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The Newest 'Masterpiece' and the Mysteries of a Late-Life Romance with 'Flesh and Blood'
October 4, 2020  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment

PBS is continuing this fall's "Masterpiece by committee" plan with a British miniseries called Flesh and Blood.

Flesh and Blood runs four episodes, the first of which airs on PBS Sunday at 9 p.m. ET (check local listings).

Like so much of the rest of television right now, Masterpiece seems to be improvising. With the production pipeline shut down since March, Masterpiece is filling its schedule with shows that previously ran overseas.

Of course, that's a lot of what Masterpiece does anyway. Still, some of this fall's entries, including Flesh and Blood, feel a little more like relief pitchers.

That's not inherently a bad thing.

Flesh and Blood starts from late-in-life romance, which is not to say it's anything like its fellow import Last Tango in Halifax.

This one is more of a crime mystery, with a strong hint of creepiness.

Vivien (Francesca Annis, top) is about to turn 70, and she says she's comfortable with looking back on a 45-year marriage in which she and her late husband raised three now-grown children: Helen (Claudie Blakley), Jake (Russell Tovey), and Natalie (Lydia Leonard).

Her husband had a successful life, which has left Vivien with a luxurious Kent estate. She's got her health. She's not unhappy going into the last chapters of her life.

Then she meets a fella. That would be Mark (Stephen Rea, top), who seems to dote on her and provide all the pieces she had told herself she didn't mind were missing.

The kids see it a little differently. They see Mark as just a little too good to be true, and while the viewer doesn't have any direct evidence this is accurate, he does raise a few reddish flags.

Specifically, the kids think he's after Vivien's money and estate, which of course, they expect one day will be their money and their estate. It would not be overstating things to say this triggers some tension and mistrust.

As the drama develops, we see some of it through the eyes of Mary (Imelda Staunton), Vivien's long-time next-door neighbor in their little corner of paradise.

Mary and Vivien get along. They chat. So Mary has an idea about Vivien's life – an idea she supplements, we soon learn, by using her binoculars to keep up with some of the other doings at Vivien's house.

All this becomes relevant when something happens, and suddenly abstract suspicions become more tangible. The kids turn a sharper eye on Mark. Mary intensifies her neighborhood watch.

We, the viewers, don't know what really happened, either, and to some extent, that's not the point of Flesh and Blood. The issue lies more with the dynamics Vivien's new relationship unleashes inside her family.

When she met Mark, she said it was just about her happiness. The kids begged to differ. Flesh and Bloodlays out a series of clues that may suggest who is more right.

While it has moments of lighter banter, Flesh and Blood more often creates an undertone of darkness. That makes for a decent mystery that along the way also can feel a bit disturbing.

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Over in UK, this Series was so popular that there's an eager audience clamoring for a second Season... with only Imelda Staunton's schedule in Crown the concern.
Oct 4, 2020   |  Reply
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