RogerBW's Blog

Frankie Drake Mysteries season 1 10 September 2018

2017-2018 mystery show, 11 episodes. In 1920s Toronto, Frankie Drake, former Signals rider, and her partner Trudy Clarke, are the city's first female private detectives.

The programme gets its inspiration from other two shows I haven't seen (though I may watch them at some point): Murdoch Mysteries donates the idea of television honestly set in Toronto, and many of the cast and crew, while Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries gives the female protagonist in a fairly-historical 1920s setting (even if it is on the other side of the world): the shadow of the Great War still affects society, and people worry about anarchists and alcohol smugglers.

This is clearly a female-led show, with all the principals and most of the recurring characters (as well as the showrunners and about half the writers and directors) being women. Strangely (if you're used to shows where being "the woman" is a character type in itself), there's no difficulty in distinguishing them by appearance or personality.

While one can sometimes see where corners have been cut in terms of location choices, production values are high, and the set decorators and clothing designers have done a great job of getting across a feel of Toronto in the 1920s, a city that was growing fast but still in the shadow of Montréal. Naturally, modern Toronto has a large pool of available TV actors, and while there are some familiar faces I didn't recognise most of them.

One of the real strengths of this show is its plotting, which uses real concerns and events of the period as the basis for its stories: a factory owner hires the detectives to root out communist agitators, bootleggers' fights spill over into other people's lives, the missing Princess Anastasia turns up (or does she?), and a famous aviator and proponent of eugenics has his baby kidnapped; and all of this plays out against a backdrop of changing roles for women. It's very much the sort of thing I try to do myself when running games set in the real world: after all, if you aren't going to use these contemporary issues, why not just set it in the modern day?

All right, sometimes the Message is a bit heavy-handed, but if we have to have this stuff on TV at least it's a message that authority is often too ready to believe the convenient answer, rather than that The Police Are Always Right and white men ditto. Everyone here seems to be having a good time, and there's a welcome sense of lightness which is missing from many shows about criminal investigation.

A second season is expected shortly.

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  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 02:15pm on 10 September 2018

    Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries has been showing in TV. I tried to watch it, but it is on one of the Freeview channels where the bit rate is so low everything looks like lego, and I just couldn't watch it. Why they waste money broadcasting at such an abysmally low resolution is a mystery to me.

  2. Posted by Robert at 02:34pm on 10 September 2018

    I will definitely look into this one. Miss Fisher’s Mysteries was a big hit with my wife, Jessica.

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