Red hot sex! Gratuitous nudity! Smutty innuendo! Not what you would expect in a typical episode of Endeavour, but that’s what we’re promised in Scherzo, as Morse’s investigation of the death of a taxi driver takes him to a nudist camp and the fleshpots of Soho.
Scherzo – a musical term meaning a vigorous, light or playful composition, not to be confused with schizo or psycho, though who knows – opens with a nice nod to the previous week’s episode – we see in a newspaper headline that footballer Jack Swift has signed for Dutch football club Ajax.
The action starts with a young couple, the Applebys, Baz (Nicholas Shaw) and Alison (Lucy Aarden) hailing a taxi at Cowley East station (there’s no Cowley East station, though there was a Morris Cowley station serving the village until 1963). They’re heading for Paradise Court, a rather louche nudist colony where the sleazy manager looks like he might spy on you in the shower, and the handyman looks more than a bit hands-on.
Meanwhile, DCS Bright is in a life painting class (not as the model, thank goodness, but he’s a dab hand with the watercolours). The young model, Lynn Parry (Lottie Tolhurst) seems to take a fancy to him – but what is she really after?
The first ‘easter egg’ in this episode is the name of a driving school – NOGLEA is the driving school in 1976 sex romp Confessions of a Driving Instructor.
A taxi driver, Dudley Lunn, is found shot in his cab near Paradise Court (and we are reminded that Morse’s father was a taxi driver). The driver worked for Speedycabs (where one of the others drivers is a Joe North, a reference to Adventures of a Taxi Driver). Womaniser Lunn had two wives and a troubled kid – could they be involved in his death?
At the nudist colony (which has a lot of strategically placed beach balls and fruit baskets, though you do get to see some bottoms), Strange questions manager Major Jones (Andrew Woodall) and guest Barry Appleby (Barry Appleby was the name of the cartoonist who drew Daily Express strip The Gambols for years).
Morse visits Speedycabs (where one of the customers is a Mr Benn of 52 Festive Avenue, as in children’s cartoon Mr Benn), and questions ex-Navy despatcher Ifan Roberts (Wayne Cater). Meanwhile, Strange is taking Joan Thursday out on the date he proposed last week, a Masonic dinner – so we know a few weeks have passed since then. Morse won’t be happy about that. Strange finds himself defending the Masons to Joan, saying they ‘do a lot of good work for charity’ – oh yeah, in between the corruption and conspiracies.
Meanwhile a priest hearing a confession is killed – has he heard too much? Max seems to think so, as the shooting brings out a particularly black streak of humour. Morse questions Father Mahoney’s window cleaner, Lee Timothy (Shadrach Agozino) – the main character in Confessions of a Window Cleaner was Timothy Lea. Was the priest involved in something shady to do with his half-brother? Why did he have Masonic regalia and pornographic films in his wardrobe? Morse examines Father Mahoney’s confessional (graffitied “Jesus saves, but Swift scores on the rebound” – another reference to last week’s episode).
The porn film turns out to feature murdered taxi-driver Lunn, so that’s a link to the priest’s killing; but what’s the motive? Dorothea Frazil traces the film’s origin to the mysterious Ostrich Fancier’s Club. Then there’s a third murder – Commodore Harry Maynard, Worshipful Master at Strange’s Masonic Lodge, shot in his own home. A broken clock or watch has been at the scene of each murder – what’s the significance of that? Morse recognises the house as the scene of the blue movie.
Fred goes to Soho (represented by a brick wall and a man in a dirty mac) to search out the Ostrich Fancier’s Club, and finds that a former colleague, Len Dury, now in the vice squad, is Father Mahoney’s mysterious visitor. He leaps to the conclusion that Dury had been blackmailing paedophile Mahoney into distributing blue films outside Soho, and gives him a jolly good ticking off. But is Dury the one cleaning house by bumping off everyone connected to his blue films business? (The character of Dury could be based on any one of a number of corrupt coppers in Soho in the ‘60s and ‘70s).
Morse sees Bright’s drawing of Lynn Parry and recognises her as the girl in the blue film – and works out that the hands of the clocks at the scenes of each murder spell out her name in semaphore – lucky that Morse used to be in the Signals Corps, then. This leads him to ex-Navy taxi despatcher Roberts, who confesses that having recognised his estranged daughter and Lunn in the blue film, he set about killing everyone he saw as responsible for her disgrace – hence the graffiti on the confessional, a Biblical quote about revenge. The episode is so packed with red herrings and in-jokes that it’s impossible to take it all in without rewinding, but it’s hardly the ‘vigorous, light or playful composition’ the title might suggest.
Three people get their brains blown out, one hangs himself, and Morse has to put up with a visit from his acerbic stepmother Gwen (Lynda Rooke).
This, the scene where Morse bonds with young Mark Lunn (Regan Garcia), and the closing meditation with Fred on the nature of character, family and responsibility, give Scherzo if anything a melancholy air. Nonetheless it’s a strong episode, not as overblown as the previous series, and managing to provide both a satisfying mystery and some character development.
There are the usual ludicrous coincidences – Bright’s life model actually the cause of the murders, Strange’s Masonic lodge master one of the victims, Morse knocked down by one of the suspect cabbies – and three unanswered questions; why did the priest have masonic regalia? Why wasn’t life model Lynn posing nude? And will the next series be called Confessions of a Randy Policeman?
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW