spoilers" from me, remember?).
From what I can tell, there will be a third season though, as I noted above, the two stories in Season Two each can stand on their own with no "cliffhangers:.

Another fine British TV "mystery" drama.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 17, 2014
During the Second World War, Bletchley Park was the headquarters of the UK's decryption organization, where various codes and cyphers were translated by a staff that was made up of 80% women. When the war came to a close they went back to ordinary life, keeping their activities during the war a secret even from their closest family members. They were extraordinary women, who not only saved lives with their diligence but were some of the world's first computer programmers.

Although "The Bletchley Circle" (rather sadly) takes place well after the war has come to a close, the protagonists are all former-Bletchley members who use their puzzle-solving skills to ferret out answers to various mysteries. In the first series Susan Grey, a wife and mother, was feeling stifled by her current life-style and eager to recapture what she considered the glory years by catching a serial killer. Alongside her former comrades (outspoken Millie, quiet Lucy, no-nonsense Jean) they managed to hunt him down, though not without a significant psychological toll.

As with the first series, the second begins with a brief prologue that takes place in the midst of the war before moving forward ten years. Another of their old colleges is in serious trouble - having been found guilty of murdering her former lover, Alice Merren now faces execution for his murder. Having gone to see her in prison, Jean is certain that she's not only innocent, but also hiding something - but what on earth would you keep secret when you're about to be hanged?

This time it's Jean who rounds up the old crew, finding it easy enough to bring Lucy and Millie on board, but discovering that after her traumatic experience in series one, Susan wants nothing to do with the investigation, especially when she thinks it'll threaten her own family.

Unlike the last series, which dealt with the fairly straightforward hunt for a serial killer, series two has the women embroiled in espionage, where military secrets and government cover-ups form the basis of the first two episodes. The final two involve Millie getting into trouble over her under-the-table business dealings. She ends up kidnapped as a result, leaving Alice, Jean and Lucy to track her down before all four women try to bring down the cartel that's profiteering off stolen goods and young prostitutes.

On that note, the format of series two is a little different: whereas the first series was a straightforward three-part miniseries, this has two storylines divided over the course of four episodes. Furthermore, the last two episodes do not involve Susan, with the focus shifting to Millie and Alice instead.

Along with the attention to detail in visualizing the 1950s (the fashions, the cars, the lingo), I hugely appreciated the emphasis that's put on paperwork. These women don't have access to computers or databases; if they want information they have to sit down and trawl through endless files in order to get it. There's a real sense of the intelligence and patience of these women, traits that would have served them well during the war years.

Personally I was not quite as riveted by the second series as I was by the first, but "The Bletchley Circle" continues to be a unique crime-drama starring compelling and sympathetic female characters. Definitely recommended.
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on April 17, 2014
The news has just come out that ITV will not be giving us Season 3 of this terrific series. I love these feisty women and their lifestyles, clothes, homes. I thought Season 1 was perfect but didn't like losing Susan in this Season. Well, no matter, the series is done. Too bad ITV doesn't think a show about four whip smart females is worth keeping.
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on May 4, 2014
Season 1 was so intriguing and enjoyable. Season 2 storyline was too simplistic and
really uninteresting. The characters didn't grow and they seemed
inconsistent with the characters in the first season.
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on May 29, 2014
I like several of the actors involved in this series but they could not save the writing. I enjoyed season one and therefore stupidly bought all the episodes in season two. Big mistake. While not bad, it was not at all compiling after the second episode. Unfortunately Anna Maxwell Martin departed the show and her loss is felt. The other characters are not bad but none are particularly memorable and I was never able to become invested in any of their stories. This show seems to be an attempt to cash in on the success of Sherlock and Call the Midwives but having a mystery to solve and being set in post-WWII England is sufficient. The stories needed to be more creative and the characters more interesting. If it's available on Prime, watch it, otherwise, find a better British show.
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on April 28, 2014
I was so excited to learn the second season of The Bletchley Circle was being released that I pre-ordered it. I really wish now that I'd watched on PBS before ordering the dvd. What a huge disappointment that this second season is not nearly as good as the first. As someone else said, it was lackluster and seemed forced. I was especially disappointed with not only the change in the Susan character, but that she was written out of the series completely. IMO, she was the main character and the glue that held the group together so to speak. If by some change there is another season, I won't be purchasing it until after I see it on TV. This was a waste of my hard earned money.
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on July 20, 2014
Like Season 1, The Bletchley Circle has the five main characters - all women who worked at Bletchley Park as code breakers during World War II trying to find contentment back in civilian life sans the importance and excitement of making such a vital contribution to winning the war against Hitler. Imagine all that these women did and how significant their lives must have seemed only to be relegated to being a "housewife" or teacher, or sales clerk afterwards? To make matters worse, they were obligated to sign and comply with The Official Secrets Act of 1939, which prevented these ladies from even telling their own husbands and/or family members what they did and how they contributed toward saving the world from a deranged human monster.

The stories center around a mystery typically involving a murder or murders and the women using their extraordinary skills to detect patterns and garner clues that even professional police inspectors did not have the ability or insight to do.

I can't say that I've seen a finer and more entertaining show - especially one so centered around true events (and I'm comparing this with shows such as Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Mad Men, Mr. Selfridge's, and Call The Midwives). The actors are superb, and the Directors, set styling and scenes are top notch.

This time around there are 4 excellent episodes (instead of three in the 1st season) with two episodes focusing on two different stories - both equally compelling mysteries involving murders and featuring the fascinating way each woman brings her special skill to help solve the crime.

We lose the considerable talents of Anna Maxwell Martin as Susan Gray in the fifth episode as she and her husband, Timothy (played by Mark Dexter) and their children relocate to Australia for his work. I imagine in real life that Susan just had too many other role opportunities to turn down in order to do the entire 4 episodes. But our loss is compensated by the introduction of another woman who worked at Bletchley with the women, Hattie Morahan as Alice Merren. Alice is actually embroiled in the 1st episode of this series as a suspect in a murder which we learn she did not commit, but she refuses to prove her innocence (except to the other women) as she is protecting someone dear to her.

As I said in my review of Bletchley Circle Season 1, this show is intriguing and entertaining on so many levels since it's based on real historical events and it shows women characters in strong inspiring roles who are attractive FOR their characters and yet easy to relate to.

Before this show, I've never taken time to write or petition for a show to be continued but I actually did that in hopes that some smart producer and distributor would be wise enough to produce a 3rd season. I'd love to see a third season as there is such a shortage of really, really good programming.

One additional note of interest: Kate Middleton, a.k.a. Duchess of Cambridge, and wife of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge visited Bletchley Park in June in Buckinghamshire, where her paternal grandmother Valerie Glassborow was a "Duty Officer" during World War II. Hopefully, that will garner more attention to this excellent series and maybe that 3rd season so many of us fans are wishing for!
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on May 1, 2014
Bletchley Circle is better than a lot of broadcast & cable presentations. It's interesting, engaging, well acted & presented, and. as a bonus, dramatizes a story premise (women's important role in Britain's secret WW2 ENIGMA code breaking effort & the subsequent suppression of that role in a drive to return to "normalcy") which is little known, under-reported & mostly under-appreciated. It's a story that should be told (& heard), & it is - by a committed, well qualified & capable cast & crew.
That being said, Season 2, Episode 1 is not as strong as the first season. The acting & setting are still good, but the specific premise (a seeming government cover-up of a secret bio-weapon program 'mishap') while plausible seems extreme, & the ultimate denouement seems unrealistic bordering on fantastical.

[Note (to the producers or whomever): There would seem to be a similar storyline about the similar contributions & experiences of key women scientists & technical support staff who aided the (also secret) US WW2 Manhattan Project. Could a US 'Bletchley Circle' be a possibility?]
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on May 31, 2014
As an older person, I can well remember the time period when these two stories were told. The stories themselves were interesting and relatable and they held my attention. The lead actors were excellent and I recognized two of them from "Downton Abby" which was fun for me as I watch that series religiously. I will be looking for more from these Bletchley Girls.
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