Acorn Media // 2010 // 624 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // May 3rd, 2011
What do H.G. Wells, a circus, Nikola Tesla, a club of cross dressers and a cursed family have in common? They are all in Season Three of Murdoch Mysteries.
The Victorian era was a time of innovation and invention. Not only did simple things such as photographic film and latex allow criminals to execute the greater and more daring crimes, but it allowed the forward thinking police to catch them. That's where detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) comes in, with his skilled deductive techniques, as well as a set of new fangled forensic tools, he's doing his best to catch the villains of Toronto.
Aiding him in his cases is the lovely Dr. Julia Ogden (Helene Joy) whose skills as a coroner are invaluable. Calling the shots is Inspector Brakenreid (Thomas Craig), a man who trusts Murdoch's instincts and intellect, even if he can't understand him half the time. Then there's Constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris), a young man who looks up to Murdoch and does his best to learn from the man.
Over thirteen episodes Murdoch finds himself loosing his memory, dealing with circus freaks, solving a kidnapping, hunting a stolen Rembrandt, busting a ghost, dodging a sniper and even coming face to face with a death ray. If all that wasn't enough, there's the famous folks like Wells and Tesla who continue to pop up.
What we've got here is one fun show with plenty of good mysteries, engaging characters, a bit of drama, and a dash of humor all mixed together. After two seasons the cast is well settled into their roles and give each part a bit of extra depth. The writers don't shirk from throwing a few curveballs in, especially when it comes to Murdoch and Ogden's relationship. Brakenreid gets some great moments when his son is kidnapped. And Crabtree has some very funny lines.
A few of the mysteries rely a bit too heavily on circumstance, and even go over the top with the steam-punk technology, but it's all in the name of fun. Most of the stories stand alone, but in episode six John (Peter Stebbings) and Sally Pendrick (Kate Greenhouse) are introduced. John has a keen mind for mechanics, design and logic. At first he and Murdoch hit it off because they are very similar. But as the episode progresses Murdoch begins to wonder if Mr. Pendrick is using his keen mind for more devious purposes. Sally is quite taken with Murdoch. Their relationship begins to grow over the rest of the series creating tension and some dangerous circumstances. Once the Pendricks are introduced the season really gets cooking and creates an excellent climax in the final episode.
As much fun as the series is, there are a few things that bugged me. The camera work goes out of the way to be hip and cool. There are hand held shots, whip pans, quick zooms and even a stutter edit or two. Most of this occurs during chase scenes, or when Murdoch is in the field. Most dialogue scenes are filmed in a much more straightforward style. It creates a real disconnect, pulling me out of the moment. Luckily these camera techniques seemed to decrease in frequency as the series plugged along, and they were pretty much gone in the last couple of episodes.
Annoying camera work aside, the characters and stories were worth watching. I can pay no higher compliment to the show than by saying that I wanted to find the first two seasons, so I could get some more Murdoch goodness. If you are new to the series, you can start with this season, the self contained stories give you plenty of time to get to know the characters. While events and characters from previous seasons show up, it's easy to figure out how they fit in from the context of the show.
This is the first season of Murdoch Mysteries that Acorn Media has released on Blu-ray, and the results look great. The image is nice and clear, with solid black levels for the show's many night sequences. You can see plenty of detail in the costumes, props and on the cadavers. The sound is well balanced with dialogue and score. The stereo mix works fine, but it would have been nice to have 5.1 for some of the more explosive scenes. The extras are a bit on the thin side. You get three featurettes ranging from two to four minutes long. One gives an overview of the show with brief interviews with the cast. It has a very EPK feel to it. The featurette on make-up deals specifically with some of freak make-up effects used in the circus caper. The final one deals very briefly with the costumes. You also get an alternate ending to the final episode of the season.
The Victorian setting and the interesting characters make this an easy recommendation for anyone who enjoys a fun mystery series.
Murdoch catches the crooks, so he can't be guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 624 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Alternate Ending