Season 8, Episode 8 (High Voltage)
One of the charming highlights of this series in general is its exploration of early twentieth-century technology, science, and inventions. While the solution to this episode’s murder ultimately lay in human passion and familial love, the plot wound its way through a convention of intriguing and forward-thinking medical inventions (as well as a lot of quackery) that delight our characters. While the experience of modern medical conventions is much different, at the forefront is still the same spirit of hope and awe at technological progress. We hope for a future where our common ills and annoyances will be cured and our lives made better. We are in awe of the technology that the human mind has mastered and the inventions that we have collectively come up with. Surely, the next century of viewers will be just as amused by our cutting-edge inventions (seemingly quaint and silly by their standards) as we are at those of 1902. But they will have come up with new problems to solve, new ailments to cure, and new ways to make us feel more healthful.
Another thing that Murdoch Mysteries does well is introduce us to historical characters in a new light. Their portrayal of Thomas Edison breaks down his heroic image propagated by American media and history: he is a miserable, greedy, arrogant plagiarist (all of which are true traits of the man) who fails at fatherhood. The fact that his son decides that he wants to change his name is not only due to having such high expectations placed on him because of it, but also because his father does little for him. While Thomas Edison was a remarkable inventor, he was no hero or saint. This show portrays such a man without resorting to outright slander. Edison is merely human.
Season 7, Episode 9 (The Last Action Hero)
Speaking of heroes, this week’s episode pays tribute to 1980s action films. In a similar vein to Murdoch, Castle’s heroic images of action movie stars are broken down to a more realistic level – but then are built back up again even higher as he witnesses one of them fight off several muggers alone and another group (with him along for the ride) manage to retrieve stolen evidence from a gangster’s club by stealthily breaking in. We get to watch Castle play dress-up and fight bad guys while Beckett lovingly rolled her eyes and solved the mystery.
It was a fun episode, but was it memorable? After six and a half seasons, we viewers have come to expect silliness and plot twists involving long-lost family members. What boggles my mind is why, in our current cultural climate, people continue to look upon long-lost children and premarital affairs as matters to kill over. Biology is all that counts? Women are supposed to be chaste while their men can sleep around? Men will toss aside their beloved wife of a couple decades because it turns out she was wrong about the identity of father of her child? Is it worth trying to get away with murder? Honestly, I’m sure it is much easier to forgive your wife for her past infidelity and for not telling you initially (that could be seen as protecting her child) than it is for killing your good friend because he found out the truth about your son’s parentage.
But of course, this storyline does make for good drama! Unfortunately, we did not get to see any of that side of it. I would have liked to see the murderess get more airtime and for more interaction between her and her husband. However, the theatrics with Castle was much more entertaining and of course the focus of the show. I think the plot twist was supposed to be just as wacky as the plot. However, I don’t think it suited the whimsical nature of the story. It was much too sad – and much too unnecessary.
Just to top it off, Beckett had to say good-bye to her apartment. It marked the end of her independence and she is now much more obviously Mrs. Castle. Could her husband have been more sympathetic? Absolutely. More drama that needed to be played out. All in all, this was an improperly-blended mix of drama and comedy.
But I still laughed.
Season 6, Episode 8 (Body of Evidence)
After watching police procedurals, it is refreshing to watch from the perspective of the suspect being questioned. Finally, this week is the beginning of the reckoning for the entire Doyle clan, calling into question their actions of not only this episode or season, but of the entire series
The inspector brought in for the investigation is a brutal, cold-hearted, and demanding cop…but he is no more a tough cop than Detective Beckett or Inspector Brackenreid. Rather, he is the antagonist who is the foreign newcomer amid our band of plucky heroes. (That said, he has “dirty cop” written all over him…)
Body of Evidence is almost entirely self-contained within the police station, focusing exclusively on the characters and their motives and reactions to a case wherein the police have ample evidence to hold them all accountable for their apparently murdered client. Jake is a desperate man already facing a murder charge. Leslie is a lovesick cop who seems to let her guard down. Rose and Malachy are facing bankruptcy. Des is facing loss of livelihood just when he wants to take his relationship with Tinny to the next level. Tinny is facing the loss of her family, her career is also in question, and she does not seem to be on the same page as Des in their relationship. All of the above is true to a point, but how the police twist the situation to fit their nice, neat narrative is frightening – because in other shows, we would be rooting for the cops.
Jake and Leslie manage to break out of the questioning and start going back over the evidence, and with the help of the rest of the Doyles at different times, they manage to solve the case – much to the chagrin of the inspector. Clearly, the conspiracy that Jake has got himself caught up in has far-reaching ties – and they are about to come home to roost in the finale.
This episode gives all of our lead actors a chance to shine. The interrogations are perfect blends of comedy and drama as the characters alternate smart answers with cries of desperation. The realisations that come to light render each character visibly changed as their motivations for the entire series are called into question.
At the same time, this is a nice self-contained story plot! Viewers were invited to try to solve the mystery – and I was quite pleased to have my hypothesis confirmed. This is one of my favourite episodes of the series. Well done!