Now That Was Some Finale!

MURDOCH MYSTERIES
Season 10, Episode 19 (Hell to Pay)

 

Rather than celebrate the show’s 150th episode with throwbacks and jokes, the writers decided to pull out all of the stops for a five-headed cliffhanger!

Incidentally, Miss James was absent from the episode. Was she studying for or writing her exams at the medical college, perhaps? I couldn’t help but try to imagine her shock upon learning of the episode’s events. Perhaps to calm my nerves, I kept envisioning something comedic.

While the episode is told out of chronological order for the first act, we come to learn that Murdoch got too close to uncovering a conspiracy involving important businessmen and civic officials. As a result, he is framed for murder and goes on the run; his colleagues try their best to help him while being more and more tethered and muzzled by their superiors. Everyone is compromised and we are left with a lot of characters in mortal peril when the credits roll. Even side characters such as Mrs. Brackenreid and Nina have their fates called into question by implication: if the conspirators think that they could be useful to them or if they might know too much, they would have no qualms about hurting them. As a viewer, I actually hope that the conspirators write off Nina as “just a whore” and not worth bothering about, and that they think Mrs. Brackenreid is just a silly wife with no knowledge of what her husband might be up to. The former is in more danger, since she is actually featured in the episode and is connected both to Crabtree and to one of the murder victims. But the latter is not in the clear, since one could say Dr. Ogden is also just a wife with no knowledge of her husband’s affairs.

The writers are going to have fun putting the pieces of the story back together. Either that, or the show will become “Miss James’s Mysteries!”

Joking aside, Murdoch Mysteries is a dramedy. Shaking up the core cast too much would remove the comedy element. Even killing off side characters who have recently been getting attention, like Higgins and Jackson, would jeopardise the nature of the show. Murdoch Mysteries is beloved because it is fun, intriguing, informative, and reliable. In short, I am not too worried about the overall fate of the characters – especially when the head writer seems to basically agree with me.

So I will be waiting to see how they promote filming next season, since just about any character’s presence would be a spoiler…

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Fun Before the Finale

MURDOCH MYSTERIES
Season 10, Episodes 17 & 18 (Master Lovecraft)(Hot Wheels of Thunder)

 

After 10 years, even with shorter seasons, it is hard to keep police procedurals from becoming too formulaic or routine. One way to remedy this is to dwell less on weekly cases and more on characters’ personal lives as well as story arcs spanning multiple episodes; another is to have fun each week as you solve the case.

As a dramedy, Murdoch Mysteries chose the latter this season (for the most part) and we were treated to some outlandish-but-still-vaguely-plausible cases and shenanigans. These two episodes are especially fun and playful without making too much light of the fact that they still revolve around solving murders.

Master Lovecraft is a nod to the gothic horror genre and gives us a chance to meet the show’s version of H.P. Lovecraft. As per usual, we get a historical person who just suspicious enough that they might be the murderer, but likely is not, since the show does not want to deviate too far from actual facts. Thus we can immediately turn our attention to Lovecraft’s suspicious group of friends – death-obsessed adolescents with too much money and time. While I found the episode engaging and entertaining, I personally found the use of “crazy rich young brats” tropes annoying. I know the situation is supposed to be funny, but it isn’t. Being wealthy doesn’t keep one from having troubles and being young (and thus with a biological tendency to be melodramatic) does not mean that one is crazy or stupid. Or, if one is such a thing, that should in no way render them void of sympathy from the audience. Moving on though – I was able to easily ignore this issue when actually watching the episode.

What was most hilarious about Master Lovecraft was Mrs. Brackenreid’s subplot wherein she reads Dracula for her book club and accidentally becomes one of young Lovecraft’s obsessions. Mrs. Brackenreid is overwhelmingly straight-laced, but she definitely has a repressed sense of adventure! Watching her struggle with the situation and manage to deal with it was most rewarding. We rarely get domestic scenes with the Brackenreids, but they are a treat to enjoy when we do. They represent a more typical portrayal of the Edwardian middle class than the other characters, but they also remain relatable to the viewers.

Hot Wheels of Thunder is an excuse for some roller-derby action for Dr. Ogden and Miss James while Murdoch and company solve a related murder. The episode is both an excuse to be liberating for women and also highly stereotypical, complete with a catfight and lots of mean-girl behaviour. Was it enjoyable? Absolutely – and in light of how serious the finale is, some much needed revelry indeed!

The most serious aspect of the plot is Constable Crabtree’s love life, which takes an unfortunate turn once again. For one, we have the return of Nina Bloom, who assists our protagonists in their roller-skate racing and obviously gives Crabtree some pause for thought. For two, his colleagues keep reminding him how he ought not to let Miss Cherry get away or screw up his relationship with her. Thirdly, Miss Cherry is turning into a domineering shrew who despises Detective Murdoch and Dr. Ogden. Like Crabtree, we as viewers are supposed to be initially intrigued by her and then later turned off.

Like most children brought up in what is considered to be and unconventional manner, at one point in his life, Crabtree desired to get married and have children and be every bit “ordinary and respectable”. He wanted to be conventional because he felt that he missed out on that as a child. He felt that he needed fixing somehow – underlying his confidence and accomplishments was broken self-respect. But Miss Cherry (who I am sure has her own issues that I could go on about and it not really a villain) represents all of that potential respectability and yet Crabtree realises that she is not for him. He has been craving the wrong thing.

Nina Bloom, on the other hand, is exactly what he is looking for now. He grew up with ladies of the night as his aunts. He knows Nina’s world. He has come to realise that he would rather be with her than marry someone else merely for respectability. Here is a woman who cares so much for him and his happiness that she was willing to let him go! Not because she didn’t love him, but because she felt that she could not give him the future that he wanted.

The brightest moment in the finale (see next post for the rest of that review) is when Crabtree at least halfway reconciles with Nina. We are not certain as to whether they will be reunited, but Crabtree admits that he was wrong not to chase after her and to think that there was anyone better than Nina for him. Neither of them are conventional people and they are well-suited for each other. Plus, Nina gets along with Dr. Ogden (and vice versa), so it merely down to Murdoch to accept her and they will have smooth sailing at their dinner parties.

Or at least one hopes!

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So That’s What Happened!

MURDOCH MYSTERIES
Season 10, Episodes 15 & 16 (From Murdoch to Eternity)(Hades Hath No Fury)

 Both of these episodes walk the fine balancing act of a regular mystery-of-the-week, the return of guest characters, and of putting a close to various open plot threads left dangling earlier in the season. With only three episodes left in the year, it makes sense not to drag out these stories any longer. Nonetheless, the main characters play key roles: no one forgets that it is Detective Murdoch solving the crimes, not the least the writers. Even still, others get their chance to shine. Both of these episodes are a good mix of fun and intrigue, with each emphasising more of one or the other.

From Murdoch to Eternity sees the return of Inspector Brackenreid from Panama – but he does not seem his usual self! Several episodes ago, he left with James Pendrick to search for the key ingredient to an anti-aging potion; now, he has returned alone but seemingly a couple decades younger. Constable Crabtree sets out to solve the mystery and uses his newfound connection with a female reporter to discover…that Brackenreid himself is back (separately) and is hiding as part of a ruse to catch the supposed killer of Pendrick.

The episode has a lot of twists to it and gets the main cast all working together – which is a refreshing change after several episodes apart. In addition, we get the surprise return of a once-a-season guest character. With all of the amusing and implausible stretches in the plot, this character`s survival story makes sense, if only just. This is meant to be an amusing, lighter episode in the vein of an adventure serial. It restores the status quo regarding a couple of characters, including Brackenreid, and is overall a satisfying story. Other than a young fellow doing a fabulous impression of Brackenreid, however, it is not that memorable.

Hades Hath No Fury is intended as a darker and more dramatic episode than the previous one. Unfortunately, it has an air of caricature about it – none of the guest characters seem realistic and the story itself feels contrived. It is supposed to be about women`s rights, gender inequality, and even a bit of a battle of the sexes, but it is too focused on hammering these points home to be effective. I felt only a little sympathy for the characters; everyone felt like they were over-acting. Yes, there are people who are as eccentric as they are, but eccentric does not mean unrelatable.

The title is a pun on the saying that `hell hath no fury like a woman scorned“ and it revolves around a group of women who live together in common in a grand estate, forsaking the world and men. In order to investigate the crime of the week, Murdoch and his colleagues need to send in a woman. With Dr. Ogden being already visible on the case, Private Detective Freddie Pink is enlisted to infiltrate the estate. She does a fabulous job, but she is not a character that we have come to love and sympathise with. We know that she will be gone again by the end of the episode. This is really too bad, since she is an interesting character. It would be nice to see her interact more with our main characters, but I can understand from a writing perspective that this would be difficult. It is not worth keeping the same actress around so that she can be seen to have tea with Dr. Ogden every other week. Miss Pink would upset the dynamic of Murdoch and Ogden, not to mention that of the other characters. She is great to have in small doses and this episode put her to use well. This is exactly the type of plot that she was needed for.

This episode also put closure on Detective Watts`s missing women investigation. It was wrapped up nicely, but it was not that satisfying. Not only was it too easy, but his reunion with his long-lost sister was rather oddly written. As it turned out, she willfully abandoned him; I was waiting for the revelation that he was in fact her son, but this was left out. I suppose a young woman left orphaned with a child sibling might feel just as trapped as a single parent, but her disdain for him seemed much deeper than that.  Perhaps she was just angry at all of the privileges he had as a boy, but from her tone, she seemed to resent his very existence. That is more fitting with a child she was forced to have and then pretend was her baby brother, perhaps the product of an abusive or even incestuous relationship. It would certainly explain her hatred and fear of men.

Then again, such an ending might have been seen as too contrived and possibly too dark for the show. Detective Watts was already thrown for a loop over the betrayal that he felt his sister had committed, so having him find out that his entire life was built on a lie might have been too damaging. His overall comedic seriousness would have been tarnished. Still, the episode felt like it was building toward such a revelation and then it fell flat. The motive behind the actual crime-of-the-week itself was easy enough for me to guess within the opening scene, although I was not sure exactly who was responsible, so I would have appreciated some more drama with Detective Watts or even Miss Pink. Perhaps a scene wherein Watts`s sister confessed to Miss Pink about her brother`s true heritage would have served to have a more satisfyingly dramatic storyline while not ruining Watts entirely.

Or, maybe I am just trying to make the sister more sympathetic – because even if she has noble intentions, she is downright horrible to her brother.

Despite all of its shortcomings, I liked this episode. It gave closure to Watts`s storyline without dispensing with his character; it offered a chance for Miss Pink to return and get her own convincing investigation; and it offered an ordinary investigation for Murdoch and Dr. Ogden. I think it was a clever way to end Watts`s investigation and tie it into the main narrative of the show.

The truth is that eventually, newer and younger people will show up at the office. Watts`s introduction this season is entirely believable and amusing. We have forgotten what an oblivious (and yet observant) prat that Murdoch used to be.

 

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Wind, Rain, Woods, & Fire

copyright 2017

If I could run, I would,
But I am lost amid the wind and rain,
Trapped in torrents,
Surrounded by woods,
Nowhere to turn, nowhere to go.

It feels familiar, yet strange,
I know that I have been here before,
But the trees are the same,
The clouds are thick,
And I do not know which way to turn.

The wind howls in my ears,
I have no sense of time or place,
Simply that I am cold,
Frightened and confused,
Very much alone, yet surrounded by spirits.

Animals have hidden,
It is the spirits that I have to fear,
The people are safe,
Warm and dry,
But I am lost – and yet, at peace.

I want to let the wind carry me,
I want to melt into the rain,
I want to disappear into the woods,
I want to blend into a warm fire.

This is my world, my home,
My spirit will never leave the woods,
My kind are safe,
My kind are joyful,
We will remain…

We will remain.

windraidwoodsfire

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Now What?

copyright 2017

After a long voyage,
After losing everything,
After risking my life to survive,
Now what?

After saying yes,
After exchanging vows,
After pinning my hopes to a stranger,
Now what?

After the ship sails,
After the sun begins to set,
After the creatures of the night stir,
Now what?

After waking up,
After the work starts,
After it seems hopeless – endless,
Now what?

There is no going back,
There is no home but here,
There is no forgetting –
Because there are children to be fed.

After years of fighting,
After those children are grown,
After my heart has been buried here,
Now what?

DSCF9424

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Watching Disney in French

reinedesneigesfrozen-2013While I don’t love all of the Disney animated “classics”, there are quite a few that I really enjoy and that I would watch over and over again. (Albeit, not as much as parents of small children…)

When I was younger, in order to watch a Disney film in a language other than English, my parents had to buy the videos separately. Since I was in French Immersion at school, they undoubtedly figured that picking up Les 101 Dalmatiens and La Belle et la Bete were worthwhile investments, although as a result, I did not have the English versions of these films to watch. Thanks to technology, now one can change languages at the flip of a button on the DVD. In essence, I have three copies of Frozen – if I really wanted to, I could watch it in Spanish too, but I still don’t know Spanish…

Which brings me to why I enjoy watching select Disney films in French – namely, because I already know the story and what the dialogue is supposed to be, I can better practice my language skills without having to try to figure out what is going on. I can translate the words to improve vocabulary. As an adult, I now notice little details in the dialogue that I would not have understood (or even noticed) when younger. For example, in Tangled (which is simply Raiponce or Rapunzel in French), much of the story hinges on the dialogue between the main two characters, Rapunzel and Flynn, in order for their relationship be believable and emotionally connect with the audience. It is indeed the funniest part of the story.

Imagine my surprise when I watched the French version and realised how well they overcame a simple problem: which pronouns would they use for each other? Not because there was any doubt about their gender, but because French distinguishes between whether or not one is speaking to someone familiarly or formally. Flynn starts out using the familiar with Rapunzel because she is young and he is trying to run a power-trip on her (while Rapunzel, having lived her life isolated in a tower, can be excused for using either one). However, once Rapunzel bests Flynn and convinces him to take her out to see the floating lanterns, he falls out of frame and says roughly the equivalent of “that’s it, I’m going to stop using the familiar with you”. (In the English version, he just says a variation of ouch, having fallen on his face.) For the next few scenes, he is polite to Rapunzel, until eventually they get more acquainted with one another, when he reverts back to the familiar.

I was impressed that they made use of the animation to address the issue. I do not know how important such a thing would be to French-speaking children, but it might have made a difference to their parents and grandparents watching with them.

Otherwise, of course, the dialogue is nearly identical and the animation often requires that direct English translation needs to be used, even for expressions that are not common (or jokes) in French. That makes it easier as a learning tool, but arguably less entertaining. Luckily, Disney is getting better about making their films marketable worldwide and have shied away from specifically American-based humour.

The only real snag in translated Disney films is the singing. No matter how closely the songs can be translated, it is always harder to understand the sung lyrics as opposed to spoken dialogue in a less-familiar language. First of all, how close is the translation? Is it the same, perhaps with the words rearranged to suit both grammar and music, or is it new lyrics with a slightly different meaning? Or a song with the the same sentiment but with different words entirely? To properly enjoy the Disney songs, I actually need the subtitles or lyrics in front of me, at least the first time.

On the other hand, with subtitles and direct-translation subtitles, I can watch the musical sequences in multiple other languages as well, even when I have no idea how to speak them.

It is quite fun to see how the new song compares to the original. Is there a slightly different meaning to it? Does this change reflect cultural difference, or just how the language fits better with the existing music? Does the new meaning actually work better with the story? Honestly, sometimes it does, or it is more in character.

It is not that I don’t like films actually intended to be in French, but it is helpful to watch something familiar and learn at the same time.

Plus, they are entertaining either way!

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Having Fun With Side Characters

murdochseason10titleMURDOCH MYSTERIES
Season 10, Episodes 13 & 14 (The Missing)(Mr. Murdoch’s Neighbourhood)

 10-13These two episodes are much more well-balanced in tone than the previous two. Overall, the mysteries in each are classic whodunits, the main characters get a chance to relax, and the secondary characters get the chance to have a moment or two in the spotlight.

The plot of The Missing is fairly serious – an elderly widow with a large fortune seeks the return of her long-lost (and presumed dead) grandson. Such a case is ripe for con artists and Murdoch finds himself investigating whether or not the latest claimant to being her grandson is indeed genuine or not. Unlike the previous episode, where Murdoch complains that investigating the killing of a dog is beneath him, he commits to getting to the bottom of this case. Unsurprisingly, a murder victim soon surfaces who is connected to the case, leaving Murdoch to figure out what happened to the widow’s heir. Thankfully, we do get a somewhat happy ending to this story.

However, the widow waited over twenty years to find her grandson. Because of this, she was more in love with the illusion of having him back. While it was of utmost importance to her step-grandson whether or not the man who claimed to be the grandson was real, it no longer truly mattered to the grandmother. She was willing to admit that perhaps the claimant was not real, but he acted enough like her grandson that she could convince herself that he was really him. This of course hindered Murdoch’s investigation.

What really made this episode interesting was that Detective Watts, sent over to fill the void while Brackenreid is away and Murdoch is Acting Inspector, dives more earnestly into his investigation into missing women. His case has few clues, no bodies, and reluctant witnesses. Enlisting Constable Jackson’s assistance once again, they make little progress but learn to trust one another. We learn that Watts is troubled by cases of missing women since his own sister went missing when he was younger, and we learn that Jackson is a widower who knows exactly where his wife is. The latter has peace of mind knowing what happened to her and relates to how Watts must feel not knowing what happened to his sister. He affirms his determination to help Watts and assures him that his search is not futile or pointless. In the next episode, Watts is still investigating the case, although Jackson is pulled back to work with the other constables, and he finally starts to get some clues – although they seem to be more confusing than helpful. I do wonder how long they will carry out this plot, because it feels much like a real investigation. There is no tidy resolution in 45 minutes for missing persons cases.

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In Mr. Murdoch’s Neighbourhood, Murdoch and Dr. Ogden discover that their newly-purchased land has also served as a makeshift burial ground. Because the bodies were discovered in the course of a training exercise by the constabulary and the Women’s Medical College, our lead characters are assisted in their investigation by Miss James and two of her fellow students (whom we met in Jagged Little Pill a few episodes ago back in the fall), as well as Constables Crabtree, Higgins, and Jackson.

The moral of the case is whether or not it is right to take the law into one’s own hands, especially if the police have not been helpful. As a police officer married to a doctor, Murdoch is not well-liked by his potential neighbours by virtue of his badge alone. He is repeatedly told that the police did not nothing to get rid of a local criminal family who caused havoc on nearby farms. Everyone but the victims are indeed better off because of the men’s deaths, but that does not make it legally or morally right. And as Murdoch asserts, it is not for him to decide. He is obligated to do his job and serve the law. As for morality, vigilantism is not self-defense. From a moral perspective, executing a criminal out of vengeance (even if the vengeance stems from righteous anger) only renders the criminal into a victim and the vigilante into a murderer. It is thus dangerous from both perspectives, so for a police officer of strong faith like Murdoch, there is no question.

But the episode dwells less on philosophy than on romance, comedy, and character development. Having all of the supporting cast work together, along with Murdoch and Dr. Ogden, leaves a lot of room for amusing interactions. Crabtree is soon off contributing to the investigation elsewhere and getting the chance to meet Miss Cherry again. The reporter is very interested in him and seems to think that his talent is wasted as a constable. While the actual plot is funny, the overall tone is somewhat muted when one considers the run of bad luck that Crabtree has had. I could not help but worry that she will only push him further away from his career and then end their relationship. Is she infatuated with him and hoping to make him a man that more fits her idea of a successful husband? Is she just being friendly and encouraging? Does she have a nefarious ulterior motive such as being involved in criminal activities? I am hoping that it is the first question.

As well, Higgins and Jackson get to spend time with the other two students. Both are slightly unnerved to be working alongside beautiful, intelligent young women. Higgins ends up making a fool of himself, but he also is motivated to learn in order to help solve the case. He doesn’t try to take all of the credit – in fact, he seems entirely amazed that he was able to eventually keep up. For her part, his student partner is also impressed, although not enough to want to pursue a relationship with him further.  Jackson, meanwhile, ends up getting the other girl, but only after they spent several hours together exploring and talking. One gets the feeling that Jackson has always felt stupid and ignored by doctors, particularly with regards to his late wife’s health, and it is only by interacting with one who sees him as an equal that he realises that he may not be as oafish as he thinks. He also treats the woman that his is paired with respectfully. He also sees her as an equal, not as a woman to be chased. I would like to hear that this relationship continues, even if I don’t need to watch it weekly.

After ten seasons, it is wonderful to watch Murdoch and Dr. Ogden’s relationship, but it is even better to get a chance to see some of the other characters get more rounded out personality-wise. It is also hard to keep coming up with new cases of the week that are intriguing without being too over-the-top or controversial. Including more character development around the solving of the cases makes the new episodes more exciting.

The writers of this episode also managed to make the story feel self-contained, despite all of the connections to other plots. Other than Det. Watts’s investigation (which is a bit confusing even if you have watched regularly), the other subplots work fine on their own. It helps to know some background of the characters, of course, but the dialogue is entertaining and understandable without references to previous episodes. I would not say that it is my favourite episode, but it is definitely one of my recent favourites.

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