Article first published as DVD Review: Murdoch Mysteries, Series 3 on Blogcritics.
The description of Murdoch Mysteries, Season 3 sounded intriguing—a crime procedural set in the Victorian era—but I had no idea how much fun it would actually be. Its eccentric hero, detective William Murdoch, utilizes "modern" criminal investigation techniques such as fingerprints and blood work to solve crimes. Based on novels written by Maureen Jennings, the Canadian television series has nice period detail, utilizing the streets of Ontario, as well as accurate set decor and costumes. The series also has a great theme song, composed by Robert Carli.
Murdoch, played by Yannick Bisson, is part of a criminal investigative team led by his boss, Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), and aided by young and ambitious Constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris). The characters all have a nice camaraderie. After watching Season 3, I'd like to check out seasons one and two of the series and see how Murdoch and his "unconventional" techniques were adopted by the police force. The show has already filmed a fourth season, which is currently airing in Canada.
Murdoch Mysteries has a lot of the same features as similar forensic programs like CSI and NCIS. It also has the cop-loves-coroner background plot, a la Bones, as Murdoch also works closely with potential love interest Doctor Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy). Their romance proceeds at a distinctly Victorian rate, as Murdoch is on the proper side, but there are sparks.
Differentiating Murdoch Mysteries from other forensic shows is the weaving in of true-life historical figures. Murdoch meets scientists and authors of the day, including H.G. Wells (Peter Mikhail) and Nikola Tesla (Dmitry Chepovetsky). Murdoch also tangles with a local wealthy businessman, James Pendrick (Peter Stebbings), across a series of episodes and forms a more-than-protective interest in his beautiful wife Sally (Kate Greenhouse).
"The Murdoch Identity" starts off the season and is an appropriate introduction to the hero and the show. Murdoch has lost his memory and has to figure out who he is and if he can get back home again—wherever that is.
In the second episode, "The Great Wall," a constable is found dead, and the trail leads to police corruption and violence in Toronto's Chinatown. Murdoch is back in business and once again working closely with his team to solve the case.
"Victor, Victorian" features the murder of an initiate at a local Masonic temple. Among Murdoch's discoveries: both Inspector Brackenreid and Constable Crabtree are Masons and there are more secrets than just secret societies for him to sort out.
We really get an insight into Inspector Brackenried and his family when his son is kidnapped in "Rich Boy, Poor Boy."
Murdoch must dabble in psychiatry in order to sort out the murderer's motivations in a Lizzy Borden-esque crime in "Me, Myself and Murdoch."
In "This One Goes To Eleven," Murdoch tangles with Moriarty-like James Pendrick and must figure out how Pendrick's Rembrandt painting was stolen from an elevator car.
The police station is invaded by circus performers in all shapes and sizes in "Blood And Circuses" and Murdoch must determine why a tiger devoured his trainer.
Pendrick is back and the talk is of eugenics in the episode "Future Imperfect." Murdoch finds himself on the opposite side of the philosophical fence not only with Pendrick, but with author H.G Wells, who seems to be very interested in Julia.
Murdoch must unravel the story behind the discovery of three bodies—a man, woman, and baby—in "Love And Human Remains."
"The Curse Of Beaton Manor" has all the right elements for a Victorian ghost story—a spooky house, a stormy night, a dead body, and Murdoch on the case.
As Julia is examining the body of a man hanged for the murder of local judge, the "corpse" gets up and runs out of the building in "Hangman."
Murdoch is pulled into the world of Victorian pornography when investigating the murder of a young woman in "In The Altogether." What he didn't expect to find were photographs of none other than Sally Pendrick, wife of his nemesis James Pendrick.
Nikola Tesla helps Murdoch unravel a seemingly impossible locked-room crime in "The Tesla Effect." The Pendricks are front and center once again and Murdoch must sort out his feelings for Sally and Julia.
The DVD includes four discs with all 12 episodes from the third season, as well as a bonus alternate ending to the season's final episode, "The Tesla Effect." Other extras include some short behind-the-scenes features, focusing on wardrobe and the realistic make-up used on various crime scene victims.
Whether you're catching up with the series, or being introduced to it for the first time, Murdoch Mysteries, Season 3 is sure to entertain and become a fixture in anyone's DVD collection. The period settings and intricate mysteries will make viewers want to revisit Murdoch's 1890s Toronto again and again.