For the We Love Detectives Week Blogathon, I was originally going to create a tier rank list of every film from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries I’ve seen. But the more I thought about this idea, the more ambitious it became. Instead of following through on such a daunting task, I decided to submit an entry that was simpler in nature. I’m currently reading The Magician’s Accomplice by Michael Genelin. But I might not finish the book within the blogathon timeframe. So that’s how I came up with my back-up plan! Recently, while on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ website, I came across an episode of Diagnosis Murder titled “An Education in Murder”. What caught my attention was the episode’s synopsis, as it reminded me of an episode of Murder, She Wrote I reviewed back in 2019: “School for Murder”. Curious to see how similar or different “An Education in Murder” was to “School for Murder”, I thought now would be a good time to introduce myself to a “new” mystery show! Before I continue with my review, I’d like to point out the irony of the situation. That aforementioned review of “School for Murder” was not only the first time I had watched Murder, She Wrote, but that was my submission for a mystery themed blogathon!
Episode Name: An Education in Murder
Season 5, Episode 19
Premiere Date: March 5th, 1998
What I liked about this episode:
I was impressed by the acting in “An Education in Murder”! But there was one performance that really outshined the rest. Portraying a student named Noelle, Danielle Harris did such a great job with the acting material given! When it comes to describing her character, think Cher from Clueless but more manipulative. There were two sides to Noelle; the sweet, good-natured side she used to give a good first impression and the edgy, sadistic side that causes her fellow classmates to face a living nightmare. Throughout this episode, Danielle effortlessly wove in between these polar opposites, changing her character’s demeanor like a chameleon. It was also interesting to see Noelle interact with the other characters, her unpredictability leaving me wondering what she’ll do next. Danielle’s strong acting talents worked in her favor, as she helped bring to life one of the most memorable characters I’ve seen in any tv show!
What I didn’t like about this episode:
Similar to “School for Murder”, “An Education in Murder” took place at an affluent private school. Kelly, one of the students of the school, explains to Dr. Mark Sloan, the show’s protagonist, just how affluent the student body is. After class, she says that if a student doesn’t keep up with current events, their GPA will suffer. She also tells Mark how she doesn’t have a wealthy father. Despite these words, Norrington Hall, the school featured in this episode, didn’t feel like an affluent private school. I know there are a variety of private schools with their own unique communities, traditions, and ways of operating on a day-to-day basis. But I couldn’t find anything about Norrington Hall that screamed “look how much money can be dumped into a child’s education”. For one, all the students in this episode didn’t behave or interact any differently from public school students in a typical movie or television show. Mark’s science class at Norrington Hall seems like a standard AP (advanced placement) science class. Sure, the school’s interior and exterior had a nice appearance. But if entertainment media and real-life have taught me anything, public school buildings can look just as nice as those belonging to private schools. The way the characters’ words didn’t match up with the visuals reminded me of Chippewa Falls Library from the Hallmark Christmas movie, Holly and Ivy.
The mystery itself:
I’m glad “An Education in Murder” wasn’t a carbon-copy of “School for Murder”! Even though the Diagnosis Murder episode had a main plot and two subplots, similar to Murder, She Wrote’s episode, the story felt unique from the predecessor. Despite having three stories in one episode, it never seemed overwhelming. Each of these plots held a connection to the mystery. Unfortunately, that mystery was so painfully obvious, you might as well place the guilty party under the brightest neon sign you can find. Because of the mystery’s painful obviousness, the resolution was anti-climactic. This led to a weak mystery. While watching “An Education in Murder”, I was hoping the guilty party was a red herring, with an unexpected twist hiding around the corner. Sadly, this episode was “cut-and-dry”, leaving little room for intrigue.
The other factors from this episode:
- “An Education in Murder” brought up several messages relating to medicine and murder mysteries I hadn’t thought of before. For instance, after a classmate from Norrington Hall passes away, Mark tells his students how that student’s death is going to make a difference. As morbid as that sounds, he brings up a good point about murder mysteries. Because we, the audience, are so caught up in the story, the murder mystery’s effect on the characters and their surroundings can sometimes be overlooked. This can, to an extent, also be said about real-life cases.
- At certain points in the episode, Mark gives Kelly advice, ranging from how to prevent dizzy spells to figuring out her life after high school. He helps her in an attempt to provide a trustworthy figure in Kelly’s life. This served as a major difference between Diagnosis Murder and Murder, She Wrote. Out of the episodes of Murder, She Wrote I’ve seen, I don’t recall Jessica Fletcher giving noteworthy advice to younger characters. Maybe the infrequent presence of younger characters on that show was a reason why? Even though this is my first time watching Diagnosis Murder, it makes me wonder how often younger characters appeared on the show.
- In one scene, Mark’s son, Steve, gives Mark information about the guilty party’s background. This information was used to explain the motive behind the guilty party’s behavior. After hearing this explanation, it made me wonder if the show was implying the guilty party had RAD (reactive attachment disorder)? I’m not asking this to diagnose a character, but simply out of curiosity. If the guilty party did have RAD, why wouldn’t any of the characters mention this? I know this show doesn’t revolve around the psychological aspect of the medical world. Still, I’m surprised the disorder wasn’t openly stated in this episode.
My overall thoughts:
For my first time watching Diagnosis Murder, I was left desiring more from the mystery. Even though it was a different story from Murder, She Wrote’s “School for Murder”, it was painfully obvious who the guilty party was. Because of that, I didn’t find the mystery interactive. However, the parts of the story surrounding the mystery made up for the episode’s weaknesses! “An Education in Murder” was more thought-provoking than I expected, sharing interesting ideas about murder mysteries and medicine. Each plot was connected to the mystery, allowing these stories to share importance in the script. But, as I said in the review, the amount of stories never felt overwhelming. Based on the series synopsis I read on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ website, it seems like Diagnosis Murder wanted to enjoy the fruits of Murder, She Wrote’s labor. I came to this conclusion because each show shares some common aspects, such as featuring an older protagonist. Like with Murder, She Wrote, I might check out more episodes from Diagnosis Murder.
Rating: A 3.5 out of 5
Have fun in Malibu!