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Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries–Season 1 Finale (Seasoned Murder)

This episode revolved around cooking, food, and Samuel’s past.

The episode kicks off at a cooking school where the owner and head chef, Graham, is giving his mostly Asian chefs a hard time and his wife, Shirley, giving the ladies tips on providing finger food for entertaining. It then cuts to Peregrine finding she is low on food, Steed and Sparrow eating their lunch at the station, Samuel taking a herb to eat from Violetta’s plant, and Birdie dipping pretzels in her martini. It then cuts back to the cooking school with the staff, including Samuel’s former sister-in-law, Lucy, finding Graham dead on the school’s kitchen floor with a meat cleaver in his back.

Lucy goes to see Samuel and Birdie, and meets Peregrine, telling her she was also friends with Phryne. When they are all discussing the case, Birdie comes up with the idea of Peregrine to take cooking classes at the school to be both undercover and invisible to everyone else. Well she’s not invisible to everyone, Sparrow catches her and threatens her, she returns with her own threat of making the evidence of him at Madame Lyon’s public.

While Peregrine is there, she finds out that Shirley wants the school shut due to Graham’s death, Mr Woo’s cleaver is missing and the chefs think Rita is lazy but Graham mistreated her. Mr Woo is cleared when it’s revealed he had a job interview at a Dim Sim factory. Peregrine also befriends Chong Lee, a chef there, offering Phryne’s Chinese books to him and discovers he went to university. It is through this discovery that she makes a bigger one, Lucy was smuggling Chinese men into Australia under the guise of the cooking school, who were being pursued by the Chinese government, Chong Lee was a journalist against the revolution and had to flee. Chong was also being blackmailed as someone found out about this.

After Sparrow informs Constable Connor and Steed that the “unusual cookie” they found on Graham’s body is a fortune cookie with a message, they find the message reads ‘fleeting love is the most precious’. Samuel recognises it as Lucy’s handwriting and she admits that she made the cookie and wrote the note. She also admits that her and Graham had a one night stand and he wanted more but she didn’t. However Shirley has been told the opposite and her alibi—a tryst with the Mayor at the golf club checks out. Shirley reveals to Steed and Fisher that Graham had a bag of cash on him.

Later Shirley finds a Bomb Alaska supposedly made by Lucy with an accompanying note waiting for her, however it’s revealed there is a literal bomb inside. Just as Peregrine comes in to the kitchen, the bomb explodes, killing Shirley and injuring Peregrine. Afterwards Steed and Peregrine visit the farm Chong said he was at the time of Graham’s murder and find Chong arguing with the owner, Mrs Zhang. It is there they discover that Mrs Zhang is supplying opium, is part of a drug ring and Rita is one of her customers, which explains Rita’s behaviour. When Peregrine tells the Adventuresses’ Club this information, Rita comes clean to everyone, including Samuel, revealing that she was driving the car the day of the accident and she has been using opium to cope with her survivor’s guilt.

Meanwhile after Rita is almost drowned, and Sparrow is attacked with a meat tenderiser and the cash is stolen (as Sparrow was attempting to take it), the murderer is revealed to be the cooking school’s accountant, Bruce Taylor. In a later scene, Taylor and Sparrow are seen talking to each other and Sparrow tells Steed that Taylor is naming him as a dirty cop. To clear Steed’s name, Peregrine agrees to give Sparrow the negatives of the photographs of him at Madame Lyon’s in exchange for him calling Taylor’s bluff, which he does. Steed tells Peregrine that Sparrow has charged Taylor with the murders and agrees to support him if Taylor still names him as a corrupt cop.

The episode ends with Steed and Peregrine stopping short of admitting their feelings for each other as they are interrupted by Samuel, Violetta and Birdie, who have come over to celebrate with food. Nevertheless, Steed does tell Peregrine he appreciates her.

Overall this was a solid episode on it’s own, as well as a solid season finale as it has throwbacks to the pilot, and nearly everything is tied up nicely with enough openings for subplots for the next season, if there is one. I certainly hope there is a next season.

 

 

Stray Observations:

-Samuel and Daphne were married in February 1958.

-It has been two years since Daphne’s death in 1962, making the present year in 1964.

-Constable Connor and Steed trying to figure out what the fortune cookie was, as well as Peregrine believing it was baking accident, and Sparrow informing Connor and Steed what a fortune cookie is, was hilarious and a good insight into Australian’s ignorance of American culture in the 1960s.

-Peregrine was partially able to piece together that Chong wasn’t a real chef by the fact that he didn’t make any negative comments on her awful cheese straws.

-Jane Allsop appeared in the original series as Delores, a patient in an asylum in the episode Death & Hysteria.

Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries–Season 1, Episode 3 (Space for Murder)

This episode explored the eerie territory of UFOs.

The episode kicks off with a couple, Tanya and Terry, in a car at a lookout on a date. Terry notices that Tanya has weird blue stuff on her arm, bright lights shine above them, Tanya gets out of the car and appears to be taken by a UFO.

One month passes and Birdie is waiting for a friend of hers, Cecile, to show up for one of their regular catch-ups, but she is running late. Unknown to her, her telex is typing out an SOS message, which is from Cecile. When Birdie eventually sees the SOS hours later, she asks Peregrine to drive out to find her and eventually find her dead body in her car. Cecile’s body is literally ice cold, she has a mysterious burn on her leg and the same blue stuff in her hair that Tanya had on her arm. Steed comes to the scene to investigate shortly after their discovery.

Cecile is revealed by Birdie to be Dr Cecile Armand and that they worked together during the war. Birdie also tells them that Cecile has spent a year working in a government lab on a secret project. Birdie and Peregrine try to sneak into the lab with no success, so Peregrine naturally decides to go in undercover as a tea lady.

Peregrine and Steed discover the ISO chamber at the lab and find scratch marks on the door and a fingernail, concluding that Cecile was frozen to death in the chamber. Peregrine tries to gain access to more areas of the lab, only to find her tea lady access card is restricted. To get around this, she steals Malcolm Levine’s, who manages the facility, access card for Samuel to copy.

Peregrine also discovers that one of the professors, Hans, would regularly give flowers to Cecile, however one of the lab’s cleaners, Rosemarie, tells Peregrine Cecile didn’t like Hans. Peregrine gives the note with the flowers back to Hans in order to get more answers but he grabs and threatens her, making him the prime suspect, especially when Peregrine finds his heater matches the burn mark on Cecile’s leg. Peregrine tells Steed, who wants to confront Hans, and also informs her that the car had only one half fingerprint, as any other prints were wiped. Steed then confronts Hans, which involves him turning on his heater, and Hans admits he saw Cecile the night she was murdered but didn’t kill her.

Meanwhile, Peregrine is offering the lab staff some tea, coffee and Scotch Fingers, and this includes Professor Elaine Montgomery. Professor Montgomery is getting a coffee for herself and Steed, the latter there to question her. In the process Montgomery touches Hans’ mug and refuses Peregrine’s offer of sugar as she has her own sweetener. She uses the “sweetener” to spike Steed’s coffee. Whilst he is with Montgomery, Peregrine gives punch tape she found in Cecile’s office to Birdie. As Peregrine and Birdie are talking, a lab alarm goes off and she goes back in to find Steed delirious. To get them out of the lab, she has them put on HAZMAT-like suits to disguise them.

Peregrine takes Steed back to her place where Samuel, Violetta and Birdie make their own judgements. Samuel and Violetta inform her that the blue flake contains bacteria and they also inform her that they found another set of prints on Han’s mug that Peregrine gave them earlier. They leave and Peregrine looks after Steed, who kisses her, of course when he has sobered up the next morning, he doesn’t remember anything.

Violetta discovers that Montgomery’s prints matched the print found in Cecile’s car. As Peregrine and Steed are looking for Montgomery, Peregrine finds Rosemarie in Montgomery’s office correcting her equation. Peregrine and Steed find Montgomery dead in a bathtub in the wet lab, just as Charles, another doctor, appears. Steed discovers Montgomery’s skull was broken. When Malcolm tries to stop Steed from conducting his investigation, Sparrow stands up for him, showing a redeeming side to his character for the first time.

Peregrine and Steed find a Soviet-like radio transmitter and conclude that Elaine must have been a spy. Birdie puts the punch tape in the teleprinter and finds the experiment, or rather the blue substance is Azure 693, and it is a failure. Peregrine manages to get a full sample for Violetta to analyse and they discover it is deep sea algae, which when ingested, has a similar effect to LSD and the lab is testing it as a truth serum. They also discover that Tanya is a subject of the experiment after speaking with Terry.

Peregrine goes back to the facility and finds Tanya locked in a room in the basement. Tanya tells Peregrine that Cecile visited her. When Peregrine spots the same carnations on Tanya’s bed that she saw in Cecile’s office from Hans, Tanya tells her that Rosemarie gave them to her. Rosemarie tells Peregrine that she met Cecile in the war and that she was a doctor in Hungary, but as she came to Australia with no papers, she’s resigned to being a cleaner and that Cecile tried to shut down the experiment. Meanwhile when Constable Connor makes a phone call to follow up on Charles’ alibi, she regards that the person on the other end answered the phone in an unusual manner, when Sparrow overhears Constable Connor say how they answered, he recognises it as CIA code and they rush to the facility. Charles tries to kill Peregrine, but the police come and arrest Charles.

Throughout the case, Birdie speaks with Arthur, her and Cecile’s handler and asks for his help, which he later provides. When the case is solved, Arthur asks Birdie to work for him again and she declines. She instead offers to help Rosemarie become a doctor again. The episode ends with Peregrine and Steed at the same lookout Tanya and Terry went to, where Peregrine tells Steed that Montgomery spiked him with truth serum and what happened when he was high.

Overall this was a solid episode with tight writing and character development with Birdie as her past is revealed. The highlight of the episode was Steed being high on the Azure 693. Joel Jackson put on a hell of a performance.

 

Stray Observations:

-Samuel’s ticklish.

-Birdie admits to Samuel that she knows about him and Violetta’s blossoming romance. Although how she found out about it wasn’t made clear.

-Birdie’s background was explored with the reveal that she met Cecile during the war and that her and Cecile were in a car accident while on assignment and had to leave Birdie behind. She didn’t see her again for another three years after that.

Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries–Season 1, Episode 2 (Dead Beat)

Now that the premise and characters of the show have been established, the real fun can begin.

The episode revolves around the murders of Duane Gordon, a popular singer, and Gidget, a back-up singer. The murders were unique in that they were both electrocuted as an electrical cord attached to a surfboard in a pool malfunctioned, which lead to Duane and Gidget falling into the pool and to their deaths. Their deaths were also on air as their performance was part of a television show.

Peregrine quickly rushes to the scene as she not only watched the show but her ex-boyfriend, Eric, was seen on air as he did the wiring of the surfboard. When she investigates, she finds the wiring was faulty but Eric swears the cord wasn’t faulty when he did the wiring.

Eric is for the most part the main suspect, especially after it’s revealed that he sold Duane his car, Duane’s cheque bounced and the car turned out to be stolen, a fact that Eric was unaware of. He’s also considered a main suspect when Peregrine finds salt in his toolbox.

Other suspects emerge in the form of the television show’s host, Billy Carson, who gave everyone a hard time, but he is quickly ruled out. Edwina Maddox, the television station owner, is also viewed as a suspect, but she is ruled out as it’s revealed she’s paying the Italian-Australian mafia money to hide her late husband’s homosexuality. Carlo Liotti, Duane’s manager, looks like a great suspect when it’s revealed he was obsessed with Gidget, and is part of the Italian-Australian mafia. Carlo looks even more suspicious when he is seen talking with Sparrow and later has his henchmen try to kill Eric and later Peregrine at her home.

To find more answers, Violetta joins the investigation to audition for the show, to gain backstage access without suspicion. After a rocky start and a make-over, she nails her audition and gets on the show. When she discovers Julie’s scissors have some of the electrical cord on them, she realises Julie (the make up artist) was the murderer.

When Peregrine finds Julie with scissors to Violetta’s throat and trying to push her off the roof of the television station building, Julie reveals that Duane was her twin, they were born in Italy and she was devastated that he was rejecting their heritage and her by changing his appearance and with his plans to leave the show. After all of the twists and turns, I enjoyed the reveal of Julie as Duane’s murderer as she was the least likely suspect and killed him for heartbreaking reasons.

Whilst all of this is going on, we are given an insight into Violetta’s past as she reveals she was engaged to Carlo and she ended it when she found out about his mafia connections. It’s also revealed that she is a good singer and when Carlo compliments her on her audition, she thanks him and asks him to stop sending her flowers, which he agrees to. She and Samuel, who have had obvious chemistry finally kiss. I appreciated that while Violetta got a make over and the audience sees how beautiful she is, that she went back to being herself with her hair tied back and glasses on. It reverses the “pretty girl once she takes her glasses off” cliche.

The episode ends with Eric leaving to start a new life and Steed going on a drive with Peregrine. I wonder if their chemistry will be explored now that Eric has left.

Overall this was a solid episode with a riveting mystery, an unlikely perpetrator, and an element of fun with the television show.

 

Stray Observations:

-There were a couple of A Place to Call Home alumni present in this episode–Heather Mitchell (Edwina in this episode, Prudence Swanson in A Place to Call Home) and Dominic Allburn (Billy Carson in this episode, Harry Polson in A Place to Call Home).

-Heather Mitchell appeared in Season 2, Episode 5 of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries as Madame Fleuri.

 

Best one liners:

  • “You might as well stand closer if you’re going to eavesdrop!” (Steed to Peregrine when he goes to question Eric)
  • “A Phryne stand-in!” (Edwina describing Peregrine to Birdie)
  • “I’m an unofficial cop with a greater range of skills!” (Peregrine describing herself as a P.I. to the television studio’s security guard)

Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries–Pilot (Just Murdered)

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.

 

Stray Observations:

-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.