[Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched the Season 14 finale, “Everything is Broken, Part 2.”]
Things are mended for others, but the overriding theme of Monday’s Season 14 finale of Murdoch Mysteries lived up to its name. Or perhaps the episode’s alternate title could have been, “Everything is Up in the Air.” Not as catchy, but certainly apt. By the episode’s end, there was closure for some (Henry and Ruth welcomed a daughter, with a little help from Margaret), but that was it. If Season 15 is greenlit, there will be much to wrap up, from Watts and Jack’s relationship to Violet’s actions against Arthur, Bobby’s Brackenreid’s prison escape, and Effie’s kidnapping at the hands of Dorothy AND Amelia.
And, of course, we can’t forget William and Julia, the former who has left for Montreal—Harry in tow—to find Anna, leaving the latter shattered in an empty house.
In our final interview of Season 14, we spoke to showrunner Peter Mitchell about what has happened and what’s to come.
Congratulations! Season 14, despite the pandemic, has been a great mix of comedy and tragedy.
Peter Mitchell: Thanks. Sometimes as the expense of the fans. [Laughs.]
Since you brought it up… when you are writing, do you write with the fans in mind or are you writing to entertain yourselves?
PM: We are aware of certain episodes that are going to get an extra fan reaction, but we certainly don’t censor ourselves because the people who aren’t fans of humour are going to hate this one. We may actually ladle the humour on a little harder! [Laughs.] There is an awareness of what the fans are thinking and if some fan is actually thinking exactly what we were going to do, we change it if we have time. We still write for that four-quadrant group of fans who want the mystery, the ones who want the romance, the ones who want science and the ones who want Victoriana … or Edwardiana now.
You have been very active on Facebook lately leading conversation and playfully prodding the fans. You must love that.
PM: It’s fun and it’s very rewarding for all of the writers to get their work noticed. I have fun with the fans and I think the appreciate knowing we know they’re out there.
You added two new writers to the room this year in Caleigh Bacchus and Christina Ray. They have been great additions. Was it always your intention to add new writers?
PM: Yes, just to mix it up a bit. Caleigh is quite new to the game and brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm and was the story coordinator, so had to handle all of that stuff. She gained confidence and became a voice in the room. Paul [Aitken] and I had a brief experience with Christina Ray a long time ago. We were working on a proposal for an Alien Nation-type show with vampires. We had gotten to know her during that process and I had always wanted the chance to work with her because she is quite good at plot, and plot is something we need in Murdoch. It was difficult because we weren’t in a room, really. For a very short period of time, we were in a physical space and I’m not even sure Caleigh was part of that.
What’s the secret to your writing room success? How are you all able to continue writing compelling storylines?
PM: For the last few years, we’ve ended the season with a bunch of questions. And when you come out of the gate [on a new season] I already have an advantage in that I don’t have to think of anything new, I just have to figure out how to answer these questions that I raised last year. That kind of gets your story brain going. With Murdoch, the stories just come.
At what point did you know Anna Fulford would be part of the season finale?
PM: It was probably late-ish in the season. In the early part of the season, we were really concentrating on the reality of working in the COVID world and trying to tell stories that could be told within it. We really didn’t know how it would look [with social distancing] and then I saw the first few cuts and realized it really didn’t look any different. The closest we came to feeling uneasy was during [“Murdoch Checks In”] because there were more [COVID-19] cases going on and there was the reality of filming in August with a cloth mask on. But once we got through that and knew we were going to be fine, we started to figure out [the season finale].
I always knew, from the minute I saw Sarah Swire appear on the show [as Amelia Ernst] that she was going to be in the finale. She was on Frankie, and she was just f—ing great. I knew that we would have to circle back around on Bobby, and the twisted little relationship between Violet and Arthur we were pretty sure on very early. The Murdoch storyline may have come last. Once we realized we were going to do that, there was no way the physical Anna [Lisa Faulkner] would be in Canada, so we went with the memory of Anna. And, as you can tell, that story is far from resolved.
There are many storylines left to be wrapped up.
PM: And, moving forward, the resolutions will be unexpected.
You joked on Facebook that if George finds a wife and gets married, that will be the end of the show. Do you really feel that way? I want him to be happy.
PM: And, I think at some point he will be. But, you have to keep a certain amount of juice. Brackenreid and Margaret are married and we’re never going to split them up. Murdoch and Ogden are married … what do you do with a married George? What do you do with happy characters? They’re basically the death of a show. Nobody in the most feelgood show, Ted Lasso, was happy. Ted moved to England because he was getting a divorce and he still loved his wife. The woman who hired Ted was still smarting from an affair. No one was happy, but it was still a happy show. We need dilemma. The audience needs dilemma.
As emotional as it was for William to discover there may be a son in his life, Hélène Joy’s performance was incredible. Her facial expressions while watching William and Harry bond was heartbreaking.
PM: It’s funny because a lot of the second part of the season finale is Hélène’s episode. No matter how little screen time she had or the principals she engaged with. She confides in Margaret, which is something she has never done. She has a comedic runner with Ruth through the whole thing, she sees Ruth get something that she has wanted. She is coming to terms that William has another love in his life, which is the son that they were unable to have together. Hélène dialled into that stuff and, as an actress, is aware of overplaying that stuff and doesn’t. She kills in the small moments and I really didn’t have to talk too much to her about it. You have to have guts to portray insecurities and she did a really good job.
Having Effie trapped in a tree was genuinely scary.
PM: Somehow, I got it in my head that I wanted a fairytale ending. Here we have the evil twin sisters and we don’t know or understand either of them. I had this image of Effie stuck in a hollowed-out tree, which felt like a very fairytale type of thing. It wasn’t until very late in the game that I decided there would be two [sisters]. I didn’t want to throw to someone with multiple personalities. And, you could argue that Dorothy is just trying to do right by her sister. I think that Dorothy is the truly evil one. Amelia just wants to marry George because she loves him and Dorothy is trying to facilitate that.
If you are renewed for a 15th season, do you address all of the storylines within the first few episodes?
PM: We address a few of the continuing stories in Episodes 1 and 2, but not all of them. When we do get back to those stories, we will learn that things have progressed. We’ll learn that Jack is married but that Jack and Watts are still seeing each other. I want to have an ongoing murder case in the first episode, which will be Watts’ case because Murdoch is still trying to find answers. Brackenreid will be trying to figure out what happened to Bobby. Crabtree’s line is … well, I’m not even going to tell you. [Laughs.] For mystery fans, there will be a legitimate mystery. And Violet is left in an interesting situation as well.
What did you think of the Season 14 finale? Let me know in the comments below.
Images courtesy of CBC.