There are a lot of interesting characters on Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Here’s a look at 10 things you may have missed about the main characters.
If you love period dramas but are tired of the stuffy Victorian era or brutal medieval times, why not check out the roaring twenties? A clever mash-up of adventure, sleuthing, and romance that takes place in the early 20th century, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries has an appeal that spawned a spin-off series and a full-length feature film. The costumes and sets are created with equal attention to historic detail, and the show is noted for its ability to create a realistic and immersive version of historic Melbourne.
The main character, Phryne Fisher, gets a lot of attention for her impeccable fashion sense and modern feminist lifestyle. She saunters through the mean streets and upscale parlors of St. Kilda, a suburb of the big city, and her exciting adventures might distract you from the finer details of the show. That’s not only pertaining to her, but to the other main characters as well.
The End, With Phryne and Jack
You probably noticed that the show has the same ending every time, with a circle that zooms in on Phryne’s face. However, you might not have seen that with the exception of only one or two episodes, the last two characters we always see on screen are Phryne and Jack. This is partly to show the juxtaposition between the two characters, with Phyrne being the more uninhibited, but it also heightens the tension between them.
Dot, the Retainer
Have you ever wondered exactly what Dot does? She’s a housekeeper, right? Or is she a cook, maybe a secretary? It’s not crucial to the story so it flies under the radar. Dot’s actual job description is elusive because it doesn’t exist on a large scale anymore. In a holdover from medieval days that lasted well into the 20th century,
Dot is actually Phryne’s “retainer” or “lady’s companion.” It’s not the same as being a servant, which is one of the reasons she’s often out and about with Phryne in a social capacity and also works around the house. Today this would be an assistant or an aide, and only the very wealthy could afford it.
Another intrinsic part of Miss Fosher’s team is Bert and Cec, two gentlemen of humble means. They know the meaner side of Melbourne fairly well and inform Miss Fisher of any pertinent gossip or goings-on on their side of the tracks. What you don’t know about them are their political beliefs. In 1920s Melbourne they would have been referred to as “red raggers” or communist sympathizers.
There are a few episodes about communist agitators and socialist sympathizers, but Bert and Cec never seem to take any sides except for Phryne’s. Their past as war veterans is emphasized more than their voting preferences.
The Butler Can Do It
Someone actually wrote this character’s name as Butler and it stayed that way. Like many other characters in the show, Mr. Tobias Butler, who acts as a housekeeper and valet on top of doing the butlering, is also a war veteran. This tends to escape the audience because of his age, but he was actually a member of the First Australian Imperial Force. There are a couple of subtle references to his combat experience on the show, including hand-to-hand fighting, which is easy to miss if you’re distracted by the story, drama, or Phyrne’s outfit.
There are enough subtle details in the show to tell us that Phryne experiences the war first hand, as a nurse on the front line in France. Does that sound familiar, especially when it comes to other famous heroes? It’s an elusive but interesting detail that two feminist icons from the past few years shared the same battlefield. Miss Fisher’s past as a war veteran, followed by a period of time when she was stranded in occupied and then liberated France, isn’t at the forefront of the plot. It’s easy to overlook that she might have fought on the same front as Diana Prince.
The Use of Titles
It’s confusing to modern audiences when the script includes terms like “Honorable.” Isn’t that a title for judges? Why are they applying it to Phryne? There are some archaic terms of the show that have a deeper meaning, referring to a character’s status in society, their job, or their spouse. In this case, it refers to Phryne’s family ties to the aristocracy.
Although she was born into poverty, the Fisher family inherited titles and wealth when their family in the old country was decimated by the war. Her father inherited the title of Baron, giving her the title of “the Honorable” as his daughter.
Better Dressed than Bond
The creators of the screen adaptation for Miss Fisher’s Mysteries had a distinct image for their main character in mind. Creators Deb Cox and Fiona Eagger wanted their series to feature a character that had the same drive for adventure as James Bond, but with an even better wardrobe. Talk about an ambitious project. That’s what the writers and producers of the show were aiming for, which explains why Phryne’s wardrobe is slightly different than others.
Mac and Ski
Dr. Elizabeth Macmillan, more often known as Mac, doesn’t have a lot of secrets. Fans know she’s an accomplished doctor, running a hospital for women, and that she and Phryne have a long history together. Some of it as more than friends, as the show often suggests. It’s easy to miss that Mac is also an accomplished skier. We only see her it the slopes in one episode, “Under the Mistletoe” and we can’t help but wonder where she learned to slalom like that.
The Story of Hugh
He’s often overlooked as either Jack’s younger counterpart or Dot’s boyfriend. Hugh is often in the background of each episode, so it’s easy to miss the finer details of his backstory. It’s surprisingly tragic given how cheerful and idealistic he seems to be.
It’s simple, heartbreaking, and strangely familiar. Hugh’s father was killed while trying to break up a fight. Moved by his father’s violent and needless death, Hugh was inspired to join the police force. If he had more money, maybe he would have built a bat cave.
An Australian Aristocrat
Phryne isn’t just any aristocrat. Her background as an Australian makes her unique. She’s upper class, but she still knows how to handle a firearm, drive a car, or fly a plane. That’s what’s behind her universal appeal and one of the reasons that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) decided that spending a million Australian dollars making the series was worth the investment. Those impeccable wardrobes and reproduction weapons don’t come cheap.
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