It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The cooler weather, leaves changing colour and Halloween candy already on store shelves also marks the return of Murdoch Mysteries for an unprecedented Season 15 of 24 episodes.
Kicking off on Monday night, here’s the official synopsis from CBC for “The Things We Do For Love, Part 1,” written by showrunner/executive producer Peter Mitchell and directed by TW Peacocke:
With their lives in danger, Murdoch searches for Anna Fulford and her son in Montreal.
And, as always here are a few more tidbits from me after watching a screener. Please note that, due to Federal Election coverage on September 20, Murdoch Mysteries will be pre-empted and returns on Monday, September 27.
Murdoch is on the road In the Season 14 finale, William was off to Montreal in search of Harry and Anna. When we catch up with him on Monday night, he has just arrived in La Belle Province and hot on their trail. Murdoch himself is being followed by a few people, one of which fans will recognize. As for William, he finds a Montreal police officer who is all too happy to help in his plight, and shares a few traits with Crabtree.
Watts is on a new case A fire burning in a Toronto yard leads Watts to the case of a young woman whose death is blamed on her husband by her parents. This storyline is another opportunity for Murdoch Mysteries to explore more diverse characters, always a good thing.
How’s George doing? Not well, thanks to the Ernst sisters, who are holding him captive. Kudos to Sarah Swire for playing Dorothy and Amelia so well. As for the fate of Effie, who we last saw trapped in a hollowed-out tree….? There’s a flashback to just how Effie was kidnapped that is particularly giggle-worthy.
Miss Hart makes a play Violet Hard has been on an incredible journey since she entered the world of Murdoch Mysteries. Her marriage to Carmichael has brought out a side of her that’s only been hinted at; it evolves even more on Monday night.
A nod to Canadian sports history Amid the ongoing Bobby Brackenreid storyline is a cool little note about Canadian history that had me heading to Google ,and confirming what year we’re in.
[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.
[Spoiler alert: Do not continue reading until you have watched “The .38 Murdoch Special.]
Named on of Playback magazine’s 10 to Watch in 2020, Caleigh Bacchus is a new member to the Murdoch Mysteries‘ writer’s room. She, along with Simon McNabb, penned Monday’s instalment, which investigated murder, racism and more.
We spoke to Caleigh Bacchus via email about the key storylines and what fans can expect as Season 14 closes out.
Welcome to the Murdoch Mysteries team! You’re a former track and field athlete. How did you end up working in Canadian television? Caleigh Bacchus: I’d always been interested in storytelling, but it took me a while to figure out the best medium to do so. It wasn’t until I moved to Toronto that I saw film crews all around the city and I considered screenwriting. So I decided to go back to school for film and it was the best decision that I ever made.
And how did you end up in the Murdoch Mysteries writing room? CB: I interviewed for MM in 2019, but I didn’t get the job that year. They remembered me the next year (2020) and offered me the script coordinator position.
You previously worked on Diggstown with Floyd Kane. What did you learn from him – about storytelling, the craft of TV or anything else – while working with him? CB: Diggstown was a great experience and it was where I first learned how to break story and really break down a script. After that I was able to go back and apply what I’d learned to my own work. I also learned from Floyd that it’s important to have some ownership over your projects. To take the risk and invest in your work so that you truly have a stake in it.
How did the idea for the main storyline come about, regarding the opium den? Was it discussed in the room first and then fleshed out? What was the inspiration for it? CB: We started breaking this story during the summer of 2020 while the BLM protests were happening worldwide and we thought that it was important to join in on that conversation of racial injustice. Upon researching the topic, we discovered the Vancouver anti-Asian race rots of 1907 and the Opium Act of 1908 which was also seen as an anti-Asian law. It was a great opportunity to highlight this bit of history so we decided to focus the story there.
It was interesting to get a little history on opium via Brackenreid, Murdoch and Watts. What was it like researching it? CB: I didn’t personally know all of the history around the opium laws and anti-Asian sentiments in Canada so the research was both informative and heartbreaking.
What about the history of mayonnaise? I didn’t expect that little tidbit. CB: While mayonnaise had been around since the 1700s, it wasn’t jarred and sold until 1907. So we thought it would be fun if Murdoch and Ogden tried it for the first time on the show.
How did the writing process work between yourself and Simon McNabb? Did you write first, and then pass it to him? CB: Writing with Simon was a very smooth process. We would split the writing work 50/50 then put our halves together and then we would each do a round of edits to the entire document.
What was the idea behind not showing Miss Hart’s wedding? Was it just due to the shortened episode order? CB: We thought it would be in character for Miss Hart to have her wedding without inviting any of her colleagues.
The addition of composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor as a historical reference was neat. CB: Yes. A wonderful black historical figure.
Watts going to Ogden, seeking hypnosis as a “cure” was so heartbreaking. What has it been like to follow Watts’ journey this season? CB: It’s been quite an emotional journey watching Watts’ plight. It’s good to see how far we’ve come as a society but also a reminder that there is work still to be done because, unfortunately, we can still draw too many similarities from Watts’ story and apply them to the issues facing the LGBTQIA today.
Racism has always been a part of Murdoch Mysteries’ storylines, in particular against the Black community. What has it been like telling Black stories like Momo and Nomi’s on Murdoch this season? CB: I was really glad to be a part of telling this story and portraying some of the issues that the Black community faced and still face to this day through the characters of the world.
I feel like Brackenreid has put himself in danger with his revealing Nomi is his daughter. Should I be concerned? CB: You’ll have to wait and see :)
There are just two episodes of Murdoch Mysteries left this season. What can you say about them without giving any secrets away? CB: They’re a whirlwind. Prepare yourself for a lot of jeopardy and some heart wrenching twists.
Research has found that thrillers and mysteries are the fifth-most watched TV genre in Canada, with 45 percent of the population enjoying this type of content. Making up the other top four genres are comedies, dramas, news, and documentaries. There seems to be a high volume of top-quality content being released and rather than the thriller genre becoming over-saturated, viewers are hungry for more. This has spread out into other forms of entertainment as well, with games and books also featuring a heavy number of thrills and mystery.
Top Thrillers and Mysteries in Canada One of the primary reasons for the rise of thrillers in Canada could be the success of Criminal Minds. This is the fourth-most popular TV series in Canada according to IMDB, behind The Expanse, Vikings, and the popular comedy, Schitt’s Creek. The procedural drama began in 2005 and ran for 15 seasons until 2020. In total, there were 324 episodes, and the original series also led to two spinoffs called Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. Similar offerings like Murdoch Mysteries, Frankie Drake Mysteries and Cardinalare also hugely popular across the country.
Now that the CBS series has finished, it has left a vacuum in the market for thrillers. Canadian viewers are hungry for more of the same, so it is not surprising to see a vast number of other options emerging in Criminal Minds’ wake. The multiple award-winning series also led to other Criminal Minds-related content in different forms of entertainment, as well as a South Korean version that was launched in 2017.
Other types of thriller and mystery have been successful in Canada as well, and some of these are worlds apart from the procedural structure of the Jeff Davis offering. Some of the other most popular mysteries also belong in the fantasy and sci-fi genres. These include The Magicians, The 100, and the iconic sci-fi offering, The X-Files. Perhaps the main reason why the thriller and mystery genre is so popular in Canada is down to the fact that it is so broad, and can encompass a wide variety of shows.
Thriller and Mystery in Other Forms of Entertainment The thriller genre isn’t just making waves on television, it is also prevalent across all other forms of mainstream entertainment. For example, it is a common source of inspiration for slot developers. This could be because it is associated with being exciting and intriguing. Agent Jane Bond Returns and Hitman are two examples of thrilling slots that have attracted a lot of players and are used on the front pages of slots sites to draw people in. The ubiquity of Sherlock Holmes across various forms of entertainment also shows how people have a strong desire to experience mystery. There have been eight games in the Frogwares Sherlock Holmes series, with the ninth installment, Chapter One, due for release in 2021.
Thrillers and mysteries continue to rank among the top genres in the world of books. Some of the most notable titles of the last 20 include Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and Before I go to Sleep by S. J. Watson.
What Other Great Thrillers and Mysteries Should Viewers Watch? For Canadian viewers who simply can’t get enough of the thriller and mystery genre, there are plenty of great options to check out in 2021. As long as the market is there, studios will keep creating content. And because there are so many offerings in the genre, it serves to maintain a high standard.
One of the most popular Netflix series of recent times is Lupin. This is a French mystery thriller starring Omar Sy as an expert thief. Another one to watch out for in the year ahead is Clarice. This offering from CBS Studios focuses on the FBI agent Clarice Starling from Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. It is set one year after the events of the 1988 novel and stars Rebecca Breeds in the title role.
With the thriller and mystery genre being so diverse, it’s no wonder why it is so popular in Canada. It can span numerous other genres, from sci-fi to fantasy. As long as there is an audience for it, developers will keep creating enjoyable content. 2021 should see some great new offerings hitting television screens.