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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The 'Difficult second Album' of the series..., 12 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Murdoch Mysteries: Series 2 [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
Following on from what was both a strong first season and as good a reboot of the (arguably better) original Murdoch series as could be hoped, Season 2 of 'Murdoch Mysteries' unfortunately proved to be a bit of a mixed bag. Although the show was still an enjoyable watch, the show's writers were clearly still experimenting with exactly what kind of show they wanted this to be. Whilst this does allow a certain amount of diversity, it sometimes causes the show to come a little unstuck (particularly in this format), as watching several episodes in a row can be a little jarring because of these variances of tone that never allow you to settle.

After an admittedly excellent start where the opening episodes mix comedy and serious drama very well, the season really starts to struggle for good episodes. There are a number of factors, but the most pressing one is the tendency to focus too heavily on the relationship between Murdoch and Dr Ogden, at the general expense of the cases themselves. Although this focus did lead to one of the very best episodes of the season (indeed of the whole series) in 'Shades of Grey', the omnipresence of this thread and the subsequent introduction of the deplorably uninteresting Enid for a love triangle arc, continually strangled and undermined the stories.

What is left is a season that is a collection of decidely poor stories and decent ideas that are woefully underwritten. It lacks the bite of the most menacing and eerie episodes of Season 1, whilst the joyful spark that made up the most playful and adventrous installments of the first season, is misapplied here in a series of extremely silly and forgettable episodes. This season also consistently fails to make best use of its characters. Brackenreid is often reduced to a comedy stereotype, when the more troubled and dark aspects of his character still offer so much dramatic promise. Dr Ogden as I mentioned is firmly shunted into love interest territory, and even the superbly amusing George Crabtree is kept fairly low key. Which is a crime itself, considering how wonderful his character and Johnny's acting always are.

But wait, come back - it's not all bad news! There were some genuinely great episodes in among the general mediocrity:

'MIld, Mild West' is great fun, showing once again that Derek Schreyer has a marvellous command of mixing genuinely funny comedy and affecting drama, just as he did in his S1 episodes. One of the most purely enjoyable episodes of the season, which sees the cast (but particularly George with his cowboy hat) in fine form.

'Snakes and Ladders' continues the good work, in what was a very stong opening for the season. A dark and brooding tone for the episode, shot through with obsession and despair, it showed that Cal Coons has a very good grasp on the notion of Evil, as a presence and a force. And Alistair McKenzie is always worth turning up for.

'Shades of Grey' as I mentioned before, is simply excellent. One of Yannick's best performances in which he convinces in a range of different emotional roles, from angry and judgemental to vulnerable and caring. The scene where he sits with the dying woman is devastating. Superb.

The rest however are a pretty sorry collection. Many are at least watchable (Dinosaur Fever, Convalescence, Werewolves, Anything you Can Do are all acceptable enough). But as I say, far too much time is spent on the romance arc, and the episodes often dip into utter farce, when they should be mixing the comedy with good quality drama. The confusing introduction of apparently psychic and clairvoyant powers to Murdoch (something that is not present in any of the other seasons), is also bizarre and further proof that the writers were still tinkering with the show's format.

So, of the three seasons made so far, Season 2 is in my opinion the worst. But the episdoes that are good, are excellent, and the cast give very committed performances, even if they don't always have the best material to work with. I really felt that Cal Coons needed to step up and write more episodes. He was the head writer, yet he wrote just the one episode (the superb 'Snakes and Ladders'). Along with the fact that Derek Shyreyer (one of the S1's best writers) writes just one episode, this season was often left ailing for the attentions of its best writers, and casting about in all directions when a firm hand would have been preferable.

You should still give it a go, but I would recommend buying it alongside the other seasons. Don't let this be your first taste of the series, as the other seasons are of a much higher and (perhaps more importantly) more consistent quality.
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