Murdoch Mysteries: A Penny Dreadful Review
One cannot devote one’s time exclusively to any one pursuit without experiencing a sort of burnout. Therefore, when I tire of investigating Steampunk literature, I tune in to serialized moving pictures. I particularly like shows about cute animals and mysteries. This is not a review of a cute animal show. Sorry. This is a review of Murdoch Mysteries, a whodunit centered on a detective in Toronto, Canada at the cusp of the 1900s.
William Murdoch is a traditional man in many ways. He is a devout Catholic and he is always a well-groomed, polite gentleman. On the other hand, beneath his unruffled mask of propriety beats the heart of a Lothario. His love affairs have been steamy and many, including an anarchist, a lady doctor, and a married woman.
Detective Murdoch is a tinkerer, an inventor, and a modern thinker in his detective work. The writers of the television show would have one believe that he’s invented everything from bicycle gears to a lie detector. While all these inventions were being developed at or around the time in which the action takes place, they were not developed by a fictional character. It seems, at times, that Detective Murdoch’s inventions are just a little too convenient.
This show is a delightful homage to history, with such notables as Emma Goldman, Nikola Tesla, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle appearing in the mystery stories. It is surprisingly educational, incorporating facts about history whenever possible. Did you know pizza was becoming popular at this time? Did you know Arthur Conan Doyle wanted to speak with the dead? Did you know that electric motorcars had already been invented?
Many of the issues that worry and divide the world today also worried and divided Detective Murdoch’s world – contraception, politics, sexual freedoms. The show touches on these all, and not always in a successful way. Sometimes the writing seems clunky, as if the issue was shoehorned in because it ought to be talked about. At other times, the integration of the issue is seamless. All in all, most of the episodes are decently written, and the mysteries are engrossing. That’s all one needs in a mystery show – a gripping whodunit.
I give Murdoch Mysteries three and a half gears out of five. It’s a fun way to learn about some history, and it’s a fun way to watch a detective show and a costume drama at the same time.
Your Correspondent from the Moving Pictures,
Penny J. Merriweather