Ruby Rees

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) s02e03 – Dead Man’s Chest

Last season, “Miss Fisher’s” went out of its way not to have detective Essie Davis happen into mysteries solely because she’s a rich White lady in the 1920s. Though… I mean, it sort of did. But this episode makes no attempt to contrive a reason to get Davis involved in the Julia Blake’s mystery. Davis and her household—aunt Miriam Margolyes, companion Ashleigh Cummings, ward Ruby Rees—are going to the beach on holiday. When they get there, Blake’s household—where they’re staying—is in abject disarray. The servants have disappeared, leaving kitchen boy or whatever Reef Ireland to manage the whole house.

So, of course Davis brings in Richard Bligh to whip things up into shape because Stately Fisher Manor isn’t a place, it’s a state of mind. But even though the mystery conclusion—involving stolen coins—and its villain aren’t the best, it’s a great episode. It’s a bunch of fun watching Davis butt heads with yokel copper Tony Rickards—great moment after Davis brings in Nathan Page (and Hugo Johnstone-Burt, which makes for a cute scene or two for he and Cummings) and Blake asks Davis to bring her handsome friend around (meaning Page) and Davis is momentarily confused. It’s extremely charming.

The whole episode, as it concerns Page and Davis, is extremely charming. They investigate the case together, sneaking around, never particularly concerned because they’re old hats at the mystery thing by now and just enjoying themselves. It’s like a working holiday. Very cute.

Davis gets a good showdown with the villain too, though there are a confusing amount of suspects.

Excellent, unexpected arc for Margolyes, which figures in to some of the mystery resolve, and Rees is adorable making eyes at Ireland. Also adorable is when Cummings has to tell Davis to chaperone her. Dan Wyllie plays Blake’s son, who’s a potential Phryne Fellow for a while… even though he’s still Perry Heslop.

Oh, and Travis McMahon gets a fantastic bit as a drunk. Bootlegging figures into it all too. And temperance movements. It’s a whole bunch of plot, but Ken Cameron’s direction moves through it rather well.

Delightful episode… maybe, given the resolution and the stakes, the most delightful “Miss Fisher’s” to date.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s01e13 – King Memses’ Curse

I’m a fan of this season finale—and season resolver—and would be even if it didn’t (unintentionally?) follow a bunch of the same narrative beats as Halloween H20. No spoilers. But… it’s H20.

After the pre-title murder—a gruesome but not gory one—the action picks up the next morning after last episode. Phryne (Essie Davis) is freaking out trying to keep ward Ruby Rees safe—enlisting the taxi drivers as bodyguards again, giving them a third chance after they botched the first two—and heads off to investigate a seemingly planted clue.

At the corresponding address (an antique shop), she and Ashleigh Cummings discover the pre-title body (with some gore this time) and get the coppers involved. Except Nathan Page just wants Davis at home staying safe, so when Davis finds another clue—a photography of the suspect and victim—she has to follow-up.

Davis’s investigation takes her to egyptologist Matt Day (Brice from Muriel’s!) while Page and Hugo Johnstone-Burt interview Cassandra Magrath, who was a kid when she escaped the villain. None of the others were so lucky. The details Magrath gives about her abduction and Day’s details about mummification run parallel, particularly when it comes to a paralyzing serum.

A paralyzing serum the villain has unleashed on Stately Fisher Manor so they can come in and grab Rees, needing her to fill the last open spot for whatever evil they’ve got planned.

It’s then a race against time for Davis, Cummings, and Page, with Davis charging ahead without concern for her personal safety. Her behavior pushes Page to the limit and he has her locked up, taking it upon himself to move forward with the case.

The resolution is incredibly dramatic, incredibly tense. Davis is outstanding, ditto Page. And obviously Daina Reid directed it; she’s so good with the tension. So good.

The postscript brings back all the favorite recurring characters—Miriam Margolyes, Tammy Macintosh—and provides a very nice bookend to the pilot, showcasing Davis’s character development over the season, as well as her presence’s effect.

Nicole Nabout’s really good as a nun who figures in and, as usual, it’s fun to get to see Davis face off with the Catholic Church. But not Nabout, rather priest Dennis Coard. The Deb Cox and Elizabeth Coleman script manages to maintain some humor despite dire circumstances. Oh, and Magrath’s excellent.

It’s one heck of a finish.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s01e12 – Murder in the Dark

It’s truly amazing what they’re able to get away with this episode in terms of red herrings, shoehorned subplots, shock tactics, exploitative tension, and so on. Director Daina Reid and writer Ysabelle Dean put everyone through the ringer—with a couple really obvious questions left open at the end—and grinds them flat.

The main plot itself is a bait and switch, starting with a murder at Miriam Margolyes’s estate. She’s lead Essie Davis’s aunt; Davis and sidekick Ashleigh Cummings are packing to go to a party at Margolyes’s—a costumed engagement party for Margoyles’s son, Felix Williamson—when Davis gets a call from her. Their planned lunch is off, but come anyway, there’s been a murder.

Davis calls the cops, who arrive just after she gets there and we’ve met Williamson, who isn’t exactly suspicious but isn’t exactly not. Then we meet his fiancée, Kate Jenkinson, who’s performatively risqué enough to shock Hugo Johnstone-Burt but not Nathan Page (who’s preoccupied with his divorce proceedings, information he only shares reluctantly and never, I don’t think, with Davis)—before getting to victim’s father, Ken Radley. Radley goes from being grieving parent to number one suspect rather quickly, with the episode taking a break to introduce John Lloyd Fillingham as Margolyes’s other son, who’s developmentally disabled.

Except we’ve already met Fillingham… he discovered the body and Margolyes covered it up.

Throw in a subplot about Davis bringing her household over to save the engagement party, complete with hash fudge, Margoyles flipping out over the communist cab drivers, and Ruby Rees discovering—by fault of the same name—Fillingham’s still traumatized over Davis’s sister’s disappearance years before.

Now, the episode’s so effective, it’s able to get over them seemingly contradicting the information we got about the sister’s disappearance last episode. Fillingham wasn’t just there as a kid, he also says the man who took the sister is back and he killed the victim.

Distracted Page chalks it up to Fillingham’s impairment while Davis starts freaking out thinking Nicholas Bell is after her family… while Cummings and Johnstone-Burt actually do the work and save the day.

If only they were a few moments sooner….

It’s a phenomenally paced episode. The last ten minutes increase the tension second-to-second. You just want the episode to end, even on a dreadful resolution or enraging cliffhanger, but to just stop and give you a break. It’s great.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s01e09 – Queen of the Flowers

It’s a very intense episode. Miss Fisher (Essie Davis) is mentoring a group of underprivileged girls for a pageant and they’re the mystery, so they’re the ones in danger. It’s the first time “Miss Fisher’s” has really done the child or youth in grave danger thing and it’s a lot. Both because the story behind the threat is… not unpredictable but nonetheless upsetting and because Davis’s ward, Ruby Rees, is one of the girls but isn’t directly connected with the main plot, yet she too ends up in danger. It’s like the show saved up all this kind of tension and unleashed it here.

The episode opens with a dead girl in the water at the beach, undiscovered. Turns out it’s one of Davis’s proteges—in addition to Rees, she’s got klepto Eva Lazzaro, pyromaniac rich girl Taylor Ferguson, and then victim Zoë Amanda Wilson. And Davis gets to be intimately involved in the investigation right away—Nathan Page is quick to point out she’s going to be a lot more effective interviewing “wayward teenage girls” than he will be alone.

The investigation leads to Ferguson’s weird living situation with reclusive wealthy, drunkard grandfather Terry Norris—Davis took Ferguson on as a favor to him—where they find out Wilson was a former maid, something Ferguson forgot to mention. So she’s immediately suspicious, but then there’s also Ben Schumann. Schumann’s the nephew of mayor Andrew S. Gilbert and, despite (or because of) his flippant attitude, has got some secrets. Davis has an amazing scene where she dresses Schumann down for the subterfuge. Seeing Davis—and Phryne—around the impressionable youths is outstanding. There’s a whole role model thing going on, as Davis assumes that role, throwing aside the traditional gender role she’s supposed to be teaching the girls, who are already going through things those propriety lessons aren’t going to help.

Hence, a judo lesson at one point, which surprises constable Hugo Johnstone-Burt but not detective Page.

Rees’s story is entirely different, with her newfound celebrity—they make the society page in the newspaper—drawing mom Danielle Cormack out of the woodwork. Turns out Davis was never able to adopt Rees because they couldn’t confirm Cormack’s fate. With her back, it’s unclear what’s going to become of Rees; Davis has one idea, Cormack another, and neither are quick to consult Rees.

Really good stuff with Cormack and Rees. Really hard, really good. The episode does a phenomenal job not leading with the exposition on how things are done in 1920s Australia, instead letting the characters lead and filling in with exposition later, if needed. Like when Ashleigh Cummings getting caught up on the goings-on. It’s expository, yes, but it also is character development for Cummings, who’s unprepared for Rees’s possible departure.

Screenwriters Jo Martino and Deb Cox do a particularly excellent job with that arc for Cummings, since Rees hasn’t really been around a lot in the show. The script goes a long way in establishing Rees and Cummings’s friendship, which was offscreen.

As usual, excellent episode. And breaks all those rules I thought the show had.

Also… no Phryne Fellow. Would’ve been inappropriate. But it’s the first episode without one.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s01e04 – Death at Victoria Docks

This episode lacks the spark of the previous ones; it’s still solid and well-acted—even by the less sparkly supporting characters—and has nearly all the supporting favorites back (meaning aunt Miriam Margolyes and Essie Davis’s ward, Ruby Rees), but the main plot is a bit of a shrug.

Also—the main plot and the subplot only intersect at the beginning, they’re otherwise unconnected, which might have something to do with it. Or maybe Shelley Birse’s teleplay isn’t the best or

Tony Tilse’s direction. Maybe it’s the combination.

Or maybe it’s how police detective Nathan Page is barely in the episode and most of his scenes are just giving constable Hugo Johnstone-Burt a “right on” even though everyone knows Johnstone-Burt’s success is because of Essie Davis.

The subplot also has a very dark resolve without really offering any bright spot—avoiding it, in fact. The show concentrates on the salacious instead of the human. It doesn’t fit Davis’s character, who’s all about helping the humans.

The main plot has an anarchist dying in Davis’s arms, apparently the victim of some guards at a dock riot. Only Davis knows it’s not related to the dock-workers and finds herself in a bunch of intrigue involving Latvian anarchists. One of them, Jack Finsterer, gets to be Bond Girl #2 this episode (though there isn’t a #1 and Page isn’t around enough to fit his chaste #3 slot). Also, I’m thinking they either need to be called Fisher Boys or Phryne Lads. I haven’t decided yet.

If the episode were better, Finsterer would be fine.

Also the episode opportunistically endangers Ashleigh Cummings, which isn’t cool.

There’s a lot of good stuff still. Johnstone-Burt and Cummings are adorable, Rees is a hoot, Margolyes is delightful, and Davis does get in some nice character development.

Nothing stands out about the subplot—involving missing teenage girl Isabella Clark—other than the indifferent to Clark resolution and the very amusing scenes with Davis facing off with a convent’s Reverend Mother, Penne Hackforth-Jones.

It’s like the B plot should’ve been the A plot and Page should’ve been around. The episode’s got all the right ingredients but the wrong recipe.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s01e02 – Murder on the Ballarat Train

This episode takes place soon after the first, with communist taxi drivers Travis McMahon and Anthony J. Sharpe not yet full-time in Essie Davis’s employ. Well, they don’t know they’re in her full-time employ yet. They realize it in their second scene, when she gets them a new car and they start hanging out at Stately Fisher Manor. They also break in the new butler, Richard Bligh, who’s got no idea what he’s in for with Davis.

Davis isn’t at home because she’s on a train trip with maid slash sidekick Ashleigh Cummings. They don’t get through the night before some very strange goings on, including a missing passenger—Abbe Holmes.

Thanks to Davis’s prodding—and name-dropping copper Nathan Page whether he likes it or not (spoiler: he does not like it but he quickly appears to change his mind)—they discover Holmes isn’t just a vanishing lady, she’s a murder victim.

And a rich one.

She’s been traveling with daughter Maeve Dermody, who hires Davis to officially investigate, which leads to a lot of fun scenes with Davis and Page. They’re really ratcheting up the flirtation between the pair this episode, with Page turning to Davis for the more difficult aspects of the case—like tween Ruby Rees, who’s been found with the rich lady’s jewels (but isn’t a murder suspect because she doesn’t have the strength to get the body where they find it).

Who does have the requisite strength? Dermody’s cousin, beefcake Dale March, and her fiancé, David Berry. Davis investigates them both—with some excellent chemistry opposite March, both performances and script (courtesy Elizabeth Coleman and Deb Cox).

There’s a great subplot involving mentalist turned criminal Jacek Koman, who manages to be dangerous while buffoonish; it gives sidekick McMahon a fine showcase too.

The solution’s only somewhat unexpected—thanks to another “strong enough” suspect, Mike McLeish, who lost his wife due to Holmes’s bad medical conduct years before—but it’s not the point; Davis and company doing the investigating is the point and it’s a big success in that department. Davis has got some awesome lines throughout, not just for laughs, but also for character development.

The episode ends with another cast regular cast member joining and the slightly surprising implication Page is still married. Just off his behavior, it seems like he’s maybe a widower but… we’ll see.

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