Essie Davis may well have created one of those rare, singular detectives that are indivisible from their performer. If the quality and fun of the Miss Fisher mysteries is maintained, that moniker is likely to join the ranks of Poirot, Foyle, and Fletcher; characters/performances such as these cannot be easily (if ever) repeated because the actor and the fictional persona are far too intertwined beyond the simple aspect of their source material.
Like the Doctor Blake Mysteries, this is a period drama set in Australia, in this case rolling back the clock to the 20’s. Fisher, played by Davis (Girl with a Pearl Earring) knocks the role out of the park. The dialogue and attitude are both snappy and fun, the danger is actually fairly real, and she plays it for all its worth. You absolutely buy that she’s a liberated woman of the Jazz Age, intelligent, capable, and willing to flout societal norms in pursuit of a better way. This last bit is nicely contrasted with those who just pursue change and hedonism for the sake of just having fun and causing chaos.
The mysteries are mostly rather well conceived. And, like Blake, they walk through several cultural issues as the focus, though Miss Fisher is a bit more aware of the ways of the world. And, also like Blake, there is an uber-arc that helps drive both her character and some of the action.
The ensemble cast is equally well put together. Page, as the lead police detective, provides a great and complicated foil, and bit of emotional tension, for Fisher. Mirroring these two, Burt and Cummings (Tomorrow When the War Began) work as their assistants, learning from their bosses and from each other. McMahon and Sharpe offer general support to the efforts as a couple of opportunistic communists. And, rounding out the “gang,” is Bligh as the butler, Mr. Butler, who I’m hoping will get even more to do next season, but his moments are always spot on.
The show manages to have plenty of both drama and comedy, but never one at the expense of the other. At an hour an episode, they are sometimes a little more rushed than other, similar kinds of dramas, but they never feel cheated. And the production values, from the costumes and sets to the props and camera work are all top notch. I can imagine some folks will watch to just gawk at the 20s recreated so richly and beautifully.
Season 2 is already done and airing or aired internationally, and will hopefully be available soon.