Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched Season 11, Episode 2, of Murdoch Mysteries, entitled “Merlot Mysteries.
Monday’s newest episode of Murdoch Mysteries had it all: a gruesome murder (poisoning!) right off the top, humour (Murdoch drunk!), sweet CGI (winery swiping!) and … another character departing the series. But, unlike Constable Jackson—who died in a hail of gunfire—Rebecca James (Mouna Traoré) exited the morgue to begin her own practice in Chatham, Ont. In our second Season 11 exclusive interview with the writing staff at Murdoch Mysteries, we discuss the season so far with writer and co-producer Simon McNabb, who co-wrote the episode with showrunner Peter Mitchell.
You’re going to hear it from the fans. That’s two Murdoch Mysteries in two weeks!
Simon McNabb: It’s going to be interesting to see what the fan reaction is. In Episode 1, even though people love Jackson—he has become a fan favourite in the last few seasons and a fan of the writer’s room—there was so much at stake coming into that episode and people had great fears for who and how many lives could be lost that there was a bit of relief mixed with the disappointment that Jackson is gone. In Episode 2, we’re saying goodbye to Rebecca and I think that might blindside some people and they’ll be surprised to see her walk out of the morgue.
Peter told me last week that Mouna Traoré was leaving because of other projects, and the door was left open for her to return.
Absolutely. It’s something that we’ve talked about and whether or not she comes back this season remains to be seen.
Who is the wine expert in the writer’s room?
Both Peter and I are pretty familiar with wine, with regard to drinking it. We are not experts in terms of knowing the varietals and the regions, so some of it was picked up from other writers in the room and some of it was a crash course in documentaries and reading about the history of wine, especially in the region. I think we learned just enough to skate by.
I love the back and forth between Murdoch and Det. Watts [Daniel Maslany]. Having Murdoch not be an expert in something was refreshing and fun, as was having him defer to Watts.
I love watching those two together. When we first came to the idea of introducing a new detective into the show on a part-time basis last season it was always immediately a concern, ‘How can this character be likable and smart and good and his job and still be different from Murdoch?’ Then it became, ‘How do we use these two distinct personalities and let them bump up against each other and complement each other during the course of a murder investigation?’ We thought it would be a great idea to have something that Watts knows more about than Murdoch, a real rarity. As a teetotaler and devout Catholic, wine seemed to be a no-brainer. Of course, Murdoch knows nothing about the history, details and different varieties of wine. Watts is a blank slate and we could do whatever we wanted. So it was great to have Watts be the expert and have Murdoch catch up.
A few fans have put forth the comment that Watts reminds them of Columbo. Was that the intention?
It certainly wasn’t intentional when we conceived of the character. At the same time, I think it’s something that we noticed as we started filming him. I would say the result of the similarity to Columbo is an amalgamation of the choices that were made by all sorts of people. Some of it was in the writing of the character and some of it was the costume department making him a little ragged, which came a little bit out of the writing. It was a choice. We could have made him a scatter-brained person who is dressed to the nines. And, also, a lot of it came from Daniel. I don’t know how familiar Daniel is with Columbo or Peter Falk, he’s so young he may never have seen it.
With Rebecca leaving and going to Chatham, where does that leave Julia and the morgue?
We’ll have to see. Julia can’t be on her own entirely in the morgue. She still has other responsibilities in her life and other interests in her life in the Suffrage Movement and the asylum, which we don’t explore every week but is a part of her life. As writers, when somebody leaves it’s always the opportunity to do something else. And whether that character will be somebody who is ongoing or just somebody who is there for a week or two, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Either the CGI budget is bigger this season or it’s cheaper to do it … Murdoch swiping the winery buildings out of the way to see the lay of the land was very impressive and effective.
I think it’s a combination of effects getting cheaper and a spending a little more money to do something special. We came up with that idea in the writer’s room and knew it would be very effective.
Let’s talk about the additions to the writing room this season in Dan Trotta, Natalia Guled and Noelle Girard. What has it been like having three new folks in the room with you?
All three of them have been fantastic and it’s been really exciting for all of us old hands to work with new people and get some fresh voices in. We loved everybody we were working with before, but there hadn’t been a change in the writer’s room in any way in, I believe, five years or four full seasons. To do, sort of, almost half of the writer’s room stepping aside and half stepping in was different and took some figuring out and feeling out of who everybody was and what they were going to bring to the table, but now at this point in the season we’ve been together for six months and feel like we’ve been working together forever.
Got a comment about Monday’s episode? Let me know in the comments section below.
Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.
Images courtesy of CBC.