REVIEW: Endeavour (S7 E3/3)

So is this the big one? Is this where we finally find out why the older Morse never spoke of his former boss Fred Thursday? Is this, in fact, the final scene of the opera, the one in which the tragic heroine dies and the hero’s heart is broken? All the signs point that way in Zenana, in which we must surely be delivered a solution to the riddle of the towpath murders, and a conclusion to the love triangle of Morse, Violetta and Ludo?

Following on from the Indian theme of last week’s Raga, this episode deals with dark doings in a women’s college – zenana is a perhaps less familiar word for a harem or women’s place.

The episode opens with a debate at Lady Matilda’s women’s college (previously mentioned both in Lewis and Endeavour, and actually filmed in Lady Margaret Hall), as to whether to admit men – to let the ‘wolf into the fold’.

Meanwhile, the third victim of the towpath murderer, bargirl Bridget, has been found, apparently the victim of attempted vampirism. Fred, doggedly clinging to his belief that first victim Molly’s boyfriend Carl was the perpetrator, has him arrested – but why would he be whistling music-hall standard ‘Oh, oh Antonio’ on the towpath, Morse asks?

Morse has got it into his mind that Dorothea Frazil’s series of deaths by misadventure are anything but – is someone bumping off isolated home-owners for their life insurance? – he’s determined to investigate despite Fred’s opposition.

Meanwhile, to our astonishment, Violetta has set herself up in a friend’s sex-pad in Oxford, and Morse is visiting her for regular rumpy-pumpy, or as the Italians say, la cavalcata selvaggia.

Once the wild ride is over Violetta announces that she and Ludo are planning to go to Cortina D’Ampezzo for Christmas – Morse immediately recognises it as a ski resort, which is very well-informed of him. He speaks blithely of telling Ludo about the affair – she says Ludo would be more upset at losing him than her. Somehow we don’t think so, and we’re pretty sure Ludo is the type to own duelling pistols.

When yet another young woman, Petra Cornwell, is murdered on the towpath (don’t any of them have the sense to stay away from the canal?) Fred’s suspicions of Carl Sturgis seem groundless; he and Morse have a blistering row, Morse accusing Fred of having no touch to have lost; Max and Strange both tear them off a strip, and Morse says he’ll put in for a transfer to McNutt’s department in Kidlington (we have previously met McNutt, played by Iain Cuthbertson, in Morse episode The Magic Flute. As this was the one in which Morse’s nemesis Hugo de Vries popped up, is this a hint about the identity of Ludo?)

Bright castigates Fred over his obsession with Carl Sturgis, who quite rightly threatens to sue; but is this some sort of set-up?

Petra’s tutor Maggie Byrne (Marianne Oldham), one of the main proponents of keeping Lady Matilda’s a women-only college, criticises the police’s inability to stop the towpath killings, and quite right too. Anywhere else, if four people had been murdered in the same place in the space of 11 months, the whole area would be swarming with coppers as far as the eye could see.

Morse’s first suspect is Dr Dai Ferman (Richard Harrington), Welsh chauvinist pig who we met in first episode Oracle; but despite Petra’s complaints of sexist behaviour against him he can’t be placed at the scene of her murder. Then Morse goes to see psychic Jenny Tate (Holli Dempsey) to see if she has had any visions of the latest murder; only to find her descending into a psychotic state haunted by demonic figures from her abusive childhood.

Bright’s wife is back from experimental treatment in America, feeling remarkably perky after treatment for her lung disease by a Dr Schneider; Fred’s trying to keep the cat away from his canaries (did we know the Thursdays had a cat?)

Ludo turns up at Morse’s one evening – he at least has finished the wallpapering and even has net curtains up, but despite Strange’s warnings is still taking case files home. Ludo asks for advice about Violetta, who he thinks is having an affair – ‘I’m the last person you should ask about this’ says Morse – no kidding.

There’s another death of a ‘Matildabeast’ – a tutor, Dr Nancy Levine (Naomi Yang) falls from a library ladder – but was this one of Dorothea Frazil’s life insurance ‘accidents’?

As Morse investigates, Ludo and Violetta stroll past. What’s Ludo’s interest in the bursar of the college – or has he been up to something more sinister?

Morse helps Dorothea with the crossword (God knows how he got ‘misanthrope’ from that clue), and by another huge coincidence, Dai Ferman is in the pub, fondling students. Morse is more interested in investigating Jenny Tate’s childhood – might she be disturbed enough to have become a murderer?

Next full moon, the whistling attacker strikes again, but this time the Matildabeasts are out in full force, and chase him under a lorry; was David Clemons, who claimed to have found the body of the first victim, in fact the murderer, or a copycat? He wasn’t whistling the right tune, and Morse reminds Fred of this amid the celebrations.

Mrs Bright has asked for help from her faith healer to find Christmas decorations in the attic – oh dear, we can foresee an accident with a loft ladder. Are the faith healers in fact hastening people’s unfortunate ends?

Ludo invites Morse to lunch and confronts him and Violetta about their affair – he’s recognised the phone number of Violetta’s friend’s flat. But what would have possessed Morse to leave it as a contact number? It’s all very unconvincing. Wouldn’t it just have been easier for Ludo to say that as he had suspicions of Violetta, he had her followed?

Anyway, the secret is out, and if Morse expected Violetta to choose him over a luxurious lifestyle with Ludo, he’s soon disillusioned. Did she feel anything for him? She says not, but one suspects this is for Ludo’s benefit. It’s all done in a very civilized manner, in a restaurant that looks oddly like someone’s back parlour. But will Ludo actually be out for bloody revenge?

Dorothea, despite being editor of a paper with a massive office in Oxford, calls Fred from a phone box to break the news that Mrs Bright has been found dead, electrocuted while hanging Christmas decorations – how on earth has she found out before the cops? Fred breaks the news with customary lack of grace and Bright of course is in pieces.

Morse is chastised for airing his theory about the insurance accidents. Once again we hear the noise of the grinding of reviewers’ teeth as coincidence rears its abominable head – for Bright’s wife to have been the victim of a crime Morse is investigating just makes us fume.

Anyway, Morse has figured out the scam – someone’s buying up life insurance policies, then arranging accidents so they can cash them in. He visits a pub, the Wolf’s Head (nothing sinister there then) and learns about a terrible fire that killed the previous tenants – anything to do with Jenny Tate’s childhood trauma? He finds a link to the Sturgis family, as in towpath suspect Carl Sturgis.

And Sturgis it is who Strange finds ‘looking after’ the rambling Psycho-style house of one of the accident victims. Even more tellingly, tied up in a bedroom is Jenny Tate. Strange gets stabbed (by the wolf-head sword cane we saw the towpath murderer using) and Morse, in pursuit of Sturgis, knocks him down the stairs to his death.

By this point we’re fairly confused, as is Fred, so Morse has to explain everything to him and us. Carl Sturgis was actually Jenny’s brother, Johnny Linden – supposedly dead in a pub fire. His taste for cruelty to animals (Dorothea’s phantom cat mutilations) developed into child abduction (one of Fred’s old cases around the time of the pub fire) then serial murder. So were Jenny’s visions genuine, some sort of psychic connection to her brother, or purely products of her disturbed mind? We don’t know, and by this stage we’re not sure we care.

So was Sturgis’s job at the undertakers relevant to the insurance scam? How did he have an alibi for the first towpath killing? Is Fred’s gut instinct now entirely vindicated, or has he still missed something vital? If Sturgis was on remand when Petra Cornwell died, who killed her? (Our money’s on the warden of her college).

Is Morse completely off the rails making a connection with the death of Mrs Bright, the locations of the insurance scams and the name LUDO? Bright gives him short shrift (but what’s he doing in work, hours after the death of his wife?). Morse and Fred have another spat, Fred revealing that he knows about Violetta, and they part on the worst possible terms.

Christmas comes, Morse sends remorseful letters to Fred and Bright, and heads for Venice (note he has a gondola ornament on his writing desk). He leaves Fred the evidence of the insurance scam, and Bright admits that he and his wife had cashed in their life insurance – and Ludo’s name is all over the paperwork.

Morse intends to confront Violetta at the opera on New Year’s Eve – implausibly, and this is getting more and more like a bad pastiche of Sherlock Holmes, Fred follows Morse to Venice.

At the opera (La Sposa del Demonio o La Cura per l’Amore, as seen in episode 1, not we think a genuine opera but a composition by series composer Matthew Slater), Morse confronts Violetta, tells her he knows Ludo is behind the insurance murders and she is complicit, and that he’s there to take them in. Take them in? TAKE THEM IN? In what twisted version of international policing would a British policeman be allowed to arrest two (presumably Italian) citizens and shanghai them back to Oxford? It’s nutty beyond belief.

Anyway, Violetta promises to hand over Ludo in return for a head start, and she arranges a rendezvous at the Cimetero de San Michele (a Venetian island used as a cemetery since 1807 – Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Diaghilev and Ezra Pound are buried there among others).

At least Morse has the sense to bring a gun (which we saw him loading at the start of Episode 1 – has he just merrily carted that through Customs? – for when he confronts Ludo. Perched saucily on a gravestone bearing the name he has evidently hijacked, ‘Ludo’ hardly seems surprised to see Morse, quotes As You Like It and Lenin, and explains that he masqueraded as Mrs Bright’s faith healer (and presumably as the handyman who did various jobs of sabotage to bring about the other convenient accidents).

In the final confrontation, Ludo shoots Violetta, who dies professing her love for Morse; Fred shoots Ludo, who plunges into the lagoon, and we feel like shooting ourselves, having sat through this overblown tripe to the detriment of our mental well-being.

Umpteen questions are left unanswered – had Ludo then actually been up at Oxford with Morse? Presumably not, since he wasn’t even actually Ludo. Is he Hugo de Vries? We probably won’t know until the end of Endeavour. Was the theft of Morse’s wallet last week staged to engineer an introduction, and if so had Ludo engineered the original meeting with Violetta? And if so, why? Was Ludo really living an international jet-set lifestyle on the proceeds of a few life insurance payouts? Who killed Petra Cornwell? And why did Morse put up nets, but not actual curtains?

While the last season of Endeavour seemed to be more about picking up ‘easter eggs’ than the actual cases, this season was all about the Morse/Ludo/Violetta triangle, and barely about the cases at all. Precious little deduction was done, with last week’s case essentially solved by fingerprint evidence. The towpath murders were so festooned with red herrings, random supernatural references and implausibility that one got completely fed up of the whole business long before its conclusion.

And there were some bizarre directorial slips, such as the scene where Morse, Thursday, Max and Strange all walk away from the towpath leaving the dead body of Petra lying on the ground, as if the production just couldn’t afford a couple of uniformed officers in the scene; and Dorothea Frazil making a call from a phone box rather than her comfortable office.

If we were hoping that this season would lay the groundwork for the transition to Inspector Morse, or at least explain some plot threads such as lack of mention of Fred Thursday in later years, we were to be disappointed; in fact, disappointment must be the only way to express what we feel about this season.

Rather than showing increased maturity, sophistication and psychological insight, Endeavour seems to be degenerating into cheap melodrama not even worthy of light opera. Time to bring down the curtain?

Chris Jenkins

READ MORE: OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW

READ MORE: OUR EPISODE TWO REVIEW

 

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Jane says:

    Yes found this series very confusing. The only link to Morse I could find was developing the arrogant side to him in his dealings with Thursday and which was always evident in his put downs of Lewis.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andy D says:

    Love your reviews Chris!

    Yes this was a VERY underwhelming end to the penultimate season, and a very hasty one at that. Feels like the writers are struggling to make the transition into the original Morse storyline now we are getting so close to that series start. The whole ending in Venice felt lifted from another show, and was all quite silly. But it did amuse me to think on such a dour chap as Thursday dropping everything at Christmas and somehow finding the time (and money) to inter-rail through Europe to Venice with a gun to assist Morse.

    Everything was wrapped up in a confusing series of coincidences that had me howling. What a tawdry end to poor Bright and his wife’s storyline, she absolutely did not deserve to die off screen in such a stupid way after so much effort had been put into that plotline across the seasons to humanise Bright.

    Likewise the animosity between Thursday and Morse felt forced and badly dealt with from the beginning, and now they are largely rekindled in friendship after Morse’s ‘mea culpa’ it begs the question how they will unravel them again over the final season so we come to understand why Morse never mentions him again.

    But the humdinger really was Ludo. What a preposterous creation, that with hindsight makes no sense at all now he is exposed. To kill people for insurance money, with your name all over the paperwork, is a very laborious way to earn a living – not least the success rate in engineering fatal accidents would be practically zero. Are we really to believe a character like Ludo trotting around the countryside in a variety of disguises rigging ladders and the like? As you say, certainly not a living that would afford you such a lavish lifestyle as Ludo had.

    One note on your question regarding Petra – it was supposedly the first victim of Clemons, who Morse said had got a taste for murder after discovering the first body. So a copycat crime, which made about as much sense as anything else in this episode I guess. Quite why that towpath hadn’t been patrolled by police constantly after four murders is anyone’s guess though.

    I love this series, as much as the original and Lewis, but it really hasn’t been up to much this season at all. There’s obviously only so far they can go with it, and I feel they are so caught up in all trying to make sense going into the original Morse timeline that they are starting to leave common sense behind. Hopefully the final season can bring everything to a satisfying conclusion, and I really hope they give the character of Thursday a proper send-off as he is a firm favourite of mine.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Tom says:

    Thanks Chris for three excellent reviews. As I was reading this one, I kept on nodding in agreement with you at the implausibility of the whole thing. The only thing I would add was the trip from Oxford to Venice. An exhausting day of trains, planes and water-taxis condensed into a five-second clip of Morse (and then Thursday) on a train. I wonder if in the early 70s there would have been enough flights for Fred to chase after Morse as he did. I lost the will to care after that scene.

    What I can’t work out is where the denouement has left us. Does Morse go to Kidlington and work with McNutt? Have we seen the last of Bright and Thursday? Does Morse change his mind and stay put? If Ludo is in fact Hugo de Vries, then he didn’t die in the canal. If Ludo didn’t die and they can’t find a body it lets Fred off the hook for shooting someone in a foreign country.

    In answer to your final question: a resounding yes.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. malerogue says:

    Yes it was disappointing…dumbed down… however still better than a lot of the trash around especially the comic book Killing Eve. You have to remember some of the original Morse plots stretched the imagination.

    Like

    1. Terry I. says:

      Yes do not like Killing Eve at all.

      Like

      1. Maybe as you say but found myself transfixed by the actress who played Violetta just had to watch her. Dying is not her best acting but rest was delightful.

        Like

  5. John Dutton says:

    What a shame… I cannot get out of my head the image of Thursday telling his wife not to make any sandwiches as he is just popping off to Venice for the day. This final episode was so implausible and totally unreal for me, making a mockery of the whole series.
    How come young women continued to walk alone at night over the bridge? Surely the police would have sealed off the route after the first murder?
    Why did Ludo want to make contact again with Morse in the first place?
    Many thanks Chris for your reviews.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Colin C says:

    Agree with everyone else – I’ve always loved the Endeavour series but this one has just been too overblown and confusing, and frankly unbelievable. As to the insurance scam, I’m not sure that it’s even allowable to buy up someone else’s policy. I seem to remember from working in an insurance company in the distant past that you have to have an ‘insurable interest’ in the assured to take out a policy on their life, ie. you would be financially disadvantaged if they were to die. You can’t just take out a life policy on a total stranger.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Chris Jenkins says:

    Colin makes a good point about the legality of buying up life insurance. It does sound dodgy. Anyway, the whole scheme is rendered implausible by Ludo putting his name all over the paperwork. And the thought of him putting on a flat cap and doing his ‘carry on handyman’ act to sabotage people’s ladders is beyond belief. And how exactly do you electrocute someone with Christmas lights?
    The biggest implausibility was the clue of the initials of the towns with the clusters of deaths spelling out LUDO! Did this mean that his reign of terror was due to end in Oxford? Or was he planning a visit to Ventnor next?
    Incidentally, Ludovico Talenti was the name of a parish priest in the church of San Giovanni Crisostomo in Venice in the 1500s. I don’t know whether that was meant to be his gravestone we saw.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Frances P says:

    Chris thanks for this – it’s a very funny review and explained a lot that I was completely bemused about, and I watched it twice!
    I do agree with Malerogue’s comment above. Much of the original Morse had similarly odd plotlines plus Morse was always leaping into bed with a female character which was usually a guarantee she would turn out to be the perpetrator or a victim! It was a 50/50 awful choice for her! I also agree that for all the faults of Endeavour, and we are a tough bunch to please, it still is a million light years better than 90% of the drivel offered to us on TV these days (yes especially the dire Killing Eve).
    I also agree with Andy D’s comment about the demise of Mrs Bright. It was the most ridiculous plot of all, other than to give more opportunity for the wonderful Anton Lesser to show us again the brilliance of his acting skills.
    Despite all the crazy plot, the acting, sets and overall style is still great and I will look forward to the next (last?) series and I just hope that there is a good send off for Fred and Bright who are marvellous characters, and give a good explanation as to why they are never mentioned in Morse.
    Keep the reviews and comments coming though, it makes for great post episode entertainment.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Terry I. says:

    They probably should get better writers for the final series to send off Endeavour on a high note.

    Like

    1. Tom says:

      Russell Lewis has written all 30 episodes (including the pilot). I think he’s done a outstanding job and has provided hours and hours of entertainment – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. In his defence, he has explored every possible situation and permutation and solved most of the riddles from the Morse days – as some have suggested the only thing left to resolve is Hugo de Vries. For me it’s more a case that the show’s just run out of steam.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tom says:

        I’ve been doing a little Inspector Morse research and just realised that both Morse and Lewis finished with 33 episodes. I thought it was odd that Endeavour series 7 was only three episodes but now it makes sense. (I predict) Series 8 will be three episodes so that Endeavour completes on 33 total episodes too.

        Like

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