Spoiler alert: This is not a bad review.
The first time I sat down to Murdoch Mysteries: Season 2, I selected three episodes to view. The first one, which is also the first episode in the set, left me cold—a murder in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with a cast of stereotypical characters. “Mild Mild West” seemed obvious and a little foolish.
William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) is a genius detective with a keen mind for forensic techniques. He is engaged in an on-and-off romance with Julia Ogden (Helene Joy), a pathologist. The action takes place in Victorian-era Toronto, and the concept seemed a bit too precious.
Murdoch’s mannerisms and expressions hearken back to Twin Peaks’ Dale Cooper, and Cooper’s spirit haunts the dialogue. The situations dramatized foreshadow future events, and “new” inventions (e.g., movie projectors and x-rays) feature heavily. Storylines include nods to current films and news; Murdoch also engages in a little bit of invention with such futuristic items as night-vision goggles.
The second episode I chose, “Dinosaur Fever,” was the story of a murdered paleontology field worker. Again I was disappointed. These episodes were not bad; they were clever (although predictable), but I favor grittier imports. While I did not enjoy them as much as I expected, husband Chip enjoyed them quite a bit. I was more impressed with period details and costumes.
“Shades of Gray” was my third choice. With little humor, it tells a tale of abortionists and moral dilemmas. Well written and complex, “Shades of Gray” drew me into the world of Murdoch Mysteries. Not a fan of romantic entanglements and personal details, I prefer shows that focus on the professional lives of their detectives; however this episode got me hooked on Murdoch and Ogden’s relationship.
“I, Murdoch” introduces the viewer to Mrs. Enid Jones (Sarah Allen), a new romantic interest for Murdoch (boo! hiss!). The audience is surely hoping for an Ogden-Murdoch reunion, and this development makes it hard to care about giant, rampaging robots and prissy Prussians.
In “Convalescence,” Murdoch has been injured; convalescing at home, he is the subject of the attentions of too many women—his landlady, her best friend, Mrs. Jones, and Dr. Ogden. In fevered dreams, his emotional turmoil is exposed. This episode also featured an escaped prisoner and a murdered restaurateur. Who cares? It’s Mrs. Jones who has us worried.
Thank heavens for “Werewolves,” in which Mrs. Jones delivers an ultimatum and Murdoch makes a choice. Oh, yes, there are a bunch of dead hunters who appear to be victims of a wolfman. Much more exciting are the machinations of Murdoch’s imagination. In an episode ripe for inanity, “Werewolves” proves to be one of the more serious, socially conscious entries (as serious as it can be and still deal with lycanthropy).
The final episode of season two, “Anything You Can Do” pits Murdoch against an equally brainy Mountie in a battle of egos. Since it’s the last episode of the season one hopes for a satisfying romantic conclusion, but expects a cliffhanger. If you’d like to know which is supplied, you will have to get your hands on Murdoch Mysteries: Season 2.
Jack the Ripper, a newfound brother, Harry Houdini, an undependable dad, and multiple personalities all add to the plot twists and turns throughout the series. No, Murdoch Mysteries is not gritty, nor realistic. Instead, it’s an amusing diversion, mixing murder and romance.
The enjoyable supporting cast, Thomas Craig (Inspector Brackenreid), Jonny Harris (Constable George Crabtree), and Lachlan Murdoch (Constable Higgins), adds dimension to the series, as their characters are nicely defined. Murdoch Mysteries is based on the Detective Murdoch Novels by Maureen Jennings.
Special features: “Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery,” “Character Biographies,” “Cast Filmographies,” “The Detective Murdoch Novels,” and “The Props of Murdoch Mysteries” (a .pdf booklet). There are four DVDs comprising 13 episodes in this boxed set.
Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent Murdoch Mysteries: Series 2? Yes, I believe I would.