When I wrote my blog post on the TV Week‘s Previews issue, Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, the titular character, Peregrine, was described as “kinetic and bored at the same time…she can’t hold down a job, but also doesn’t know what she wants to do or who she wants to be, in Melbourne’s St Kilda during the swinging ’60s. But then she suddenly inherits a fortune from an aunt she never knew, and follows her footsteps into the Adventuresses’ Club.”
I feel that the pilot established Peregrine and the premise of the show beautifully.
The pilot kicked off at the Adventuresses’ Club’s headquarters, where it’s revealed Phryne has disappeared during a flight somewhere over Papua New Guinea and all that was left was her famous gold gun. The Club members are now trying to find an heir to her estate. The pilot then cuts to Peregrine (Geraldine Hakewill) working as a hairdresser in a coastal town, shortly before she gets fired, where it’s revealed her mother, Annabelle Fisher, has died. She finds the letter from the Club about her inheritance and heads off to find out about it.
The pilot then refocuses on a bridal show, where the murder victim of the episode is revealed in spectacular fashion, a woman named Barbie, who is found dead on top of the bridal show wedding centrepiece in her bridal gear.
Meanwhile, Peregrine has arrived in Melbourne and goes to the Adventuresses’ Club but isn’t allowed in, so in Fisher style, she climbs the roof and crashes the meeting. It is then it’s revealed that Phryne and Annabelle are half-sisters, with Phryne’s father only telling her about Annabelle on his death bed, and Phryne tried her best to find her. Peregrine is then given the keys to Phryne’s car and house, which of course is different to those in the original series.
The episode cuts back to the case where we meet Chief Inspector Sparrow (Greg Stone), who already has a vendetta against Peregrine as Phryne had dirt on him, and Detective James Steed (Joel Jackson) at the crime scene, with the designer of the bridal gowns, Florence Astor (Libby Tanner) provides details about Barbie.
Later, Peregrine checks out her new digs and discovers a man, Sparrow breaking in, stealing Volume 20 of Phryne’s notebooks. When she enquires about the notebooks at the Adventuresses’ Club, they inform her that it could be notes on police raids at Madam Lyon where incriminating photos of policemen were taken. It is not long after this that Birdie (Catherine McClements) puts Peregrine through a series of tests when she declares that she wants to fill the vacant spot in the Club left by Phryne. Of course she passes the tests and becomes a member.
However where Peregrine really tries to fill Phryne’s shoes is investigating Barbie’s murder, which she manages to do mostly by going undercover as an employee at Blair’s Department Store. It is there she finds out Barbie tried to the pill but fell pregnant anyway. Throughout her investigation, Florence Astor, a member of the Adventuresses’ Club, is the main suspect, after Steed finds Astor’s salon has been unattended for months and Barbie wrote her a letter wanting her money back. However this all changes when Florence is found dead in the basement of the department store.
After a few twists and turns, including Peregrine witnessing Sparrow taking a bribe from Terence Blair, Sparrow chasing Peregrine, Peregrine blackmailing Sparrow, and Barbie turning out to be Terence’s mistress, Colin Blair is revealed to be Barbie’s killer.
The episode ends with Peregrine’s boyfriend, Eric (James Mason) suddenly arriving at Peregrine’s house, just as she and Steed are about to kiss, and the Adventuresses’ Club discover that Phryne’s Isis figurine contains evidence of Sparrow’s wrongdoing at Madam Lyon.
Overall, I found the pilot did its job of establishing the premise and its characters, connecting this spin off to the original that inspired it, and a riveting murder mystery. The only downside for me was the episode’s length, nearly the length of a movie. I’m looking forward to reviewing the rest of the series.
-While the fates of Phryne and her father are disclosed, the fates of Jack Robinson, Dot, Hugh Collins, Mr Butler, Cec, Burt, Mac, Aunt Prudence and Jane aren’t revealed. While it would have been expecting too much to see these characters and their actors make an appearance, I don’t think it’s expecting too much to have at least found out where they are now.