Since last year’s season of Murdoch Mysteries ended with a quintuple cliffhanger back in March, and since the new season’s ad campaign is making a big deal about “who lives and dies”, I have decided to examine the various possibilities.
Obviously, spoilers for the Season 10 finale ahead!
So, going over the evidence, to recap, Season 10 ended with Det. Murdoch in prison for murder; Inspector Brackenreid in a shootout; Dr. Ogden having been kidnapped; and Constables Crabtree, Higgins, and Jackson being ambushed with a hail of gunfire. All of this is because Murdoch and his colleagues at Stationhouse 4 got too close to a scandal that involves high-ranking and wealthy city officials, who have the Chief of Police in their back pocket.
As for the other characters, Miss James is presumably fine for the moment (since we didn’t see her at all in the finale), Nina is reconciled with Crabtree but her life is in danger, and Det. Watts is poised to help Murdoch – although his motives are a bit suspect.
One of the many theories of hopeful fans is that the only ones who die are the villains. This is, of course, a viable option for the writers. It is a standard trick in television marketing to hype up a death or possible death of an important character, only for it to be a villain or a peripheral ally of the heroes. Lydia in last year’s season finale would be an example of this latter type. She was a friend of Nina and appears in a couple of episodes earlier in the season, including the penultimate episode, so her death was considerably more tragic to our heroes than the usual weekly murder victim, but she was not one of the core characters. Since the writers already used that ploy for last season’s finale, however, it is unlikely that they will do it again.
On the other hand, a recurring villain might be killed off for good – perhaps someone that we in the audience have come to “love to hate”. Unfortunately, the villains in this case so far have not been in this category. They have been portrayed as corrupt and despicable. We would love nothing better than for them to hang.
Since I really cannot speculate any further about villains or peripheral characters, I am going to analyse the likelihood of the main characters in mortal peril not making it to the second episode of Season 11: Inspector Brackenreid, Dr. Ogden, Constable Crabtree, Constable Higgins, and Constable Jackson.
One more possibility to address before I begin: that any one of these characters might be severely wounded and permanently disabled, rather than killed. Thus the character could survive and leave the possibility for them to return in a guest or recurring role, while the actor would be free to pursue other projects. This may be the case if the writers choose to have the villains be the ones killed off but still want to realistically address the fate of our main characters. There would be a permanent loss to the cast, but the character would not be gone for good. I will address this briefly with each character.
In order of most likely to be killed off to least likely (in my opinion):
- Constable Jackson
With the least amount of time on the show, despite growing into a beloved secondary character, Jackson is the one whose death would have the least emotional impact on the audience. He also received a lot of screen time this past season. His death would have a lot of emotional weight on the characters. It is also likely that should he survive, he might be too badly injured to continue in the constabulary and return to his family outside Toronto, or into the care of his girlfriend. The actor who plays Jackson has begun work on a lot of new projects recently, so his departure would make sense.
- Inspector Brackenreid
Despite being an original main cast member and an integral part of the show, he has been absent a lot this past season. While he was gone, the story went along without him just fine. There was a definite hole in the family, but they survived. I think the loss of Brackenreid would open up a lot of storyline possibilities. The department would have to be reshuffled, a new Inspector would be hired, Margaret and her sons might still appear every so often as they come to terms with their patriarch’s death, and new dynamics would be established within the stationhouse and on the show itself. At this point, after all, Brackenreid may be sceptical of Murdoch’s theories and gadgets, but he has come to trust him. A new Inspector might mean that Murdoch would have to prove himself all over again.
I think that it is unlikely that Brackenreid will survive but be permanently injured – not for storytelling purposes, but because it has already been threatened before.
One last reason that I would consider Brackenreid a strong contender is purely poetic. He is very much a Victorian character. The show is now in 1905, ten years after it started in 1895. In the late nineteenth century, Brackenreid fit right in. He really set the tone for the show and kept it grounded, while Murdoch, Ogden, and Crabtree were the more visionary characters. His death would aesthetically set a new tone at Stationhouse 4.
- Constable Higgins
On one hand, Higgins is a rather disposable character. He is friends with Jackson and Crabtree, but he is not emotionally connected to Murdoch. He is lovably annoying and clumsy. In some ways, he is a bit of a jerk.
But he is also a perpetual underdog who never quite gets things right – despite trying hard. Over the past few seasons, he has evolved into a goofball as Crabtree has matured. Honestly, I think killing him would be all the more devastating because we have never really got to know him over ten years. He has not yet had the chance to make something of himself. Jackson would die an honourable hero, but while Higgins would as well (in-story), he would not be as heroic to the audience. While we alternatively laugh and cringe at his antics, we still want to see him succeed. Plus, killing him would kill a lot of the comic relief on the show.
I could see a storyline where Higgins needs to recover from injuries and perhaps goes through a lot of character development, especially if he loses Jackson or Crabtree. Killing him would remove a lot of potential storylines. As far as I know, his actor is from Toronto and is not in any other major shows, so he would be worth keeping around.
- Constable Crabtree
For the audience, I think Crabtree’s death would be the most emotionally traumatic. He is a comic relief character, a romantic hero, a writer with crazy ideas, a plucky orphan, a clever detective, and he is the only main constable that has been around since the beginning. (While Higgins has always been around, he did not feature heavily early on.) He has gone through the most character growth and we in the audience have been on an emotional roller coaster with him since early seasons. His is also boyishly charming, even though the character is in his mid-thirties. He has been through a lot and we really just want to see him succeed.
From the perspective of the characters, Crabtree’s loss would be a bigger hole than that of Brackenreid and much bigger than that of the other two constables. His is arguably Murdoch’s best friend. He shares a special connection with Dr. Ogden, albeit an awkward one. He is friends with Miss James. He is Brackenreid’s favourite constable. He is bosom buddies with Higgins and Jackson. He is a published author, so he is known outside the constabulary. The dynamic of the show would change significantly without him. I would be hard-pressed to think that the showrunners would take such a big gamble. However, if Jonny Harris wanted to leave the show, I could see the writers killing Crabtree off.
I really would not be surprised if they went with “Crabtree gets badly injured” as a plotline, however. Murdoch would still have motive for revenge. We could have a scene where Nina and Louise confront each other at Crabtree’s bedside. Crabtree could help solve crimes as he recovers. He would have more time to write. His character might take some time to recuperate with his aunts, leaving his actor time to work elsewhere.
- Dr. Ogden
For Murdoch himself, Dr. Ogden’s death would (of course) be the most traumatic of the five. In fact, I really cannot see the writers killing her off. The loss of Brackenreid or Crabtree would definitely change the dynamic of the show, but the loss of Dr. Ogden would drastically alter the show itself.
Since the first season, Murdoch has been infatuated with Dr. Ogden. Their relationship has been ongoing since the second season, with them officially becoming a couple in the third season. They broke up for two seasons, but they pined for each other the whole time. They reconciled at the end of the fifth season, so they have been courting, engaged, or married for six out of ten seasons. Not only have they been in a romantic relationship, but they have had a working relationship in various capacities throughout the series.
In other words, who really thinks Det. Murdoch would be able to continue his work as a detective without Dr. Ogden? At least, in Toronto? He would be a broken man. All of the cases they solved together, all of the places they visited…Honestly, he would be moving away. He might continue as a detective in another jurisdiction, but he would not be staying in Toronto. I don’t think the writers intend to move the series somewhere else.
The synopsis for the season premiere specifically mentions that Ogden has been kidnapped, so I imagine the bulk of the plot is trying to find her. Now, in many shows, I could see the hero spending an episode racing to save a main character, only for them to have died before the hero could reach them. However, that would not really fit with the tone of Murdoch Mysteries, especially when the kidnapping victim is Dr. Ogden. Murdoch and the audience would be crushed. Viewers would likely quite the show in droves.
Of course, I could be entirely wrong. There is also the possibility that more than one of them will be removed, but that gets into too many permutations.
I look forward to finding out Sept. 25!