Tony Tilse

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s03e02 – Murder & the Maiden

Season three’s Jack (Nathan Page) jealousy is a lot less morose than previously. He’s jealous for Essie Davis’s history with Royal Australian Air Force captain Rodger Corser but it takes a while before Page lets it hinder he and Davis’s working relationship. Even when Corser’s withholding evidence in a murder case—a woman’s body is found outside the fence and the RAAF’s official position is it can’t have anything to do with them.

The mystery is a very complicated one, involving White Russians and Red Russians and the local communists and Fisher agent Travis McMahon’s potential girlfriend, Kasia Kaczmarek, and a missing pilot. Turns out the missing pilot was knocking boots with not missing pilot Tom Hobbs and the rest of the base—Corser aside, apparently—suffered a mass wave of homophobia.

Meanwhile, Hugo Johnstone-Burt wants to set the date for the wedding with Ashleigh Cummings but he also doesn’t want her to keep her job, which isn’t cool with her.

Also this episode—for the first time, I think—Davis refers to Cummings as her assistant, not her companion, suggesting Cummings becoming a detective in her own right. Very cool.

Shame the year is 1929 and Black Tuesday is imminent.

Davis does an excellent job with the Corser subplot; it takes most of the episode for their full history to come out and even Page can’t fret about it once he hears the whole story. Corser’s… fine, though a little less compelling a Phryne fellow than usual. He’s a bland flyboy type, which makes sense since they knew each other during the war, but he hasn’t got any of the burning internal passion. Maybe because he’s a bit too much of a dick to Page in the RAAF vs. coppers peeing contest.

But it all works out, with a very well-executed final action sequence—Tony Tilse’s direction is quite good—as well as a lovely finish.

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) 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.

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