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REVIEW Endeavour (S8 E3/3)

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.

Chris Jenkins


Rating: 3 out of 5.


Rating: 3 out of 5.




REVIEW Endeavour (S8 E2/3)

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? 

Chris Jenkins

Rating: 3 out of 5.


REVIEW: Endeavour (S7 E2/3)

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.

Chris Jenkins


REVIEW: Endeavour (S7 E1/3)

After the revelations of police corruption and the inevitable violent fallout at the end of the last series, DS Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) is enjoying a well-earned break in Venice – surely the centre of his cultural universe. DCI Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) and wife Win seem reconciled, though Fred’s beginning to feel his age, and increasingly out of place in the space-age 1970s.

This episode, Oracle, marks a major shift in tone, as we move from the 60s to the 70s – expect lots of jokes about Noddy Holder, Space Hoppers, Zoom lollies, Chopper bikes and bin strikes. Or maybe not.

Morse is now quite the man about town, attending the opera and seducing a glamorous beauty, Violetta (Stephanie Leonidas). She references sculptor Michelangelo and French surrealist Magritte (“Ceci n’est pas une pipe”, “This is not a pipe”), and argues that it doesn’t matter if something’s not real, so long as it’s beautiful, while looking appropriately sultry.

Meanwhile, Fred investigates the murder of a barmaid, Molly, found dead under a footbridge after a boozy New Year party. Strange that this episode isn’t called Bridge of Sighs, as the architectural and maritime link between Oxford and Venice is more explicit than ever (though the Hertford Bridge, as it’s properly known, is more in the style of the Rialto Bridge than the original Bridge of Sighs in Venice. It’s amazing how many characters have to walk past it, even Win on the way to her cleaning job, despite the fact that in real life it just leads you down a back alley).

Fred’s convinced that the towpath murderer is a jealous boyfriend, Carl Sturgis (Sam Ferriday), but other suspects include a surly barman, a sinister bargee, Petrovsky, a creepy maths professor and another barmaid, Jenny (Holli Dempsey) who seems to have a case of the psychics.

Chief Superintendent Bright (Anton Lesser) is his usual desiccated self, and we’re told his cancer-stricken wife is ‘as well as can be expected’ – in fact, she’s putting her trust in faith-healers, while he sits disconsolately smoking on the stairs.

There’s a wonderfully terse exchange between Thursday and Morse on his return – ‘You’re back then – how was it?’ – ‘Well – you know’. Not exactly warm or sharing.

Sometime later – May, in fact – Morse is stripping the wallpaper in his new house, pining for Violetta, and the towpath murder remains unsolved. More distance is put between Morse and Thursday when Bright assigns Morse to reinvestigate the case. Still driving Jaguar KAN 169, he questions barmaid Molly’s grandmother, and consults pathologist Max, who quotes Kipling and raises some questions about the cause of death.

Fred’s daughter Joan Thursday, we learn, is away on secondment – journalist Dorothea Frazil (Abigail Thaw) is investigating a string of cat murders – and Jim Strange (Sean Rigby) is bitten by a rat, while Win has to shoo away rats at her cleaning job – what’s that all about then?

Meanwhile, an educational TV programme is appealing for academic presenters, and parapsychology researcher Naomi Benford (Naomi Battrick) gets the job, to the chagrin of her sexist male colleagues.

She tries to tip off Morse that one of her test subjects has been having premonitions of murders, but she is the next victim herself, thrown down the stairs (in the building Win cleans, for no good dramatic reason).

As her creepy colleagues explain the nature of the psychic research Naomi was carrying out, it becomes clear how she could have had evidence about the towpath murder – from one of her test subjects’ ‘remote viewing’. Morse tracks down the psychic barmaid Jenny Tate, who claims to have had a vision of the towpath killer taking the victim’s necklace, which seems to match the evidence.

Morse has his wallet lifted and bumps into an old college acquaintance, Ludo (Ryan Gage), surely no coincidence – Ludo is a seductive, wealthy art dealer, presumably out to get something from Morse. When he turns up one evening armed with a bottle of wine, he seems interested in the evidence from the towpath murder too – evidence which Strange reminds Morse he shouldn’t be taking home.

The next turn-up is that bargee Petrovsky is found dead of alcohol poisoning, with Molly’s bag on his barge. In it are tickets for a folk concert (with Jake Thackray – anyone remember this lugubrious Northerner, who was a staple of TV in the 70s and ‘80s?) – leading to Naomi’s colleague Kreitsek (Reece Ritchie), who admits to having taken Molly to the club after she also worked as a test subject. But he diverts suspicion back onto Molly’s boyfriend Karl.

Horrid sexist Dr Blish (Angus Wright) gets offered Naomi’s TV spot, so did he kill her for the fame, or out of romantic obsession? When Morse realises his pen was found under her body, it looks that way – Blish lures Jenny to a meeting and tries to silence her, but Morse and Thursday turn up just in time to stop him.

Both Morse and Thursday assume that Blish also killed Molly, but he denies it, and the case is left unresolved. Equally unresolved is the question of Ludo, who invites Morse to a lush garden party – only to reveal that the seductive Violetta is his wife. Gasp!

And in a shock coda, a canalside flasher is killed by a Jack the Ripper figure with a sword-stick – perhaps to silence him too? – so the case of the towpath murder runs deeper yet.

Shaun Evans’ direction of this episode is unflashy and seemingly gone are the cascades of ‘easter eggs’ which somewhat unbalanced the last series (though we think there are references to science fiction writers in some of the character names – Blish, Benford, Kreitsek, Ellison, Sturgis). Also missing is the contemporary music soundtrack – perhaps the licensing just got too expensive.

In fact, though Fred’s starting to look particularly out of place – did anyone still wear a trilby in 1970? – there isn’t a terrific amount to indicate that time has moved on for Endeavour. Certainly, the character is more confident and assured, but his easy seduction of Violetta still doesn’t seem like the later Morse.

So we’re left with more questions than answers at the end of this episode – who killed Molly on the towpath, and why? Who’s the geezer with the sword cane? And what’s happening to all the cats? Human conundrums, we’re sure Endeavour will solve, but we’re not sure if he’s qualified to investigate a feline killing spree.

Chris Jenkins



REVIEW: Endeavour (S6 E4/4)

In Degüello, it’s 1969, (still), and the face of Oxford is changing – Cllr. Clive Burkitt’s building schemes are raising (shoddy) tower blocks in Martyrs’ Field, and we’re in for a torrid tale of corruption in government, business and the police.

Meanwhile, Bright’s wife is dying of cancer, Fred’s agonising over taking bungs from Box, and Morse is looking for a flat.

Elsewhere, according to a news piece written by a D Parton (Dolly?!), Garstang College has received a bequest of a valuable stamp collection from the Teagarden family. Teagarden Sr was lost in a Lancaster over Dresden – is this significant?

Box investigates two more deaths of heroin users (this week’s Colin Dexter cameo is the grafitti ‘Dexter Was Here’ on the wall in their squat).

At the Bodleian Library, mathematician Dr Nicholson (Aidan McArdel) is receiving cryptic notes about a ‘Dora’; while the chief librarian, Osbert Page, is being chiselled in the back, and someone has turned over his rooms. All Morse and Fred can find is a map of the Gower Peninsula.

It looks as if Strange and Bright are onto Box’s corruption, but he’s onto them being onto him, so a showdown seems inevitable. Meanwhile Win is fed up with Fred and threatens divorce; he’s too worn out to object.

When Fred and Morse question Nicholson, we get a reference to pseudonymous writer Holly Martins (played by Joseph Cotton in The Third Man); and when they talk to geologist Burrowes (Paul Jesson), he reveals that’s he’s a philatelist and has been in Germany. Does this tie in with the Teagarden bequest?

Morse questions Deborah Teagarden (Laura Donoughue) and discovers a link to Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp – aha, here’s the explanation of ‘Dora’. Other clues point to Jewish myth about the Golem, an animated figure made of clay. It sounds like all this is leading back to the Holocaust.

Morse is on the spot when Cranmer House collapses (the reference is obviously to Ronan Point in Canning Town, which collapsed in 1968). Is Cllr Burkit’s shoddy building to blame? Going through the corpses, Max finds a bound figure buried in concrete; he’s been shot by the same gun that killed George Fancy, and evidently buried in the foundations of the building a year ago. His effects identify him as Hollis Binks, a borough surveyor with connections to the murdered Page and to Dr Burrowes.

Morse questions Cllr Burkitt about Binks, and he’s obviously hiding something; Binks was a student of Burrowes, and clearly suspected that the geology of Martyrs’ Field was unsuitable for building; presumably, he’s been killed to shut him up.

Bright, meanwhile, is being suborned by his boss Bottoms, and by Cllr Burkitt; offered a way out of Traffic and treatment for his wife’s cancer if he shuts down Morse’s investigations. But he puts them in their place. Strange is also being pressured by the Grand Master of his Masonic lodge.

Strange ties the gun that killed Fancy to an old case of Box’s in Reading – is the net closing in? Fred’s frozen out of the investigation – has Morse finally lost trust in him completely? But Fred hands the bungs back to Box and Jago, seemingly having recovered his moral compass.

Deborah Teagarden hands Morse some letters suggesting that Nicholson had betrayed her family to the Nazis; did he do it to steal important notebooks? Burrowes admits to persecuting Nicholson, but he claims the notebooks were worthless, and he had nothing to do with the killing of Page.

So who left the muddy footprints at the murder scene? Morse makes a link with dodgy builder McGyffyn, who has been supplying substandard sand for concrete. Did McGyffyn kill Binks, then also Binks’ fellow rambler Page, when he figured out what had happened?

Child fans help Bright narrowly escape an ambush set up by Bottoms; being on TV as the Pelican Man has finally done him some good after all. But Fred is stitched up by Box, told in no uncertain terms by Burkitt and McGyffin that either he shuts down Morse, or they’re both for the chop.

Max is kidnapped to force Morse into a showdown at the quarry; will this turn into the Gunfight at the OK Corral? It turns out that Box’s sidekick Jago is the real brains behind the heroin business, using Max Nero’s gear, and was also the killer of George Fancy.

Bright, Fred and Strange arrive tooled up, with Bright’s faithful Traffic cops in support, and a standoff ensues; Box takes a bullet while shooting Jago, and the other conspirators are captured.

All is neatly tied up when Burkitt turns Queen’s Evidence, Bright gets control of Castle Gate, and gets Fred, Strange and Morse on board; Fred reconciles with Win, and Morse gets a Jag and buys the house where the junkies died (that will need renovating then).

In all, a teriffic amount got sorted in this episode; Fred and Box are redeemed, Jago is dealt with, Morse is returned to his rightful place, and the Masons gets their noses put out of joint.

But the murder plots are never quite squared away; a great deal seems to revolve around rambling, some of the clues are never explained, there’s no particular reason why Page was killed with a wood chisel, and there’s a lot of gratuitous philately. The whole Holocaust sub-plot seems somehow unresolved, and even the title of the episode doesn’t seem relevant.

Nonetheless, after a fairly disjointed season – the Thunderbirds and Camberwick Green episodes feeling particularly throwaway – we do seem to have reached a resolution by the end, even if it does bring us back to the beginning, with the old team reunited and refreshed.

Season seven is now on the cards – the hippy decade of the 70s looms.

So long as it doesn’t feature Morse adopting a Serpico beard and haircut, we’ll be happy to see him back.

Chris Jenkins




REVIEW: Endeavour (S6 E3/4)

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.

Chris Jenkins 



REVIEW: Endeavour (S6 E1/4)

It’s all change for young Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) as we reach 1969. Led Zeppelin is on the radio, Bright is in Traffic, and Strange is in admin – but what of Morse and Thursday?

Posted to Woodstock and transferred to uniform, estranged from Fred Thursday and daughter Joanie, Morse has grown a moustache in protest. A visit from Strange does nothing to heal old wounds, only reminding Morse that the killing of colleague George Fancy was never solved.

Morse is pootling around in a police Austin 1100 (registration number 264 HZ – is this a musical reference?), tied up with investigating vagrants, horse thefts and burglaries, when he finds the carefully posed body of a missing schoolgirl, Ann Kirby, at the base of an electricity pylon.

DCI Ronnie Box (Simon Harrison) is put in charge of the case, and makes himself unpopular with Morse  – as Dr Max says, he’s hardly a graduate of Lucy Clayton (the charm school, alma mater of Joanna Lumley, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, Jean Shrimpton and the like). Fred Thursday is in tow, none too happy about playing second fiddle.

Morse files his report at the new Thames Valley police headquarters (the exterior is actually the University English Faculty Library, known as the New Cross building), and finds Thursday (who has been reduced in rank after the events of the last series) chilly, but not unreceptive to his ideas about the murder, and an earlier case. But when Morse catches a vagrant in possession of the dead girl’s satchel, it seems like an open-and-shut case.

The suspect, Stanley Clemence (Aston McAuley), says he found the satchel, but Fred remembers taking him out of his house when his father killed his mother; Fred’s daughter Joan is also involved, through her new job in Social Services.

Morse takes it upon himself to do some investigating, and digs up some other suspects, including a sweaty vicar, a squat full of druggies and a shifty farmer; but we have our eyes on a seedy school photographer, Croglin. Then another girl, Rosie, is taken – but has someone planted evidence on Clemence, who has broken out of hospital?

Box is dismissive of DCI Bright’s offer of help – he calls him Johnny Morris, after the Animal Magic zookeeper, because Bright has been on TV promoting pelican crossings (correctly referred to here as Pelicon).

Traffic cops pick up pervy Crozier College lecturer Sheridan, who has a collection of Lewis Carroll kiddie photographs, a tin of opium and a suspicious hat; but they can’t pin anything on him. Likewise local pervert Gilbert, who is snapping kiddies in the park (using a Russian Zenit E camera). Fred feels guilty about beating up Gilbert, and about the execution of Clemence’s father – was he framed for the murder of his wife?

Looking for evidence of Clemence Sr’s being framed, Morse actually finds conclusive evidence that he was guilty; scant consolation for Fred. Morse also finds Clemence Jr dead of an overdose; has he been killed to shut down investigations into the child murders?

In the end, it’s evidence from a mobile library that points to the unwitting killer of Ann, learner driver Maggie Skynner (Katharine Bubbear). But who then has taken the second girl, and who planted evidence implicating Clemence Jr?

Fred confronts Box over the planted evidence, and isn’t convinced by his protestations; Morse realises from a Degas sculpture that some of Sheridan’s Victoriana is, in fact, modern, that his so-called daughter is, in fact, a kidnap victim, and that he must have taken Rosie. The cops track Sheridan down to an abandoned manor house, and find Rosie drugged but alive;  Fred takes a pop at the perve and Morse has to drag him off.

In the end, Morse reburies the evidence of Fred’s failings, and Strange pulls strings to get Morse reassigned to CID – we knew the uniform wouldn’t last, and surely the moustache is next to go.

A satisfyingly layered and plausible case, then, except for the question of why Sheridan has reported the theft of his snuff boxes, when it would bring him and his faux daughter to the unwelcome attention of the police.

As usual Colin Dexter makes a cameo appearance (on a retirement party poster); and Abigail Thaw puts in a very brief appearance as Dorothea Frazil. But as for WPC Truelove, she’s out of it, another dead end in Morse’s abortive love-life.

With Thursday now under the thumb of Box, the tension in this short season (only four episodes this time rather than the usual six) seem to be whether Box will get his comeuppance and whether Fred will survive to the end of the series; if you’ve seen the ITV season trailer featuring his character in a forest gunfight, you wonder whether he can have much longer to go. With the partnership of Thursday and Morse damaged, and Fred’s family disenchanted with him, he may be doomed. But we’ve been saying that for five seasons now, and so far he’s proved bulletproof.

Chris Jenkins