Spoiler alert: Do not continue reading until you have watched the newest episode of Murdoch Mysteries, “Pirates of the Great Lakes.”
Alas, it doesn’t appear that Thomas Brackenreid and his wife, Margaret, will be reuniting anytime soon. Crushed upon learning he has a daughter from a past relationship, Margaret asked him to leave their home and returned her wedding band to him.
And while there was a crime committed in Monday’s episode, it almost took a back seat to the torment Thomas is going through. What’s next for the Inspector? We spoke to writer Dan Trotta to find out.
It’s been an interesting journey for Thomas Brackenreid. He’s one of those characters where when something happens, it tends to be big. This season has been no different. Do you like being able to write for these secondary characters? Obviously William and Julia, to a certain extent, are always going to be top in mind, but what about writing for characters that don’t always get these meaty storylines, like Thomas Brackenreid?
Dan Trotta: I do, personally, yeah. I think there’s, in a weird way, it feels like there’s a little more wiggle room, if that makes sense? I think there’s certain expectations we have as viewers and, I’m speaking generally even as a fan of TV shows, the main characters are often … we really do expect certain things from them. And I think there’s a more sort of rigid box that people put their main characters in, whereas secondary characters you can sort of … they’re a little more malleable. You can kinda play around with them a bit more. You can put them in situations you might not normally find them in.
And there’s just a bit more leeway with sort of where you can take them. And Brackenreid is definitely one of those guys. Particularly because the character sort of lends himself to more kind of intense experiences just because he’s kind of this brash tough guy.
So to find out that he’s done something as surprising as fathering another child, while it’s shocking, I think it’s still within the realm of believability. Whereas if the information ever came out that Murdoch had done that, in the same way, it would just be less believable.
Let’s talk about William’s latest invention. We’ve got the combination washing machine and outboard motor. Congratulations!
DT: Thank you, thank you. Yes, it’s quite an achievement. Yeah, we’re all very proud.
Is that kind of a fun notch in your belt, to write an episode that has one of William’s inventions in it and then get to work with Craig Grant on … Well I don’t know, how much do you work with Craig on something or does he just do it all himself?
DT: It’s really sort of a question of, what’s possible? Well like, this thing went through a few iterations. Initially it was like a lawnmower and then it was a bunch of different things. And then it was like, well that wouldn’t really make sense. It wouldn’t be able to power an boat. And it wouldn’t be big enough. And then, so you sort of have that conversation with Craig.
Craig is definitely there to run stuff by and just to sort of figure out what’s actually possible. And to answer the first part of your question, it’s fun. I’ve always loved that Steampunk aspect of the show. So yeah, it’s really exciting. And then to go down to the props department and see it get put together, the drawings and stuff, it’s a blast. It’s a lot of fun.
How far in advance did you know a sailboat would be involved in this storyline?
DT: Knowing that we needed a ship came up pretty early. I mean, once we had figured out that we were gonna do an episode with Dan Seavey, who is an actual character, an actual historical figure. Once we knew it was a pirate episode, it was sort of a no-brainer that we’d have a ship, I think. So, then the conversation becomes, well how big? And where? And what’s it gonna do?
[Episode director] Leslie [Hope] and I sort of got together. I hadn’t seen the ship, but she had, and she gave me the specs of it. The size of it and what we could and couldn’t do and how many people could actually be on there. That was really tricky. It’s like Pete sort of had to step in and help out because we were struggling a little bit because there was a space issue. We wanted a bunch of guys on there, you can only have a few. Just the mechanics of it became tricky. So I would say more than anything, actually, that was the thing … that was the trickiest sort of ship related bit of business.
Dan Seavey was a real guy. I didn’t realize that.
At the beginning that was a big part of the research process is just figuring out what happened that particular year. I had found him in my sort of Googling rabbit holes and never would’ve imagined that there was a pirate on the Great Lakes. I never would’ve imagined it. But it popped up and from there it was just a question of how to use him. We couldn’t make him quite as vicious as he actually was. I mean, this guy was a murderer. Straight up savage. He was pretty bad, actually. But you know, also very charismatic and there were a lot of colorful stories about him, so we sort of stuck to the lighter stuff.
Let’s finish with Thomas and Margaret. Obviously everybody wants to see these two together, and I’m not asking you to spoil anything, but I’m assuming this isn’t the type of thing that’s gonna be wrapped up neatly by next week’s episode.
DT: I would say, keep tuning in. I mean, there’s a real relationship there, I think. She’s clearly been hurt and he … I think this is a guy who has to fight through his pride. We’ve all seen hubris in this character, but I think there is a fundamental trust that at the core, that this is a good man, who obviously loves his wife and his family. That said, I mean, anything can happen.
Maybe I should just say it? I mean, Thomas gets pregnant at the end of the season. [Laughs.] Keep watching is what I would say to the fans.
What did you think of this newest episode? Did you Google Dan Seavey like I did? Do you think Margaret should forgive Thomas? Let me know in the comments below.
Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.
Images courtesy of CBC.