Murdoch Mysteries Season 2
Recurring character(s): Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson), Dr. Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy), Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), Constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris)
Original air date(s): 02/10/2009 to 05/27/2009
DVD Date: 05/04/2010
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 598 minutes
Note(s): Episodes in this series are based on characters created by Maureen Jennings.
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Review: The tagline for Murdoch Mysteries reads "CSI meets Sherlock Holmes: Forensic Sleuthing in the Age of Invention", which is a pretty apt description of this entertaining series from Canada. Set in late 19th century Toronto, Murdoch Mysteries pairs a male police detective with a female medical examiner/coroner, who work together to solve crimes. And yes, there's a nascent romance developing between them.
The 13 episodes in the second season can be broadly divided into three categories: those featuring real historical characters (Wild Bill Hickok, Harry Houdini, and the like), those featuring high-tech gadgets (for the 1890s) and newly developed forensic techniques, and those with neither. This latter category produces the strongest episodes, relying solely on a story to be entertaining. Don't get me wrong: it's great fun to watch Harry Houdini make quick work of handcuffs and locked cells, and quite humorous to see Murdoch wearing the unwieldy night vision goggles he has constructed from mail order parts. But a solidly plotted murder mystery will always win out.
Yannick Bisson portrays Murdoch as a wooden, somewhat humorless character, with little animation and a near constant bemused or bewildered look on his face. He is erudite, speaks with precision, and only occasionally shows any emotion ... but when he does, he lights up the screen. I'm not sure if this portrayal is purposeful or not, though I suspect it is; it does seem intended to disguise his brilliance, and appears to be somewhat akin to Peter Falk's Columbo, the apparently bumbling cop who the killers always underestimated and misjudged. Still, the plots often work against this supposition, with Murdoch inevitably accusing the wrong person of the crime before he unmasks the real culprit.
While Murdoch plays Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Ogden plays crime scene investigator. Her work is almost always instrumental in solving the crime, though she rarely is given, nor does she take, credit for it. Still, it's nice to see a woman in such a high-profile profession in an era dominated by men.
The small recurring supporting cast play well against the two lead characters.
Though Murdoch Mysteries would likely be categorized as light drama, with a fair amount of comedic elements, several of the episodes tackle some very serious subjects, including abortion and race relations. These are not gratuitous topics, either, and are well integrated into the individual episode and overall series storyline.
The production values are quite high, with clean, brightly lit settings. The sometimes zippy camera work, especially while transitioning scenes, is a minor annoyance.
I really enjoyed Murdoch Mysteries and always looked forward to seeing the next episode in the series. A third season of 13 episodes began airing in Canada in March 2010. I'll be eagerly awaiting its release on DVD.
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