It’s a very intense episode, with Phyrne (Essie Davis) in constant danger—whether she knows it or not, usually yes but not the extent of it—in addition to being in a very traumatic headspace. We finally find out what happens to her little sister (or at least as much as Davis knows) when Davis takes a case at a visiting circus. The half-woman/half-man (performance artist Moira Finucane in a bit part) is killed and her body revealed on stage during magician (and lover) Greg Stone’s act. The coppers are no use, so circus strong man Aaron Jeffery goes to old friend Davis, who doesn’t want to take the case because of the history.
Only when she takes Jeffrey to see Nathan Page, Page has got clearly crappy copper Joel Tobeck working it and has no time for the case.
Even though the episode itself is really good, Page’s place in it is very weird. See, he sends Hugo Johnstone-Burt to work with Tobeck (ostensibly to keep an eye on Tobeck’s progress with the case), but Johnstone-Burt just ends up taking on all of Tobeck’s bad habits, which pisses Page off. Only… not enough? It feels like Page needs a subplot to keep him occupied this episode—and eventually gets a little bit of one, once old acquaintance (and Page’s first ever arrest when he was a rookie) Gillian Jones ends up in the station needing a place to sober up. Page has to throw her in with the not very suspicious murder suspect, magician’s assistant Victoria Thaine. Tobeck and Johnstone-Burt collar Thaine with literally no investigation, which Page knows.
So, not a good episode for Page.
But Davis and Jeffrey at the circus? Great. Suspects include nasty snake lady Maude Davey, Stone, circus owner John Wood, and basically everyone else. The episode’s got a very romanticized vision of the circus, with Jeffrey constantly spouting emotionally rousing speeches about how its a place for everyone who can’t fit in to fit in and realize their inherent value. Sadly, the only other person who apparently felt so strongly about the circus as inclusive was Finucane, who was murdered by one of her colleagues.
It does give Jeffrey a nice tone though.
The case itself involves a lot of information being kept from everyone involved—problematically in one major instance—but is emotionally rending by the finale.
Davis does a fantastic job throughout the episode, haunted by the past (which shows up in flashback), but still pushing forward.
So her arc and the tension from the main case more than make up for Page’s distraction. Again, got to wonder if it’s the source novel or—oh, Shelley Birse’s previous episode was a disappointing one (for “Fisher” anyway). So, yeah, I’d guess adaptation issues.