Saturday, December 7, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Forty-one - Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: Episode 4, "Anarchy, Incest, and Intrigue."

Hmmm... I feel a bit weird about this one. Generally, I've really liked Phryne and her dalliances with both crime and free love in 1920's Australia. She's the epitome of a take charge, modern woman who knows whom and what she wants. Still, it wears a bit thin this episode as she takes on the dual task of searching for a missing schoolgirl and investigating the murder of an anarchist.

Charged with discreetly inquiring into the disappearance of a schoolmate of Jane's (nice to see Jane back, by the way, after disappearing, herself, for an episode), Phryne happens to be witness to a falling out between anarchist revolutionaries in which one of them is fatally shot. He dies in her arms, but not before giving her the engagement ring he was saving for his ladylove with the task of delivering it.

All is not as it seems, though, in either case as it's difficult for Phryne to gain the trust of the anarchists who weren't involved in the shooting since she's an unknown and their compatriots would never murder a member (or would they?). Add to that the fact that the missing school girl may have fallen prey to religious madness and you've got both your A and B plots delivered with a nice little bow.

Upon reflection, I think I have two major problems with this episode.

First is the chemistry issue between Phryne and her lover-of-the-week, the former anarchist Peter "the Painter." I like to consider myself a fairly sex positive person and consumer, so Phryne's love life doesn't bother me... except when there's no real tension to speak of. While it's been obvious enough in past episodes, here it feels forced and trite.

My other major problem is that neither of the episode's mysteries is all that compelling. Be it inserting herself haphazardly into the revolutionary circles of Melbourne or going from manor to nunnery to asylum looking for the girl, there was nothing particularly striking in the way of drama or daring or thought puzzles. Everything was too easy to figure out and the motivations were too simplistic to be engaging. I mean, honestly, if you're going to have an incest plot, it needs to be framed better than a diary and a simple gesture. Where are the swelling soundtracks or dramatic shots? Whoever edited this episode needed a lesson or two in melodrama.

There are still good points, though. It's cool to see Jane again and I hope she becomes a regular fixture. Having Phryne hold rein over her aunt, Dot, and Jane makes for an interesting matriarchy with lots of fun back and forth. It gets a little stale when she only has Jack and Constable Collins to play off of.

So far, the series is still worth it, even if it seems to be wallowing in this subtle boredom. I'll stick with it, I think... and, if you like period mysteries like Foyle, Poirot, and Marple, you should, too.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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