By Curt Wagner, @ShowPatrol
2:38 PM CDT, April 9, 2014
My childhood recently came flashing back to me when I was flipping channels and landed on Me-TV: "Wonder Woman" was on.
As played by Lynda Carter, the Amazon princess from that cheesy 1970s action series launched my lifelong love of ass-kicking heroines. I couldn't wait for each episode. When I had my appendix removed, I made the nurse cut short my nightly walk so I wouldn't miss Diana Prince's marvelous spin into Wonder Woman. (Really, could there be any doubt we're born gay?)
Anyway, heroines: Wonder Woman, Emma Peel, Xena, Sydney Bristow, Nikita—the list goes on and on. But these gals have training, skills, magic and/or powerful backup. For some everywoman heroines, look no further than PBS' "The Bletchley Circle" (9 p.m. April 13, WTTW; 3.5 stars out of 4).
The former WWII code-breakers of this excellent British import don't deflect bullets with magical bracelets. They use their brains, determination, courage and pleasant demeanors like stealth weapons, covertly undermining postwar expectations to right wrongs no one else seems to notice.
Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin), Millie (Rachael Stirling), Lucy (Sophie Rundle) and Jean (Julie Graham) are experts at pattern recognition, cryptography, deduction and serving crow to cops who disrespect them. It's too bad they can't tell those doubting detectives—or confused husbands for that matter—that they helped beat the Nazis while working at the top secret Bletchley Park Government Code and Cypher School.
Now that the war has ended, they're under a gag order called the Official Secrets Act and, like many women who worked during the war, are expected to slide back into their dull pre-war lives of fetching tea, doing laundry or whatever else women were supposed to be doing. But no one sidelines women like this, as viewers—and criminals—learned in the show's first season.
As Season 2 begins, the ladies are keeping mum about their past and skills, but remain as restless as ever for some amateur sleuthing. And with an old Bletchley Park pal, Alice Merren (Hattie Morahan), awaiting execution for murder, all but Susan are less hesitant to spring into action. Susan, still reeling from the dangerous turns of last season, eventually joins her comrades to figure out what conspiracy has Alice imprisoned and, in the second mystery of the season, how a human-trafficking ring manages to avoid the wrath of Scotland Yard.
The one complaint I have about the new season's two mysteries is just that. There are only two two-part mysteries spread over four Sunday nights. I'd like to spend a whole lot more time with the heroines of "The Bletchley Circle."
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