While Thursday and Strange, accompanied by journalist Miss Frazil and a nice bit of Rachmaninoff, attend the underworld funeral of Harry Rose (who we met in the first episode of the season), Morse is sitting his sergeant’s exam, which he breezes through in time to do the crossword as well.
Fred Thursday’s daughter Joan (Sarah Vickers) gets tied up with a payroll snatch in which factory owner Clissold is killed; his car boot is full of mucky films (we particularly liked the sound of Moaning Becomes Electra and Hedda Gobbler – as Morse remarks, only in Oxford would you get literary references with your porn).
Joan’s been seeing some yobbo who may have been casing the bank.
Fred confronts the Kray-like Matthews family, falls out with Morse over his treatment of an informant, and gets hauled up on a disciplinary.
Morse looks for a missing bank record book, which may be the real reason for the robbery, and meets his old Lonsdale College tutor, Lorimer (Mark Heap) at a concert. Lorimer’s ex-wife Nina (Samantha Colley) is mixed up with evil bingo caller Marlock (Robbie Carpenter), and he asks Morse to check that’s she’s safe. They’re an odd pairing which raises suspicions.
Morse contrives a meeting with Nina but with little result, and takes WPC Trewlove to a bingo night to find out more about Marlock. He sees Marlock chatting up Joan, and warns her off him, which doesn’t go down well. Nor does it go down well when he warns Nina off Marlock; she accuses her husband of having killed Clissold.
Nina explains that Clissold had got her into the mucky film business, and Lorimer had threatened him; and a contact in college implies to Morse that Lorimer is selling degrees, including to the bank manager’s son.
Morse works on the theory that the bank record book may in fact list Clissold’s blue film clients; Morse has his own problems with the bank, as he’s overdrawn due to spending too much on betting (did we hear mention of this habit before? – not that we can recall).
As Morse recovers the missing notebook from Clissold’s safety deposit box, the Matthews boys raid the bank. Their getaway driver shoots a policemen and takes off, and Morse, Nina and Joan are trapped in the bank. Thursday is called in and comforts Trewlove with the slogan from the anti-fascist demonstrations in Cable Street in the ’30s, ‘no pasaran.’
Fred coughs up the bit of shrapnel that’s been lodged in his lung, gets tooled up and heads for the bank, where one hostage has been shot; the rest have been taken away by two of the robbers in a coach, leaving Morse, Joan and the manager as hostages with the gang leader.
In a tense shoot-out, Morse has a Dirty Harry moment – “Did he fire five bullets or six?”, Trewlove has a Gauntlet moment on the coach, and Fred comes over all Magnum Force and saves the day. (We won’t cavil about the shot showing a single bullet left in the bank robber’s revolver, we know revolvers don’t work like that, but evidently ITV think that their viewers don’t).
Nina has made off with the notebook, but Morse has divined its secret; it’s actually a record of horse races. Lorimer, Nina and Marlock were all involved, something to do with a debt, and duping Morse into helping recover the notebook; it all seems implausible (particularly because we’re never told how Lorimer met Nina, or why Clissold would have loaned him money).
We’d all been warned to expect a heart-breaking ending to this episode, and indeed the series, and it seemed certain that old Fred had to die (we’re not sure whether he was bluffing when he says he has only three weeks left to live); but we were cheated of that closure. Instead, we’re given an implausible denouement with a tramautised Joan walking off in search of a new life, her parents distraught, and Morse realising that she was ‘the one’.
There have been so many ‘ones’ for Morse that clearly Joan was not the great love of his life, so we aren’t buying this. Morse is Morse, and he’s more than capable of screwing up any realistic prospect of a life-long relationship with a woman, without any external circumstances intervening.
So this was a particularly unsatisfactory ending to a very patchy and occasionally barmy season, not so much, “Go ahead punk, make my day” more, “Go ahead Win, make my tea.”
For our episode one review, go here
For our episode two review, go here
For our episode three review, go here
For all our Morse news and reviews, go here