After 10 years, even with shorter seasons, it is hard to keep police procedurals from becoming too formulaic or routine. One way to remedy this is to dwell less on weekly cases and more on characters’ personal lives as well as story arcs spanning multiple episodes; another is to have fun each week as you solve the case.
As a dramedy, Murdoch Mysteries chose the latter this season (for the most part) and we were treated to some outlandish-but-still-vaguely-plausible cases and shenanigans. These two episodes are especially fun and playful without making too much light of the fact that they still revolve around solving murders.
Master Lovecraft is a nod to the gothic horror genre and gives us a chance to meet the show’s version of H.P. Lovecraft. As per usual, we get a historical person who just suspicious enough that they might be the murderer, but likely is not, since the show does not want to deviate too far from actual facts. Thus we can immediately turn our attention to Lovecraft’s suspicious group of friends – death-obsessed adolescents with too much money and time. While I found the episode engaging and entertaining, I personally found the use of “crazy rich young brats” tropes annoying. I know the situation is supposed to be funny, but it isn’t. Being wealthy doesn’t keep one from having troubles and being young (and thus with a biological tendency to be melodramatic) does not mean that one is crazy or stupid. Or, if one is such a thing, that should in no way render them void of sympathy from the audience. Moving on though – I was able to easily ignore this issue when actually watching the episode.
What was most hilarious about Master Lovecraft was Mrs. Brackenreid’s subplot wherein she reads Dracula for her book club and accidentally becomes one of young Lovecraft’s obsessions. Mrs. Brackenreid is overwhelmingly straight-laced, but she definitely has a repressed sense of adventure! Watching her struggle with the situation and manage to deal with it was most rewarding. We rarely get domestic scenes with the Brackenreids, but they are a treat to enjoy when we do. They represent a more typical portrayal of the Edwardian middle class than the other characters, but they also remain relatable to the viewers.
Hot Wheels of Thunder is an excuse for some roller-derby action for Dr. Ogden and Miss James while Murdoch and company solve a related murder. The episode is both an excuse to be liberating for women and also highly stereotypical, complete with a catfight and lots of mean-girl behaviour. Was it enjoyable? Absolutely – and in light of how serious the finale is, some much needed revelry indeed!
The most serious aspect of the plot is Constable Crabtree’s love life, which takes an unfortunate turn once again. For one, we have the return of Nina Bloom, who assists our protagonists in their roller-skate racing and obviously gives Crabtree some pause for thought. For two, his colleagues keep reminding him how he ought not to let Miss Cherry get away or screw up his relationship with her. Thirdly, Miss Cherry is turning into a domineering shrew who despises Detective Murdoch and Dr. Ogden. Like Crabtree, we as viewers are supposed to be initially intrigued by her and then later turned off.
Like most children brought up in what is considered to be and unconventional manner, at one point in his life, Crabtree desired to get married and have children and be every bit “ordinary and respectable”. He wanted to be conventional because he felt that he missed out on that as a child. He felt that he needed fixing somehow – underlying his confidence and accomplishments was broken self-respect. But Miss Cherry (who I am sure has her own issues that I could go on about and it not really a villain) represents all of that potential respectability and yet Crabtree realises that she is not for him. He has been craving the wrong thing.
Nina Bloom, on the other hand, is exactly what he is looking for now. He grew up with ladies of the night as his aunts. He knows Nina’s world. He has come to realise that he would rather be with her than marry someone else merely for respectability. Here is a woman who cares so much for him and his happiness that she was willing to let him go! Not because she didn’t love him, but because she felt that she could not give him the future that he wanted.
The brightest moment in the finale (see next post for the rest of that review) is when Crabtree at least halfway reconciles with Nina. We are not certain as to whether they will be reunited, but Crabtree admits that he was wrong not to chase after her and to think that there was anyone better than Nina for him. Neither of them are conventional people and they are well-suited for each other. Plus, Nina gets along with Dr. Ogden (and vice versa), so it merely down to Murdoch to accept her and they will have smooth sailing at their dinner parties.