Nothing keeps me awake more than television shows. And this one in particular has got me up all night.
Just about a year ago I was sitting in my parents basement, scrolling through Netflix after dinner when I came across a TV show titled Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. “Oh hey!” I said, “That’s that silly show they put on PBS after Doc Martin. Huh!” and then immediately continued scrolling along. But like most evening scrolling on Netflix, I couldn’t for the life of me decide on something to view (a problem many of us have run into – the product of too many options) so I thought “what the hell” and decided to watch the pilot episode of Miss Fisher’s. One year and 34 episodes later, I’m pretty sure it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Meet Phryne Fisher (pronounced FRY-knee FISH-er) a modern lady detective in 1920s Melbourne, Australia. She carries a gold handgun, sleeps with whatever man she wants, and beats the living crap out of any man or women that threatens her or her team. Basically she’s the love child of Sherlock Holmes and Wonder Women. And she’s amazing. The show is actually based off a series of books written by Kerry Greenwood, but the show is decidedly different. Greenwood blessed all the changes that were made and the most important points remain the same.
Sounds pretty great right? But I’m guessing you want to know the plot. Just about a decade after World War I, Phryne moves home to Melbourne to look into the disappearance of her younger sister Jane, who was presumably kidnapped when they were younger. Along the way she uses her general brilliance to worm her way into murder and police investigations with the City South Police department, headed by the absolutely fedorable Detective Inspector Jack Robinson. At first Phryne and Jack butt heads, clamoring for territorial rights, but eventually realize they are the yin to each other’s yang (and maybe even fall in love but SPOILERS).
Along with these two fantastic leads are Dorothy Williams who is Miss Fisher’s companion/right hand woman. This extraordinary lady goes from being a timid Catholic who’s afraid of answering the telephone to a badass b-i-t-c-h who’s not afraid to stand up to the man she loves about her right to a job she wants. The man she loves happens to be the darling Constable Hugh Collins, who is coincidently Jack’s right hand man, and though he’s sometimes a little slow when it comes to the modern woman, he has a heart of gold. Together the four of them solve murders amid the glamour of the roaring 20s.
Hopefully I’ve already sold you on this fabulous show but in case I haven’t let’s talk about feminism. Though this show is set in the early 20th century, when there were still archaic ideas about femininity, sexuality, and race, this show presents some of the most forward thinking ideas about women than any other show I’ve seen. Granted they have a great platform; on the precipice of the first women’s lib movement, it’s a fantastic jumping off point for discussions about the roles of women in marriage and the workforce. Hell, they even regularly showcase gay and lesbian characters, one of which is Dr. Mac, Phryne’s childhood friend who occasionally helps them solve the whodunits.
But more than that, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries shows the audience just how capable women are. Phryne is never physically saved by Jack or any other man for that matter. Any time she’s in danger she gets herself out through her own wits and strength, a surprisingly rare quality in a TV show these days. She is also unabashedly her feminine self in what is seen more as a “man’s job.” Allowing Miss Fisher to remain a woman on her terms while dominating a man’s field is a hard concept for Hollywood these days, let alone in the 1920s. And while this might not be “historically accurate,” does that really matter? We’re watching it now, during a time when feminism, especially in the media, is being discussed more than ever.
Sure sometimes the premise is a little ridiculous or the plot is a little too straightforward, but I don’t think I’ve enjoyed watching a TV show more. Seeing these characters develop and interact with each other is, quite simply, a great time. So what exactly are you waiting for? Hopefully not a telegram cause I have no idea how to send those.
Series one and two of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries can be viewed on Netflix. Series three should be premiering on PBS this fall.