Travis McMahon

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) 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) s03e01 – Death Defying Feats

“Miss Fisher’s” season three premiered almost a year and a half after the second season concluded, so the opening run-through—confirming returning cast members and breaking the show’s usual murder sans Miss Fisher intro—makes sense. Ashleigh Cummings is at a magic show with Travis McMahon and Anthony J. Sharpe, Essie Davis is getting ready for her dinner date with Nathan Page; everything is as it should be.

Until Pip Miller (who isn’t Jon Voight but looks enough like him I thought they’d “scored” Voight as a guest star) shows up at Davis’s door and she cancels plans with Page… and when the guillotine act at the magic show results in an actual decapitation. Then everyone’s evening is ruined.

Davis and Page meet at the magic show and Page is in a bad mood because of the stood-up dinner date, which is going to be his subplot through most of the episode (at least until we find out more of the story with Miller, who’s the magic show’s new investor). But he’s glad to have Davis along, as she used to perform in magic shows and knows how the tricks work. So they can ascertain quickly the guillotine was tampered with and the magician’s assistant murdered.

Grant Piro’s the magician; he was also engaged to the victim. Other suspicious characters around the show are prop guy André de Vanny, contortionist Eloise Mignon (who’s gets a fantastic sequence), and Kate Mulvany. Mulvany’s father used to own the magic show and she’s been teaching de Vanny tricks, which suggests they might be trying to get the show back (to Davis and Page). But Mignon and de Vanny have something else going on too. So lots of suspects and entertaining ones.

Plus there’s Page being very jealous of de Vanny, Cummings taking her investigating up a notch—to the point beau Hugo Johnstone-Burt has to finally take notice of it and appreciate it—and then a fantastically tense conclusion.

Tammy Macintosh makes a couple appearances—she’s now the coroner, which is a great way to keep her around—and Miriam Margolyes, who’s also got history with Miller, is around. It’s a very fun, very steady episode, with some great twists and turns, both in the mystery and the subplots.

Though it really doesn’t seem like Johnstone-Burt and Cummings’s engagement has made much progress in the sixteen months since their last appearance… ditto Page and Davis, but with the latter it’s part of the charm, with the former… you just wish Johnstone-Burt would get his Protestant head out of his ass.

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) s02e09 – Framed for Murder

I’m not just interested this episode because it’s all about the silent movie industry; it’s right at the transition to sound, which means we’re in the late twenties and Black Tuesday is approaching. I’m terrified what it’s going to mean for “Miss Fisher.” Especially when you consider this episode is all about one of Essie Davis’s investments, childhood friend Hamish Michael’s Australian movie studio.

Michael’s trying to keep the local film industry going even though the Americans are trying to takeover. Craig Hall’s the potential investor from the United States; he’s the most problematic thing in the episode because his American accent is bad so it’s hard to take him seriously.

The leading man on Michael’s historical epic ends up murdered and so Davis is investigating as investor, not as private detective. Means she gets to do things like take over directing when she wants to take over directing. It’s awesome. Also a smooth way to get her and Nathan Page working together for the first time in a few episodes without tension.

Well, without professional tension. There’s still personal tension, thank goodness, and the first Phryne Fellow in ages.

The movie studio setting gets everyone involved, from Ashleigh Cummings’s movie trivia helping solve the case (she also proves herself a more diligent investigator than beau Hugo Johnstone-Burt, which is concerning but not surprising) to Travis McMahon and Anthony J. Sharpe having to fill in as actors.

Chris Corbett’s script is geared to be amusing, but the guest stars help a lot. Constantly suspicious Michael is adorable, as is script girl Jane Harber, who’s got a photographic memory. Richard Sutherland’s funny as the asshole director and James Beck turns out quite good as the American actor slumming in Australia.

Stephanie King’s fine as the leading lady but doesn’t have a lot to do.

More than enough excellent support to make up for Hall.

And the action-packed resolution is dynamite; great direction from Peter Andrikidis.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s02e06 – Marked for Murder

Confession: I had no idea what they were talking about with footy. I assumed Australians played football—as in association football—but it looks like a big American football. My wife thought they were talking about rugby. But apparently there’s Aussie rules? Or footy?

The episode’s about two footy clubs and their hooligans and a dead player. We see the player hanging in the cold open, specifically his very hairy butt. Turns out he had just changed teams, which meant he had more haters than the usual player would. But even some supporters of his team—like Nathan Page—think the victim was an opportunist. Though it turns out said victim, Benjamin Rigby, switched teams because Page’s ex-wife’s cousin and lover (Daniel Frederiksen) bribed him to make the change.

It’s a fine episode with lots for all the characters—Hugo Johnstone-Burt goes from being an unthinking footy supporter to having to consider that support, Travis McMahon comes to realize Page can’t be all bad if he supports the right team, Ashleigh Cummings shows she actually listens to Johnstone-Burt’s nonsense. We get some more of Page’s ex-father-in-law boss (Neil Melville) being a snake (he likes the wrong team after all). And we finally get to see Page’s ex-wife hang out with Miss Fisher. There’s a lot of fun in the episode, but there’s never any more tension than when ex-wife Dee Smart and Essie Davis are alone. It’s nearly nerve-racking.

Though there might be more tension in the scene where Page very subtlety asks Davis to stay and watch a match with him. It’s basically their first official date. Particularly cute because Davis has a character detail about why she gave up footy supporting in her youth.

Excellent supporting performances from the team captains, Damien Garvey and Robert Morgan. It’s a complicated resolution to the mystery but well-handled and acted. Though it does feel a little like they tried to do an episode for the boys.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012) s02e05 – Murder à la Mode

It’s kind of a Dot (Ashleigh Cummings) episode. At least more of a Dot episode than the show’s ever had before. Not only does she get a real subplot with beau Hugo Johnstone-Burt, who’s very taken with the outfits he sees around a fancy dressmaker’s (at least the ones modeled on half-French model Freya Stafford), but she also gets a personal style arc. And she gets to be dotted on in the dressmaker’s salon; not just champagne but an evening gown of her own.

The mystery involves the investor of the saloon turning up dead and pretty much everyone there being a suspect. Cummings and Essie Davis are there shopping, which makes it convenient when Davis has to get investigating. Nathan Page and Johnstone-Burt show up quick and the initial investigation is Page and Davis together. Lots of flirting on the crime scene this episode. Quite delightful.

So the victim, Heather Lythe, has a philandering, much younger husband, Mark Leonard Winter, who’s a suspect and appears to be carrying on with Sibylla Budd, who designs for the salon but sister Heather Mitchell has the final word on everything. Then there’s seamstress Tessa Lind who might also be carrying on with Winter or doing something else entirely. Lots of fashion, lots of intrigue.

There’s also a bit of fun for Travis McMahon and Anthony J. Sharpe, who find themselves tasked with intercepting Lind’s something else entirely in an amusing sequence.

Davis has a lot of fun shopping for the clothes and selling Cummings on the idea of caring about clothes, which writer Kristen Dunphy is able to turn into a rather nice C plot. There’s so much mystery, so many avenues Davis and Page end up investigating before they get to the right one. Everyone’s trying to pull something over on everyone else as it turns out. Or they’re confused about what someone else is pulling over on them.

The final resolution is one of the better reveals the show’s had in a while, particularly because it gives Davis a worthy adversary. You actually worry about her in the suspense sequences instead of being sure she’ll be able to prevail. There’s an X factor to the villain here and it takes a while for all the be revealed. Along the way, lots of danger.

It’s a particularly interesting investigation episode, with Cummings getting something more a big plus.

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) s02e02 – Death Comes Knocking

If this episode of “Miss Fisher’s” doesn’t have the highest body, it definitely feels like it has the highest. People get killed off throughout the runtime—and before it, actually, in flashback. The episode opens with a séance, which is automatically awesome just thinking about Essie Davis going off about séances. It’s almost a surprise she’s participating, but it turns out she’s hosting the medium (Julie Forsyth) at Aunt Prudence’s request. Everyone, including me, is surprised to discover Aunt Prudence (Miriam Margolyes) is into the spiritualist stuff.

Margolyes wants the psychic to help Teague Rook get over his World War I PTSD; Rook is Margoyles’s died in the war godson Billy Smedley’s best friend, who also carried dying Smedley off the field at the Somme. Rook is now married to Kate Atkinson, who’s Smedley’s widow, and even has his valet, John McTernan. Margoyles wants Rook to get an official commendation before he dies; the mustard gas just took a while to finally get him. Except Rook doesn’t think he deserves it. He thinks he shot Smedley, not saved him. But he can’t remember.

Hence psychic Forsyth.

Compared to the war veteran stuff—because even though it doesn’t come up every episode, the main and supporting cast of “Miss Fisher’s” are all veterans. Davis, Nathan Page, Travis McMahon, so almost half the regular cast. And this time there are the guest starring veterans: Rook, Jonny Pasvolsky as Forsyth’s manager, Nicholas Brien as a former stretcher-bearer. The Great War looms over these characters, haunting them all in different ways. It’s very nicely done by writer Ysabelle Dean and director Ken Cameron this episode. Davis’s performance in particular is fantastic.

Because once the first body drops, Davis and Page find themselves having to solve the battlefield mystery and figuring out how it relates to the present day murder and then the second one.

Along the way, Davis has time for her first Phryne Fellow of the season, Pasvolsky, who proves quite soulful once Davis convinces him of the “sanctity of the boudoir.” Good performances this episode from McMahon—who still doesn’t like conscientious objectors, which gets in the way of his investigating on Davis’s behalf—and then Rook. Rook does rather well.

There’s also a good combination of scares and laughs for Ashleigh Cummings, who finds the whole séance business disturbingly un-Catholic, as well as some wonderful scenes with Page and Davis. The show’s very intentionally toying with their chemistry at this point, rather delightfully.

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.

Scroll to Top