It’s an excellent episode and maybe the one most interested in the murder investigation. There aren’t any substantial subplots—Ashleigh Cummings has to deal with Hugo Johnstone-Burt being a lug of a boyfriend and not a romantic daydream like stage actor Alex Rathgeber, who’s actually a right bastard but Rathgeber figures into the main plot. Cummings’s crush just gives it all some texture—actually, it also fits in later when Essie Davis wants to investigate the cold case (tied to the main one).
The pre-titles scene is a ghost in a theater, then after titles it’s Davis taking Cummings to the show itself—a Gilbert and Sullivan opera, Ruddigore. Rathgeber’s in it. The show’s Davis’s birthday present to Cummings. We also meet show producer, Bille Brown, who’s an old friend of Davis’s. Brown wants to hire Davis to investigate the ghost, so it’s kind of perfect when the actor who the ghost had been haunting dies.
Davis’s investigation, often alongside copper Nathan Page’s (the show’s fecund with Davis and Page chemistry this episode and it’s all wonderful), leads her from jealous Rathgeber to disinterested fiancée Christie Whelan Browne to dresser James Pratt then to Chinese businessman Philippe Sung. Turns out Davis is fluent in Mandarin and axe-throwing, which helps since she meets Sung while he’s in a kung fu fight in the middle of the street.
Sung’s a fantastic Phryne Fellow. Charming, mysterious, unavailable, with a mean grandmother (Amanda Ma) who threatens to curse Davis for getting Sung’s attention. Great stuff with Sung.
The actual perpetrator is fairly predictable but the situation of the case, which involves illegitimate births and tragic suicides and so on, is really engaging. Brown’s got a fantastic presence and it’s fun to be around the theater during the investigation, especially once Davis sees the ghost herself.
Between Davis and Sung, Davis and Page, and even Davis and Johnstone-Burt—she’s trying to help him understand Cummings’s romantic wants—it’s also a phenomenal showcase for Davis in the lead. In addition to the mystery keeping one intrigued, you’re just waiting to see what Davis is going to say next. So good.
I mean, it’s also the least… serious episode in a lot of ways. In terms of danger to its principals… even though Davis is in danger. Script’s by Liz Doran, it’s her first episode… director’s David Caesar, who directed the previous episode, also excellent. Sadly it’s Caesar’s last time directing the show.
Anyway… excellent episode.