Television

A Murdoch Mysteries primer: Everything you need to catch up before Season 13

If you’ve never heard of or had a chance to watch Murdoch Mysteries, here is a bit of background and the essential episodes to watch so you can comfortably continue with Season 13, premiering September 16 on CBC and CBC Gem.

Get your magnifying glass ready and bring your scepticism because we're moving into Season 13 of Murdoch Mysteries and it's sure to leave you wondering and questioning your judgement.

If you've never heard of or had a chance to watch Murdoch Mysteries, here is a bit of background and the essential catch-up episodes to watch so you can comfortably continue with Season 13, which premiered September 16 on CBC and CBC Gem.

Of course, you can always choose to binge all 12 seasons and become an expert. There are a ton of episodes to watch — 189 in total — but if you love a good mystery, it'll be worth your while. The show is also approaching its milestone 200th episode, which can only mean that big things are in order this season.

So what's it really about?

Murdoch Mysteries is a one-hour CBC drama series based on the characters from a Detective Murdoch novel series by Maureen Jennings.

Set in Toronto at the turn of the 20th century, the series explores the intriguing world of William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson), a methodical and handsome detective who pioneers innovative forensic techniques like blood testing and 'finger marking' (known today as fingerprinting) to solve some of the city's most horrific murders.

Compelling mysteries weaved with primitive and improvised forms of modern detection methods — more fitting for the end of the Victorian era — create a unique look and feel. Let's just say it's a combination of steampunk and sci-fi at the crossroads of Sherlock with a healthy dose of comedy and romance. 

The show also tackles important issues and topics that ring true today including women's rights, race, and mental health. It's a period show but the issues are presented with a slightly modern-world outlook.

Though the underlying theme of the show and the plots are fictitious, most episodes are based on real history and events that have happened, referencing real crimes and prominent personalities in the storylines. Did you know that Nikola Tesla, Arthur Conan Doyle, Wilfrid Laurier, Queen Victoria and many more have "appeared" on Murdoch Mysteries? Yup, true story. And fictionalized characters.

Each Murdoch episode centres around a different crime investigation and concludes with a solution except for a few two-parters, listed further below.

Key characters

The show wouldn't be the same without Murdoch's intriguing associates who are instrumental in helping him solve the most unusual crimes and murders.

Doctor Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy), a well-respected pathologist, surgeon and a psychiatrist who studied with Sigmund Freud and works with the Toronto police force. Also, Ogden and Murdoch might or might not get married. Watch the show to find out.

Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), Murdoch's immediate supervisor, a sceptic, by-the-book and quick to judge based on stereotypes kind of guy who's not the biggest fan of Murdoch's unusual methods of detection, but uses them himself when he thinks they might solve a case.

The inexperienced yet enthusiastic and loyal Constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris), who is also an aspiring mystery novel writer. Crabtree might not be quick to grasp the more elusive scientific concepts but Murdoch appreciates his openness to new ideas.

And of course, there's Detective William Murdoch.

The show has had its fair share of guest stars from William Shatner to Peter Mansbridge. Guess who else? Get ready for a surprise... (drum roll), the former Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper. He had a cameo in episode seven of season four, called Confederate Treasure as a clueless cop who fails to recognize then Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier. 

Catching up to Season 13

It's your lucky day! We've got the essential, stand-out episodes of Murdoch Mysteries for you right here, as chosen by the show writers, so you don't have to watch every single episode to be able to catch up before Season 13 begins. And as a bonus, we'll throw in a few cast faves from Yannick Bisson, Hélène Joy and Thomas Craig.

Power (Season 1, Episode 1)

The pilot episode, Power, will determine if the show is to your taste and worth binge-watching so new viewers should probably start with this one.

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As the city of Toronto considers converting from direct current to alternating, delivered by Niagara Falls' new electric generation plant, an anti-alternating demonstration results in the fatal electrocution of a young woman. With the help from an unexpected assistance by none other than his idol Nikola Tesla (Dmitry Chepovetsky), Murdoch constructs a radio transmitter which records a vital confession that helps solve the case. 

Me, Myself, And Murdoch (Season 3, Episode 5)

This episode presents the topic of fragmentation of identity or split personality — today known as dissociative disorder — something that was not yet defined in the Victorian era and plays into Murdoch's innovative traits.

A family celebration of Alexander Reynolds' 60th birthday is dampened when he's found with a knife plunged into his chest. Murdoch is called in and soon discovers the victim was universally despised. Reynolds' daughter Charlotte admits to the murder but has no recollection of it.

Dead End Street (Season 4, Episode 6)

The topic of mental health continues throughout the show and sees Murdoch trying to get to memories of an autistic person in this episode.

When Murdoch happens across a surprisingly-detailed model of a Toronto streetscape, he realizes its creator, a young autistic woman, has inadvertently depicted a murder scene she might have witnessed.

Invention Convention (Season 5, Episode 9)

CBC shows have crossed over a few times and in this instance Arlene Dickinson of Dragons' Den guest stars as a powerful investor and the 1890 version of herself.

After a ruthless and disliked inventor is killed at a convention, Murdoch's investigation is assisted by another one of his idols, Alexander Graham Bell.

Republic of Murdoch (Season 7, Episode 8)

While on the crossover note, the title of this episode is a reference to another popular CBC show, Republic of Doyle, set in modern day Newfoundland. A great show by the way! The lead actor, Allan Hawco, guest stars as Jacob Doyle, an ancestor of his regular character of the same name, Jake Doyle.

A dead body and a piece of parchment lead Murdoch and his assistant, Constable Crabtree, to follow a suspect, Jacob Doyle, to his home in Newfoundland.

On the Waterfront (Season 8, Episodes 1 and 2)

As the show gets into a few two-parter episodes, the storylines really have a chance to develop.

Murdoch suspects the brutal murder of a waterfront merchant might be linked to the vicious assault on Inspector Brackenreid and while in their quest to bring Brackenreid's attackers to justice, Murdoch and the constabulary confront more violence on the waterfront. In the meantime, Dr. Ogden and Dr. Grace face their own battle in court.

Bloody Hell (Season 9, Episode 9)

Murdoch is definitely not comfortable in this episode but probably not for the reasons you might be thinking of.

While at the bank for a loan on a special mother and baby promotion day, Murdoch finds himself in the midst of a bank heist that puts his reputation at risk.

Biffers and Blockers (Season 11, Episode 11)

Murdoch and the Inspector have been a team since the beginning of the show so it's a little surprising when they witness quite the opposite, in another team. Julia, on the other hand, might or might not be pregnant. Again, you'll have to watch to find out.

Murdoch and Brackenreid encounter some unsportsmanlike behaviour after a player dies violently on the cricket pitch.

Six of the Best (Season 12, Episode 12)

More of Murdoch's past is revealed.

Murdoch's distressing childhood memories are evoked while investigating the death of an orphan under the care of the same Jesuit priest who taught him.

Murdoch and the Undetectable Man (Season 12, Episode 13)

The show can't not have Murdoch's idol on the show again, especially because they have such a great working relationship.

Murdoch enlists inventor Nikola Tesla once again to help with the murder investigation of a man experimenting with invisibility.

Sins of the Father (Season 12, Episode 14)

Season 12 has seen more of Murdoch's past and character development and this episode reveals more of his investigative moxie.

A man dies in a deliberately-set fire and Murdoch's investigation reveals some shocking personal history.

Cast faves

Yannick Bisson, Hélène Joy and Thomas Craig share their fave Murdoch episodes and reveal why they've enjoyed working on them.

Yannick Bisson's favourite Murdoch Mysteries episodes

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Yannick Bisson's favourite Murdoch Mysteries episodes 1:40

Hélène Joy's favourite Murdoch Mysteries episodes

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Hélène Joy's favourite Murdoch Mysteries episodes 1:24

Thomas Craig's favourite Murdoch Mysteries episodes

2 years ago
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Thomas Craig's favourite Murdoch Mysteries episodes 1:54

Catch up on past episodes and/or full seasons of Murdoch Mysteries on CBC Gem. The new season premieres September 16th on CBC and CBC Gem.

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