Richard Bligh

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s02e13 – Murder Under the Mistletoe

Murder Under the Mistletoe is the “Miss Fisher’s” Christmas (in July) special I obviously needed but didn’t know I needed. The episode opens with Essie Davis taking the girls—Ashleigh Cummings, Miriam Margolyes, Tammy Macintosh—to a ski lodge; Southern Hemisphere, snowy summers. But when they get there, of course there’s a murder—people are finally giving Davis crap for finding murder wherever she goes—and then they get snowed in. So everyone’s trapped up there with a killer.

Lots of great suspects—Simon Burke, Greg Saunders, George Shevtsov, Alicia Gardiner, Sylvie de Crespigny. There’s also teenager Emily Milledge, who proves you can be Goth in the 1920s. There’s a big backstory—there was a mine collapse in 1919 and it killed a bunch of the workers; widow de Crespigny married mine co-manager Burke; who does he co-manage the mine with—Margolyes. There’s a lot of good Margolyes stuff this episode. Anyway… Milledge is de Crespigny’s daughter.

There are secrets and flashbacks and Ruby Rees coming home from school early and having to hang out with the boys (Richard Bligh, Travis McMahon, and Anthony J. Sharpe, which is adorable). Plus Macintosh gets a bunch to do and not just doctor stuff.

Great direction from Tony Tilse, really fun script from Elizabeth Coleman.

Nathan Page and Hugo Johnstone-Burt brave the snow storm to get to the lodge and assist in the investigation, but the episode focuses on the multiple suspects and the entire cast being in grave danger. There are numerous murders throughout, including one with a complicated Rube Goldberg setup to get the job done.

Really good villain.

Great postscript with the titular mistletoe figuring in.

It’s a perfect Christmas special.

Also—there’s a John Noble cameo; he plays Margoyles’s since deceased husband in the flashback scenes. It’s very cute to see Margoyles opposite a husband.

Oh, and Cummings—she’s doing the full investigating again. “Miss Fisher’s” season two—with this episode as its victory lap—did a lot of character development on Cummings. Did a little on everyone else, but a lot on her and rarely spotlighted it, just let it happen. Very nicely done indeed.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s02e12 – Unnatural Habits

The episode opens with Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Ashleigh Cummings on their day off, Johnstone-Burt in his civvies somehow clashing with Cummings in her regular clothes; they’re fishing and dreaming of their honeymoon.

Rude awakening when they discover a dead body in the water. Even ruder awakening when it turns out to be the latest in a series of dead girls who worked at a Catholic convent’s laundry. Somehow the convent’s abusive treatment of the girls, which horrifies touring Essie Davis and Nathan Page—the show takes a deep stab at Catholic hypocrisy (well, some of them)—but then it manages to get even worse as we slowly find out what’s happening to the girls and who’s doing it to them.

But running up against the Church means Page’s ex-father-in-law and boss Neil Melville gets involved, especially since he’s just gotten a promotion; Melville bans Davis from investigating and reassigns Page.

Also back this episode are Page’s ex-wife, Dee Smart, who’s openly hostile to Davis at this point, and her cousin fiancé Daniel Frederiksen. Miriam Margolyes is around too—turns out her cook was one of the missing girls—and has some great scenes with current girl-in-crisis Alice Cavanagh. Very nice work from Margolyes this episode. Shayne Francis and Sally-Anne Upton are excellent as the meanest laundry bosses.

There’s eventually a big action sequence where Davis and her sidekicks arm up—turns out butler Richard Bligh has been assembling an arsenal for just such an occasional—and try to save the day while Melville has the cops dillydallying in fear of upsetting the Church.

All the outstanding story threads from the season get resolved here and the episode ends on quite the tease. Writer Ysabelle Dean does a good job fitting in a bunch of content but it some of it is still very rushed. The investigation leads Davis all over the place, from the laundry to high society to the docks and so on. Nice direction from Tony Tilse, who’s really able to ratchet up the tension in that big action finale.

One of the two main villains—motivated by pure greed—doesn’t get the best performance, while the other one gets a phenomenal one. Though maybe the suspicious behavior is less obvious when the solution is confirmed instead of suspected….

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s02e04 – Deadweight

One upbeat (enough) “Miss Fisher’s” was apparently all they could take because this one is a very, very sad one. It’s all about a boxing troupe and the damage done on the community because of it. The community in question is the young poor men who spend their time in street gangs. Constable Hugo Johnstone-Burt is trying to teach the boys to box to get them out off the street. And does it without much encouragement. It ends up being a pretty good episode for Johnstone-Burt, who’s always around, always likable and often funny, but rarely charged with much on his own.

Not supportive comrades include boss Nathan Page and girlfriend Ashleigh Cummings; Essie Davis is a boxing fan and presumably not just because it involves sweaty fit men. She has a great flirtation throughout the episode with potential Phryne Fellow Chris Asimos, a Greek boxer who knows just how to treat a lady… or so Davis thinks. Funny not dangerous (which is weird, actually; everyone’s a suspect except Asimos).

Johnstone-Burt’s prize student, Mark Coles Smith, comes under investigation when one of the other gang is killed and it seems to also tie into the case of a dead police officer. Coles Smith is boxing at the exhibition to make money for mom Rachael Maza, who Davis tries to befriend and help but Maza’s got her secrets. The other gang is led by shitty little racist Scott Smart, who just hires bigger guys to fight Coles Smith.

Brett Swain and Glenda Linscott run the boxing exhibition; they’re both excellent. Maza’s excellent. Coles Smith is pretty good and you’d never guess he’s twenty-six playing seventeen or whatever. Some great material for butler Richard Bligh this episode and a nice little cameo from Tammy Macintosh.

Page gets very little to do—at least until the (momentarily) joyous epilogue—other than tell Johnstone-Burt the boxing is a bad idea and Davis he doesn’t want to investigate any cops. So it’s nice when he’s got the epilogue scene; especially since Davis has had Asimos distracting her most episode. “Miss Fisher’s” needs its Phryne and Jack, after all.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s01e07 – Murder in Montparnasse

So this episode takes everything I said—based on the last two—was needed to make a great “Miss Fisher’s.” Turns out I’m completely wrong, because Murder in Montparnasse doesn’t just break (most) of my rules, it breaks my bigger, obvious rules for melodramatic plotting. It ties together two seemingly disparate subplots and does it as a plot twist. The episode keeps necessary information from the viewer; it’s not so much a trick, but definitely… in the cheaper aisle as far as narrative devices go.

This episode opens with one of communist cabbie and Fisher Crew member Travis McMahon’s friend getting intentionally run over. Cop Nathan Page doesn’t take it particularly seriously, leading McMahon to “hiring” Essie Davis to look into it. The investigation involves a bookie, Hector Chambers, who welshed on a bet to McMahon and his friend; he’s got an alibi—involving his car being stolen—and Page can’t quite believe he’d set up a hit using his own car.

Once there are shootouts in the streets, however… it gets Page’s attention, leading to a sting operation where he has to make a big sacrifice to protect everyone involved. Mostly Davis. Great stuff.

But the investigation isn’t even the biggest plot of the episode; it’s more about Davis’s old friend from post-WWI Paris, Linda Cropper, coming to visit. Cropper was married to a painter, who’d used Davis as a model—and tragically died—and so there’s a lot of history between the two.

When someone breaks in and steals one of the paintings (Stately Fisher Manor needs better locks, really does), Davis has to deal with the present day intrigue as the episode throws in flashbacks revealing more of the history. And revelations about ex-lover Peter O'Brien.

There’s a lot of humor—in the first half of the episode more—like when Davis teases constable Hugo Johnstone-Burt about his die-cast toy cars. And then Davis’s sidekick, Ashleigh Cummings, and butler, Richard Bligh, have a nice subplot about Cummings dealing with her disapproving Catholic priest (beau Johnstone-Burt is a Protestant, after all).

So the episode does history, it does Davis having a major tie to the mystery, it does lots of cast and it all works out beautifully. It’s a character development episode for Davis, with some big moves for Page too.

Just great.

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