Friends, I have met the love of my life, and her name is Phryne Fisher. I spent the Christmas break marathoning through all two seasons three seasons of her super duper charming murder mysteries, and I think I can safely say that we are girlfriends for life.
What’s it about? Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is an Australian show based on a series of novels by Kerry Greenwood, in which a rich, eccentric lady solves murders in the 20s while looking fabulous and sleeping with any hot man that wanders into her vicinity.
Like many fictional detectives, Miss Fisher cannot go on holiday, attend a party, or see a play without at least one person dropping dead. Which in the real world would probably result in a sharp decline in her social life. But people in 1920s Melbourne seem to have resigned themselves to a truly ridiculous murder rate and just keep inviting her places anyway.
two three seasons streaming on Netflix right now (check out our season three review!), and a fourth currently up in the air. And it is amazing.
On a scale of one to Veronica Mars, how awesome is Miss Fisher? She is literally my new soul mate, and I feel that she and Veronica — were they not separated by 90 years and also not being real — would be the best of lady detective friends.
Wow. That is high praise coming from you. I know, right? But Phryne is just such fun character and a wish fulfillment fantasy of the highest order. And I mean that in the best way. Or, in the words of her portrayer, Essie Davis:
I guess Phryne Fisher is the female answer to James Bond, Indiana Jones or a combination of both. She’s an incredibly independent woman from the 1920′s, who was born in poverty and inherited great wealth. She’s incredibly skilled, she lives life to the fullest and is a woman who never wants to get married but loves life and loves men. She’s an advocate for women’s rights and the rights of the less privileged in the world and she’s got a knack for sleuthing and finding out ‘whodunit’. She’s both a mystery and a bit of a romp.
Love her! One of my favorite things about Phryne — other than her clothes, because OH MY GOD, HER CLOTHES — is that she is an unabashedly feminist character. Phryne is incredibly protective of other women. This show always passes the Bechdel test in every episode, and women helping women is a constant theme, whether it’s through providing mentorship and emotional support, giving deportment and self-defense lessons, sponsoring a Lady Adventurers Club, or looking after the interests of the disenfranchised women she encounters on her cases.
On top of that, although she has plenty of help on her cases, when she’s truly in a scrape, Phryne almost always manages to saves herself. The show never shames her for her libertine sexual appetites, and treats men with a decidedly female gaze. It also gives her dialog like this:
Dot, a woman should dress first and foremost for her own pleasure. Having grown up in second flannels, there is nothing quite so divine as the feel of silk underwear, the touch of soft fox, the slither of a satin skirt. If these things happen to appeal to men, well… really that’s a side issue.
But the show also celebrates women who have chosen different paths. Shy, religious Dot is never shamed for her more traditional morals; Mac, a doctor who dresses in men’s clothing and sleeps with women, is treated with as much dignity as Phryne’s classy femme. The show portrays the struggles of working and middle class women as well as Phryne’s society peers, it allows women to be both victims and villains, and it resists the urge to set Phryne and potential romantic rivals at each other’s throats. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the writers and directors are women.
Okay, that’s awesome, but tell me about the soap. Miss Fisher is not a soap in the traditional sense. Like a lot of procedurals, there is a new case every week. And although there’s one on-going plot line that runs through each season, those serialized elements are very limited.
But oh, guys. GUYS. There is a romance, and it involves a lot of silent pining and long looks and unresolved sexual tension, and IT IS SUPER GOOD FOR ME.
Did I mention the eye-fucking? There’s a lot of that, too.
Phryne has tons of flings with very little emotion attached, but her most long-standing relationship is with Detective Inspector Jack Robinson, the long-suffering local cop she assists on many of her cases. They’ve a got a classic opposites attract thing going — where Phryne is extravagant and outgoing, Jack is stoic and reserved. She’s cheerful while he presents a dour front. She’s impetuous and he’s more careful and prefers to think things through. But both were left scarred by their experiences in the Great War, and they share an independent spirit, wry sense of humor, and a passion for justice.
Also, they are both enormous flirts, and episodes frequently end with the two of them sitting around her parlor, drinking whiskey, and generally enjoying one another’s company enormously. Unfortunately, for reasons that are baffling to pretty much everyone, they are not currently getting it on.
Jake is basically the best, y’all. First of all, he’s got dapper, dreamy hair and a deliciously deep voice. Second: he’s not only smart and competent, but also respects competence in others. Which is great, because Phryne faces a lot of skepticism from many of the men she encounters. But once she starts bulldozing her way into Jack’s investigations, he quickly comes to appreciate her skills.
And the thing about Jack is he worries about Phryne’s safety, but he never asks her to change who she is. The one time he attempts to set some boundaries, it’s for himself, because he’s basically realized that losing her would destroy him. And then he’s so completely miserable without her that it barely lasts an episode before they’re together again.
Mostly, though, Jack spends his time being helplessly amused and turned on by Phryne’s antics. The two of them basically redefine the meaning of the words lack of personal space and unresolved sexual tension and there has not been a single episode that hasn’t ended with me screaming JUST KISS, ALREADY at the screen.
Anything else? If you know my weakness, it is found families. Phryne collects strays like other people collect socks, and they are all delightful. (Her butler’s name is MISTER BUTLER.) See also: Bert and Cec, the cab drivers who do odd jobs for her, and Jane, her adopted ward. Phryne can seriously not stop adopting people and it’s the best.
Okay, but the clothes. The clothes, DEAR GOD the clothes. I can’t even. Here, just watch a montage:
Special shout outs to: Dottie and Hugh, Phryne and Jack’s respective sidekicks who are both adorable and adorably in love, to the amusement of pretty much everyone who meets them.
So, should I watch this? Listen, if lady detectives drinking and flirting and wearing gorgeous clothes while solving mysteries doesn’t appeal to you, then I don’t know what to say. YES, WATCH IT. WATCH IT ALL AND CRY WITH ME OVER HOW HARD PHRYNE AND JACK NEED TO BONE.