Review: Murdoch Mysteries "Merlot Mysteries"
4.5Overall Score

Warning: Post contains minor spoilers

After an epic “Murdoch Mysteries” season 11 opener with “Up From Ashes,” the series continues with “Merlot Mysteries.” At a wedding, the father of the groom, a famed wine connoisseur is killed. The culprit is an arsenic-laced bottle of wine. Further deepening the mystery, it’s an over 40-year old bottle of wine.

Detective Llewellyn Watts (Daniel Maslany), an apparent wine aficionado, lends his notable expertise in the matter. During the investigation, Watts teaches Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) about wine. In a particularly delightful scene, Murdoch samples various wines and despite his teetotaling ways, realizes he has a fondness for the fermented grape juice.

“Merlot Mysteries” probes the wine business, and specifically touches on Canadian-based wineries. Meanwhile, Rebecca James (Mouna Traoré) expresses her desire to become a doctor and leave the morgue. Dr. Julia Ogden (Helene Joy) encourages Miss James. Unfortunately, despite her many qualifications, Miss James is turned away from a position at a Toronto hospital because of her race.

With two of its best series entries in “Murdoch Mysteries” season 10 finaleHell to Pay” and its follow-up in “Up From Ashes,” it remained to be seen how the show would react. “Up From Ashes” killed off beloved character Constable Jackson (Kristian Bruun). “Merlot Mysteries” marks a return to the one-off episode format.

“Merlot Mysteries” is ripe with delightful moments. Murdoch, unlike Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), doesn’t regularly get sauced. As such, when Murdoch gets drunk while investigating a murder, it’s riotously hilarious. Moreover, upon arriving home, Murdoch proceeds to drunkenly explain the characteristics of wine and wine making. This scene arrives as one of Yannick Bisson’s best performances.

Observations:

“Merlot Mysteries” isn’t the first time Murdoch imbibed spirits. In “Murdoch Mysteries” season 2, episode 5, “The Green Muse,” Det. Murdoch consumes alcohol. Fittingly, it’s for an experiment. Besides witnessing a drunken Murdoch, there’s the opportunity to witness a hungover Murdoch. Plus, Brackenreid whips up a batch of his special hangover cure. It consists of tomato juice, raw eggs, and hot sauce.

The stereoscope from “Murdoch Mysteries” season 10, episode 4 “Concocting a Killer” reappears. However, this time around it’s unsuccessful in solving the crime.

“Murdoch Mysteries” season 11 continues its strong opening with a charming episode. George Crabtree (Jonny Harris) gets some solid screen time. There’s a particularly meta moment when Crabtree tipsily slurs, that his favorite part is apprehending the killer. As he points out, “there may be a chase or a heartfelt confession.”

It’s refreshing to see Brackenreid back in action after spending so much time abroad with the late James Pendrick (Peter Stebbings). Oddly, Henry Higgins (Lachlan Murdoch) isn’t at all in this episode. That’s especially strange considering Jackson’s death, which gets a touching acknowledgment at the onset of “Merlot Mysteries.” That’s likely as much for fans as it is for the cast members.

Moreover, Rebecca James arrives as the latest loss in “Murdoch Mysteries” lore. Thankfully, James isn’t dead. Instead, she’s leaving to pursue a career as a doctor. Although this is fantastic for her character, James’ departure leaves a massive void on the series. Over her tenure, Rebecca James rose to prominence as an endearing and well-rounded character. From her superb morgue work to wonderful singing voice, James truly morphed into a strong and beloved character.

Losing two characters consecutively is strange. Nevertheless, this clears up space to continue focusing on Murdoch, Julia, Crabtree, Higgins, and Brackenreid. It’s not as riveting as “Up From Ashes,” but “Merlot Mysteries” finds CBC hit series “Murdoch Mysteries” as charming as ever.

Your turn: What did you think of “Murdoch Mysteries” episode “Merlot Mysteries?”