I’ll admit- I’m an addict. I’ve seen series (season) 1-3 all the way through 3 times. When series 3 came out I became glued to Netflix in a way that I had never been before. It was almost like a Clock Work Orange experience.
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, the show is based on the novel series of the same name by Kerry Greenwood. It follows heiress Miss Phyrne Fisher, living and solving crime in Melbourne Australia during the 1920’s. Miss Fisher solves murders with the help of her companion, Dot, Detective Inspector Jack Robinson (with whom she shares much sexual tension) and Constable Hugh Collins. Rounding out the cast: the butler, aptly named Mr. Butler, jack of all trades Cec and Bert, Dr. Mac, resident doctor and investigative enabler, and Miss Fisher’s Aunt Prudence.
The mysteries are well crafted, with strong dialogue to move the plot along. Each episode positively crackles with wit. Poor writing is probably the most notable error in television, and this show is so refreshingly sharp. Even if you can guess the culprit early on (and I rarely find that to be the case) the journey is still enjoyable.
The chemistry between the cast makes for great entertainment. If a production is badly cast it draws one out of the drama, and Miss Fisher’s cast is so seamless such is never the case. All of the supporting characters, all the way down to those who pop in with a single line and leave are believable.
Nothing bothers me more in television than lazy camera work— which, of course, is not present in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Television has to be quick, but with more and more money and a more demanding audience, you can’t get away with short cuts the way you used to. If you don’t believe me, watch some television from the 1990’s and compare. That being said, Miss Fisher’s strikes the right balance— not annoyingly art house, but not bland either.
Keeping with the visual theme, the costumes and sets are gorgeous and authentic. The level of detail is nearly Game of Throne-esque (which is saying something— look up some of the embroidery from GOT). 1920’s fashion was almost too good to be true, so seeing the lovely beading, wide leg trousers, and those hats is heaven to fashion followers. If you are interested, you can read more about it here and here. For some inspiration for your own wardrobe, you can look here . The locations are beautifully established, full of art deco details and 1920’s era props.
As for Miss Fisher herself, the actress portraying her, Essie Davis, sums her up by saying, “She is so feisty and witty and goes on great adventures. She’s brave and reckless – she’s kind of like a superhero”. If anything, Miss Fisher is almost too accomplished— she speaks several languages, knows martial arts and flamingo dancing. However, given that this heroine is probably in her late 30’s, she has had time to pick up these accomplishments. Miss Fisher is a feminist’s dream— strong, independent, liberal minded, and sexually liberated. Under her tutelage, the fearful wallflower Dot learns to think for herself (although we’ll have to wait and see how “having it all” works out for her”).
The men of the story are complex, but traditionally heroic. Jack Robinson and Miss Fisher have a cat and mouse game that keeps viewers muttering “just kiss already” and it can’t be denied we all love a good romance. Hugh Collins represents the younger and more naive man, but is equally charming albeit occasionally infuriating.
Miss Fisher’s doesn’t shy away from hard subjects— her own personal tragedies, immigration, drug running, slavery, “family planning”. There is real meat to the stories as well as good fun. A television show that features an accomplished woman, who doesn’t spend most of the show talking about her dating life, is refreshing. While it may not be on the forefront, love and relationships are an ever present theme as well, and the tight-rope act between independence and career versus romance is— realistic. One of the primary issues with modern television is that even when shows feature smart, accomplished women the focus is still on their love lives rather than their lives. We can talk about successful women as long as that is in the background, and most of the dialogue runs around periods and sex. Miss Fisher represents one of the few women in television who are who are not presented as “date-me-please” or “nana” characters (apparently only older women are interesting).
Currently, series 1-3 are on Netflix and the series four has been green lighted. Like I mentioned, there is a book series as well, but this might be the only screen adaptation that is better than the novel. If you’ve seen the show feel free to leave a comment on what you thought of it.