Not Quite Back to Normal Yet

Season 11, Episode 2 (Merlot Mysteries)

This episode gets us back into the usual swing of things for a police procedural show. On the face of it, Merlot Mysteries is a typical detective case-story involving poisoning and figuring out who had means and motive to pull it off. In addition to solving the crime, there was a lot of discussion about wine and viticulture, as well as a history lesson about Canada’s wine industry. We were even treated to a segment of Murdoch being drunk – a very rare occurrence indeed!

Murdoch is not very knowledgeable about wine and this humourously contrasts with Detective Watts’s deep interest and understanding of the topic. There were lots of opportunities for comedy between the two men as they conducted their investigation, occasionally assisted by Dr. Ogden. If anything, this episode demonstrates what an open and inquisitive mind Murdoch has. He is willing to try drinking wine as an intellectual and scientific experiment. He still decides to abstain once his experiment has concluded, but he has discovered a new appreciation for wine as a concept and art.

The other main characters are mostly assisting the investigation at arm’s length. It seems that Brackenreid and Crabtree have developed a new bond after their undercover work together. We still get to see them, but they let Murdoch and Watts have centre stage. However, Murdoch does have an especially poignant exchange with Crabtree regarding the death of Constable Jackson. Murdoch is clearly still dealing with how Jackson died to clear Murdoch’s name; meanwhile, Crabtree has come to terms with it because Jackson was first and foremost a police officer who died in the line of duty for his fellow officer and for his city. However, Crabtree is also eager for everything to get back to normal and I am not sure if that will happen as easily as he hopes. It would have been normal for a police procedural to push onward past character deaths to return to the status quo, so it was refreshing to see that it takes longer than an episode to come to terms with major traumatic events. This scene was also not overplayed, but came across as a normal scene between colleagues.

Which brings me to the final plot development – and arguably the most important. Miss James graduates from medical college and earns the title of Doctor. However, as much as she enjoyed working at the morgue, her dream is to work with living patients. Unfortunately, Toronto’s racist establishment turns her away from interviews at local hospitals, and thus she moves away to find work in more rural and impoverished areas of Ontario, where the people will be more grateful to have a doctor and less concerned with her skin colour or XX chromosomes. This makes me hope that a mystery in the future sends Murdoch and company out her way. At least we get to see that her relationship with her beau, Nate, seems to be leading toward the altar. Dr. James gets a joyful send-off, if bittersweet, and things aren’t quite getting back to normal quickly enough for Crabtree’s liking.

I will miss Rebecca James and I wish her (and her actress) well in her new work. It would still be good to have more than one female main character in the cast. Will Nina or Mrs. Brackenreid get more focus? Will Dr. Ogden get another apprentice or assistant? Or will the void be as noticeable as I think it will?

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