Murdoch Mysteries: Paul Aitken talks “Annabella Cinderella”

Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched the latest episode of Murdoch Mysteries, “Annabella Cinderella.”

Well, that as quite the road trip for Constables John Brackenreid, George Crabtree and Detective Watts, wasn’t it? I always get a kick out of road trip episodes and this one was a lot of fun, even with an accused axe murderer at the centre of the story. With Inspector Brackenreid gone from our lives for now and Julia and William back on Toronto planning to write a police handbook containing the latest forensic sciences available, it was up to the trio to collar Annabella and investigate the truth behind her case.

We caught up with the episode’s writer, executive producer Paul Aitken, for details.

It’s been a great season so far.
Paul Aitken: Yeah, I think it’s been good. I’m curious to see how it all turns out. I know how the stories turn out, but I haven’t seen it in frame.

Oh really? Is that common?
PA: It’s common for me because once we get past a certain point in the story, I like to just see it in its whole.

We’ve seen a little dip into Watt’s past, and certainly a lot more into Brackenreid’s past. As somebody that’s been with the show from the very beginning, what’s it like to dip into these back stories and find out a little bit more about these characters as we’ve been going along this season?
PA: Oh I think it’s a really useful well to dip into because you can get story ideas out of the past that you can’t if you just are going forward. There’s something you can use that’s interesting, and you can build a story around it, and it also deepens the character. I think it’s fun for the audience because they get to see and come to understand the characters in a way that they wouldn’t have in the past, and it’s also just a really useful story tool.

The story getting a peek into Watts’s history was fantastic, emotional. Daniel Maslany did a wonderful job.
PA: I thought so too. I thought that worked really well. We didn’t know Watts very well, and I think he was a bit of a mystery, and I think this grounded him. It picked up on story elements we introduced in earlier episodes. But I think it’s true with any character, if you can pull something out of the past, it’s fun to watch and it’s fun to write.

Let’s get into tonight’s episode. I immediately thought of Lizzie Borden. Was that an inspiration at all? 
PA: No, actually, it wasn’t, not at all. We came to the idea of the axe because we wanted her to be dangerous. It’s more fun if your quarry is someone who could kill you. And it also made her dangerous. You want to buy that this character could be nice and flirting with John, but at the same point would drive an axe into his back if necessary. And I think the mother aspect of it, because Lizzie killed her parents, that was a plot that seemed to work best. So first came mother, then came the axe. And Lizzie Borden wasn’t just an afterthought. We did think of referencing it, but I’d already referenced Lizzie Borden in an earlier episode in Season 3. We’ve had several women wielding axes on the show, and we can’t reference Lizzie Borden every time. But yeah, there are a lot of parallels. She killed her mother, there was someone coming into the house at the time, someone running out of the house. I can’t remember exactly what happened with Lizzie Borden, but yes. Obviously, I can see why you would think that.

It’s been nice to see Charles Vandervaart get more screen time, and clearly, you were able to touch a little bit into the fame that goes behind supposed serial killers or just killers at large, this fascination that he had with her was pretty great.
PA: I thought so, too. We’ve been trying to make this an episode for a while. And I always pictured it as the person that they are escorting to justice, and then they escape. I always thought of that person as a man. It’s kind of like, what’s that movie with Jack Nicholson back in the early 70s? He was escorting a sailor to be incarcerated. [Editor’s Note: The Last Detail.] I always wanted to make an episode like that, and so that was how it started out and then we realized that it was actually a lot more interesting if the protagonist was a female that John Brackenreid had a crush, and we could play that flirty angle. So that’s how that came about.

I did want to ask about William and Julia. There are a lot of fans out there that always want to see the two of them front and centre every episode, and in this one, they certainly weren’t. They weren’t a major part of the story, although they did have their own fun kind of storyline. Is it nice to have them in the background and not be having them do the heavy lifting? 
PA: As regards to heavy lifting, I think it’s always good if you can give your main actors a bit of a break, because so much is demanded of them, just on a humanitarian crowd I think it’s a good idea. And in terms of the story, in terms of what the audience wants, yeah, they want to see the main guys, but it’s also kind of fun and challenging for an audience to not be able to see the main guys in the main role all the time, to see someone else step up. I think it’s kind of fun to be able to do that. And I know that the audience, I think, will sort of just go along with it. Murdoch will be back next episode, there’s no danger about it, and I think it’s unusual to have Murdoch not be involved in any way in the actual mystery except at the very beginning and the very end.

Will their storyline continue? The publishing storyline? Or is that kind of a one-off?
PA: We’ll see where it goes.

What can you say about Margaret and Thomas going forward as we get closer to the end of this season?
PA: I think, obviously that will be when the season goes along, but it’s a season long story. And I think it’s a really good story. I think it resolves, or doesn’t resolve, I think, where it goes, how it goes is actually really interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing it myself.

What did you think of this episode? Are you excited to see where Julia and William’s writing careers go? Let me know in the comments below.

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

Images courtesy of CBC.

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23 thoughts on “Murdoch Mysteries: Paul Aitken talks “Annabella Cinderella””

  1. As we all know, Murdoch has inventions that we recognize, yet he names it a bit different. Tonight he and Julia were discussing the title of the Police manual, was Murdoch’s suggestion close to an actual title of a detective’s investigative techniques manual? The “Puzzles and Poisons of a Diagnosis for Murder” didn’t score a Google hit for me? Love the show!

  2. I like the idea of this story lone that takes us into a whole new change for the good including Julia and Murdock getting to write the rights f investigating which makes my mind go pic in a tangent taking Murdock Mysteries into a new era maybe. Awesome

  3. More of the same disappointment for me unfortunately. It is becoming very clear that the so-called Murdoch and Ogden power couple is taking a back seat to the new super detectives Watts (and more Watts), Crabtree and John Brakenreid. Shows like that are a dime a dozen. Murdoch Mysteries, when it was indeed that, was very special and different. If this is the turn the show is taking, then Season 12 should be the end of the line for the series, chalking it up to “it had a good run”. At least it won’t end on a high note so not much regrets there. Murdoch and Ogden writing a book and bickering along the way this is what we are in for. Not my idea of fascinating viewing. What the h…. has Julia’s character become at the hand of the writers and showrunners. She is now a rather bland character. What a pity. BUT if the majority of viewers “loves” it, that’s what counts for them. I just can’t see this trend holding interest much longer no matter how pleased the writers seem to be with themselves based on the interview. I never disliked the Watts character until now but I know I will never be a fan (of him, of his past or his future!) nor of John Brackenried. This is turning into the Watts Mysteries. Again, it is impossible to please everybody. I just did not sign up for this twist when I started watching the series, so for me so far, except for one or two episodes, season 12 is a bust, compared to far more interesting prior seasons up to 11. Are policy shows so much different in Canada? I don’t remember Colombo or MacMillan and Wife putting the focus on secondary characters in any season. I believe I’ve said it all. That’s my obituary. I won’t comment anymore.

    1. Wow! That was a mouthful. With the exception of Henry there isnt a character in the series I don’t love. I enjoyed the episode and have to disagree it distracted from WIlliam and Julia. Did you read the part where he says William will be back front and center next week? Maybe I watch for a different reason. I enjoy watching the characters grow and get to know them better.

  4. I agree that was the worst Murdoch episode I have ever seen. Boring I could almost not watch it until the end. John is okay but he’s not anywhere close to his father Thomas. Miss him oh bloody hell. And Watts is no William Murdoch. A good actor but plays it too smart Has all the answers Ah! No mystery to solve

    1. One of the traditionalists who won’t accept change and progress! Shows die off because they become boring and don’t adapt! I think Murdoch mysteries is doing an incredible job of keeping the story lines relevant! Kudos!

    2. I don’t know why Murdoch can admit in this episode that he’s solved every case he’s ever worked on, but Watts is the one who “has all the answers”.

  5. I thought this was a very creative episode especially the background stories that are coming to life. It will be interesting to see how the book storyline plays out

  6. In next week’s preview, did I see Watts crouching down in the bushes? The preview went by too fast for me to see.

  7. havent seen this weeks ep yet but have to agree with above letter bring the main characters back .they are what endeared us all to this wonderful series in the fist place

  8. The young lady who portrayed Annabella was like a beam of light…..really was into the character…….need to see her back again with the attraction to the young constable as a theam for another episode……kudos !

    1. How about a love interest. Looks like she could come back. Annabella has that mischievous look about her that could go further in a reappearance

  9. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a really hard time watching the actor that plays John Brackenreid. I just don’t find him to be a particularly actor. I used to feel similarly about Lachlan Murdoch, the actor who plays Higgins, but he grew on me over time and I stopped noticing some of the overacting (until his whole marriage subplot, but I chalk that over-accentuating manner of speaking that up to a choice, perhaps). I want to like John Brackenreid, but it’s hard when any character personality seems to be overshadowed by flat acting. Just one person’s opinion, though.

    I’m not one of the negative naysayers about the series, but I do agree with the sentiment that it would be nice to see a few more “traditional” episodes. At times it almost seems like Murdoch and Dr. Ogden have almost become parodies of themselves (like Joey in later seasons of Friends). Episodes like “Drowning in Money” were positive examples of what the show has been and still can be. Even as “Brother’s Keeper” delves into a secondary character’s past, I still felt like the rest of the characters stayed true to form. The whole Higgins wedding plot-line was rough to watch (although now I see it maybe as a device to reduce Higgin’s role and increase John Brackenreid’s), and has the Murdoch-Dr. Ogden settling into suburbia, etc. On the whole, it just feels like many of the episodes have much lower stakes now. Hell, even this episode lacked any real suspense, despite an axe-weilding murderess on the loose. I kind of miss the excitement of “Anything You Can Do…” or the multi-episode (and season) arcs of Constance Gardiner and James Gillies.

    On a less critical note, I thought for sure the title of their handbook was going to be “The Artful Detective”–a reference to the (now former) title of the show in the US.

    1. The negative naysayers, as you call people like me, are just expressing a like or rather a dislike, nothing more. I like to watch reruns of certain episodes from previous seasons and I can assure you they are far more interesting and fascinating (to me at least) than what we have seen lately, real interaction among all the main characters. Actors chosen specifically to make the show the success it has been so far. If there are enough viewers interested in the new direction of the show than it will go on while others will just stop watching. Again, just expressing an opinion. We, the viewers, are just that with no say on how the show unfolds.

  10. I love the show. References to old Toronto, Murdoch’s inventions, and Crabtree’s titles are fun. Seeing other characters take the lead is like taking a break; you need to develop those people too. I also find John B a little flat. What I really want is for William and Julia to have a child. Thanks for a great watch.

  11. I like this episode, it’s good for a variety of plot! It’s funny how Detective Wats, John and George work together. I did not like the character of Annabella and I do not see the perspectives of this character in the show. But this is my opinion.
    An interesting storyline like Julia and William began writing a book. In this episode, they are not involved in the investigation, but are shown as professionals with extensive experience of successful work. I hope that our our favorite couple will not “rest” for too long and in the next episodes we will see their joint work and certainly romance in their relationship !

    1. I completely disagree – Annabella stole the show! I was disappointed whenever the plot turned back to Julia and William. I found it rather boring and tedious. The chemistry between Annabella and John was fun to watch. I hope they bring her back from Berlin soon.

  12. Just had a chance to see this episode – Wow!! John and Annabella – sparks!!!! Look forward to see the chemistry continue for these two characters.

  13. I am addicted to this lovely show. Even though Julia & Murdoch are losing their edge (especially Julia) the series is still one of the best mixtures of mystery, characters, imagination & humor available today. When will the next episode air in the U.S. ?

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