Premiere 3 – This Is How to Reset the Status Quo!
Season 9, Episode 1 (Nolo Contendere)
Like a good police procedural, Murdoch Mysteries reset the status quo by the end of the season premiere. This was crucial, since one of the most prominent and beloved main characters was in jail for murder following the end of last year’s finale. One plot thread was left hanging – namely whether or not one of the other characters would move away – but the episode even neatly tied that up loosely. The standard rule applies – the character has not left yet, so do not worry about it. Until someone actually gets on a boat and their name disappears from the opening credits, they are not going anywhere.
The season began several months after the finale, with ex-Constable Crabtree in prison and the rest of the station somewhat subdued at his absence, even after so much time having passed. Murdoch and Ogden are still enjoying their married life, but they do what they do best together, which is solve cases. We are treated to refreshing, humourous snippets of their domestic bliss while they discuss clues that might exonerate Crabtree. The writers are so far maintaining the delicate balance of romance and mystery. After all, the viewers are not tuning in for the romance alone.
Unsurprisingly, Crabtree is innocent, having plead “no contest” to the murder charge. He is trying to protect his ex-fiancee Edna, whom he thinks killed her abusive husband; when she is finally found by Inspector Brackenreid, it turns out she thinks that Crabtree killed him to protect her. Thanks to shrewd detective work by Murdoch, Ogden, Brackenreid, & Dr. Grace on the outside, and by Crabtree and former Chief-Constable Giles on the inside, Crabtree is exonerated and set free. In true procedural fashion, the status quo is restored with him returning to the station as a constable on probation, his promotion to detective possibly forever out of reach. That ensures that he will be Murdoch’s sidekick for a long time! Both he and Murdoch are trapped in their positions – him because of his rash romantic actions and Murdoch because of his faith. This is fortunate for both the viewers, who appreciate their dynamic as a team as much as we appreciate the dynamic between Murdoch and Ogden, and for the writers, who have ready excuses for why these top-rate cops never advance despite all of the important cases that they solve.
Oddly enough, the case itself is layered and keeps the audience guessing. At first, it seems like a simple case of a battered wife shooting her husband in self-defense. However, a missing soldier from the Boer War and an expensive diamond soon reveal a conspiracy and nearly gets Murdoch killed. And yet, the murder itself doesn’t have anything to do with the conspiracy after all.
Crabtree gets his freedom but loses Edna and Simon. I do not know if we have seen the last of them – it would be great to have some closure on that storyline sometime in the near future. Perhaps they could still reconcile. On the other hand, it looks like the writers might be trying to get Crabtree and Dr. Grace back together, despite the latter being a lesbian. I would prefer that they not do this. Yes, they have chemistry together. However, I do not think it sends the right message to flip-flop a character’s sexuality. It would not be in keeping with the themes of the show. Besides, showing Dr. Grace and Crabtree as friends would be just as meaningful. Crabtree, for all his wild ideas, is a somewhat traditional fellow who would do well with an ordinary woman, not an educated doctor with an interest in the suffragette movement and in bedding women. Edna was perfect for him.
Instead, the final scene with Dr. Grace and Crabtree bonding over their respective problems was sweet and a beautiful illustration of friendship between them. They respect each other. They listen to each other. Crabtree does not judge Dr. Grace’s sexuality and choices, and arguably thinks that her moving to London would be a positive thing for her. While I do not think that Dr. Grace will end up moving, I am inclined to agree with Crabtree. Dr. Grace needs to be true to herself.
Back to work, everyone!