Now that we’re approaching the era of the first Inspector Morse dramas, there are a lot of loose ends to be tied up – not the least of which is why Morse never spoke about Fred Thursday. A huge falling out is clearly on the cards – will this involve Endeavour’s doomed love affair with the lovely Violetta, and the possible involvement of her sinister husband Ludo in the towpath murders last week?
In Raga (a term in Indian music), all that is put aside as racial tensions rear their head when campaigning for the 1970 general election gets underway in Oxford. In a clash between two gangs, a Pakistani youth is knifed by a supporter of the ‘British Movement’.
Morse and Thursday question racist politician Martin Gorman (Jason Merrells) – they might as well have called him Adolf Hilter – and search for his follower Gary Rogers (William Allam, son of Roger Allam); Morse finds a casino chip at the scene of the crime.
Meanwhile, Strange is struggling with his home cooking, and investigates an Indian restaurant where a delivery man, Aziz, has disappeared. At the last stop on his delivery round, Tiffin Court (of course a term for ‘afternoon tea’ from the British Raj), Morse finds the man dead in the flat of TV chef Oberon Prince (Neil Roberts), who has gone missing after arguing with wresting promoter Nayle (Ted Robbins) at the restaurant. Thursday likens the ‘faces and heels’ of wrestling to the heroes and villains of opera.
Morse finds another casino chip at the flat of Oberon Prince, and Prince’s ex-wife turns up – there’s a reference to ‘Johnny and Fanny’ (Craddock, TV chefs) – and she claims he might have gone off to Greece. Has she done away with him, or is there something dodgy going on at the Indian restaurant he visited?
Dorothea Frazil, who we recall last week was talking about cat murders, turns up full of news about a string of apparently accidental deaths on farms – what is this all leading up to?
Fred has not let go of his suspicion of barmaid Molly’s boyfriend Carl for her towpath murder last week, and Morse insists that Professor Blish, who has been charged, can’t be guilty – and who murdered flasher Tony Jacobsen?
Ludo turns up at Morse’s house, full of gossip about Steve McQueen filming (would this have been 1973’s Papillon, the story of a safecracker’s escape from an island prison?). He invites Morse to dinner, awkward when Violetta turns up unexpectedly, and they shoot clay pigeons – Morse turns out to be a good shot. Ludo, it turns out, knows Oberon Prince, who he says is ‘no Robert Danvers’ (a promiscuous TV chef played by Peter Sellers in There’s a Girl In My Soup, 1970).
Morse initially spurns Violetta’s overtures, and Ludo, we note, says that she hates opera – very suspicious. But she inveigles Morse into an assignation, and he turns her down again. Fred, by a massive and implausible coincidence, witnesses their parting.
Fred’s canaries are bringing him no comfort, but when restaurateur Sudal goes missing, Fred finds him confusedly wandering on the canal towpath. Could this have anything to do with the towpath murders? Sudal’s doctor son is having relations with Auberon Prince’s neighbour Miss Trent – was he there when Aziz was murdered? Is her father, scumbag politician Gorman, somehow involved through his gambling nights?
Morse and Thursday finally catch Gary Rogers, a suspect in the knifing of the Pakistani youth, but can’t break him, and Auberon Prince’s body is found on a dump, stuffed into one of his own suitcases. Morse jumps to the conclusion that the two murders were planned and executed by one person.
Then there’s a third death when the stabbed Pakistani youth dies, and a fourth when suspect Gary is himself stabbed in revenge.
There’s a break in the Oberon Prince case when fingerprint evidence leads to one of the wrestlers from the restaurant, who followed Prince home for an assignation, only to find the dead Aziz and the suspicious sound of sawing. He leads to the murder weapon, and telephone records show that takeaway orders were placed at the restaurant from the phone box over the road – an employee luring Aziz to his death? Turns out it’s the chef, who had been stealing from the restaurant to pay his gambling debts to Prince.
With the Prince and Aziz murders wrapped up, Fred promises Morse that he will give over his fixation with Carl Sturgis for the towpath murder – but then another girl is attacked by the whistling stranger on the towpath.
Inevitably, Violetta turns up at Morse’s wearing something flimsy, and he gives in to her advances.
As a standalone episode, this one has enough red herrings to keep the attention amidst the rather blatant political messaging. But it also moves along the Morse/Violetta/Ludo triangle, as well as the towpath murders, which may or may not be connected.
After the flash-forward in last week’s episode showing Morse loading a gun and covered in blood, and the premonitory scenes at the opera (which featured characters looking suspiciously like Morse, Violetta and Thursday), we can only assume that next week we’re in for a bloody denouement.
There’s been some speculation that Ludo turns out to be Morse’s nemesis Hugo de Vries. Implausible, we think.
What really worries us at this stage is when Morse is going to invest in some curtains – he’s been in that house for months and still has the windows covered in newspapers.
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