It is definitely a strange but successful marketing scheme to call the last episode before Christmas a “winter finale.” For starters, winter hasn’t even started yet. It should really be called a “fall finale” or even “mid-season finale”, although the middle of the 22-episode American season hasn’t arrived yet either. Pre-Christmas finale? Last episode of 2012? The word “finale” just has such a definite ring to it! ABC’s Once Upon a Time and Castle are only going on a month-long break.
Then again, both shows attracted many viewers, much more so than for the same episodes last year, so there must be something to the marketing.
ONCE UPON A TIME
Season 2, Episode 9 (Queen of Hearts)
For an episode entitled Queen of Hearts, there was little actual heart-pulling shown, so I was pleased. There was attempted heart-pulling, discussed heart-pulling, and reverse heart-pulling, but at least those were new. The story was intriguing enough that all of the heart-pulling made sense in context.
I can see why this episode made for a good “winter finale.” Like the end of a play’s first act, Queen of Hearts wrapped up several plot lines from the previous episodes of the season and left the audience with just enough cliff hangers to be drawn to come back from intermission. The good guys are happy, the bad guys are smirking and proclaiming their revenge, and characters of uncertain goodness (or evilness) are left shrugging their shoulders or crying. At the end of episodes, I always like imagining the narration that would go along with a book version of the story. As much as I love dialogue, most things are left unsaid. What were the characters thinking?
This episode did not follow any one character in particular. If anything, Emma, Snow, and Regina reclaimed their main roles, but the story was not about them specifically. Henry, Rumplestiltskin, Hook, Cora, Mulan, and Aurora all played important parts. The plot was simple: the good heroines (Emma and Snow) were trying to get back to Storybrooke, and various villains stood in their way. Regina – this season’s not-so-evil-anymore heroine – flips between good and evil, much to Henry’s chagrin.
I look forward to returning from a Christmas intermission to find out more.
Season 5, Episode 9 (Secret Santa)
Christmas episodes are difficult to write well, but Secret Santa was a keeper. It hit the right notes while still having the charm that the show normally does.
Santa Claus? Check.
Christmas plans go awry? Check.
References to classic Christmas stories? Check.
Characters wondering who they are going to spend the holidays with? Check.
Sweet and sentimental moments? Check.
Luckily, they did not do a rehash of the plot from any classic Christmas tale. No one learned the “true meaning of Christmas.” Family was an important theme, but it was not all-encompassing and not all completely positive either. We learned a lot about each character. There was also a lot of Christmas jokes and plenty of commentary on holiday hype.
For a crime drama, this was definitely the best Christmas episode that I have ever seen.
Season 2, Episode 12 (Murdoch Night in Canada)
Not the season finale, whatever the season. This episode focuses on the early days of amateur and professional hockey in North America. A star captain is murdered in the days leading up to the championship final, and the stakes are high for everyone involved. Murdoch unsurprisingly uncovers a conspiracy, while Crabtree must deal with the possibility that his childhood pal might be a murderer. Murdoch and Brackenreid are hounded by Chief Constable Giles, who is still suspicious of their motives, and Dr. Grace is stalked by one of the chief suspects in the case.
I admit to be missing catching up on hockey news (although the season is pretty easy to follow right now – everyone’s in a first-place tie), so I was excited to watch an episode about hockey that both poked fun at the current situation and harkened back to the past. What makes Murdoch Mysteries such a fun show is how it references the present while telling a good story that doesn’t feel like a history lesson. Sometimes, the writers fail and the references, jokes, or interesting facts fall flat, but usually the facts feel natural. This is one of those episodes where the writers did a good job integrating the facts with the dialogue or the background, while the actors delivered their lines in such a way that they were believable. For example, Giles’s “It’s our game – the Yanks will never embrace it” comes off as something a man in his position might say. There is no hint of sarcasm about it.
At the very end of the episode, a title card thanks the Prime Minister of Canada (a big fan of the show) for suggesting the idea of an episode about the early history of hockey. I do hope the Prime Minister liked the episode. The writers definitely took the idea and ran with it. The episode was entertaining, suspenseful, and enjoyable. There were lots of interesting characters and I hope that some of them return in future seasons.
Speaking of seasons, winter or spring, next week really is the Season 5 finale…