Right off the bat, I’d like to say that if you haven’t been tuning into Houdini & Doyle, I highly recommend you do. It’s aesthetically stunning, thematically intriguing and the cast is acting the hell out of these roles.
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Suffice it to say, I’m a fan of the fledgling Fox series, and I absolutely hope it gets picked up for a second season. Having said that, I do have one major problem with the show.
The crux of Houdini & Doyle, of course, is the differing belief systems of the two eponymous male characters, Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle. Houdini is a pragmatist to the core — a magician who puts far more stock into science than he ever would into magic or anything mystical.
Doyle, on the other hand, is an author and scientist who is supposedly a man of faith. He believes in the unknown. He is open to the idea of the supernatural or spiritual. At least, that’s what the banter the two ping-pong back and forth at each other would have you think.
However, we’re now three episodes in and, thus far, every single case has been solved much like a Scooby Doo mystery, whereby what appears at first to be otherworldly winds up having a very practical underlying explanation.
I don’t necessarily have a problem with said cases — watching the detective work and the symbiotic relationship between Houdini and Doyle that ultimately delivers them to that conclusion is indubitably fun to watch. The fact that the series uses the cases as an opportunity to point out history’s woeful gender inequality through Constable Stratton is a major bonus.
However, I feel like the implication that has been built thus far is that there is no divinity or reason to have faith in anything other than science and logic. I’m sure the argument here will be that Doyle is the counterpoint, but even he is starting to treat faith like some sort of fantastical made-up thing.
In tonight’s episode (spoiler alert!), a supposed faith healer laid hands on Doyle’s sick wife and woke her after six months in a coma. When it is later revealed that the faith healer’s sister had been manipulating him into believing he had healing powers, Doyle’s wife slips back into a coma.
It was a fluke. Had Doyle’s wife been allowed to remain alert and come home to the family, it would have left the situation open to interpretation — perhaps it was the faith healer’s hands or, more pointedly, Doyle’s faith in a greater power that brought his wife back from the brink.
But the faith healer was supposedly a fraud and, therefore, Doyle’s wife had to return to darkness. It left little to interpretation. The message was loud and clear: Only science can cause medical miracles.
Now, I am not suggesting that the show go off on a spiritual tangent. I’m not saying that faith healers are real — I’ve never met anyone claiming to be one, and I’m not sure what I’d think if I did. However, I am a person of faith and it would be nice if faith wasn’t treated like a silly indulgence for fools.
Bringing faith into play on the show doesn’t necessarily make it polarizing. They wouldn’t have to make the faith secular. It could simply be leaving cases open to the possibility that something greater than science is at play. Let faith win a few, eh?
I’d like to think I’d argue for this scenario even if I wasn’t a person of faith, simply because it lends so much more depth to the series. There are plenty of crime shows that deal in the tangible and rational. What would really be so wrong about having one that opened the door to other possibilities? Aside from, you know, aliens — Mulder and Scully have that covered.
I realize it is still very early in the first season, so there is plenty of time for Houdini & Doyle to address this imbalance. And that’s precisely what I hope the series does.