So now we know who the mysterious little boy is in the flash-forwards in earlier seasons…
In a surprising twist, Raised On Robbery departs from the usual murder case to offer a bank heist as the case of the week instead. Detective Murdoch is on the case primarily because he was at the bank at the time of the robbery – as a private citizen looking to obtain a loan to build a house. He is thus immediately on hand to offer his expertise on the investigation. The bank in question is a high-profile institution with a state-of-the-art security system, and yet it was foiled by a complex and rather ingenious plot. There were more twists and turns in this case than in the usual murders! It was a rather lighthearted episode, since compared to a homicide, bank robbery is comparatively less grave. The B-plot was also suitably fun: namely British ex-patriate soccer fans, including Inspector Brackenreid, getting together to listen to a championship game over the wireless.
Was the plot believable? Actually, yes – successful (or nearly successful, in this case) bank robberies are generally complex. It was strange, though – I kept waiting for a dead body to show up!
At the beginning of the series, Detective Murdoch very much wanted to have a family. In the third season, Dr. Ogden admitted that she was unable to have children after a botched abortion in her late teens. After some soul-searching, Murdoch admitted that he was willing to forgo biological children to be with her – they could always adopt. Unfortunately, Dr. Ogden had moved on – more because she really didn’t believe that Murdoch would be happy with her. The whole impediment to their relationship hinged on this. Only in the last couple of seasons did they overcome the fact that they would not be able to have children together.
Which is why now is indeed a perfect time to bring back the idea of adoption. Now it is Dr. Ogden who falls in love with the unfortunate orphaned baby Roland, while Murdoch is sceptical and unsure about taking on such a responsibility. The fact that their characters have undergone this shift makes their adopting Roland seem all the more organic.
During the break over Christmas, I mused that they would introduce a baby only if it were an orphan from a case or from a relative. The writers seemed to understand that they could not simply magically cure Dr. Ogden and introduce a biological child. It would not fit with the series at all. I was pleasantly surprised that they did this in the very next episode!
Bringing us to The Big Chill, wherein little Roland has been embraced by his new parents and is making their ability to solve cases more difficult. Murdoch and Ogden are atypical parents, particularly for the early 1900s, and they bring their son to work and on outings to the museum. Whatever their colleagues think, they are letting it slide for now because cases are getting solved, Murdoch and Ogden are just getting used to parenthood (rather suddenly, I might add), and because the baby is just so darned cute! The casting directors found a set of babies who are absolutely adorable and delightful. They are natural performers and interact well with the actors. Watching Murdoch, Ogden, Miss James, and even Brackenreid interact with baby Roland is simply delightful.
That said, we still see how hard it is to get used to a baby, particularly a nine-month-old. It is clear that Murdoch and Ogden did not have much interaction with children, and they missed the early months wherein new parents get used to having a baby in their lives (rather than suddenly having to fit him into their lives) and build a unique communication strategy with said baby. Roland was already used to his first parents, or at least his mother, and he needs to build a relationship with his new ones. That is likely another reason why they take him everywhere – they do not want him to think he is going to be abandoned again. It is refreshing to hear him be called “young Master Murdoch” – in everyone’s eyes, he is Murdoch and Ogden’s son, or is supposed to be.
On a different note, the actual murder of the week in this episode involves a murder on an Arctic expedition. They also introduce us to Captain Joseph-Elzear Bernier, who is in Toronto showing off specimens from his last expedition and looking to secure funding to return to claim the North Pole for Canada and the Empire. One could be forgiven for thinking that he is a quirky character dreamed up by the writers, except that he was indeed a real captain who did explore the Arctic extensively and paved the way for British/Canadian claim to the Arctic islands. That is one the ingenious elements of Murdoch Mysteries in general – that it can introduce us to real historical persons while still keeping them intrinsic and organic to the storyline. In this case, Bernier was so well integrated that I initially failed to recognize him as a real person. He was as much a character in the story as Murdoch.
The actual murder was a bit of a gamble on the killer’s part: it relied on the corpse being found away from the ship and returned, then preserved and brought back home, and then being used to ruin Captain Bernier’s reputation. Of course, Arctic exploration was a serious international business and lots of governments were trying to get their hands on it, just as it is today. It was not surprising that the murderer was a spy in the employment of a rival country. However, I do think it is silly that they intend to charge him with treason. I was under the impression that the spy was not actually a British subject – but perhaps that was just Brackenreid blustering, being the patriotic fellow that he is.
This episode once again turned to science and served to remind the audience what the scientific and political climate were like in 1903. It also piqued Murdoch’s curiosity and he was most keen to talk with Captain Bernier about his findings and read the victim’s journals. Even with a new baby, Murdoch and Ogden are scientists first. In the case of Arctic exploration, even Brackenreid and Crabtree are fascinated. But the science is countered by the conspiracy and the race to claim the region for the Empire. Ten years before the outbreak of the First World War, the European powers are already getting their chess pieces lined up. Luckily, baby Roland will still be too young to fight!
It also made anxious reference to today’s Arctic sovereignty issues. Canada may have claimed various islands and waterways, but we lack the ships to defend them. It remains to be seen what happens as further ice melts.