I’m a little late off the plate on this one, but am delighted to have made time to mow through the first four episodes of CityTV’s new fall drama, The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco. It airs Fridays at 8pm ET, and is streaming on the network’s website. The entire first season is also now available in the US on the BritBox subscription service.
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
If you need a TV palate cleanser featuring strong women this long Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, look no further. A follow-on to the British limited series that aired 2012-2014, The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco migrates two of that show’s characters from post-WWII London to 1956 San Francisco, where they put their code-cracking expertise to use solving crimes.
Millie Harcourt (Rachael Stirling) and Jean McBrian (Julie Graham) are a decade and change past the war when Millie, now a governess, catches sight of a news story about a murder in a San Francisco newspaper. Jean is a librarian trying to get back into a foreign service attaché role. Because of the security sensitivity about what she did as a code-breaker, she presents as vastly less qualified than she is.
Millie suggests a voyage to San Francisco to pursue their own investigation of the killing because it ties directly back to a victim they both knew during the war. Once stateside, they team up with former US code-breaking colleagues from the Presidio, Iris Bearden (Crystal Balint) and Hailey Yarner (Chanelle Peloso).
The quartet, who have a unique insight into the killer’s patterns, are also still limited in their access to the formal investigation by virtue of their sex. And yet they press on, proving their mettle. At the conclusion of the first two episodes, the expats find a reason to stay on.
The first season is eight episodes, split into four two-episode mysteries.
Although set in San Francisco, the talent behind the scenes and onscreen are largely Canadian, and it filmed in Vancouver. The who’s who on the production team include Bitten‘s Daegan Fryklind and Michael MacLennan (Bomb Girls and This Life), who both executive produce and write.
The writing staff include story editor Laura Good (Burden of Truth) and Rachel Langer (Ghost Wars and This Life) and Damon Vignale (Ghost Wars and Motive). Directors of the four blocks are Gary Harvey (Murdoch Mysteries), Mike Rohl (When Calls the Heart), David Frazee (Orphan Black), and Alexandra La Roche (The Flash).
I love this ensemble of ladies. Stirling and Graham were new to me, and they have a fantastic rapport that carries over from the original series. I only recently saw Peloso for the first time last month in a phenomenal performance in Lifetime’s excellent No One Would Tell remake. I know Balint from a variety of Hallmark films, and really enjoyed seeing much more of her here.
The series is a solid entry into the recent generation of period crime-solving TV like Murdoch Mysteries and Frankie Drake Mysteries, but it’s a bit edgier in tone.
The crimes are dark, and the 1956 timeline is set between the Korean and Vietnam wars, when peace was a fairly recent concept, San Francisco was edging minorities out toward Oakland, and women were slowly making professional inroads.
Our four core ladies are all supremely capable and were instrumental in the war effort. They just can’t put it on a resume since it’s all classified. More often than not, they get the “little lady” treatment, which just drives them on.
We see in them and the other women featured that returning to “civilian” life after anonymous active service has a range of challenges. The series strikes a lovely balance between the relationships the women form with each other as former colleagues and new friends, and the central mysteries.
The supporting cast includes Jennifer Spence (Travelers), Ben Cotton (BSG), Peter Benson (Aurora Teagarden Mysteries), and Colin Lawrence (Riverdale). Guest cast include Nicholas Lea (The X-Files), Da Vinci’s Inquest‘s Sarah-Jane Redmond, Cedar Cove alumni Sarah Smyth and Jesse Moss, Hallmark regulars Paul McGillion and Jordana Largy, and The 100 and iZombie‘s Jessica Harmon.
The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco airs at 8pm ET Fridays on CityTV.
The first four episodes are available online now at the network’s website and through your cable provider sign-in. The entire season is streaming on BritBox in the US. Here are a couple of sneak peeks.
Photos and Videos courtesy of BritBox.