Although slightly late with this blogpost, Colour Blinded was an excellent episode in honour of Black History Month. It was also simply great storytelling and character development. As in previous episodes, a historical personage was highlighted in such a way as to be properly featured without heading overwhelmingly into documentary territory. This week featured William Peyton Hubbard, Toronto’s first black alderman. As a wealthy man in a fine suit and top hat, Mr. Hubbard stands out and commands respect and dignity – particularly from Inspector Brackenreid and Detective Murdoch. However, he is treated with utter disdain by the Chief Constable. No matter his name, clothes, wealth, character, position, or title, the latter policeman only sees Mr. Hubbard’s skin colour. Nonetheless, kudos to the writers for featuring this man in such a way to highlight him and his accomplishments while still making him an interesting character. He was important to the early development of the city of Toronto and to Canadian heritage, but is unfortunately not well-known.
The incidents with Mr. Hubbard and the members of the black congregation also reminded viewers that our attitudes have, in many respects, unfortunately changed too little. Skin colour is still a major attribute that we use to extrapolate someone’s character and intentions.
The Chief Constable brings up the issue of carding – still being discussed actively in Toronto in the 21st century. For the Chief, all of the black community is threatening and guilty by association. Even if they had nothing to do with the murder at hand, he assumes that they will be running into the law again shortly – even aldermen, ministers, and elderly church ladies. As for the construction workers and ruffians – well, just lock them up already, as far as the Chief Constable was concerned. These attitudes are still prevalent about many minority groups, particularly within law enforcement. Immutable physical attributes can mean the difference between being waved off and being stopped, being arrested and being merely given a warning, or being released after time served and being incarcerated for years.
In addition to being timely, Colour Blinded was an entertaining story that left the viewers guessing as to who committed the murder, and it also brought out a different side to Rebecca James, Dr. Ogden’s new assistant. We get to see a glimpse of her personal life and even a romance, bringing out a more playful side to the studious and reserved young woman. We also get to see her in a cultural context – otherwise, true to form for Murdoch and Ogden, she is simply an assistant, skin-colour irrelevant. However, as Murdoch realises, not everyone sees her that way. Her cultural struggles are far different that even Murdoch’s own, being as he is a Catholic in a fundamentally Protestant establishment. As he admits, no one can tell he is a Catholic simply by looking at him. He at least gets a chance to prove himself and is accorded basic respect. Sadly, even basic respect from his peers and fellow citizens is something that eludes Alderman Hubbard.
Wild Child is a scary, wild-thing-in-the-woods story. At its core, it is a story about human dignity and rights, but much less obviously than the previous episodes. The officials have to remind angry farmers not to shoot the suspect and Murdoch is appalled (as are his colleagues) that a man would consider another human being to be his actual property – bill of sale and all. Yet little is done in the end – the status quo is basically restored, less one more decent man killed for ostensibly being nosey, but actually for simply believing in what we would now consider basic human rights.
However, the main murder case is overshadowed by Dr. Ogden’s quest, assisted by Murdoch’s old friend Miss Pink, to discover the truth about Roland’s parentage. As it turns out, he was stolen after birth by his purported parents when his mother died and his father was away. Although they feel that they are Roland’s parents, knowing that his birth father is alive and well (and back in Toronto) – and a good man who was wronged – is too much for them to ignore. They return Roland to his natural father, for better or for worse. For his part, the man is overcome with joy and seems to have all the qualities of a decent father, but that does not make things any easier for Murdoch and Ogden.
Honestly, it was such a bittersweet, heartbreaking ending that they main plot could well have been about the price of grain – it really felt like it did not matter.
It remains to be seen what happens to Roland, although I imagine he will be happy with his father. But where they will take Murdoch and Ogden from here is concerning. Will they decide to adopt another child? Carry on with the pieces of their pre-Roland lives? Drift apart in their respective grief and resentment? Or will Ogden’s barrenness be suddenly cured?
Oh please, anything but that!