As my beloved Elementary has been on a two-week break (it’s back next week, I promise), I thought I’d highlight an Australian TV show that is a recent obsession.
My bestie introduced me to Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, an Australian drama, centered around a glamorous socialite turned lady detective. Set in Melbourne during the Roaring Twenties, this show has so much to love: a strong, kickass female protaganist, compelling storylines, good supporting cast, an acknowledgement of issues and women’s rights back in the day and fabulous, fabulous costumes. The lady detective is one Phyrne Fisher (pronounced Frynee,) who has returned to Melbourne after years spent in England and Europe, where her family came into money somehow. Now she’s back as an independently wealthy woman and becomes embroiled in a mystery involving back alley abortions and gangs, almost the minute she gets back. It’s that one case that propels her to her calling as a private detective.
Phryne is played by Essie Davis, an actress whose pretty well known in Australia, and she’s starred in a couple of Hollywood films like The Matrix Reloaded and Girl with the Pearl Earring. She brings a maturity to the role that works very well in the series. The TV show is based on a series of books and in the books, Phryne Fisher is described as an ingenue; however, I love that they cast an older actress for the role of a sexually liberated woman of the time. Miss Fisher intends to remain single and has no qualms about flirting, pursuing and bedding the handsome men she meets while solving murders. It’s pretty refreshing to see an older actress playing a role that is not a mother, grandmother or spinster.
The first series runs for 13 episodes and follows your garden variety case-of-the-week format; however, there is an underlying mystery involving the disappearance of Phyrne’s sister when they were children. That subplot comes to a head in the last few episodes of the season. Each episode starts out with a murder and the initial set up of the case. Most of the time, the murder takes place Phryne’s general vicinity (the woman is something of a magnet for murder.) We do get to see brief glimpses into Phryne’s life in Europe and her childhood in Melbourne with every other episode. The cases can get a bit ridiculous and the context of the cases can play into some cringeworthy stereotypes. In the episode, “Ruddy Gore,” there are some cringeworthy moments and tired tropes concerning immigrants from China. The show is redeemed for me in the fact that it touches on the issues of the day, with a particular emphasis on women’s rights. As I mentioned earlier, the first episode revolves around shady characters who run an illegal abortion business. Another episode deals with a female doctor and her quest to provide family planning services to women working in a factory. I do appreciate that the series really tries to flesh out its female characters.
The sets and little details of the series are top notch. Also, the costumes, dear Lord, the costumes. I crave every single thing Phyrne Fisher wears in this show. It’s impeccable costume design, arguably better than what we saw with The Great Gatsby. It’s that kind of attention to detail that is the series strongest suit, style wise.
So if you’re looking for something to fill into your TV schedule, I highly recommend this show. The first series is currently on Netflix and the second series just wrapped in Australia, so hopefully we get that soon here in the States. Enjoy!