After a couple of lighter episodes, Mary Wept is dark and philosophical. Religion is murky territory, particularly in a show focused on science and technology. It is easy to forget that Detective Murdoch is a devout Catholic amid all of his interest in science and learning about the physical world.
The central mystery of the show is initially not a murder – although one shows up later – but a statue of the Virgin Mary that arrives mysteriously at Murdoch’s church and then proceeds to miraculously “weep” blood. Thus there are a lot of discussions around belief in miracles, faith in general, and healthy scepticism. For Murdoch, faith and scepticism go hand in hand. It isn’t that he doesn’t want to believe in a miracle, but rather that he needs to eliminate all other possible causes first.
For comic relief, Crabtree is back from his trip to Paris and is feeling bored in Toronto – that classic feeling that one has after coming back from a good holiday and is reminded of all the things that one doesn’t like about one’s hometown! Naturally, his (and Nina’s) perceived snobbishness is annoying to everyone else, but no matter – his friend Higgins is much more concerned about proposing to Ruth! When that doesn’t go as planned, thanks to the aforementioned murder, it comes down to the not-marriage-minded Crabtree and Nina to get their friends back together. It is adorably awkward, but works out well in the end. I thought it was a very sweet subplot.
Violet Hart gets more screentime in this episode and is arousing suspicion from Dr. Ogden. Violet is seemingly emotionally distant (at least at work), even when examining a baby’s skeleton. She is furthermore eager to please and focused on getting what she wants. A lot of viewers were wondering if Violet is obsessed with Murdoch like Eva Pearce was, but I really hope this isn’t the direction that the writers are going with the character. From my perspective, it seems more like Violet is determined to take advantage of every opportunity she gets, looks up to Dr. Ogden, and wants to be like her – if not better – in the future. If she suspects that Dr. Ogden is pregnant, she might even be eyeing her job. (That’s not evil – that’s practical.) Since Violet is a non-white woman, she knows that she won’t get many opportunities to advance, but she is going to darn well try her hardest. She also confesses to Murdoch that her faith is what guides her and allows her to be calm and collected at her job. (I might argue that Violet finds Murdoch appealing and is a bit jealous of Dr. Ogden, but no more than most of the female viewership of the show. I think she is hoping to meet her own “Detective Murdoch” someday.)
Which leads into Crabtree A La Carte, a much more comedic episode that nonetheless has very serious undertones. First of all, the victim-of-the-week is murdered by botulism poisoning – a slow and painful death by paralysis. No one deserves such a death – made all the worse because it can take over a day for symptoms to show up, making getting effective treatment all the less likely. (This was especially the case in 1905.) For all of the crazy antics of the cooking show that forms the backdrop of the episode, the fact that the victim dies horribly for no reason at all (other than he was dislikable) keeps this story from being very funny.
Crabtree is especially concerned because he thinks he might have been poisoned as well. While we know he survives to the 1920s (thank you, Frankie Drake Mysteries), he certainly does not! I can completely understand his terror and existential dread at the thought of soon dying without getting to accomplish all of the things that he wanted to do. It is one thing to know that one is going to die and accept one’s mortality, but knowing that one’s death might be imminent is another matter altogether. What to do with one’s last few hours? Especially if the actual last few hours might be spent in paralysis with all of one’s mental faculties perfectly intact?
In both this episode and Mary Wept, Detective Watts assists in the investigations. He is his usual philosophical, eccentric self, but seems to have a crush on Miss Cherry. I foresee that driving a bit of a wedge between Watts and the rest of the stationhouse, none of whom harbour much respect or liking for her. At least he proved that she could still be useful!
Over the course of both of these two episodes, Dr. Ogden is dealing with morning sickness and hormonal swings, leading her to frequently deviate out of her normal character. This is much to Murdoch’s chagrin, since he has no idea how to help her and that is really all that he wants to do. However, as she reminds him at the end of this episode, she is not enjoying yo-yoing emotions or morning sickness either. Furthermore, she too has no idea how he could help her. She doesn’t like to admit that she needs it, for a start! She doesn’t want to stop working yet, after all.
While she would be justified in her paranoia because of past encounters on the show, I honestly think that Dr. Ogden is jealous of Violet because Violet’s career is just taking off (if she can get past a lot of misogyny and racism) while Dr. Ogden’s is waning. Even doctors were expected to stay home with their children once they had them. I think it is actually a bit of a stretch that she is still working while married. Perhaps Dr. Ogden will be able to open a home-based practice of some kind, or continue to do research, but now just about everyone will evaluate her maternal skills before they consider her medical career. Murdoch doesn’t really understand this yet, or he has not realised the extent of the sacrifice his wife is making. He thinks that she has come to terms with it already.
Next week looks like a spy caper – so I hope the domestic drama takes a bit of a break!