Series Review: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
by Jessica Alewine (@awkwardalewine)
I never believed in the “show hole” until I finished Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries last summer. The incredibly original show left me fruitlessly searching for a series that could satisfy like this Australian import had. I have still yet to find a show like it, simply because no other show appeals to each of my obsessions like Miss Fisher’s does. The series is set in the 1920s, a time period which has been fascinating the world in all forms of media. It showcases some of the most stunning costumes in television. It features mysteries that feel comfortable and cozy, much like an Agatha Christie novel. And, finally, the incredible character development and cast left me feeling love, even for the most frustrating of characters. It’s the perfect show for every period piece fangirl.
A great show would be nothing without thorough character development, and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries has given us a slew of characters worthy of love, hatred, and every emotion in between. The protagonist, Miss Phryne Fisher, portrayed by Essie Davis, is the epitome of a flapper girl: she’s full of life, passion, and she’s entirely herself. She enjoys stretching the limits of society while driving fast cars, drinking men under the table, and, most importantly, solving the grisly murders she stumbles upon in every episode. She’s a bit like Miss Marple meets Nancy Drew, and she steals every scene she’s in. The show benefits from the chemistry shared among all the characters, but particularly between Essie Davis and Nathan Page, who plays Inspector Detective Jack Robinson, Phryne’s main love interest in the series. There’s also Dot, the sweetly innocent maid, whom Miss Fisher takes under her wing. Cec and Bert, cabbies who are dragged into the insanity of Miss Fisher’s world as her drivers, serve as the every man of the series and a constant source of humor. Dr. Mac, Phryne’s best friend, often assists in investigations as a source of all things medical and scientific. Finally, there’s Hugh Collins, constable, friend of Jack Robinson, and romantic interest of Dot. Each character is well-developed throughout the series, and viewers will not be able to watch the series without falling in love with each and every one of them.
Each of these characters would be nothing without a set of mysteries reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel. With each murder, twisted motive, and unique murder weapon, I found myself constantly comparing the murders and plots to those of the queen of mystery’s novels. There were a few episodes in particular that really compared well with Christie’s novels, including the season 2 finale, “Murder Under the Mistletoe”. This episode follows Miss Fisher and her friends as they celebrate Christmas in July in a cabin located in the snowy woods. The vacation goes amiss when one of their party is murdered, and they begin to suspect that the killer is in the cabin. It felt like a lightened version of And Then There Were None, and fans of cozy mysteries will particularly enjoy this episode.
While the plot revolves around mystery, as the title would suggest, it also closely follows the personal lives of the core characters. Dot and Hugh begin a sweet romance in the series, and we watch as they struggle with their different beliefs about marriage and societal roles as their relationship progresses. Miss Fisher and Inspector Jack Robinson also have incredible chemistry throughout the series, and the writers have created a great friendship and flirtation between the characters leaving us wondering, “Will they? Won’t they?” as their relationship progresses. Miss Fisher also adopts a young girl she meets during an investigation and becomes dear friends with her butler, Ces, Bert, and Dot. These relationships come to be the heart of the show, while the mysteries carry the plot forward. However, without the stunning setting and costumes, the series would not be as decadent as it is.
As of late, the world has had an obsession with all things related to the 1920s. With the adoration of the recent film adaptation of The Great Gatsby and the recent show, Z: The Beginning of Everything, it’s clear that we’re clamoring for media set in the 1920s. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries satisfies our craving for ‘20s period pieces through its flawless setting and history. The sets are subtly beautiful, ranging from Miss Fisher’s house, to the police station, and even a lovely vacation ready beach front. The beautiful cars, architecture, and design all create an inviting representation of the ‘20s that envelops the viewer. But, the show doesn’t just romanticize the ‘20s. It shows the horrifying effects of World War I on the Australian people. Miss Fisher was an ambulance nurse during the war, and we often see her dealing with the death and despair she saw during the war. We see soldiers grappling with the deaths they caused. We see families struggling to understand that their loved ones left for war and are never coming back. The careful writing, intricate set design, and the raw emotion of the series allow viewers to experience a time period that is so often romanticized in a realistic manner. The series also touches on some of the social unrest of the time, which many would argue carries into modern times. It allows the series to make statements on topics such as feminism and the family structure without coming off as preachy or aggressive. The setting of the series also allows for the costume department to have a lot of fun, and allows us a feast for the eyes.
Part of the glamour of the ‘20s was the stunning fashion. Miss Fisher’s takes the importance of fashion during this era seriously, and the show’s costume designers have lovingly created a wardrobe that displays the fashion of the era properly. Every character has an exquisite closet, but Phryne’s is undeniably the most impressive. Each slinky dress, feathered headband, and strand of pearls harkens back to a time of glamour and slick style. Her always present bob and red lipstick are fashion trademarks she wears proudly. She wears the fashion of a flapper like a badge of her femininity and feminism, and the show displays the importance of her wardrobe. The costumes and wardrobe from the show are so impressive that several of the costumes have actually been actually on display and on tour in Australia, allowing fans to see some of their favorite fashion pieces in person. Fans of fashion will admire this series as much as fans of mystery.
While there are not currently any new episodes being created, the future holds a lot of possibility for the series. The show creators and actors have not discussed a new season airing anytime soon, but they have said that there is the possibility that the show will return at a future date. Recently they have more seriously discussed creating a movie trilogy dedicated to the fiery female detective. Currently, the show is being continued in the new app, “Miss Fisher and the Deathly Maze,” which will feature new “episodes” that players can enjoy as they work through the app. If the promise of that much new content is not enough for you, the television series is also based off of a book series by Kerry Greenwood. While they share some differences, the book series may tide you over until new television or film content is created.
Ultimately, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is the perfect pick for anyone looking for a period piece, a new mystery series, or a new ‘20s fix. Fans of Agatha Christie, Call the Midwife, and The Bletchley Circle will enjoy the show. Definitely a worthy addition to any Netflix user’s watchlist.