If only Canadian history classes were as entertaining as an episode of Murdoch Mysteries. My favourite instalments are the ones that delve into real-life history or introduce actual historical characters into them, so I was positively giddy with “All That Glitters,” which managed to combine Ontario’s silver rush with Aboriginal rights and the Group of Seven.
Inspector Brackenreid’s paintings—done while he was convalescing following the harbourside beating—were given the spotlight when Julia entered one in a Toronto art contest.
“I see a creative vision taking hold. You seem to be capturing the essence of the north woods,” Julia told Brackenreid of his work, which featured abstract trees painted in oranges and yellows. The reason? He’d run out of green. Lori Spring’s energetic script called for the painting to be stolen not because of the canvas but the high-priced frame it was in. That didn’t deter a fresh-faced young man from paying $15 for the work, telling Brackenreid the work inspired him to walk a similar journey with his own art. The budding painter? A lad named Tom Thomson.
When Monday’s story wasn’t teasing with the fictional inspiration that led to the Group of Seven, it was grounded in many references to Ontario’s rail history, from the Don Station (which was located on Queen St. at the Don River), to the Northern Ontario Railway (which became Ontario Northland). The railway adventure for Crabtree and Murdoch began with “Eagle Flight … murder,” muttered from the mouth of a dying man on the steps of the Constabulary. Graham, the victim, had been a surveyor for the Northern Ontario Railway; a hidden compartment in his suitcase revealed a map and sent the coppers to Haileybury, Ont., where a burgeoning silver strike was about to consume the area.
There were plenty of suspects in Graham’s murder, from a railroad magnate upset Graham was planning to have the train trail moved to Mack, a strong-willed prospector who had the hots for Crabtree. The real killer led the story in a dark direction: Migize Pimise (Eagle Flight in English), an Ojibwe man who wanted the silver vein kept secret. His worry was that once the government discovered there was silver on their land, they would be forced to move off the reservation. Unfortunately, it proved to be true both in Spring’s script and the panel that was the final frame of the episode: “In 1903, silver was found near Cobalt, Ontario. The provincial government extinguished the Indian land title.” A sobering fact indeed.
Notes and quotes
- Continuity error! The flask Graham was carrying was much smaller than the one Murdoch and Dr. Grace examined in the morgue
- I wasn’t even a little surprised that Crabtree takes his own pillow when he travels
- “Nature. I’m not sure I care for it.”—George
- Question: Murdoch revealed he’d once been a lumberjack. Has that been talked about before?
Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.