Every season, GBH Drama prepares to bring you coverage of the latest and greatest in British dramas. This month, we're getting a brand new show from MASTERPIECE: Magpie Murders. Featuring a mystery within a mystery and some truly delightful acting, this series is sure to be your new favorite whodunit. GBH Drama contributor Amanda-Rae Prescott is here to recap the magic as it happens.
This week on Magpie Murders, Susan travels to Sussex to interview the main characters in Alan’s life, revealing more details from the manuscript. Some viewers may already have ideas about what happened, but let’s discuss what Susan finds out.
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The beginning of the episode highlights another stage of Alan’s drafting process, revealing plot points in the “Magpie Murders” novel. Sir Magnus Pye was murdered two days after he returned to the house after vacation. The village was a dangerous place for Pye, because many people had beef with him. Brent the gardener was unceremoniously fired by Pye. There’s also the fact that there was a drowning in the lake on Pye’s property 12 years before the story starts. Maybe the killer blamed Pye for the incident? Mary Blakiston’s ex-husband also could have had motive to attack. There’s also the matter of Clarissa Pye’s anger about being cut out of the will. We also see Lady Pye slapping Sir Magnus. Did he cheat on her or abuse her? At the end of this sequence it’s revealed the killer decapitated Sir Magnus with a medieval sword.
Susan’s Initial Interviews
Susan arrives at her sister Katie’s house. Katie is happy for the company as her husband is away on business and the kids have left the nest. There’s some tension in the air as it’s revealed that the sisters were inseparable as kids but adult life pushed them in different directions. Katie said she has seen Alan in the village before but the last time was 2 years ago. The village is clearly where anyone who has information on Alan’s final days would be.
The next stop for Susan is Sajid Khan’s office. Khan tells Susan he’s known Alan for years because he handled Alan’s divorce from his ex-wife Meredith, and the sale of his house Ivy Grange. However, Khan did not have much of a friendship with Alan. He did not see the final manuscript, but reveals that Alan called him before he died to draw up a new will. Could someone being jilted by the updated will be the motive for Alan’s death?
Khan recommends Susan talk to James, Alan’s partner, since he does not have a key to the house. James reveals to Susan he met Alan on a queer sex work site. Alan and James ended up dating for several years before Alan officially came out as gay. James has already worked out that the business of the second will makes him a suspect, because as it stands now, James inherits Ivy Grange. He doesn’t want to stay, but sell up and leave for London as soon as the legal formalities are complete. Susan also gets a tour of the house which includes the scary tower as well as Alan’s office. James knows the computer password, but the hard drive has been wiped and Alan’s paper manuscripts and notebooks are gone. He suggests Susan visit both the neighbor Alan had fights with over driveway access, Jack White, and Alan’s sister Claire.
Magpies and apparitions of Pünd are still following Susan around. She finds the area that inspired the “Magpie Murders” book’s Dingle Dell in the real world but there are only wildflowers and trees on it. A passing reverend tells her the area has no name.
Claire tells Susan that she didn’t work on the manuscript and that her brother could be cruel. She also lies to Susan about seeing the manuscript the last time she saw Alan but only the audience knows this clue. Claire believes all of the success from the Pünd novels didn’t make Alan happy; those mysteries were not the kind of novels he envisioned himself writing.
As Susan leaves, she meets the same Inspector who interviewed her in London. He denies he is investigating Alan’s death as anything other than a suicide, but then tells Susan Claire used to work in the police HR. He leaves Susan with a threat to stay out of his way because he won’t tolerate amateur sleuthing.
There’s also a scene Susan cannot see but the audience sees. As far as Susan is concerned, Andreas is waiting for her to come back to him in London. In reality, Andreas visits Khan in Sussex after Susan leaves. Khan hands Andreas some paperwork and a check. We know Andreas and Alan worked together as teachers in the past, but don’t know the rest of the story.
Pünds’ Initial Interviews
Pünd and his assistant James find out about Sir Magnus’ death via the newspaper. This new development makes Pünd change his mind about Joy Sanderling’s request to take on the investigation. They depart for Saxby-On-Avon to figure out if the deaths of Mary Blakiston and Sir Magnus are connected. Pünd believes coincidences are patterns revealed. Their road trip scenes are intertwined with Susan being stuck in traffic.
Pye Hall is also the first stop for Pünd and James. They meet DCI Travers, who is completely unconvinced the two murders are connected. He believes Mary simply tripped while vacuuming the stairs. However, he notes that between the two murders there were Roman antiquities stolen from the house. Based on the position Sir Magnus was found in, it is likely he knew who the killer was. The safe was opened, but some items were still left inside. In addition, there was burnt paper with blood on it in the fireplace. These new clues are proof that the theft and Sir Magnus’ death are likely related.
Lady Pye and her son don’t want visitors, but they have to answer Pünd’s questions. Someone delivered anonymous hate mail about Sir Magnus’ plans to redevelop the common land area Dingle Dell into new houses. Lady Pye also claims Sir Magnus’ relationship with Mary was strictly employer and employee, but Mary was a little obsessed with him. Lady Pye did admit that Sir Magnus had a wandering eye towards the other servants but she didn’t know how to open the safe. At the end she says that Clarissa might have more information. Clarissa confirms many people in the village were opposed to the Dingle Dell project but denied she sent the death threat. Clarissa and Magnus were twins, but he was first born and therefore he was the one to inherit everything.
After a long day of interviews Pünd and James go to the village pub for refreshments. Pünd can’t help but wonder if he agreed to Joy’s request earlier, whether the other crimes would have been prevented. He also wonders about how much evil is rooted in the English village. Although this is not mentioned in the episode, the chances of Sir Magnus’ wealth being tied to colonialzation and slavery are extremely high. This could be the source of the evil around them.
Clues From Pünd
Back at Katie’s house, Susan tells her sister that her relationship with Andreas is not that serious. Katie also tells Susan that their father wants to see her, but Susan doesn’t want to see him post aneurysm. Was there a falling out pre-illness? As Susan lies in bend, once again she sees Pünd as an apparition, but this time he speaks to her. He hints that there are only three possibilities: Alan fell by accident, he died by suicide but did not use sleeping pills, and that he was murdered. He urges her to read that final letter again. Susan goes back to the publishing office convinced that Alan was murdered. He was making peace with not pursuing aggressive cancer treatment, not seeking to end his life. The answer to the mystery of Alan’s death and the missing pages can be found in the characters from the manuscript: everyone Alan knew was reimagined in Pünd’s world.
Who else in the village would have had motive to murder Sir Magnus? Did the safe thief kill Mary Blakiston because she spotted them? Who else lied in their initial interview? We’ll find out more next week on Magpie Murders!