Murdoch Mysteries: Simon McNabb discusses “The Spy Who Loved Murdoch” and why Margaret wasn’t at Higgins’ wedding

Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched the newest episode of Murdoch Mysteries, “The Spy Who Loved Murdoch.” 

I saw several Facebook posts from fans who were concerned by sneak peek images showing William in the arms of another woman. Those concerns were, obviously, all for naught. Murdoch is devoted to Julia and only a matter of NATIONAL SECURITY would cause him to go near a woman other than his wife. I thoroughly enjoyed the instalment, which was packed with intrigue, suspense and offbeat humour.

I spoke to the episode’s writer, Simon McNabb, about all the goings-on, including what was up with the ferret and why Margaret wasn’t at Higgins and Ruth’s wedding.

I know there are darker episodes coming, but I feel like the tone of Season 12 has been great. There has been some lightness to it with storylines and costuming. I think it’s been all-round really good so far.
Simon McNabb: Thanks, I agree. I think we really wanted to start things off with a lot of fun, positivity and energy after what was quite a dark ending to last season. But, as Peter has alluded to a couple of times on social media, there are certainly going to be some heart-wrenching episodes and we’re going to get into some dark places as we go through the season.

How did the A-story for Monday’s episode come about, with Terrence Meyers?
SM: We had wanted to do an episode with a French guest star for a little while because we’d heard the show had gotten quite strong ratings in France and really had a following. We’re always looking for opportunities to bring in interesting guest stars and we thought, ‘Well, there was something interesting happening politically in the world.’ [Countries] were just starting to make the alliances that were going to end up leading to World War I a number of years later. We thought there might be an opportunity there between Terrence Meyers and, with someone from France, we could create a scenario that could plausibly take place in Toronto that could have some implications for the beginning of World War I about eight years later.

How did the casting of Louise Monot happen? Had you heard of her?
SM: I hadn’t, but I think some of the people working on the show had. Particularly with the international casting it’s an interesting process. It happens every year with our UK broadcaster. I know that involves conversations with the UK broadcasting partner; they give us a list of people they’d love to see on the show each year. I think it was a similar process here. I believe there was a list of people who were suggested would be suitable for this character who were going to have the kind of profile in France that would be appealing and have the talent to pull off the role.

It worked. There was great chemistry between Régine Rivière and Murdoch.
SM: That’s great to hear. From what I saw I agree and that was the fun of it. A great deal of credit goes to Louise Monot but also Yannick who really sort of relished getting to put on the fake persona of the beard, moustache and all of it.

And he got to use his French as well!
SM: That was another thing we always have in the back of our minds. It’s always nice to let Yannick use French. As we were coming up with the story one of the first balls we put in the air as a writing room was, ‘If this is the situation and we’re talking about international things and France is involved, and the Triple Entente, Yannick is going to have to impersonate a Frenchman. That’s going to be part of the story.’ In a way, it’s looking for that opportunity and knowing that he can do it really well as an actor and a character that sort of guided us.

Simon, there was a ferret on a leash. Where did that come from?!
SM: [Laughs.] There was a moment during the season when Peter Mitchell walked into the writer’s room and I, slightly with my tongue in my cheek, said, ‘Pete, I need a ferret.’ Where it came from was we had this big set piece that we had been working on story-wise and there was a lot of stuff that needed to happen. And we needed to introduce this character of a Russian diplomat who needed to be a real live wire and an unpredictable sort. There were a lot of things that had to happen, and it actually spanned a commercial break in a way. I hope the scene that occurs to people is the great Rahad Jackson scene in the film Boogie Nights. A young man is wandering around in the background, with no explanation, lighting off firecrackers. It adds an insane tension to everything that is going on in what would already be a tense scene. I thought it would be a fun thing to add to the mix. It was abstract but oddly fits the tone of the character we were going for.

Fans were wondering why Margaret wasn’t at Higgins and Ruth’s wedding. Can you answer that?
SM: I noticed that some of the fans were asking that question and I was going to answer but many of the fans provided the answer that was actually scripted and cut for time. Tom Brackenreid explains at some point in the script that she was rather insulted by the fact that she was not asked to plan and organize the wedding. As a result, she staged a silent protest by staying home. It was a nice moment but it came at a point in the story where we needed to lose a little time because the episode was running long. It’s a shame. The decision was made not to bring in Margaret’s character because it would have made the story a little too busy. We had a lot of guest characters to service. It was a bit of a disappointment when we made that choice, but it had to be done. For the fans of that character and those who follow along so closely, it probably should have been addressed.

What did you think of the episode? Let me know in the comments below!

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

Images courtesy of CBC.

Greg David
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Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and owner of TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from hundreds of television series from Canada, the U.S. and internationally. He is a podcaster, public speaker, weekly radio guest and educator, and past member of the Television Critics Association.
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