After having just watched the first five episodes of the thought-provoking, raw and hard-going Case, coming back to Endeavour was like settling back into a favourite armchair with a glass of red and shuffling your feet into a pair of fleece-lined slippers. That’s not to say that Endeavour is meagre or weak, but this Morse prequel does have a comforting quality to it, which, in these troubled times, is most welcome. Alas, it was time for the final episode of the series, a series I’ve enjoyed greatly.
I’m really full of admiration for Russell Lewis’s ingenious ways of presenting us with one thing – often lots of things – and then over the course of the episode paring it down to one, singular human issue. We’ve seen all sorts in this (Colin) dextrous series, but for this last one we went merrily trotting into the English countryside, where Morse, still dressed in his work suit, somwhat uncomfortably enveloped himself in bucolic village life.
Morse was in the village to investigate the disappearance of botanist Dr Matthew Laxman, who went missing five years before near the village of Bamford. After finding a pair of glasses – it was presumed Laxman’s glasses – in an archaeological dig, Thursday is intent on opening the case even though there isn’t much to go on (personal reasons, see?). When Morse arrives at Bamford he’s confronted by almost peak English tweeness – there are Morris dancers hopping about the village green, there are fruit sellers outside shops, hedges are neatly cut… and the villagers eye him with suspicion. Immediately my mind made Hot Fuzz and Wicker Man connections, such was the strength of the pagan imagery, frowny stares (you’re not from ’round ‘ere sonny, are you?) and the fact the autumn equinox was about to take place. On one of his rounds, Morse went to meet an old lady in the woods (played by John Thaw’s widow, Sheila Hancock), who gave an unbelieving Morse a tarot reading. Death featured heavily in the cards. Something bad was going to happen, but to who? To Morse? To Thursday?
Just as we were led down a garden path that suggested strange, murdery things going on in picture-perfect English villages, we were led down another.
It all boiled down to a final scene at the nearby power station, where Laxman’s former colleagues were intent on sabotaging the whole thing – Thursday was in the thick of it and with the portent of death swirling about, I half expected Thursday to get shot in the final showdown: he and his wife were on speaking terms again, Morse was thinking of leaving for London… even his flat had been burgled. It was all pointing to a changing of the guard and the next steps in Morse’s journey. Thankfully, Thursday survived.
Elsewhere, Joan’s storyline was bubbling away. Thursday, after seeing Morse’s little piece of paper with her new address written down on it, went up to Leamington to seek his daughter out. He and Joan staged an uncomfortable conversation, Thursday desperate for her to come home; Joan desperate to live an independent life. Just for good measure, Thursday meted out a bit of old-fashioned getting-to-know-you tactics on her smarmy (married) boyfriend in the car park.
But that wasn’t the end of Joan. She turned up on Morse’s doorstep, trying to conceal a bruised face. In another awkward exchange, Joan explained she was broke and had nowhere to go. Morse – becoming more and more aware that life was short and chances had not been taken – blurted out a marriage proposal. But then the phone rang. And he took it. DON’T TAKE THE PHONE MORSE! Ask her again. There’s so much unsaid between these two, and it’s this emotional counterpoint that sets it apart from other Sunday-night crime dramas. This emotional content gives it greater depth than say a Grantchester or a Midsomer. Endeavour is reassuring and comforting, but it’s in no way cosy crime – at the end of the episode Morse was called to the hospital, where poor Joan was in a bad way. She had fallen down some stairs (deliberately? pushed?), and had miscarried the baby she was carrying. It was tough to see, and Morse – still poring over whether to go to London – might just have made his decision.
We also got an emotional ending to the Laxman case – he had been murdered by a mumbling, hardy farmer type (another crime of passion, or thereabouts). His apprehension was a curiously emotional affair: he knew what he had done and that he had to be arrested, but he wanted to breath the clean country air one last time, and say goodbye to his beloved dog, Skip. “He won’t know what to do without me,” he said quietly, as he cocked his rifle. NOT THE DOG!
Let’s face it, this was no Hinterland in its thorough examination of a rural community, but it was yet another enjoyable and satisfying episode, which left things open for more series down the line. Oh Morse, once again we care a great deal about you and your life, and those around you. Don’t go changing.
For our episode one review, go here
For our episode two review, go here
For our episode three review, go here