ONCE UPON A TIME
Season 2, Episode 16 (The Miller’s Daughter)
Part two of two: Snow White continues on her path to darkness, does an about-face when she realises the consequences of her actions, but it is too late and the deed is done. Meanwhile, we learn the start of Cora’s descent into darkness.
Overall, this is a dark and emotional episode – only a few character interactions are somewhat lighthearted. Cora meets Prince Henry (Regina’s father) and he is immediately smitten with her. He is tall, jovial, proud, and handsome – nothing like the shell of an old man that we have seen before. Clearly, he really did love Cora and was besotted by his little princess. Everything was going to end in tragedy for him, which only made his flirty banter with Cora seem hollow.
Doing the right thing is not usually easy, nor does it make our lives better. Being good frequently leads to personal suffering, not instant happiness. In fairy tales, the heroes nearly always face bleak despair before receiving their happy ending. In reality, happy endings all depend on who is telling the story and when they choose to stop telling it. Everyone ends up dead eventually. Whether or not one is a hero or a villain has as much to do with how many times one did the right thing and suffered for it.
For the first time on this show, Snow White has actually done something to deserve the hatred that Regina has for her. Before, all she did was either make an innocent mistake (if costly to Regina) as a child or have a charmed life that was not her fault and not without suffering and pain. Her charmed life was what made her stepmother envious, but Snow White did not intend to hurt her. Now, her actions have served to press the reset button on Regina’s anger. I can’t blame her either – Regina is completely alone and has nothing to lose anymore. As far as she thinks, she will never get Henry back. And to boot, by doing the “right thing” and coming back to try to stop her, Snow White has now revealed that she is responsible for Regina’s isolation. She didn’t just innocently do it this time – she outright lied. She is due for some more suffering.
Season 6, Episode 9 (Victoria Cross)
Unusually for Murdoch Mysteries, the classic detective-show formula of two cases converging is in full force in this episode. While Det. Murdoch (along with Const. Crabtree and Dr. Ogden) is trying to solve the murder of a pawnbroker with many enemies, Insp. Brackenreid is called to investigate an apparent suicide at a prison. Murdoch contends with a witness who is too frightened to answer his questions to the point of not being able to move. Brackenreid contends with a second murder in addition to the suicide (that, thanks to Dr. Grace, is determined to be murder instead), indifferent prison workers, and a legion of his own demons.
Brackenreid takes centre-stage in this story. He is the emotional heart of the episode, while Murdoch and the others provide comic relief, find clues, and solve puzzles. The relationship between Murdoch and Dr. Ogden is swept aside and we get to see them work together on a professional basis alone. There is no sense of awkwardness. Meanwhile, Crabtree and Dr. Grace are seemingly nearing the end of the honeymoon stage of their relationship. All very fun to watch – but Brackenreid’s story was the main attraction.
The not-actually-suicide victim was a former Army buddy of Brackenreid from back when they fought together in Afghanistan. The man saved Brackenreid’s life and won the Victoria Cross. When they returned home from the war, things fell into place for Brackenreid and fell apart for the man who saved his life. Brackenreid found a wife and a career in policing. The other man lost his wife and his career. Things became so dire that the man got into regular brawls and was arrested for theft. His Victoria Cross was taken from him. He ended up a shell of a man in prison, and when he begged Brackenreid to help him, Brackenreid refused. While the inspector was in the right, he is haunted by his failure to save the life of the man who saved him on the battlefield. He is thus determined to solve his murder and to let no prisoner, guard, or bureaucrat stand in his way.
In the end, justice is served. There was no pretending that anyone was innocent. No one is unscathed and certainly not many of Brackenreid’s demons are dispelled, but what can be done is done. Furthermore, Brackenreid takes it upon himself to help his comrade posthumously restore his Victoria Cross and his dignity. Whether or not he is successful is beside the point. Our choices of the past affect our present, but do our choices of the present change the past? And if so, to what end?