Tammy Macintosh

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s03e05 – Death & Hysteria

Even for an episode dealing with institutionalized misogyny, which are often the heaviest “Miss Fisher’s,” Death & Hysteria is close to the heaviest because it’s about a group of women being persecuted and threatened with forced hysterectomies for… enjoying orgasms. Ysabelle Dean’s script never gives a full exposition dump—in fact, the foreshadowing to what’s going on is just an expression from Tammy Macintosh—but once it’s clear what’s actually going on, the whole episode changes gears quite a bit.

It starts with Essie Davis very suspicious of doctors Philip Quast and Damon Gameau, who have set up in Miriam Margolyes’s house and turned it into a sanitarium for women suffering “female hysteria.” Margolyes—Davis’s aunt and one of the show’s most successful recurring characters—is loaning it to them following Quast’s successful care of her son, who’s recently passed away. We met the son in an episode first season. It’s real sad, particularly since we find out about it three weeks or so after his death; we don’t get to see Davis’s mourning, for instance. Instead, she’s just suspicious Quast is taking advantage.

Quast’s immediately suspicious because he and sidekick Gameau don’t charge any fees—they only take donations from their patients, who are exclusively wealthy women. More, once one of the patients dies, it turns out they’re also really big into getting estates left to them. For various reasons, no one is being forthcoming in the investigation—Quast and Gameau immediately lawyer up (a perfectly icky Gareth Reeves)—and Nathan Page’s breaking in a new constable, Henry Hammersla, who screws up the investigative team.

Hammersla believes women are inferior to men and doesn’t think Page ought to be listening to Davis, much less telling him to work with Ashleigh Cummings (Hugo Johnston-Burt doesn’t appear this episode, off somewhere fishing and trying to figure out his life).

It’s a complicated mystery, with lots of unsettling historical details about the “medical” treatment of women in 1920s Australia, high society or not.

The best part of the episode is Margolyes and her mourning arc. The show may’ve skipped the straight drama but integrates its aftermath quite well here, also giving Travis McMahon some to do. Davis had McMahon and Anthony J. Sharpe helping out Margoyles and there’s some wonderful stuff with McMahon and Margoyles.

There’s also a fantastic moment when Macintosh embarrasses Page for Davis’s benefit. The episode ends positive but it’s a heck of a trip getting there.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s03e04 – Blood & Money

“Miss Fisher’s,” as a rule, doesn’t do children in danger episodes. There’s been at least one other one, maybe another (but I don’t think really think so), but this episode opens with a kid buried in a shallow grave. It’s very intense right off.

Though it’s also got some post-war things to work through and they’re not as intense as usual so it sort of evens out.

Essie Davis’s client this episode–though Dr. Mac (Tammy Macintosh) is also going to have need of her)—is young Jarin Towney. He and his brother live on the very mean streets of Collingwood, where they hear of heroic Miss Fisher and her golden revolver. It’s pretty awesome to hear about the lore; Davis is a real-life (non-powered) superhero, she should have a fan club.

Towney’s aforementioned brother is missing; will Davis take the case and find him? Pretty soon, Macintosh is calling with some bad news—that dead boy in the shallow grave from the cold open? They find him near her hospital.

And it turns out there are three boys missing in total, so even if it’s not Towney’s brother, there’s still something very unpleasant going on.

The prime suspects are a nurse (Diana Glenn) and a severely disfigured war veteran (James O'Connell), who Davis and Ashleigh Cummings espy being up to strange shenanigans but maybe not illicit ones. Macintosh and her boss, Dan Spielman, are trying to get a donation to the hospital to fund a veteran rehabilitation program and the dead kids thing is really not helping. So Davis is doubly on the case.

And not just because she’s the Collingwood girl made (quite) good.

It’s a good mystery, with some excellent twists, and a decent enough finish. Besides the danger to the kids, there’s also the surprising unpleasantness of Hugo Johnstone-Burt’s subplot. He’s been cast out of home because of his conversion to Catholicism (for Cummings) and he’s keeping that situation secret from her. It’s the darkest Johnstone-Burt’s ever had to go and it’s rather affecting.

No drama for Nathan Page and Davis this episode, just the comfortable flirting—though there is a touch of some significant, which Cummings interrupts. It’s a good episode; Towney and Davis are excellent together.

When you think about it, it’s kind of a surprise she hasn’t assembled The Esplanade Peculiars yet. She does live at 221B, after all.

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) s02e08 – The Blood of Juana the Mad

Depending on the setting, there are certain predictable reactions from Miss Fisher (Essie Davis) as well as from “Miss Fisher,” the show; for instance, this episode takes place at a medical university—where Dr. Mac (Tammy Macintosh) teaches—and involves the rich male students (and the male teachers) harassing an exceptional female student, Andrea Demetriades. So it’s going to be a bit of a downer because 1920s, privilege, institutionalized sexism and so on.

Except not so much here, because Demetriades’s character is able to surmount the obstacles. Yes, she and Davis have to convince Nathan Page Demetriades isn’t seeing conspiracies in the shadows—or, rather, is seeing conspiracies in the shadows—but Page’s only slow to get onboard because he’s still working out his feelings about working with Davis.

Davis, for her part, is more than happy to drag and push Page towards the obvious conclusion—he’s never going to have a better partner.

We also get to see the sexism Macintosh has to endure professionally, whether it’s discreet and from a supportive colleague (Lewis Fitz-Gerald) or weaponized from a prick colleague (Nicholas Hope). Not to mention the blue blood students get to harass female student and teacher alike without fear of repercussion. William Ewing’s great as one such odious little shit.

The murder involves not just the dead body, but also missing manuscripts and skulls—which gives Davis a great Hamlet reference at one point—and secret agents, which turns into a subplot for Page to work through mostly on his own.

The resolution is a little rushed—the murderer’s motive doesn’t get the four minutes it needs in the first act to resonate later, but it’s understandable because it’d make not just the murderer reprehensible, it’d make most of the rest of the supporting cast complicit in some very bad thoughts.

But thanks to Demetriades, who’s excellent as well as an excellent Phryne protege (Ashleigh Cummings doesn’t get anywhere near as much to do as usual but she’s great with Demetriades, who ends up staying at Davis’s house for a bit), and the intentionally paced Page and Davis subplot, it’s delightful. Eventually.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s02e07 – Blood at the Wheel

Even if the subplot of this episode weren’t Nathan Page deciding he can’t remain friendly (friendly plus) with Essie Davis given her dangerous lifestyle and isn’t going to ask her to knock it off because Page’s non-sexism is one of the most winning parts of his personality… it’d still be a very depressing episode.

The episode opens with a woman (Annie Stanford) speeding in her motor car and crashing due to sabotage (my wife pointed out it’s like watching Cruella de Vil drive) and we then find out she’s a race car driver for the Adventurers’ Club Davis funds (for like-minded women). Stanford and mechanic Rachael Blake were going to race in a local tournament, run by proudly sexist pig David Roberts, who’s not just going to try to keep women out of racing, he’s running for office on the platform of not letting women drive at all.

So while there’s that gem at the top of the organization, there are also the other male racers—Rohan Browne, the victim’s brother, seems okay but gets more and more suspicious as things progress—and there’s creep ex-lover of the victim Shaun Goss, who starts and stays suspicious. Great scene with Davis facing off with Goss during her investigation.

Tammy Macintosh shows up to help Davis with the investigation and, for that moment, it feels like the Dr. Watson Davis never needs (but may if Page is really breaking their working relationship—and is willing to take the hit to his professional fulfillment). There’s also some fantastic stuff for Ashleigh Cummings, who doesn’t just assume a more direct role in private investigating, she also has to get over her fear of driving.

However, beau Hugo Johnstone-Burt doesn’t want her to get over that fear and is positively threatened by all these women—Davis, Blake, but particularly Blake’s teenage daughter, Nikita Leigh-Pritchard)—knowing more about cars than him. Unfortunate but great characterization.

The resolution is complicated and tragic, the investigation to get there is quite good… it’s a very heavy episode with all the patriarchy and weaponized misogyny in play. And the Page subplot, which simmers throughout, positively scalds in the epilogue. Great performances from Davis and, in particular, Page on it.

It’s one heck of a soft cliffhanger.

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) 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) s01e10 – Death by Miss Adventure

It’s hard to know where this episode goes “wrong.” It’s not a bad episode, but it’s not a great one either. It’s nowhere near as good as the last, whatever, five. And it’s co-written by Liz Doran, who adapted one of those previous excellent ones. So maybe it’s the source novel not just being that good? Or co-writer Chris Corbett fizzled?

Because it kind of should be an Essie Davis and best friend Tammy Macintosh episode, but isn’t. Even though the main plot involves shitbag industrialist Andrew Blackman threatening to out Macintosh for not being nice enough to him and expecting him to take his injections for his heart problem. He’s got proof she’s been flirting with the girls who work in his factory or something. The episode needs to treat Macintosh as a reluctantly viable suspect for about eight minutes and it goes through a lot of hoops to get there, plus some logic contortions, which ring hollow when it comes to Davis and Macintosh.

The best parts of the episode involve Ashleigh Cummings working undercover in the factory trying to figure out exactly what Blackman and sister Alison Whyte are doing. There are secret ledgers, extra shifts, and fatal factory floor accidents.

In addition to blowing the chance on the Davis and Macintosh stuff, the episode also wastes Miriam Margolyes, which seems sinful.

Davis’s principal subplot is nemesis Nicholas Bell writing to her from prison and offering to tell her what happened to her sister (who Bell’s convicted of killing but without the body found) in return for his freedom.

It feels like treading water on the plot line, frenetically so, with a bunch of the supporting cast involved with it just to scale it up. Nathan Page even gets involved with it at the end, as sort of an emphasizing device.

When the whole time it should’ve been spent with Davis and Macintosh.

The Cummings stuff makes up for it, especially Davis’s concern for her as well as beau Hugo Johnstone-Burt not being able to keep his cool once he discovers what she’s up to.

Just ought to be better.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s01e05 – Raisins and Almonds

After the lackluster previous episode, the show’s back on track with this one, which almost showcases what material “Miss Fisher’s” works best with.

For instance, there’s not time for the whole supporting cast. Nathan Page doesn’t get a whole bunch to do this episode, but he gets to do all of it with Essie Davis. The Jack and Phyrne banter—which gets soulful here—is a must.

There’s also no B plot. There’s a C plot—which, yes, technically would then just be the B plot but no—involving Anthony J. Sharpe getting engaged and partner Travis McMahon basically throwing a fit and trying to push him out of the business because no girls. Ashleigh Cummings figures into it as well—Davis puts Cummings in charge of a lot of the investigation logistics this episode—and it’s got a rather nice resolve.

The main mystery needs to have some heart, something for Davis to connect with. Here, it’s the death of Jewish guy in a bookshop (private lending library type of bookshop), which leads to Davis discovering how her own gender presumptions are dangerous, how love doesn’t conquer all, and a bunch about pre-Israel Zionism could splinter families. Not to say “Miss Fisher’s” needs some engaging history to click but actively avoiding engaging with the history clearly doesn’t work (see last episode).

There’s also a great action sequence where Davis, retained to prove the bookshop owner’s innocence—after Davis was the one who basically got suspect Kat Stewart arrested in the first place—is snooping around the closed bookshop and runs into a fellow prowler, which leads to a chase scene complete with throwing knives and gunfights. Excellent stuff.

Most of Davis’s investigation involves Phyrne Fellow #2 Tim Draxl. He’s the secretly Zionist son of definitely non-Zionist Brian Lipson, who hires Davis to prove Stewart’s innocence. Lots of chemistry for Draxl and Davis, also lots of exposition as the case leads to the mystical with the Kabbalah. But also to science, which brings Dr. Mac (Tammy Macintosh) back for a welcome return.

There are a bunch of great one-liners for Davis and a couple excellent reveals in the wrap-up. The science mystery is cool (both as a surprise and in terms of historical accuracy) and the villain, while not unpredictable, is great.

And it ends with just the right moment for Davis and Page.

It’s an excellent episode.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s01e01 – Cocaine Blues

Of course, “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” is based on a novel. How did I miss it was based on a novel… Not because Deb Cox’s script ever feels too much like an adaptation—quite the opposite—but because it does such a good job setting up the supporting cast. Lead Essie Davis meets her eventual team of detecting irregulars through this episode’s main plot, so it’s never quite for sure she’s putting the team together. Not until the end, which is a glorious celebratory scene, rewarding characters and viewers alike for the rather intense third act.

The third act is also where the show reveals Davis isn’t just a wealthy woman with a title, a big heart, and an analytic mind for solving crime, but she’s also basically… Catwoman. If Catwoman had more of Batman’s wealth, anyway. Davis (or, more likely, her stunt double) needs to get into a second story window so she scrambles up and then leaps through the air, catching the fire escape landing or whatnot. Even more impressive is how Davis makes it seem totally reasonable not just for the character, but also in her evening gown and heels. Because the show’s already confidently established Davis is a badass, but it wasn’t clear she was a no-power superhero levels of badass.

The mystery involves the death of Davis’s friend’s husband. Miranda Otto plays the friend, who’d invited newly arrived in Melbourne Davis over for lunch. Also at lunch is Miriam Margolyes, as Davis’s aunt. Margolyes is a delightful prude, constantly horrified at Davis’s modern ways. The show’s set in the 1920s, very Gilded Age. Gorgeous production design and costumes.

Davis starts investigating the case because she’s good at solving mysteries, which is nice. Davis is active throughout the episode, getting ahead of cops Nathan Page and Hugo Johnstone-Burt not out of their incompetence but due to her own excellence. She’s back in Australia, we soon learn, because her sister’s murderer, Nicholas Bell, is due to get out of prison soon; Davis visits him and lets him know if he gets out, he’s dead. At best.

Outstanding scene.

Lots of good supporting players in addition to Margolyes, particularly maid Ashleigh Cummings who’s afraid to use technology because the Catholic Church told her it was bad. Tammy Macintosh is great as Davis’s friend and Dr. Watson (Macintosh too is a doctor).

The show says a lot about class and gender, showing it in the context of the 1920s and how that period allowed for less patriarchal restrictions in many ways (so long as you’re rich enough and White enough). It’s not just about Davis being the hero for the women in the story—Cummings, Otto, Macintosh—but for the men as well. 1920s European dancer himbo Kristof Piechocki is most definitely a don in distress, for instance. And although communist activist taxi drivers Travis McMahon and Anthony J. Sharpe do the right thing, it’s Davis whose influence turns them into sidekick do-gooders.

With a surprise finish—though with just the right hint to the audience—great characters, casting, production, “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” is off to a fantastic start.

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