The Brokenwood Mysteries: Series 7
R2 - United Kingdom - Acorn Media
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (18th November 2021).
The Show

Touted as New Zealand's answer to Midsomer Murders, The Brokenwood Mysteries trades village fκtes for cheese rolls as four-times divorced, country & western music-loving city officer Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd (The Irrefutable Truth About Demons's Neill Rea) first turned up in the North Island town of Brokenwood to put the "field in field investigator" and takes over investigation into a death that everyone else would rather believe was a suicide or accidental death, replacing the local senior inspector implicated in the case. Ditching the city for Brokenwood and a vineyard, Shephard finds his outsider status both alienates him from the locals but also allows him to view cases from a perspective lacking in partner Kristin Sims (The Almighty Johnsons' Fern Sutherland) and young Detective Constable Sam Breen (Power Rangers Mystic Force's Nic Sampson). And yet, they are as much sources of background information and incriminating gossip as feisty pensioner Mrs. Marlowe (30 Days of Night's Elizabeth McRae), hapless entrepreneur Frankie 'Frodo' Oades (Karl Willetts) who finds himself a suspect more than once, while the outlandish theories posited by humorless Russian pathologist Gina (Filthy Rich's Cristina Serban Ionda) are sometimes as fruitful as Shephard's habit of interrogating corpses.

As with the aforementioned Midsomer Murders and other small-town procedurals, dirty laundry and skeletons in the closet could do with some airing out to expose culprits and the motives which sometimes are rooted in the past Suspects from earlier cases often pop up in later episodes with much more frequency than the British series and are not always readily available to help; indeed, some like to hinder the investigations just for the sake of it like attorney Dennis Buchanan (The Almighty Johnsons' Shane Cortese) who often turns up as defense council just as the team bring in a suspect, or Trudy Neilson (Tracy Lee Gray) who defended her hapless brother Ray (What We Do in the Shadows' Jason Hoyte) when he was suspected of murdering his wife and then landed in some hot water of her own. Unlike the previous six series' sets of four feature-length mysteries each, season seven is extended to six feature-length cases in order to reintroduce and bid farewell to Breen – with one of the more emotional and tragic cases of the series – and to make a case for his replacement D.C. Daniel Chalmers (Fantail's Jarod Rawiri), introduced at the tail end of the season's second episode and then thrown into the thick of it in the third with what seems like the nastiest villains since the first season's final episode (two, actually, although gets a humiliating comeuppance at the end of the episode while the other turns up in the sixth episode of the season and shows signs of either becoming a better person or possibly a sociopath).

Whereas the light humor of the previous seasons balanced the more tragic aspects of some of the cases, the overarching theme this season here of broken families overshadows everything else (with the one family reunited only in preparation for impending loss). Some of the more formulaic elements of the show were starting to wear in the previous season, and it seems as though the showrunners wanted to start afresh in some ways, leaving Kristin without an immediately identifiable "possible love interest" and acknowledging the awkwardness of Gina's romantic interest in Mike – with Mike's reticence to say anything the butt of jokes rather than Gina's infatuation – as such, the rivalry between Gina and Kristin seems less like misplaced jealousy and the former's resentment at the latter "assuming" Wikipedia-level expertise in her field. Presumably, now that Mike has laid to rest one of his old cases – in a manner that could either be seen as bending the rules to keep a promise or bending them in order to fulfill his duty – presumably the next season will see him better adapted to Brokenwood and Chalmers the fish out of water.

Series 7 Overview:
7.1: "The Garotte and the Vinkelbraun" (91:59) – Mike and his team investigate the bizarre murder of the host of a visiting antiques television show (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey's Mark Hadlow), and the suspect snot only include the visiting crew but also locals with grudges. Mike also suspects the royal title of one of the town's prominent citizens (James Richard Marshall) to be as fraudulent as a painting the dead host appraised as authentic.

7.2: "The Witches of Brokenwood" (91:35) – When the body of a career woman is found in the sauna of the Brokenwood Health Retreat, it seems to be no coincidence that her three estranged sisters are there at the same time or that her equally-estranged husband is lurking about.

7.3: "Dog Day Morning" (92:28) – What appears to be a botched robbery attempt by a trio of bumbling bank robbers armed with paint guns turns serious when a body is discovered in the vault with a very real bullet wound.

7.4: "Something Nasty in the Market" (90:05) – The pitchfork murder of a domineering celebrity chef (Rebecca Hobbs, sister of Katrina Hobbs who guested in the season opener) appears not to be a crime of passion when the post-mortem reveals that her body has been tattooed with a diagram for butchering a cow.

7.5: "Exposed to the Light" (92:06) – When a projector fire at the historical Brokenwood Cinema during a repertory screening of the only film shot in Brokenwood turns up the body of a local business bigwig, Mike suspects arson but the discovery of a piece of racy footage excised from the film provides motive for one or more of the local residents (among them, The Last Days of Chez-Nous' Lisa Harrow).

7.6: "Here's to You, Mrs. Robinson" (92:43) – When Mike is called away suddenly on a personal emergency, Sims and Chalmers investigate the murders of two women during a 1960s-themed party. The case brings back snotty, failed bank robber Caleb Brantlock (Power Rangers Dino Charge's Ryan Carter) as a suspect despite being confined to his home with an ankle monitor, and complicates Sims' romantic life when Glen Tyson (Ryan O'Kane) – the boyfriend of a suspect from the season opener – turns out to be not so much quirky as an all-out trainwreck.


Six feature-length episodes are spread across three dual-layer discs, and the generally bright and crisp HD videography is not particularly demanding on the anamorphic midrange bitrate encodes. Skintones are slightly warm by design, and the settings are also cast in neutral to warm hues, while presumably Acorn's US Blu-ray release might offer some improvements in the depth and detail of some night scenes and an overall bump up in resolution.


As usual for the series, audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo – even the US Blu-ray only has lossless stereo – but it gets the job done in terms of dialogue, directional effects, subtle atmosphere, scoring, and the more enveloping use of songs by New Zealand artists. Optional English HoH subtitles are provided.


A short behind the scenes (4:07) has soundbites of the cast discussing Sampson's departure, introducing Rawiri, the extended season of six episodes, and some of the new locations and cases. Also included is a photo gallery (1:33).


The seventh season of The Brokenwood Mysteries attempts to breathe some new life into a police procedural and mostly succeeds with some new characters and new spins on old ones.


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