When Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries first arrived on PBS stations in 2013, it didn't air under the flag of the recently created Masterpiece Mystery umbrella. An Australian import that already had its first run on the niche streamer Acorn TV, it was secondary to shows like Silk and the recently created Endeavour. Reviewers admitted it probably wasn't enough to replacecBenedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock in most U.S. viewers' hearts.
But Miss Fisher was the little show that could. By the time Series 3 ended in 2015, it had a full-on cult following. But unless viewers caught it during the Netflix years from 2014-2018 before it went back to Acorn TV, chances are, they didn't watch the series in its original order. So for 2020, in celebration of the big screen release of upcoming film Miss Fisher & The Crypt of Tears, we'll be recapping the original Miss Fisher seires once a week, and digging in to all our favorite fashions, flirtations, and more. Join us, won't you, as one day, in the mid-1920s, The Hon. Miss Phryne Fisher returned to Melbourne after an extended stay abroad...
The series begins with the death of one Mr. Jack Andrews, as a girl named Alice runs off, leaving behind the maid Dot (Ashleigh Cummings). At the same time, Phryne (Essie Davis) is stepping off her steamer and into the arms of her friend, Elizabeth Macmillan, aka Dr. Mac (Tammy Macintosh), whose pants and hat suggest she's a very modern woman indeed. There's little time for talk, as there's an invite to lunch this afternoon from Mrs. Lydia Andrews (Miranda Otto) and Aunt Prudence (Miriam Margolyes).
Phryne arrives just in time to find out the lunch is canceled and see Jack's body carried out. Lydia is in a state, pale and red-eyed, and the detectives are convinced this was not his heart that gave out. All guests are asked to leave, but Miss Fisher does no such thing, working her way upstairs to inspect the bathroom herself, where she finds a box of pink powders. While Phryne's in there, the police come up for the offiical meet-cute of Miss Fisher and Detective Jack Robinson (Nathan Page). Meanwhile, Lydia collapses right after Prudence promises she and Phryne will take over hosting tomorrow night's soiree.
Alice isn't doing well, tumbled into a taxi driven by Bert (Travis McMahon) and Cec (Anthony Sharpe) and bleeding between the legs. They take her to the women's hospital where Dr. Mac works, so Fisher gets to ride along to see the girl suffer from "amateurs trying to take away her troubles." A quick interrogation of the drivers and a trip to see Det. Robinson determines the abortionist was "Butcher George" Fletcher. Robinson says his hands are tied, as those who procure abortions face 10-15 years in prison for the act, so the ones who do survive the procedure won't talk.
As for the overarching plot that brought Phryne back to Australia, fans are introduced to Murdoch Foyle (Nicholas Bell) in this episode as well, the man who she believes murdered her sister Janey. Foyle was never tried for her death, but put away for 14 years on a kidnapping charge, a sentence that's about to expire. Janey's death is why Phryne left Melbourne in the first place, and keeping Foyle behind bars is why she's returned. At least Melbourne has gotten more interesting while she was away.
Alice has a letter of reference from John Andrews, giving Phryne an excellent reason to return for the soiree. Lydia claims Alice was dismissed because John caught her stealing silver. The rest of the guests provide a smorgasbord of suspects of who might have done in Andrews, including Turkish bath owner Madame Breda (María Mercedes), who tells Phyrne that Andrews imported things from the orient. But the attention wanders to Lydia's friend, dancer Sasha De Lisse (Kristof Piechocki), who takes Fisher out for a tango. The Strictly judges would love it.
Robinson arrives during the party to announce that Andrews died via arsenic and arrests Dot, who made up the morning tray. Meanwhile, Phryne discovers Sasha stole her earrings during the dance, which he attempts to use to pay for cocaine, demanding to meet the "Snow King." Phryne rescues him after he gets shot. Sasha insists the cocaine wasn't for him; his sister died from suicide over her addiction. Phryne beds him anyway and gets her earrings back in exchange.
Dot turns up, dismissed without a reference. She admits Andrews sexually abused both maids, Alice's "troubles" were due to him. Fisher is so impressed at Dot's work in getting bloodstains out of her gowns, she hires the girl on the spot, despite her Catholic superstitions against electricity and the telephone being unnatural. Alice, now awake, says it was Madame Breda who sent her to Fletcher, so Dot is sent to procure the same operation. She comes away with a box of "pink powders" like the one in Andrews' bathroom as payment to the doctor. It's cocaine. No wonder Breda was the man's "best customer;" she's paying for girls to get illegal abortions with drugs.
Poor Dot is used to trap Fletcher, and he is arrested. Fisher, meanwhile, follows Sasha on his mission to find the man behind the cocaine trade, with plans to kill the man who ruined his sister's life. Phryne tells him he's too late, Andrews is already dead. But there's someone for him to meet anyway: Lydia. She's the one who poisoned John after he knocked Alice up. Her poisoning herself and the "I have no head for business" was all an act. She is the brains behind the cocaine empire; John was a useless front.
Lydia leaves Phryne and Sasha locked in the sauna to die of heat exposure, while Bert runs to the police. Robinson isn't inclined to listen until Dot calls to corroborate Miss Fisher's in danger. These two just keep meeting in the most intimate of places, and it's only Episode 1. Still, it's nothing on his expression when he learns at episode's end that The Hon. Miss Phryne Fisher is opening a business as a Ladies' Detective. The fun has just started.