It’s not hard to see why the Chinese wanted to create their own version of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. A feisty flirty flapper solving mysteries? That’s a winner world-wide. But what changed and what stayed the same when Miss Fisher turned into Miss S? That’s one mystery we can solve without the help of a glamorous detective.
An adventurous socialite with a luxurious home, a seemingly endless wardrobe, and a tough-gal streak that has her muscling in on society both high and low to get what she wants, Miss S, aka Su Wenli (Ma Yili) hits the ground running when she returns to Shanghai after a decade spent in Paris only to find herself in the middle of a murder mystery. But she’s not back home for the fun of it: she’s on a mission to prevent the early release of the man convicted of murdering her younger sister.
While Ma Yili’s performance is maybe a little more arch than Essie Davis’ work in the original, she has plenty of flirty charm while still having enough backbone to be believable as a professional private eye. Fun and fiery, she’s perfect in the role.
Miss S is set in 1930s Shanghai, and the Jazz Age is definitely alive and well in this series. No disrespect to the Melbourne setting of Miss Fisher, but Miss S definitely has the advantage when it comes to exotic and alluring locations (even if some of them have been touched up on a computer). It’s a romanticised version of the city for sure, but this is a romance that’ll have you saving up for a time machine.
Miss Fisher was notorious for its glamorous costumes, but Miss S is not playing second fiddle to anyone in this department. Su Wenli’s outfits are consistently stunning whether she’s in western attire or wearing a traditional qi pao. Seriously, if you decided to watch this series entirely for the outfits nobody in their right mind would judge you, they’re that good. And while there’s no way male lead Inspector Luo (Vengo Gao Weiguang) is going to top the female characters here, he’s definitely a snappy dresser in his own right.
The flirting between Miss Fisher and Detective Jack was a central part of Miss Fisher, and Miss S knows that when you’ve got a good thing going you don’t mess with it. Fortunately Su Wenli and Inspector Luo have spot-on chemistry, so fans of their characters’ slow burn romance will have little to complain about here. One thing that is a little different is that here Inspector Luo is a lot more tolerant of – and at times, downright pleased at – Miss S’s interference in a case. It’s a bit more of a traditional romance than the original, but when the leads look this good that’s hardly cause for complaint.
The supporting cast
After solving her first mystery, Miss S takes on board Xiao Tao Zi (Bu Guan Jin), the maid of the victim, to be her paid companion. So yes, there’s a Chinese version of Miss Fisher’s sidekick Dot, and she also strikes up an adorably cute relationship with Inspector Luo’s deputy, Shen Xiao An (Wu Hao Chen). The big twist here is that while Dot was staunchly Catholic, here Xiao Tao Zi is a Buddhist… which shouldn’t throw up as many obstacles to their love but rest assured, they find a way for it to come between them.
Miss S is still very flirty, but while the original didn’t shy away from a lead with an active sex life, this version tones down the more overt sexiness somewhat. While the flirty Miss S is definitely not afraid of the company of the opposite sex and it’s not like pre-marital sex isn’t a factor in some of the cases, there’s not a lot of suggestion here that Miss S is taking advantage of the looser morals of the time. Also, Inspector Luo is something of a foodie, which provides plenty of sensual opportunities (and jokes) all on its own.
Just like the original, Miss S isn’t afraid to scandalise society by getting involved in cases that a lady of her station is meant to stay well away from. So expect to see her taking on drug kingpins, sex pest industrialists, political activists and a string of mysterious deaths including a maid found hung from a water tower. It’s not all dry problem-solving either; getting trapped inside an overheating sauna (and using a hairpin to escape) is all part of the job for Miss S.
Fans of Miss Fisher, you have nothing to fear.
Miss S is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
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