Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is a show you should watch right now. Featuring an amazing, vital lead, strong supporting characters, scrumptious clothes and wonderful houses (it’s set in 1920’s Melbourne) and plenty of mysteries to solve, it’s just plain fun to watch. These are based on the Phryne Fisher mystery series by Kerry Greenwood, and while I have read and enjoyed several of the books and plan on reading and enjoying more, I’m also going to commit the bookworm’s cardinal sin and say that I like the show better (because clothes! See below).
You want a strong female lead? Try Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis). Brought up poor, she has recently inherited the family wealth and plans to enjoy every minute of her good fortune—and to make sure the people around her do as well. She is vital, energetic, generous, and dangerous: Woe to the person who hurts anyone around her. She is a capable detective and will not give up until she has solved the case.
All indications are that she has always had a strong appetite for life and a capacity to enjoy herself, but now that she has money, she can indulge in wonderful clothes, good food, and giving generous gifts. She also continues to take lovers when she feels like it (I think the show may actually have cut down on the number). And, as a private detective, she can choose her own cases and charge her own fees. Sometimes nothing, sometimes an item or a concession.
Stellar main characters lose a lot of their luster if they depend on the people surrounding them muting their shine. Fortunately, this is not the case in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, where Dot (Ashleigh Cummings), Mr. Butler (Richard Bligh), Bert (Travis McMahon), Cec (Anthony Sharpe), Jack Robinson (Nathan Page), and Hugh Collins (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) make for a truly delightful and opinionated crowd. Aunt Prudence (Miriam Margolyes) and Jane (Ruby Rees Wemyss) also deserve mention, making strong impressions in the episodes in which they are featured, as do several guest actors. If there’s anything I hope will change in season two, it’s that we see more of their interactions.
Dot, or Dorothy, Phryne’s companion, seems like a quiet and mild sort, and she is, but she also has an underlying toughness and determination that sees her becoming a major part of several of Phryne’s investigations. She also has a developing relationship with Constable Hugh Collins, who is absolutely adorable. I do hope we see more interactions between her and Mr. Butler in future seasons as their kitchen discussions and plans are one of the show’s highlights.
Mr. Butler, by the way, is the butler who seems to have been more or less inherited along with the house. Although he begins his tenure by saying he looks forward to working for a spinster with an appreciation for the quiet things in life, he becomes an invaluable member of Phryne’s household and turns out to have some unexpected talents.
Cec and Burt are two cab drivers who find themselves swept along in Phryne’s wake and are now employed as her assistants in the detective business. I believe they are more active in the books, but they have plenty to do in the show as well, and definitely are not afraid of expressing their opinions.
And then there is Detective Inspector Jack Robinson, the hardworking detective whose life Phryne complicates. He and Phryne have a level of sexual tension that I am almost sure was added for the show (It has been a while since I read those books), but which Nathan Page and Essie Davis play beautifully, keeping it just at the side of “almost stated.”
And did I mention the clothes? This is the 1920’s, Phryne is a rich woman who loves clothes, and the production team and costume designers have not only remembered it, they’ve indulged it. There is not an episode that goes by without Phryne having at least three costume changes, everything from lavishly decorated silk robes to beaded dresses and fur trimmed coats. She also has a number of elaborate hats and headbands. One second season episode (I have already started!) features her climbing into a graveyard in the most beautiful sequined and furred black coat ever seen. Take a look at the albums on the official Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Facebook Page to see what I’m talking about—image after image of gorgeous clothing.
And what good is a mystery show without mysteries? Fear not! Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries has plenty of those, everything from cocaine smuggling and careless back alley abortionists to mysterious drowning and strange cults feature here. Each episode is a standalone, but season one, at any rate, has an over-arching mystery as well.
So sit down and watch the show about a beautiful, intelligent, and eccentric detective who dresses well, keeps the police scrambling, and knows how to socialize.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is available on Amazon–or you can watch Seasons One and Two on Netflix.