Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Murdoch Mysteries, Season 4 on Blogcritics.
Acorn Media has come out with another excellent Blu-ray version of the Canadian forensic series set in Toronto, Ontario in the 1890s, Murdoch Mysteries. Based on characters featured in the Detective Murdoch novels written by Maureen Jennings, Yannick Bisson stars as William Murdoch, a police detective ahead of his time, utilizing the latest scientific techniques to help solve crimes.
Murdoch is helped in his investigations by his chief, Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), Constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris), and until recently, coroner Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy). Murdoch and Ogden had been inching close to a full-fledged romance until the good doctor decided to leave Toronto abruptly at the end of last season to move to Buffalo, N.Y.
Originally broadcast on Canadian television in 2011, the Season 4 Blu-rays in this collection feature all 13 episodes on three discs, for a total running time of 624 minutes. Video resolution is 1080p, with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Sound is Dolby Digital 2.0, and English SDH subtitles are available. Extras include additional behind-the-scenes featurettes, including one on star Yannick Bisson's directorial debut, "Buffalo Shuffle."
1 - "All Tattered and Torn" Murdoch is still mourning the exit of coroner Dr. Ogden, and still not sure why she left (him.) Her replacement, Dr. Francis (Paul Rhys), is a non-nonsense type who doesn't appreciate Murdoch, or being called to a crime scene. The squad investigates a series of gruesome hatchet murders that have taken place near the home of retired Detective Malcolm Lamb (Victor Garber), Murdoch's predecessor. Murdoch reaches out to Julia in her new home of Buffalo, N.Y. for ... help on the case.
2 - "Kommando" Soldiers from nearby Fort York are being found murdered. Murdoch must determine whether a crazed killer is suffering from a disease the soldiers may have acquired in South Africa or something else entirely. Crabtree mentions he is writing a mystery novel.
3 - "Buffalo Shuffle" Murdoch travels to Buffalo to help Julia investigate a suspicious death at the Children's Hospital where she is now working. Back in Toronto, Brackenreid and Crabtree must deal with a nosy reporter who wants to write about "bumbling Brackenried." Will Murdoch be able to share his real feelings for Julia — or handle the surprising news she has to share with him?
4 - "Downstairs, Upstairs" Rich man Percival Jenkins is found dead, shot through the head, over his breakfast. Murdoch uncovers that there have been an unusual number of maids employed by the family over the years, and that Percival had no fans either upstairs or downstairs in his household. Complicating issues, Julia is in town with her fiancé Dr. Darcy Garland (Johnathan Watton). Murdoch asks for her help in solving the case.
5 - "Monsieur Murdoch" A woman, Sophie, and her husband enlist Murdoch's help in finding her sister Monique, who has disappeared from her hotel. Curiously, Monique appeared to have keys to rooms on the fourth and second floors. Murdoch teams with a French investigator who had also been hired by the girl's father to find the missing girl, and uses photographic evidence to try and solve the crime. Dr. Ogden is back full-time in Toronto as coroner.
6 - "Dead End Street" Murdoch is able to piece together the details of a crime no one even knew had occured, based on the intricate artwork of an autistic woman, and an innovative autopsy performed by Dr. Ogden.
7 - "Confederate Treasure" A body discovered down by the docks has connections to Canada's first Prime Minister. Murdoch must tread lightly investigating a crime that may tie Canada to the American Civil War.
9 - "The Black Hand" A woman from Murdoch's past, Anna Fulford (Lisa Faulkner), may be implicated in a crime. Murdoch discovers that Anna's fiancé (why does every woman Murdoch cares for agree to marry someone else?), may have connections to The Black Hand. Murdoch must be careful – and so must Inspector Brackenreid, whose run for Alderman is being complicated by pressures from political factions.
10 - "Voices" Murdoch is reunited with his long-lost sister, who is an actual a sister at a convent – in fact, she is the Reverend Mother. The siblings aren't exactly experiencing a happy reunion, as two nuns at the convent are under suspicion of murder, and Murdoch is there on business, not a familial visit.
11 - "Blood Lust" The popularity of Bram Stoker’s Dracula convinces Constable Crabtree and soon the rest of the city to believe that a real-life vampire is on the loose in Toronto. Dr. Ogden can't help but relate her feelings for Murdoch to the famous book – their "forbidden" love could be jeopardizing her current engagement, as Count Dracula comes between Jonathan Harker and his fiancée Mina.
12 - "The Kissing Bandit" A Robin Hood-like thief, who robs banks and gives the money to the poor, is Murdoch's latest challenge. Meanwhile plans for Dr. Ogden's wedding are in full swing, much to the chagrin of Detective Murdoch.
The look of Murdoch Mysteries continues to impress, with its accurate period settings and costumes a definite highlight. The Victoriana on display in "Downstairs, Upstairs" is especially impressive. The sound quality and ambient noises are crisp and clear, and the series looks especially good on a large high-definition television, as the viewer feels they have stepped back in time with Murdoch.
Murdoch Mysteries is more than just a Victorian-era CSI. Its characters are interesting, human, and sometimes quite humorous. The cases are clever, with just the right amount of science, history, and sometimes a bit of fantasy thrown in to make for an entertaining and intriguing show. Happily there is another season, currently airing in Canada, and a sixth season already planned, so there will be more Murdoch on the way.