"Midsomer Murders" Master Class (TV Episode 2010) Poster

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Keeping it in the family
Tweekums13 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Despite the notoriously high number of murders in Midsomer the series is usually fairly whimsical and seldom touches on anything really unpleasant; most murders seem to be based on the petty jealousy of members of one hobby group or another. When this episode opened I assumed that it would be the same, especially when we saw Joyce Barnaby helping at the auditions for a master class to be run by pianist Sir Michael Fielding. It looked like the first death would be Zoë, one of the aspiring pianists, when she started bleeding profusely from her nose but it turned out it was just a symptom of a panic attack. Despite only playing the opening bars of her piece she was invited to go forward to the next round of the competition. While here she saw a woman drowning in the river and tried to save her, the police were called but found no sign of a drowned woman; strangely though Barnaby recalls that a woman did drown at that spot almost twenty years before. Zoë and two other students are selected to go on to the final round and when one is murdered it looks as though the most likely suspect is a student who felt hard done by for being rejected. We soon realise that he probably didn't do it when there is a second murder followed by a car crash involving Zoë's parents.

This was a better than average episode of a series I nearly always enjoy, it made an interesting change to have an episode with a darker tone. Instead of petty jealousy we have a family keeping a very dark secret involving a case of incest and a clear intention to commit that crime again with the daughter of the original victim… making it even darker the whole family was involved. As well as the regular cast guest stars Lydia Wilson and James Fox put in notable performances as Zoë and Fielding.
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Sophisticated Clever Episode
Hitchcoc1 June 2016
After so many recent disappointments, this was an outstanding mystery. I think that for once, Barnaby and his family aren't center stage. A strange series of events have taken place involving a piano school where the master can make or break a career. A pretty young woman is a classical virtuoso and is the favorite to take the prize. But there is something strange going on among the people that are intimately involved in the studio. This young woman is very fragile and her competitors begin to play mind games with her, including their parents. One day she sees (or thinks she sees) a woman with a baby drown. The police are brought in, but no body can be found. The conclusion to this episode is striking and well conceived. My faith is being restored.
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A classic
james_899 October 2010
Talented piano student Zoe Stock has won a place at the Devington winter school taught by celebrated pianist Sir Michael Fielding. By the river in the grounds of the manor she sees a woman abandon a baby on the banks and jump in. Zoe tries to help but the current is too strong. The woman drowns and her body vanishes.

With no body and no baby, just gut instinct, DCI Barnaby is convinced Zoe saw something. His suspicions are confirmed when a hooded figure tries to kill Zoe at a nearby abbey. Soon after, Barnaby does have very real dead bodies as he struggles to solve what will become the most disturbing case of his career, and prevent others falling victim to the killer.

Well, what a story! I was beginning to think the series has lost it, but this sort of episode proves there's life in the old dog yet! All the producers need to do is hire the right script writers and the series can go on indefinitely! Unfortunately though, one brilliant episode once in a blue moon doesn't bode well for the series.

Master Class, by Nicholas Martin, is packed full of intrigue, twists and turns, subtle humour (not pantomime as has been the case recently) and a solution to the mystery that is genuinely horrific. Also, there are some brilliant actors in this one, who after reading the script must have really wanted to be a part of it. Lydia Wilson, who plays Zoe, i suspect is a name to watch out for. She's a star in the making.

Not only one of the best for years but one of the best ever.

Note to producers: Keep Nicholas Martin as a regular writer. He's a genius! And get rid of the dead wood!
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blanche-229 October 2013
At a music school, a gifted piano student, Zoe Stock, thinks that she sees a woman drown after leaving her baby on the bank. She jumps in but doesn't see the woman, and there's no baby. Barnaby & Jones are called in, and though there is no proof that anything happened, Barnaby vaguely remembers an actual, similar drowning that took place about 18 years earlier. Back then, the body was found by a Catholic priest, Father Gregory.

Zoe is competing to participate in a master class run by the world-famous Sir Michael Fielding (James Fox); the school is administered by his daughters Miriam and Constance (Sylvestra Le Touzel and Frances Barber). Only three students from the current crop will be chosen, and when they are, Zoe is one of the three, along with Orlando (Matthew James Thomas), and Francesca (Katharine Press). The winner of the Fielding Prize is assured an international career.

When an attempt is made on Zoe's life, Barnaby investigates further, and then the bodies start falling. Is it the rejected student, who is still hanging around, responsible? Or is it someone else? The denouement of this story is bizarre, and you'll be trying to figure it out through the film. A dark story and an excellent one, with some well-drawn characters and excellent performances.

Highly recommended.
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A Masterclass in writing.
Paul Evans8 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
A definite contender for one of Midsomer's top 5 stories. A few dogs had gone before and interest in the show was starting to falter, boy did they come up with the goods for this one, how could they fail with a family consisting of Sylvestra Le Touzel, James Fox and Frances Barber, they are all so good.

Zoe Stock (Lydia Wilson) a talented pianist at a masterclass school sees a woman fall in a river and drown, a deep, dark and intriguing story follows, with a lot of twists and turn. Plenty to retain the viewers interest, the ending is very dark and chilling

Screenplay writer Nicholas martin did an amazing job writing Masterclass, he then went on to pen possibly the worst ever episode, Night of the Stag, talk about from the sublime to the ridiculous.

I must point out that Joyce is particularly annoying here, and once again she has a new job at the place of a murder, she must have kept Job Centre Plus busy
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The silliest Midsomer Murders ever.
Paul Andrews29 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Midsomer Murders: Master Class is set in the small Midsomer village of Devington where eighteen year old pianist Zoe Stock (Lydia Wilson) has won an opportunity to attend a prestigious music school run by Sir Michael Fielding (James Fox), Zoe is to perform for the ultimate prize of international recognition & a professional contract against two fellow students Orlando (Matthew James Thomas) & Francesca (Katherine Press). While taking a walk by a river Zoe sees a woman dressed in white carrying a baby, then moments later Zoe sees the woman fall into the river & drown, DCI Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) investigates but no body is found & no trace of the baby is discovered either. However Barnaby has his suspicions & remembers an incident where a woman drown in the same spot eighteen years earlier, suspecting something is wrong Barnaby soon finds himself investigating a murder when Orlando is found hanging & that's just the start...

Episode five from season thirteen this Midsomer Murders mystery was directed Renny Rye & is surely one of the most ridiculous & silly the series has to offer, once all is revealed & all is explained at the end I just couldn't take Master Class seriously at all & found it hard to stop shaking my head in amazement. For a start the script is extremely slow going, apart from the mystery of the drowning woman it's over an hour before anything really happens with the first murder, that's just too long to wait & far too much exposition & padding to wade through with nothing to really maintain your interest or hook you. However where Master Class becomes ridiculous & in a way one of the series most memorable episodes is at the end when the motives for murder are revealed, I mean a guy who wants to have sex with his daughter & granddaughter to pass his genes on & produced the ultimate pianist is just such a silly concept, who came up with it & did they think that anyone watching would be convinced by it in the slightest? Then there are Zoe's parents who knew a lot of the background to what was going on so why did they let Zoe audition & then stay at the music school in the first place? The two eventual killers don't even get to say anything at the end as they just led away, as an over the top Hollywood thriller Master Class might have been fun but as a straight laced, serious British crime drama Master Class is just one of the most ridiculous things I've seen in ages. I don't really know how Zoe would have remember something so vividly she never even saw properly when she was a one year old baby either, in fact you could pick Master Class apart bit by bit with character motivation & decisions that make no sense.

Despite the flashback being set in 1993 the woman seen seems to be wearing clothes from the 70's for some reason, I understand the makers wanted to emphasise the events took place in the past but it doesn't look right. The kills when they eventually come are standard fare, a hanging & a slit throat. Well filmed as usual though & there's plenty of classical piano music featured if that's your sort of thing but I'm very much with DS Jones when he says it's not his sort of music. Master Class looks nice enough & has that unique British appearance, Dorchester Abbey in Oxfordshie was used as Saint Cecilia's Abbey while St. Katharine's Convent was used for the location of Devington Hall. The acting is good from a solid cast.

Master Class is both one of the silliest & therefore most memorable Midsomer Murder episodes, I can't say I liked it that much & found too many holes in it. Not one of Midsomer Murders finest two hours.
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TheLittleSongbird24 February 2017
As has been said by me a number of times, 'Midsomer Murders' is one of my most watched and most re-watched shows. It is nowhere near as good now and the Tom Barnaby-era wasn't alien to average or less episodes, but when it was on form or at its best boy was it good.

This review summary may sound ridiculously hyperbolic for a show that has been wildly hit and miss and mostly pretty stale since Season 10, but it is proof that once in a while a not-so-good period in a show's run can produce the odd gem. This is the case with "Master Class", not only is it easily the best episode of Season 13 (a season that saw embarrassments such as "The Made-to-Measure Murders" and especially "Blood on the Saddle") but to me it is also the best 'Midsomer Murders' episode since "The House in the Woods" way back from Season 9.

So many great things in "Master Class". First and foremost, the production values as always are just great, the idyllic look of it contrasting very well with the story's grimness, and quaint and atmospheric photography. The music fits perfectly, with some lush jauntiness and sometimes an ominous quality, and the theme tune one of the most memorable and instantly recognisable of the genre.

Writing provokes a lot of thought, and has a healthy balance of the humorous and the darkly twisted, contrary to a previous commentator calling it silly and ridiculous (adjectives to me best suited to the likes of "Blood on the Saddle" and "Shot at Dawn") "Master Class" was the closest the show has come in a while to have the maturity seen in "classic" (Seasons 1-7 mainly) 'Midsomer Murders'.

"Master Class" story is absorbing throughout and is one of the show's darkest, complex and full-of-twists-and-turns episodes in a long time without being simplistic or incoherent. Sure, there is padding, which tended to be a very bad thing in recent episodes, but because the characterisation and their conflicts and twists and turns are fascinating, serve a point and feel relevant and come together at the end this was a rare case of what could have been a big problem was not.

Characters are closer to the more colourful and eccentric characters of the classic era rather than the lifeless ones that too many of the recent episodes had and while the conclusion is somewhat bizarre (more often than not not a good adjective) it is strikingly twisty, with the motives more inspired than the dull, flimsy and old-hat motives of many recent episodes and almost a return to the wonderfully elaborate and twisted ones, and just about easy to understand, so long as the rest of the episode has fullest attention.

John Nettles and Jason Hughes are both superb, individually and together (their chemistry, and the chemistry with Daniel Casey and John Hopkins before Hughes, being a huge part of their episodes' charm). Lydia Wilson proved one to watch and James Fox sinks his teeth into his role.

In conclusion, masterly episode and one of the best of the show in some while. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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