Friday, November 15, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Nineteen - Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: Episode 1, "Charming, Clever, Independent, Sexy Women... Uh, yes please?"

Period murder mysteries generally flip my switch to begin with, there's something about detective work before the age of CSI-style Enhance-O-MacGuffins, where forensics were as primitive as it gets and true investigation comes from the minds of frank deduction and legwork that infinitely pleases me. Add to that the style and panache of yesteryear and you've sold me.

Throw a compelling lead in the pot and I'm pretty much yours to do with as thou wilt.

Really, only the worst of writing and direction could tear me away from the like of Poirot, Foyle, Sherlock... and, now, Miss Fisher. From the looks of this first episode, I'll be very happy for quite some time.

Set in the age of the flapper, but in Australia instead of America or Europe, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries takes the eponymous character from inciting incident through perilous twists and turns and on to a quite satisfying denouement with a twist that, while a little cliche, is still satisfying that's due to both the journey that got us there and the side characters that populate the background.

Phryne Fisher (Essie Davies), a titled heiress with plenty of time and money on her hands, returns to Melbourne after a lengthy absence to make sure her relative's murderer gets his just desserts, but that's the season subplot running in small scenes around the main episode plot, the murder of a shipping magnate whose wife is an old friend of Phryne... and the series of events that endanger several persons, including herself, as well as illegal abortion, the cocaine trade, and murder most foul.

While all that is well and good, what really strikes me about the series is how it is utterly dominated by strong women of every sort. There's Phryne, of course, but also her doctor best friend, several different black hats (don't want to spoil), and Phryne's maid and prim aunt, each wonderfully fleshed out in their own way and decidedly complex.

That's not to say that there aren't interesting male characters, but they most certainly take a back seat to their opposite gender here and I love it.

Additionally, it's nice to see a female lead who is decidedly sexual and confident about it (this is the 20's after all, full of women asserting themselves), but not just a piece of meat to be objectified. Sure, her name is a little on the nose in origins (honestly, what parent would do that). In spite of that, though, the presentation teeters on the edge of racy for the era, but never showing more than a tasteful tease. From tangos to Turkish baths, sex is present, but not titillating. A rather classy feat in an age of television where most prosaic procedurals and mysteries are more concerned with having their female leads parading about with their top 3-4 buttons undone for no reason other than ratings.

On the whole, I really dig the style and wit of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, even if the mysteries themselves are a bit lacking. Despite that one flaw, there are just too many other, very compelling reasons to watch the show to give it up.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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