The first season of 'Murdoch Mysteries' introduced us to Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson). A quiet spoken turn-of-the-century Canadian detective who may, or may not, wear eyeliner. The serialized show provides a Victorian look at the detective procedural. How would the art of police detecting be different in an age where technologies like identifying "finger marks" are just starting to be understood?
The second season of the show is able to play right along with the gimmick as Murdoch finds himself experimenting with black lights, using newly invented X-rays, and learning the finer points of adhesive strips that will, someday, become sticky tape.
Along with all the new inventions of the time, Murdoch routinely crosses paths with famous turn-of-the-century personalities. Season two has appearances by Annie Oakley, Harry Houdini, and an episode where Murdoch may indeed be chasing the elusive Jack the Ripper. Having fun with historical characters is one of the many charming aspects of this show.
Now that we know the character of William Murdoch and the way the show is going to run, the second season is a breeze. There are a few story arcs that become even more prevalent this season as more episodes refer to later episodes much like a serialized drama would. Murdoch's romance with his colleague Dr. Julia Ogden (Keeley Hawes) intensifies as the two of them continue to try and figure out how they would define their relationship.
By far, the most enjoyable character of the series is Inspector Thomas Brackenreid (Colm Meaney). Hailing from Yorkshire, England, Brakenreid exists mainly for comic relief. Though that relief never feels forced. He's a perfect contrast to Murdoch's stoic, Roman Catholic ways. Somehow the two of them get along even though they have exactly zilch in common.
I found the second season of 'Murdoch' to be just as breezy as the first season. There isn't much to wrap your head around. Many of the mysteries, if followed with any sort of observation on the part of the viewer, are solvable. That's not to say that the mysteries aren't complex, it's just that the show presents them in such a way that it isn't impossible for the viewer to solve the mystery before everything is recapped for them.
Acorn Media has been jumping around with its releases of each season. They started with the third, jumped back to the first, and now they're filling in the holes. It's nice that they're rounding out the entire collection so fans of the series can complete their collection. Acorn should be commended for their unfailing commitment to bring foreign English-language television to the shores of the U.S. I never feel like they're going to suddenly stop releasing a series like some of the other big studios do frequently.
If you're a fan of detective shows, or just want something light and easy to watch then 'Murdoch Mysteries' is as good a bet as anything. The turn-of-the-century gimmick actually holds up surprisingly well as the show's writers never tire of introducing new technology and famous historical figures. I think most people would enjoy watching this show.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Acorn Media has provided a 3-disc set. Each disc is 50GBs. The first disc has five episodes on it while the next two discs have four episodes each. They come in a standard keepcase that has a slipcover included.
Presented in 1080p, 'Murdoch Mysteries' exhibits the same detailed resolution that we saw the transfer of season one. The third season remains the odd season out in terms of video quality. This transfer is clean and free of any glaring artifacts. There are only a few computer animated historical Toronto skylines that are foiled by the HD. I will note, however, that the first disc, with five episodes, appears to have slightly more compression related noise that the other two discs. Noise is sparse and is relegated to darker areas.
Detail is sharp and consistent. Textures really shine here. The period clothing displays wonderfully resolved stitch patterns and woven material. Lace, leather, and suede are all presented with lifelike clarity.
Shadows are dark enough, but some reside in flat land. Darker scenes still reveal enough detail to understand exactly what's going on. There isn't any banding to speak of like there was in the third season transfer. Colors are full of life. Contrast is, more or less, on the money. If you have liked the previous releases (besides season three) then you'll enjoy this transfer also.
Sadly, all we have here is a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 track. While, Acorn has seen fit to grace some of its series with lossless tracks, 'Murdoch Mysteries' continues to get lossy tracks that underwhelm and rarely impress. The third season used a PCM track, the rest have been saddled with Dolby Digital audio.
What happens is that the soundscape is too crowded for its own good. The busy police office is bogged down in ambient voices that would do much better if there were rear channels. With everything mixing together up front the result is a muddled affair. The show's soundtrack is mixed far too loudly as it continually blasts away during transition scenes, far louder than any other sound used in the show. Direct dialogue is clear enough, but it lacks weight. LFE isn't as deep as it could sound either. It gets the job done, but just barely.
It isn't the most inventive detective story around, yet I find 'Murdoch Mysteries' to be casual fun. Watching it with my wife, curled up on our couch, is the way to go. It's a show that causes you to think, but not so much that you can't relax while watching it. The cast of characters is interesting enough to want to follow. You can't really ask much more from a detective procedural than that. With nice video and lossy audio, 'Murdoch Mysteries: Season 2' is worth a look.