The writers of Murdoch Mysteries sure put the viewers through the emotional wringer this season! The last four episodes do not disappoint in this regard. High stakes drama, action, and suspense play out as all of our main characters find themselves in mortal peril at some point. We are also treated to some sweet, poignant romance; sumptuous lust; and horrifying possessiveness. Quaint, cozy detective stories, these are not!
House of Industry, written by Maureen Jennings( the original author of the Murdoch Mysteries book series), picks up on the feeling of melancholy after the loss of Roland. Det. Murdoch and Dr. Ogden act very much as though their son had died – which he had, in a way. Despite numerous characters reassuring them that they did the right thing, they still feel terrible. The way in which the episode is written even leaves one to wonder if the couple will break up. Plenty of erstwhile happy marriages fall apart after the loss of a child. It is easy to get lost in one’s own grief.
Perhaps luckily, Dr. Ogden has a conference to go to and Murdoch has a case to solve, the latter of which soon turns deadly for our title character. They had some time apart to grieve in their own ways, while at the same time being able to throw themselves into their work. Murdoch goes undercover in a men’s workhouse. He is able to legitimately say that his wife left him (albeit only on a temporary business trip – but the other men don’t know that) and that another man is raising the son that he had.
Being undercover is freeing for Murdoch, but he soon uncovers a conspiracy that runs deeper than the murder of the week. It involves corruption among the police force, likely going all the way up to the Chief Constable. Murdoch manages to survive, but both he and Inspector Brackenreid become determined to weed out the dirty cops.
In Bl..dy H.ll, Brackenreid takes centre stage as he attempts to get to the bottom of the corruption scandal. However, the Chief Constable seems to be constantly one step ahead of him for most of the episode, even making it appear as though it is Brackenreid who is the dirty cop. As a result, Brackenreid is forced to work in the City Records Office. Murdoch (along with his most trusted and loyal constables) attempt to solve the case despite being outright ordered not to, while Brackenreid finds evidence among the records to link up the corruption all the way to the city’s high offices. With the help of Alderman Hubbard, the criminals are brought to light and it is presumed that there will be a bit of a shake-up in the next municipal election.
Both of these episodes have as their theme that it is better to do what is right than what is safe or easy. The victim in House of Industry could have ignored the scandal and survived to write an engrossing article about workhouse conditions, but he did not. While his motives might have been primarily to get famous – especially at the start – he chose to keep at it when the situation became dangerous, even at the cost of his life. Murdoch did the same, and almost met the same fate. Meanwhile, the officers in Bl..dy H.ll outright defy their superiors in order to clean up the police force and prove their beloved Inspector innocent. While the latter episode retains an element of humour, particularly moreso than House of Industry, it is nonetheless bleak. We know things ought to turn out all right for our heroes in the end, but as far as the characters themselves are concerned, they might all be out of work soon with their reputations ruined. Such a predicament would have likely seem them buying train tickets out of Toronto in the hopes of securing a job – Murdoch might have been returning to the workhouse for real.
The most lighthearted episode of the bunch, From Buffalo With Love focuses on Constable Crabtree, who has been depressed all season since losing his fiancée. He has grown infatuated with Nina, a burlesque danger. As it turns out, she reciprocates his feelings! Even as he is compromising his career, and certainly compromising the case of the week, Crabtree embarks on a passionate romance with Nina. Unlike most women of the era, Nina is not looking for a husband, but merely for romance and companionship. This is initially to Crabtree’s chagrin, but he comes to accept and embrace her choices. Perhaps he is tired of having too high of expectations for his love life!
Their relationship is considered scandalous and Crabtree’s colleagues try to dissuade him from pursuing it further. Murdoch awkwardly tries to distract him with non-romantic excursions, while Brackenreid resorts to dire warnings and getting his wife to arrange a dinner party. Only Dr. Ogden is at all accepting and supportive. In our modern era, while friends and colleagues in such a situation might still be wary of Nina, their relationship would be more tolerated. Sure, no one would expect them to get married, or for the relationship to last much beyond another dinner party, but they would grit their teeth and smile, accepting Nina as “Crabtree’s girlfriend” for the present.
Unfortunately, the outcome of this relationship looks only to lead to more disappointment for Crabtree. He is very much the marrying kind. It ultimately doesn’t matter what era he is in for that! At the closing credits, he is still dating Nina. Will she be back next year? Will they go their separate ways, only for her to reappear with a baby? (A realistic Nina likely would not, but this is television, after all.) Will Crabtree be less depressed, at the very least?
The season finale, Cometh the Archer, took the darkest, most suspenseful turn of the season. (Arguably, very few episodes of the series were as suspenseful.) It was both Murdoch and Dr. Ogden’s turns to be in mortal peril: Dr. Ogden is shot in the opening teaser scene and halfway through, Murdoch is drugged and kidnapped. An unfortunate constable is actually killed defending him – rather surprisingly, given that the actor has been in the background for the past eight years.
To keep from ruining the suspense, I will refrain from commenting on who the killer is and their motives. Their identity is key to the second half of the episode’s plot, however.
What I will say is that Murdoch is confronted with the serious choice about what he wants for the future (if he wants one at all – the whole “mortal peril” bit). At the start of the episode, he declares that he wants to build a home for his wife and adopt another child with her. He had got to the point where he had given up on the idea of children, but then Roland came along. Dr. Ogden is in agreement on both counts. However, Murdoch is faced with the possibility of losing his wife and the option for a biological child with another woman. While he loves his wife so much as to give over a pint of blood to her without question, there are those who would argue that he ought to find another wife to have children with. Biological children are seen as paramount – even viewers of the show want the couple to have a child, Dr. Ogden’s barrenness be d***ed. It seems that the default “happy ending” for a happy couple is a child – or indeed more than one. No matter how exciting a couple’s life is – even in the world of television shows, where characters’ lives are arguably much more exciting than the average person – apparently, their lives are incomplete without progeny.
Personally, I am all in favour of adoption, and I do not think that it is second-rate to having a biological child. For the purpose of telling a story on television, it is also much better to adopt than to have a child when the woman in question is one of the show’s lead characters, because one is not obligated to working in a pregnancy that ultimately sidelines the character. But I digress.
The season finale was cinematic and well-acted. I enjoyed it, despite being nervous for the outcome and surprised that they packed so much drama into the first half of the episode – I was shocked to check the clock and realise we were only 30 minutes into it! The suspense only mounted as the second half played out. It was a fitting end to the season. I cannot wait to see what the writers have in store for next year! Something to look forward to in the fall, indeed!
But let’s enjoy the spring and summer first!