[Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched “Murdoch Checks in.”]
“It’s great to see Murdoch and Ogden together in such an informal setting, and just enjoy each other’s company. They work so well together, their skills combine to create a perfect detective team.” That’s what Noelle Girard, writer, and co-producer on Murdoch Mysteries, had to say about Monday’s newest episode. And we totally agree.
“Murdoch Checks In,” written by Girard, saw our favourite couple in the woods and part of a group headed to a lodge for a little getaway. Of course, no time away with these two is ever spent truly relaxing and this was no different. Sadly, the death of art collector Derek Ferdinand meant William and Julia were on the case.
Meanwhile, back in Toronto, Higgins and Crabtree teamed to identify a head buried in a garden allotment and Miss Hart’s relationship with Carmichael moved to the next level.
We had an email chat with Noelle Girard to find out how the episode came together.
Noelle, how has the pandemic affected the way you write? Are you comfortable writing by yourself or do you like the noisiness of a writer’s room?
Noelle Girard: While it’s always been the case at Murdoch that we write the outlines and drafts by ourselves, I did miss going into the writer’s room every day and chatting about the script. We had our notes sessions via Zoom, and while it got the job done, there’s just something about the long, sometimes meandering talks in the room that can point you in a better direction or bring out something you missed while writing alone.
How did the idea for the main storyline of a trek through the woods and murder at the lodge come about? Was it inspired by anything in particular?
NG: We like to have an episode where Ogden and Murdoch get away by themselves, and of course it’s always a busman’s holiday for them as there is always a murder to solve (or two, or three). It’s funny that while Julia does enjoy tramping and sleeping in a tent with Murdoch, this time she’s chosen their getaway, and it’s at a cozy inn.
We also wanted to bring back the character of Derek Ferdinand. That character inspired us to do something a bit different, as we typically have the murder Murdoch is investigating happen in the tease, or early in act one. But with the irascible Mr. Ferdinand, we thought it would be better to spend a bit of time with him before he’s offed.
I really enjoy it when Murdoch and Julia head outdoors. It’s the chance to see them in a new—and sometimes unfamiliar—environment. Do you enjoy that change of setting when you’re writing?
NG: It’s great to see Murdoch and Ogden together in such an informal setting, and just enjoy each other’s company. They work so well together, their skills combine to create a perfect detective team. I also love their more informal outfits, it’s a treat to see what the costume department comes up with.
Professor Leamington is a lot of fun. I laughed out loud when he first spoke of the genus of woodpeckers. Did he come fully-formed on the page or did the actor bring his own ‘foibles’ to the table?
NG: The actors always bring so much to the scripts, of course. We wanted to have a few ‘types’ as suspects, such as the flirty widow and the tweedy professor, to annoy Murdoch and Ogden, and it’s fun to play someone who thinks he knows it all off Murdoch, who actually does know it all. We had a larger cast of suspects planned and had to whittle down the numbers due to pandemic restrictions, but I think it turned out better with a smaller group of characters.
I’m not a fan of gardening, but even I know a human head isn’t supposed to be planted next to my beans. Where did that macabre detail come from?
NG: It was actually stolen from an article I read a year or two ago. A woman in France was furious that her industrious co-worker was making her look lazy by comparison. She killed the woman with a wine bottle, then buried her head in her allotment. Very gruesome. I did get second thoughts halfway through the process, but by then the prop department and the model artist were having too much fun making the head!
It was enjoyable to have Higgins and Crabtree work a case together. Do you relish the opportunity to write for a pairing like theirs and a meatier storyline for them?
NG: I just love the two of them together. I think every script I’ve written for Murdoch Mysteries has at least one daft conversation between those two. Crabtree, of course, is up to the challenge of taking on a murder investigation, and Higgins’s oblivious laziness is on full display.
Higgins is having a hard time staying focused. Clearly, the future baby is having an effect on him.
NG: Doesn’t Higgins always have a hard time staying focused? It doesn’t take a lot to divert his attention. And I have to say I’m so excited that Henny and Ru-Ru are having a baby. I’m sure their parenting will be sweet but absolutely chaotic.
And yet, his interrogation of Miss Irwin was well done.
NG: When we discussed the interrogation scene with Higgins and Crabtree in the early stages, it made us laugh that Higgins would be the one that cracks the suspect and gets the confession. While Higgins isn’t the murdering kind, it makes sense that he could understand her motivations, and sympathize a little bit.
Giving Miss Hart a romantic storyline is a welcome addition to Season 14. Has that evolution of her story come naturally?
Yes, that was planned from our early talks about this season. We wanted to continue our exploration of what makes Hart tick. We’ve seen what she will do to get ahead, how she deals with her past coming to haunt her, and now we wanted to see her clash with a romantic interest. Arthur Carmichael, being so wealthy and cocksure, has more than met his match in Violet Hart.
The theme of racism arose during Miss Hart’s date with Carmichael at the restaurant. What’s it been like writing that storyline, and dealing with racism during this time period?
NG: Hart and Carmichael’s relationship, for me, is all about power, class, and scandal. We were interested in showing the shifting power dynamics in their relationship. Carmichael is attracted to Hart but also attracted to the scandal he is causing by courting a Black woman. Of course, Hart is not one to be trifled with and soon asserts her power, intriguing Carmichael even more. The effects of racism are a part of Hart’s story, as well as her relationship with Carmichael. It’s perhaps at the root of most of their power imbalances, and it will be so interesting to see how Hart shifts all those imbalances throughout the season.
Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.
Images courtesy of CBC.