Between the shotgun killing of a sweet factory girl and the execution of her boss, it’s all murder and mayhem in the picture-postcard village of Chigton, and it’s going to take more than PC McGarry No 452 to sort it out.
While this episode is clearly going to be stuffed with references to children’s stop-motion favourites Chigley, Camberwick Green and Trumpton, the opening murders are untypically vicious: a glamourous sweet-factory worker is killed by a shotgun blast in the back, and her boss, the lord of the manor, similarly shot while on a hunt. A single killer, or unrelated murders?
The Creswells (as in the biscuit factory in Chigley) are apparently popular and fair to their workers, but we suspect there are simmering resentments, perhaps around commoner Sarah Clamp (Katie Goldfinch), who’s engaged to one of the Creswell heirs (Clamp as in the greengrocer in Trumpton).
The chocolate box village of Chigton, where all the shops are labelled ‘Fishmonger’, ‘Baker’ and the like, is familiar ground for Dorothea Frasil and her advice columnist Miss Ling, and Morse looks like he might be inclined to rent a house there.
Suspicious types hanging around the village include the sultry Mrs Fairford (Olivia Chenery), her vet father, catty secretary Miss Neal (Tilly Blackwood), Mr Carraway the fishmonger (another Camberwick Green character) and a surly Farmer Bell (again as in Camberwick Green), on whose farm the girl is found shot. She was Bell’s wife, and Bell is also found dead by his own hand, but did he also kill Creswell? A malicious note suggesting an affair, and accompanied by a Creswell chocolates Happy Families card, suggests so.
Morse and Thursday try to track down the poison pen writer at the sweet factory, which is obviously a hotbed of gossip and fornication behind the jelly-moulds, then make a connection with the apparent suicide of an Oxford scholar named Rufus Bura (Sarah Clamp’s cousin). There’s a reference here to President Bill Clinton’s years as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, starting in 1968.
Morse cosies up to Isla Fairford, while Bright and Mrs Bright (Carol Royle) struggle with her terminal cancer diagnosis. Fred and Win are also having marriage problems, and Strange is still investigating the heroin overdose deaths. For the first time he suggests to Morse that his boss Box might not be on the straight and narrow, as confirmed when we see him slipping Fred a bung (to the accompaniment of Cat Stevens’ song The First Cut is the Deepest – the PP Arnold version?
Then one of the Creswells is found dead in the jam – a bit like the Morse episode The Sins of the Fathers where the heir to a brewery is found dead in a vat. Max gets in a joke about the victim coming to a sticky end – we wish he’d come up with more of these wisecracks, they’re always gems.
The murder weapon seems to have been a bolt gun – Morse questions Mrs Fairford’s dad the vet, who says his has been lost. Has Murray Cresswell also fallen victim to the poison pen campaigner?
Morse’s snooping reveals that Miss Neal is the mysterious columnist Miss Ling, and he finally makes the connection between Isla Fairford, adulterous Murray Creswell, and the poison pen letter campaign – originally just a way of getting back at bitchy Mandy Bell. Once it ended in death, sensitive Rufus Bura killed himself, and Isla killed Murray Fairford for knocking her up and driving away her husband.
Here begins Morse’s long history of fancying women who turn out to be murderers – he might be a great detective, but he’s easily distracted by fluttering eyelashes.
As a coda, Bright summons Morse to a road traffic accident where a holdall in the car contans cash and a gun of the calibre which killed George Fancy – but who was the driver? Morse seeks help from Fred, but finds him partying with Box and his cronies – is this the end of the Morse and Fred partnership?
Apart from the Camberwick Green references, which kept us on our toes, this wasn’t the greatest of Morse’s cases, and the motive of the killer, Isla, seemed barely relevant. A bit of fun, then, but largely a set-up for next week’s finale, where we have to have some closure on the subjects of Fred’s marriage, Bright’s wife, and Box and the heroin overdoses. And if there’s any reference to Bagpuss among that lot, we’ll be flabbergasted.
It should also be noted that Fred survived. We speculated earlier in the week that, due to a video ITV posted on social media, his time looked as though it might be up. Not a bit of it – it was more likely to be a generic teaser for ITV drama in general, and part of a campaign.
FOR OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW CLICK HERE
FOR OUR EPISODE TWO REVIEW CLICK HERE