Murdoch Mysteries’ showrunner explains heartbreaking episode

**SPOILER ALERT: This story contains key plot points about Monday’s newest episode of Murdoch Mysteries, “Wild Child.”**

And just like that, William and Julia no longer have a child. Monday’s latest episode was a heartbreaker for fans who loved seeing the series’ lead characters as parents. By the conclusion of “Wild Child,” Freddie Pink had learned the Braxton’s weren’t Roland’s parents after all. Turns out his real father was Harold Connor, a carpenter. By episode’s end William and Julia had done the right—if painful—thing by presenting Harold with the son he never knew he had.

Fans who’d grown attached to the little sprite—me included—were quick to take to social media, asking why Roland was brought onto the show, only to be taken away weeks later.

We contacted Peter Mitchell, Murdoch Mysteries‘ showrunner, to explain the situation. Here’s his answer:

“Hard question to answer. I guess that it was just a chapter in the ongoing story of ‘William and Julia.’ There are many more chapters to play out and we don’t really know where it is going to end.

We thought it would be interesting to see another side of both Murdoch and Ogden, and giving them a child was a way to examine their paternal instincts and give us opportunity to play them as both husband and wife and mother and father. I think we were also aware that as this show is a procedural-based drama as opposed to a domestic drama and that the situation could not last. We wanted to keep the baby around long enough that the decision to return him to his father was of consequence (as well as allowing for some humour—William becomes a dad and immediately takes up golf). It was also important that this decision to give up the child was not thrust upon them. Instead, the appearance of the natural father was a result of one of our characters doing “the right thing.” In doing so the surrendering of Roland illuminated the strong character of both our leads.


Pragmatically, we wanted this to play out over part of the season as opposed to dropping a baby on them in the finale. Much like with their wedding, we didn’t want what, on the surface, is usually considered the “big event” of a TV season to be our “big event.” I think this forces us to work harder to come up with engaging stories. On a practical level, it leaves open the possibility that ANYTHING could happen in the last four episodes if THEY have already done that to US.

It is also true that one of the reasons for the success of Murdoch is that the engine under the surface of the engaging characters, amusing lines and nice hats always has to be driving forward. Murdoch is one of those shows that gives me little leeway in the editing room. The scenes feed into each other in a way a multi character ensemble drama doesn’t. The narrative drive can occasionally be interrupted by domestic moments but the show would not ‘click’ if we have too many of them. As Paul Aitken, one of our writers, constantly reminds all of us when we are coming up with stories, ‘where’s the mystery?’ is the one question we always have to address. In the Roland arc the mystery was there from the beginning—who is this kid? Many of the fans doubted the people who were purported to be his parents actually were and in the end, the mystery of where he came from was ultimately solved. For some, the result was heartbreaking. For others, Murdoch and Ogden once again demonstrated why they are heroes.

But the kid(s) who played Roland were cute as a button. And much like real life the biggest fight we had in the room was not how long to keep the kid around but what the heck we should name him.

Some are still divided on it….”

—Peter Mitchell


What do you think, Murdoch fans? Sound off below in the Comments section.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.


13 thoughts on “Murdoch Mysteries’ showrunner explains heartbreaking episode”

  1. I don’t agree with Peter Mitchell that “the mystery of where [Roland]came from was ultimately solved.” Detective Freddie Pink’s research was fuzzy on details that just did not add up. Example: there was an official record of the mother going into labour and a midwife attending, so how could the record also say, without raising eyebrows, that no baby was born? The record said that the mother went into labour “before her time”, but it must have been close to full term because Roland was a fully developed, healthy, energetic baby at nine months. (Julia made a point of saying he was physically “perfect”.) Maybe the midwife, Joanne Braxton, pretended that the mother went into labour before the baby was developed and so it was a miscarriage, not a birth? Okay, the birth took place on an “out-of-town” homestead, but it wasn’t all that isolated because a midwife was summoned from Brantford. Wouldn’t there be at least one person (a sister, mother, neighbour, friend, her husband) who knew the mother and would know how far along she was? Even if a baby is stillborn, it would have to be recorded as such and buried in a legal manner. With so many details not known, could it be that the mother did not have a complicated pregnancy after all, but Joanne Braxton, as midwife, murdered her in order to steal her baby? Murdoch should order the mother’s body exhumed. If the midwife’s report was correct, an autopsy would find the body of an unborn foetus in the mother’s womb. That would confirm that Roland was not Harold Conner’s child. An autopsy could also determine if a live birth took place, but not that the baby was Roland. The Braxtons were professional thieves and could have stolen baby Roland from any one of many couples, or from a hospital, orphanage, or even just bought him from a poor mother.

  2. I like that W&J had a trial parenthood to see the challenges in working and raising children. Who will be raising THEIR child, when a future miracle of medicine allows it? Or have surrogates already been invented? — best TV on the planet

  3. I think the Murdoch’s should have a child or children. Brackenreid has kids and they show up from time to time and have been the subjects of several major story lines. That being said, Roland was starting to insinuate himself into the episodes a little too much, although the Lord knows those twins are adorable enough to have their own show. Perhaps the detective and the doctor will happen upon two or three older siblings who we know have been truly orphaned and adopt them. Older children could be more easily left out of episodes.
    I know the show will not go on forever, but like all good stories, the characters are frozen in time. I have written a few of my own about W&J and their future lives together. There are endless possibilities.
    This look at William and Julia as parents was charming and heartbreaking, and it made them seem so much more likable and believable as a couple.

  4. Yes, I was also thinking it would make the characters of William and Julia more multi-faceted and show parts of their personalities we haven’t encountered yet if they had one or two children, just like in the “seeing the future” time machine episode, where they had a son. They could certainly adopt a young (or older) child. It would also add more possibilities regarding the plots of future episodes, and where their lives take them.

  5. I’m sorry, that was the hardest show to watch. Julia wants children. There should be a way for her to have one or several without ripping my heart out to do it. I like the comment about the other baby could have been stillborn and why didn’t someone else attend the birth. Why would a loving husband leave his wife at a time like that anyway?.

  6. As a person who can’t have children and can’t adopt due to health issues it was nice to see W&J get to have a child. It was heartbreaking to watch. I agree that not having a friend with the pregnant woman was strange. The husband had to leave for work which still happens today but did much more back then. I truly believe that they should have children please.

  7. Please, please, let William and Julia to have the child of their own. If they have fallen in love with an orphan, what
    do you think will happen if Julia conceives William’s baby? And the clock is ticking for Julia, pretty soon she will not be able to give a birth, so please let them start a family. They both deserve it, they’ve already proved they are wonderful parents!
    As for Roland – anyone thought about following up about his well being? Perhaps his biological father will become overwhelmed with the task of raising an infant by himself. From the storyline it is indicated, that he lives by himself. When he goes to work who will take care of the baby? Will Julia and William going to be allowed to check on him occasionally? I hope that little Roland will not end up in the orphanage after all…

  8. Maria, when did you start watching the show? Julia cannot have children, due to a past and painful abortion.

    My only solution, wpold be for the Murdoch’s to have a Surrogate; but, that was the early 1900. No Surrogate then?
    I believe before the Season Finale, they will have a child. We now know that they are open to Adoption; so anything now is possible and acceptable with Julia and William.

    God Bless.

    1. Joanne,
      Thank you so much for clarification. I watched all the seasons (not in order though) and most certainly I missed that information.
      One episode however sunk in my memory and made me think, that it is possible for them to have a child. This was when detective Murdoch went to the so called “Future showing” show and got somewhat hypnotized inside the machine that looked like a box (season 4 or 5). In this episode he
      would foresee his future (10 to 12 years from the present time) with Julia and (must be) their son…
      This story made me think, that it is possible for them to have a son, maybe even adopted one. But it really doesn’t look like anymore. How sad…

      1. But William Murdoch Jr. in that episode told Murdoch he’d meet his son when he was born– which does precude William being an adoptive parent present at the child’s birth but the biolgical mother’s disappearance. Murder Mysteries, especially British ones such as “Foyle’s War” and “The Bletchley Circle” feature fathers. Did anyone notice Murdoch’s mustache in the “flash forwards”. I think that the mustache he had become an inspector. Also, a show progressive enough to handle turn of the century homosexuality, prostitution, a suffragette movement and iwomen entering the work world can handle Julia as a working mother. Both Enid and Edith dealt with it. Yes, the show shouldn’t focus on the Murdoch’s domestic life, but a few glimpses of parenthood wouldn’t be inappropiate Also, not every abortion resulted in sterility even then. It’s be cute if the two nerds who know everything about everything were clueless about the symptoms of pregancy. Also. watch this clip of the Great Fire of 1904 at Everyone is bicycling with a Murdoch hat–

      2. Put the pictured of himself with Julia and did happen–it wasn’t a hypnotic delusion. MM’s writers love to foreshadow. Something trivial in an episode from a previous season becomes a plot point several seasons later. I am not backing off the Murdoch’s biological son who actually aids his parents with his observations. Why not bring Jasper and Ruby back as god parents. The Thin Man series which relied like MM on the interaction of the couple as well as on solving mysteries eventually introduced a child, Nick, Jr., who did not interfere with the premise of the movies.

  9. I was hoping the youngster would be an excuse to include Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade since it began in 1905 and involved Toronto and Montreal.

    It was always a real treat to watch that event on tv here in the states when I was growing up along with Macy’s, Gimbal’s, and the rest.

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