Season 8, Episode 10 (Murdoch and the Temple of Death)
To start the season off on a high note, Murdoch Mysteries pulled off an Indiana Jones-tribute episode that managed to maintain the atmosphere of the regular series while sending Murdoch, Crabtree, and an exotic foreign female doctor on a zany quest for the Holy Grail – complete with a replica Byzantine church in the wilderness, booby-trapped clues, decoys, and archaeological puzzle. Continuity nods to Crabtree as a published author of adventure novels were also a nice touch. Crabtree was inspired to create a dashing rogue of an adventure archaeologist with a deadly fear of…butterflies. (Come to think of it – that would be as scary as snakes if done well.)
At first glance, this was a tribute to Indiana Jones and had so many references to that series that one could make a drinking game out of it. However, Indiana Jones was an homage series to 1930s film serials, which were in turn inspired by classic caper adventure novels of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. In essence, the type of literature that Crabtree was writing was the grandfather to the Indiana Jones films. The show was able to pay tribute to the descendant by portraying the ancestor.
The best thing about the writing on Murdoch Mysteries is that they are able to both pull off the continuity with modern issues and popular culture while telling viable stories about a 1902 police detective. With the exception of some modern hot-button issues (such as homosexuality) which were even more controversial then, the episodes are as true to the era that they portray as they are to their 21st-century audience. Then as now, people wanted change in their world. They wanted to survive and build a better world for their children. They were a bit less cynical than nowadays – not having yet experienced two world wars and all – but they were very much relatable. They are our ancestors, and by portraying them, the show pays tribute to and portrays us.
Season 7, Episode 11 (Castle, P.I.)
As I predicted, Castle got his private investigator’s licence so that he could work with Beckett. While he could no longer accompany his wife at her work, he managed to work on the same case and helped solve it. Like in the earlier seasons, Castle was competing with Beckett and her colleagues. It was a refreshing dynamic considering that Castle and Beckett have been working together now for a number of years. It was fun to see Castle back to his old swagger and whimsy – including setting up an office in an old building that evoked 1940s film noire. On the other hand, it was cute to see how much Castle has influenced the 12th Precinct in seven years. Detective Ryan has especially become prone to seeing conspiracy theories and to think outside the box.
I do think that the next few episodes featuring Castle as a private investigator will be an enjoyable storyline. Yes, there will be more tension – but that was what attracted us to the show in the first place.