Spoiler alert: Do not continue reading until you have watched the latest episode of Murdoch Mysteries, “Drowning in Money.”
For a few seasons of Murdoch Mysteries, I thought Mary Pedersen had the most twisted mind in the writers’ room. After all, she aimed to make viewers cry in Season 11’s “The Accident.” But Pedersen has some competition in Noelle Girard, who penned Monday’s latest. The morbid tale of a daughter who poisoned her parents to protect her sibling from mistreatment was downright dark. And, at first glance, seemed in part to be inspired by the real-life deaths of Toronto couple Barry and Honey Sherman.
I spoke to Girard to get the scoop on her storyline.
Watching this episode, I wondered if it was inspired by the recent case of Barry and Honey Sherman. Was your episode ripped from the headlines?
Noelle Girard: That definitely did come up in our many talks about this episode, but it really wasn’t the genesis of it.
What was the genesis of it?
NG: I was reading about Consuelo Vanderbilt, who was the daughter of the Vanderbilt family. This family had immense wealth but her mother, Alva, really craved social standing and a title. It was kind of what money couldn’t buy. She raised her daughter, Consuelo, to marry a duke. I was reading that she was kept locked in her room, would bring in all of these tutors for her and would make her wear this brace to give her perfect posture. She was trying to engineer the perfect woman to marry a duke. Consuelo did marry a duke when she was 18 and she was miserable.
I came to the room saying, ‘I just read about this really interesting woman.’ We were talking about Consuelo and Peter [Mitchell] let me run with some macabre ideas. ‘What if there was a young woman who was being bred to be the perfect woman and she got her revenge on her parents?’ That’s kind of how it started. The Shermans did come up, but it was really centred on the daughter. As we were fleshing out the story, we wondered if the daughter would make the parents’ murder look like a suicide.
I feel like you and Mary Pedersen are competing for twisted ideas. It takes a lot of research to learn scorpion venom is the most expensive poison.
NG: [Laughs.] I just happened to read that scorpion venom is classified as the most expensive liquid in the world. Again, it was me coming into the room and saying, ‘Hey, what if she used scorpion venom? She would use the most expensive thing to kill her parents.’ Pete was like, ‘Great, do it!’
Diana Seymour saying nothing but the best for her parents when referring to the poison was chilling. The actress who played her, Erica Anderson, did a wonderful job.
NG: The actors were great. Joanna, our costume designer, was so great. She really tried to work with one colour palette. We talked about the perfect lady and what they would wear. It was kind of Picnic at Hanging Rock-ish with a lot of whites and making them look virginal and innocent when, really, they were murderers.
I love finding out those little bit of information regarding wardrobe or set pieces.
NG: Everyone who works on the show is at the top of their game and are great people. As soon as they get the script, everyone runs with it and makes it much better than what I envision.
This episode featured another Newsome in Effie. We did meet her in the wedding episode; this time she had a more meaty role when she represented a cousin who was trying to sue George’s garage.
NG: In the wedding episode we wanted to show that Crabtree is still smarting from Nina leaving for Paris. He doesn’t want to date anyone. We had him with a few women at the wedding but we just loved Clare McConnell. We just thought, ‘What if we bring her back and they still have this antagonistic relationship but there is a glimmer of Crabtree being interested in her and she in him?’ We just had fun with that.
You had a lot of characters to juggle in this episode.
NG: I kind of got carried away. I handed in the first draft to Pete and said, ‘I know I just wrote a million characters in a million different locations. I understand if they get winnowed down.’ But he just let me have all my characters.
The final scene, where Persephone was being taken away and Diana was behind bars, was tragic and very emotional.
NG: When we talked about ways to take the story we thought about not having the girls be on each other’s side and how that story would look. But I really liked the idea of the two sisters looking out for each other. Obviously committing murder is terrible but they’re trying to look out for each other.
Next Monday, Nov. 19, Murdoch Mysteries is pre-empted due to the Scotiabank Giller Prize awards.
Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.
Images courtesy of CBC.