The ominous title Terminus suggest that things are coming to an end for Endeavour – but can this one episode tie up all the loose ends and mark the transition to Inspector Morse?
After the farcical events of series seven, all histrionics and implausibility, this season has marked a reasonable return to form. True, there seems to have been a collective case of amnesia among the characters, the in-jokes have flowed thick and fast, and Morse’s character development seems to be all over the shop, but at least Striker and Scherzo had semi-plausible plots and fairly competent direction.
In Terminus, everything goes slightly doolally, with references to 80s horror films and On the Buses. The plot is so complicated and the motivations of the characters so bizarre that you will probably have to watch it three times to catch up.
In brief, a passenger on a night bus is found stabbed to death and with his eyes mutilated in a graveyard. The Oxford don, Professor Patrick Stanton, seems to have had an interest in gambling and number theory.
Morse was a passenger on the bus, was too drunk to notice what was going on. When he’s sent home by Fred the following day, in a driving snowstorm, the bus skids into a snowdrift and all the passengers decamp to a derelict hotel.
The hotel was the site of a mass murder eight years earlier, and it becomes clear that there are two cliques at work; a group of gamblers who swindled the killer out of his pools winning, and a group of his supporters who intend to avenge his betrayal, imprisonment and subsequent suicide.
If you can follow which is which right through to the end, congratulations to you.
Umpteen questions arise, few of which have clear answers.
Since when has Morse lived outside town and taken a country bus to get home? Why is Fred driving a Ford Zodiac, not the Jag? Why is the hotel, abandoned for eight years, stacked with booze, silverware and antiques – shouldn’t someone have looted it?
Why did neither the killers or the gamblers make an attempt to steal the safe in the last eight years?
If the plot hinged on trapping the conspirators in the hotel, how did they plan on a convenient snowstorm?
Why murder one victim one day, and the others the following day?
And which Hawkwind album was student Richie talking about – In Search of Space, or Doremi Fasol Latido?
We get passing references to sitcom On the Buses, and to horror classics The Shining and Halloween (one character is called Loomis, another looks like Donald Pleasance’s character from the movie, a masked killer wears a harlequin costume). There’s also a mention of writer Steven Fitzowen (who we met in Endeavour series 2 episode 2, Nocturne).
One of the suspects uses the phrase herkos odonton, which we had to look up – basically it means “keep your mouth shut”
In subplots, Fred and DCS Bright finally have the much-anticipated conversation about the traumatic events in Venice last season, and Morse’s aborted transfer to Kidlington. Shouldn’t this conversation have taken place in episode one?
And Fred is worried when he’s told that his son Sam is absent without leave in Northern Ireland – this, annoyingly, remains unresolved at the end of the episode, though it suggests fractures in the Thursday family which may have future implications. Joan Thursday gets closer to Jim Strange – is there any value in the fan theory that they will marry?
In the deranged denouement, the three knife-wielding killers explain the plot to Morse, then Fred turns up mob-handed and carts everyone away, variously to jail, the loony bin and the hospital. Morse agrees to take some time off to sober up – but there’s no real sign of tension between him and Fred.
If we were expecting this episode to mark any sort of transition to the ‘McNutt years’ in Kidlington, or towards an end to the series, we are disappointed; though there may be a clue when Morse remarks that the snow is ‘beginning to Thaw’.
It’s been hard going, this brief season, not as thoroughly annoying as last season’s operatic nonsense, but still some way away from the thoughtful and skilfully written early episodes of Endeavour, and certainly of Lewis and Inspector Morse. Certainly we’ll be back for more if there is indeed more to come, but like Morse himself, it will be with a sort of weary resignation rather than with genuine enthusiasm.
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE TWO REVIEW