The first episode back after the winter break was sufficiently creepy and mysterious to keep my attention, even if it heavily featured flashbacks from previous seasons. The Devil Inside [spoiler alert] brings back the long-presumed-dead James Gillies, Detective Murdoch’s nemesis. For anyone who thought that his death three seasons ago (that was supposedly confirmed a season later) was insufficient for such a mythic character, this episode was a much better finale. The first half of the episode has Murdoch and Dr. Ogden really wondering if Gillies is demonically possessing the killer of the week; the second half reveals whether or not he is alive or dead, and if alive, if he actually dies for good this time!
Technically, this episode features the entire main cast, including Dr. Grace, but only Murdoch, Dr. Ogden, Miss James, and Constable Higgins are in the main storyline. Brackenreid is still away in Central America – in fact, Murdoch has technically assumed the role of Acting Inspector – and Crabtree must be off duty, perhaps wallowing in the fact that his girlfriend broke up with him in Excitable Chap. (Because of the Christmas special and the break, it was easy to forget what chronologically recently had taken place in the story.) Yet with the flashbacks, all of them make an appearance and we get to see how everyone worked together over the years to battle James Gillies, even if it is Murdoch and Ogden who have been his main opponents.
I admit that I felt that the episode lacked depth. The non-standard approach to the story was well-executed, but I spent the hour simply watching. I am amazed that Murdoch figured out the clues that Gillies left for him, because I certainly had no idea what they meant – even though they referenced previous episodes. The story arc has been stretched over so many years that little details like street names completely eluded me. Also, having been lulled into believing that this arc was over two years ago, it seemed odd to bring it up again. I guess I wanted to believe that it was over as much as Murdoch and Ogden did!
Nonetheless, I enjoyed how they brought better closure to such a charismatic and outright terrifying man as James Gillies and his pleasure in outwitting Murdoch. While his death from falling off of a bridge would have been more realistic, it was not very satisfying. This certainly made for a better story.
And then, just to switch things completely, A Murdog Mystery was a funny, lighthearted episode that did not take itself too seriously. It featured the murder of a show-dog (which was the saddest part of the episode – I hate seeing animals die, especially beloved pets) and Detective Murdoch was drawn into a conspiracy involving wealthy dog-owners, dog-handlers, and dog shows. Murdoch is reluctant to take the case at first, since the victim is a dog and not a human, but naturally, that means he increasingly has to interact with dogs throughout the episode until he admits that he actually likes them. Unfortunately, the first half of the episode has Murdoch being very rude and callous. He is highly unlikable – I imagine the pressure of being Acting Inspector is starting to get to him.
My main problem with the episode is that Murdoch is not just a homicide detective. He is a detective with the Toronto Constabulary and is responsible for investigating all types of crime in his jurisdiction. The death of a prized show-dog, while not murder, is certainly a property crime. A dog that did not have any obvious signs of ill-health dying is suspicious, especially if he is worth a lot of money. Murdoch had the duty to investigate the crime as destruction of livestock or property, even if the victim was annoying him by referring to the dog as having been murdered and insisting on having a funeral for him. He was her dog and she was entitled to do exactly what she wished when it came to reacting to his death. Murdoch had no right to belittle her or ignore the case. It was an attack on the woman’s property and theft of potential income. Also, the dog was killed in the woman’s garden, so whomever killed him was also trespassing. No, it was not murder, but she was right to call the police.
This was lazy writing in order to draw out comedy. I found it very uncomfortable to watch. I kept wanting to tell Murdoch to leave the woman alone and do his job. I certainly wasn’t laughing very much.
The antics with a second show-dog were funny, though. I was far more impressed with watching Crabtree and Higgins’s adventures. The writers also included a lighthearted nod to Canada’s 150th anniversary by including a mysterious man who claims to be on an important mission and tries to enlist the constables in helping him find his missing notebook. In the credits scene, they run into him again, and it is clear that he is supposed to be a time-traveller. For the anniversary, Murdoch Mysteries has created a web-series involving time travel. The first few episodes (which are only about 90 seconds each) have been intriguing thus far. This is clearly meant to be a birthday gift – just jolly good fun!
Lastly, the younger detective from Concocting a Killer has returned to assist at the station while Murdoch is Acting Inspector. This has the effect of getting on Murdoch’s nerves but also introduces a new plot arc, as the detective enlists Constable Jackson in searching for missing women. While we do not get much of the story in this episode, what I have enjoyed about it is that it is a very serious subject matter and both the detective and Jackson take it seriously, but the storyline is comedic as well. The two men find each other difficult to work with and they have very few clues to go on. Time will tell whether they solve the case or not.