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.