“Toronto’s Girl Problem” was notable for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it introduced viewers to another member of Inspector Brackenreid’s family. His nephew, Charlie (Charlie Clements, EastEnders), had come to the constabulary as a fresh start after witnessing the death of his partner back in London. It gave a fascinating tease into what sort of bloke Brackenreid is.
But Monday’s latest Murdoch Mysteries episode also brought Dr. Emily Grace’s sexuality out into the open. After allowing Lillian to undo her corset in “The Devil Wears Whalebone,” Emily went one step further at the end of last night’s episode, planting a romantic kiss on Lillian’s lips.
We got the episode’s writer, Michelle Ricci, to sound off on Emily’s sexuality and what it means for the future of Murdoch.
From what I understand, there were some notes from CBC regarding the scene between Lillian and Emily?
Michelle Ricci: I don’t know if it was CBC as much as it was everybody was a little bit nervous. There were discussions that I wasn’t a party to and Pete would come back and say, ‘These are some of the things that I’m hearing, but we’re going to stick to our guns and we’re going to do it.’ He did shoot the ending three ways. He shot it just with Emily walking in, he shot it with just the approach to the kiss, and he shot it with the full-on kiss. I’m glad that he used the full-on and that, ultimately, the network and Shaftesbury decided to trust us. We use kisses and physical contact so rarely on our show that when we do it, it really means something. That’s a part of the time—public displays of affection were not the norm—and it also goes to character. Our characters don’t run around making out all the time. It would feel weird in our world, so when we do do it it really means something.
I just think that, building all season to this moment and the corset being the pivotal moment—had we not gone for it and shown it on-screen—it would have felt like a bit of a cheat. I think it’s really important for Emily to go for it as well.
Do you think Emily realized what she was going to do in this episode, or was it at some other point in this season?
I think she was starting to figure it out in ‘Whalebone’ a little bit. When that corset comes off, you can see there is a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Georgina does such a good job in that scene, you really get the range of emotions that she’s going through in that scene. And it ends on an excited note rather than a nervous one. So coming into this episode, Lillian makes a couple of comments and Emily thinks, ‘OK, maybe this is something.’ But she’s still very hesitant until Brackenreid confronts her to grow up. She’s like, ‘Hold up, I am grown up and I’m going to do whatever I want.’ I think at that moment she decides to follow her heart. And her heart is with Lillian now.
I think it’s important to note that she isn’t falling for a woman. She’s falling for a person. She’s not turning gay on a dime. She isn’t all of a sudden discovering she’s a lesbian. This woman has opened her eyes to a whole world of possibilities. That’s an important distinction to not cheapen the relationships that she had in the past. She absolutely loved Crabtree. She was absolutely hoodwinked by Leslie Garland. This is a different person at a different stage in her life and a different journey for her.
It’s important that you say that. Is this an experiment on Emily’s part? How will this affect her relationship with George?
She really is falling for Lillian and wants to explore a future with her. Whatever form that future takes, she doesn’t know yet. It’s going to be difficult. And even though we have approached sexuality on the show before, we have never approached it from one of our main characters. It’s important that we do this. It’s a timely subject now, then, and forever.
We got a very touching note after the ‘Whalebone’ episode. A 14-year-old girl who, because of that episode, came out to her father. We were absolutely blown away and touched by that. You don’t realize, working in TV, how much power and influence you actually have on people, good and bad.
How do you feel about so much of a fuss being made about this storyline?
It seems like there are a lot of shows that are doing a lesbian storyline. We’re certainly one of the few that are treating it as an issue. We have to do that because of the historical context, but we’ve gotten some comments from people saying that because other shows have a lesbian storyline Murdoch has to do one. I actually think it’s great that we’re going gay, lesbian or transgender storylines in any capacity and not making it a big deal. That means that these people exist and live in our world and the way they live their lives is a valid one and it should be reflected on television. All aspects of life should be on television.
I am a bit sad when people tweet that if this is where we’re going with this character they’ll never watch again, but at the same time that’s kind of their loss. We make a good show and a lot of people work really hard to make a show that’s different, has something to say and tries to portray just how much we haven’t changed as much as how much we have changed.
Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.