During lockdown, I ended up doing a lot of revisiting of things, and one of those was the show Murder, She Wrote. Most people are aware of the show, but before diving into the episode itself, a brief overview.
Murder, She Wrote, started in 1984 and ran for an impressive 12 years. It starred Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher. Jessica is a widow (and all-around lovely lady) and retired English teacher who was encouraged to pursue her love of writing and became a famous mystery author. She also travels around and solves crimes because that’s what you do?
Murder, She Wrote is more of a cozy mystery, meaning not a lot of sex or violence appears on screen, and you have a more Agatha Christie feel rather than say heart-pounding or violent mysteries. However, much like Christie herself pushed the envelope, the show did in a few episodes, but never fully branched away.
Now we are going to get into the episode more, and I warn you mild spoilers. Honestly, this show doesn’t lose a lot with spoilers, especially because there are so many episodes it is easy to forget some cases that you’ve already watched or listened to reviews of. Still, I will avoid directly naming the killer.
When she is not traveling, Jessica lives in the fictional town Cabot Cove, and most of my favorite episodes take place there. I like many reoccurring characters, and Jessica is generally a bit more in her element in them. They often skip over Jessica having to make herself more known to the characters, it won’t include her having to fight with the cops to be on the case, things of that nature.
When Thieves Fall Out opens with Jessica meeting Andrew, who is renting a local’s house while she is out of town. Jessica is taken with him but is later surprised to find out that he was charged with and convicted of murder the last time he was in town. He has served his time but never gotten over what he still claims was a false conviction. While little was made of it at the time, but the bearer bonds the victim was carrying was meant to be Andrew’s motive. However, the bonds were never found, thus eliminating Andrew’s motive, and he believes points to the real killer(s).
Jessica is distressed to find this out, again she had been impressed with him. She becomes even more distressed when a former student’s (Bill) wife seeks help. Someone is harassing Bill with newspaper clippings from the arrest. Jessica confronts Andrew, who maintains his innocence for the murder, and says that he was set up by Bill and some unknown second person. Andrew has returned for justice, or as Jessica believes, revenge. As things start to fall apart and a person actually dies, Jessica is even more concerned about Andrew’s presence.
Without giving away too much, Jessica and Sheriff Tupper (played by Tom Bosley and was such a good character) really want it to be Andrew, and there are pieces of evidence that point that way. Ultimately Jessica is saddened to admit that she not only doesn’t think Andrew is the killer now but doesn’t believe he was the killer all those years ago. Unfortunately, she is right.
Cabot Cove episodes, aside from being my favorite, are also a double-edged sword. Either your killer is an out of towner, which can throw off any of the mystery. Or the killer ends up being a friend of Jessica’s, whether we’ve seen them prior or not. Even when it’s not a regular and someone we have just been told was close to Jessica, it’s still a bit of a gut punch. Jessica is a nice character, and when someone she cares for ends up being the killer, it is always a bit sad. In this case (and others) where it was someone who has the backstory of having been close to Jessica’s late husband, there is usually an extra layer.
Overall it was a decent episode. Murder, She Wrote can be a little troubling because, like other cozy mysteries, more often than not, the way Jessica solves the crime is a bit out there. She often finds clues without the audience being informed until much later, for example. When Thieves Fall Out plays out in a much better way for people who like to follow along with the case. There are still some leaps in logic and information Jessica has that we, the audience, never do, but not nearly as much as others.
The episode is short on reoccurring characters however, for those that enjoy the more out there Cabot Cove episodes or the ones with more focus on people we’ve seen before. Even Sheriff Tupper is subdued in this episode and less lost and goofy. Given the underlying plot is about proving that two Cabot Cove people killed a third and then framed an innocent man, it is unsurprising that they brought in a lot of new characters instead of depending on Cabot Cove people we know and love. Overall, this episode had almost a weight to it, versus say, Mr. Penroy’s Vacation (a silly episode in Cabot Cove that reminds me of Arsenic and Old Lace).
What really got me about this episode is Andrew and Jessica’s interactions. Throughout the entire episode, she seems torn. Jessica has a strong sense of justice, so it does not surprise me that she attempts to help clear Andrew’s name, but it was written so that it’s obvious she experiences no pleasure in doing so. When she finally solves everything, Andrew returns to her one last time, and while he expects her to be friendly, she still expresses anger with him, believing he must have known that someone would die if he tried to get justice himself. He quickly retorts that it was considered justice to lock him up for a crime he didn’t commit, and he will eagerly await her suggestion of what he should have done.
It’s a little shocking, actually. Andrew is not a likable character and condescending as all hell, but he’s not entirely wrong. The town did circle the wagons and refused to believe that someone from the town could commit the murder, they did rush his prosecution and let two murders off for decades. On the other hand, he can call it justice all he wants, but his behavior was more that of a blackmailer. However, Jessica’s anger at him is still highly misplaced.
It leaves on a sort of unsatisfying note where both Andrew and Jessica are right on some level and wrong on another. But this is not a complaint.
While I wouldn’t call this the most entertaining episode of Murder, She Wrote, it was a good one. The mystery was good, the acting was solid, and there was a decent amount of emotion without being too much. The challenge of where you land on Jessica and Andrew is actually appreciated. It is appreciated when the media we consume forces us to make up our own minds sometimes. Murder, She Wrote has a lot of neat endings, so it can be nice to get one that is a little more challenging. I truly felt for Jessica. However, her attitude to Andrew did get kind of annoying but was more believable in a way.
I would recommend this episode to anyone who has also been doing a rewatch. If you’ve never seen the show, I would recommend it to… a lot of people, but not all. If you do give the show a go though and are skipping around, this might be one to move up on your list
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