Monday, January 4, 2016

Endeavour Season 3 - Ride - Episode Review


My review of last season's finale: Neverland

Well, that was unexpected.

After a few seasons, TV shows tend to sink into a comfortable rut, doing what they do best, refusing to stretch their limits. Endeavour did the impossible by pleasing fans of Inspector Morse with a nostalgic but courageously new pilot and first season. In season two, they tried to deepen the story a bit by hinting at the darkness creeping into Morse's life, and while the finale was gripping, the season as a whole lacked the freshness and verve of the early episodes. But Ride, the first episode of season three, gives the entire show a rehaul, both thematically and aesthetically. Endeavour is back, and it's better than ever.

[SPOILERS]

Unfortunately, the new start does come somewhat at the expense of resolution to last season's finale. In order to jump into the story, we skip a large period of time and never get to see the consequences or resolution of Neverland's finer details. What happened to the conspirators who escaped the rough justice of Angela McGarett? They still needed to be exposed as crooked cops. What did the boys discover in the ground? Did they find the body? What happened between Morse and Monica?

Most of these things are explained through exposition, which is a frustrating, but ultimately understandable choice. Instead, we focus on the aftermath, and the change in the relationship between Thursday and Morse.

The story begins with Thursday's first day back at work. Aside from a nagging cough, he seems very much the same old Fred - curt, matter-of-fact, warm, and fatherly. If he gazes into Win's eyes just a bit longer than usual, well he's earned it.

Ironically, Morse took last season's events to heart more than Thursday. He languished in prison for a month, and due to some peculiarity of the case, was allowed no visitors or outside news. (No, me neither). In that time, his mind - sensitive and analytical, romantic and prone to jumping to conclusions - sank into a deep depression and assumed the absolute worst. For all he knew, Fred Thursday had been shot dead, and he, Morse, would be charged for it. The result is that, upon his release, Morse retreats, abandoning Oxford to live in a shack listening to opera and chopping wood (the menial tasks one must do when there's no Lewis around...)

Of course, there's no escaping murder when one is a famous literary detective, however hard one may try. Thursday and his new bagman, D.S. Jakes, are called in to the murder of a girl in the woods around Oxford. Thursday at first assumes hit and run, but Max DeBryn corrects him: she was run over several times. Someone wanted to finish the job.

Inevitably, Morse happens to catch a glimpse of the crime scene while he's driving to a party with an old school friend, Tony Donn*. Seeing Thursday from afar, he avoids the situation, instructing Tony to take another road. Tony is part of the upper classes - he talks lightly of titles and sports cars and mansions. The friends to whom he introduces Morse are the same set, privileged and oblivious. Morse is quickly entranced by their glamour and charm, particularly the two women: Elva Piper and Kay Belborough. They seem more like 20s flappers than 60s hippies - decked out in colorful clothes and gilded hairpieces, they wouldn't be out of place in, say, an adaptation of The Great Gatsby.


And speak of the devil! Morse's next-door neighbor, Joss Bixby, is a flashy, extravagant daredevil known for throwing huge parties and driving fast. Morse is drawn into his orbit and becomes the ordinary bloke who he decides to trust and appoint his delegate. All this was so smooth and engrossing that I didn't notice the blatant rip-off of The Great Gatsby until Joss and Kay meet one another, their gazes automatically revealing A History. Bixby is such a charismatic character, so unlike the usual type of suspect, that his personality casts a whole new shade on the rote investigation. These people seem less like suspects than characters in a romantic drama which extends beyond the borders of this episode. That's new.

For another thing, Morse's allegiances are torn - he wants to befriend this romantic, lonely, glamorous man (who offers him a red car, no less), he wants to shed his career of sorting through people's grubby secrets, to leave behind the battle against the darkness. But he can't escape it (“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”), and must ultimately admit to Joss his true loyalty.





This segment of the story is what really brings Morse into a new world. The art design is far more sophisticated than anything we've seen before and the cinematography is just excellent, discarding the usual gold stone and green sward color scheme for something new. Endeavour has always been the best of the three Morse shows visually, but this takes it to another level.

The only flaw would be, as usual, in the solution. Most of it hangs together quite well, and (unusually) I could easily keep up with all the characters, but the resolution to the mystery is farfetched and unprecedented, an odd, inconsistent end to an elegiac story (another rip-off, this time of The Prestige).

But do I mind? Not really. I love the gorgeous new look. I love experimenting with stories outside the Oxford circuit of dons-murdering-students-who-were-being-blackmailed-by-the-doorman. I love the return of the gentle chemistry between somber Morse and dear old stolid Thursday. I love their heart-to-heart about the policeman's lot and how Morse automatically noticed the ingredients of Thursday's sandwich and how Thursday laughed at magic tricks while Morse looked askance at the magician's gun like a concerned mother hen. Endeavour is back, and, I hope, better than ever.

My review of episode 2: Arcadia

Longish

*Speaking of Tony, fans may recognize the name from the Inspector Morse episode Deceived by Flight (remember when Lewis went undercover as a cricketer?) - as well as a reference to Morse's college nickname, Pagan (Morse doesn't mention the other reason he received that name: he wrote, under the religion section of his application, "High-Church Atheist," borrowing the term from A.E. Housman. I think, personally, that describes Morse perfectly.) Another connection, this time to Lewis: Kay mentions the name of Guy Mortmaine, a relative of characters from Falling Darkness. This character will be playing a part in a later Endeavour episode, as well.

Want something good to watch? Check out my full list of British detective shows.

41 comments:

  1. They seem more like 20s flappers than 60s hippies - decked out in colorful clothes and gilded hairpieces, they wouldn't be out of place in, say, an adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

    They were early-1960s Posh Totties, those born in the late-1930s to early 40s. They were more likely to follow Audrey Hepburn's style. Think Jane Birkin when she was married to John Barry, or Mary Quant, Sonia Melchett, or Bunty Kinsman. Endeavour was spot on, especially the scenes in Bixby's posh club.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had a feeling they were drawing from some sort of specific fashion era, though it wasn't one I was familiar with. Either way, I thought it was all gorgeous. Oodles of atmosphere, unlike anything I've seen in all three Morse shows as of yet.

      Delete
    2. They could add an extra hour of outtakes at Bixby's club and I would enjoy it even more. This era and location is one of my all-time favorites. It's a shame to build this world and get to spend so little time there. You can see the new budget in every frame this series. Bravo for that. Now if they only eliminate the corny call backs and homages . . .

      Delete
    3. I was awed by the sets in this one. Unfortunately, we've got more call backs coming with Morse's 30th anniversary next year, so I'm starting to worry about season 4.

      Delete
  2. Congratulations on the finest review of this episode (and a fine analysis of the show itself) to be found anywhere on the World Wide Web. I know, I searched extensively. And it was published only a couple of hours after its airing. Stellar work!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! If there's any show I'm sure to review quickly, it's Endeavour, because usually I'm one of very, very few people to review it. I've cornered the market, there. These reviews regularly perform the best with regard to pageviews. And, of course, it's tremendous fun to write about.

      Delete
  3. watched it, enjoyed it

    but at 10am the following morning could not remember for the life of me who killed whom and why

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One twin killed the other to assume his grand life and get the girl of both their dreams.

      Delete
  4. He languished in prison for a month, and due to some peculiarity of the case, was allowed no visitors or outside news. (No, me neither).

    I think they kept him in solitary confinement to protect him. They didn't want anyone going near him because they didn't know whom to trust, including guards/police. And they wanted to keep him away from the general population for obvious reasons.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Surely someone could slip a newspaper under the door, though, right? It would've had news of Thursday. Or even a phone call from Monica?

      Delete
  5. Thanks Hannah for a really well written review.

    I must confess I enjoyed your review far more than I enjoyed Ride. Having waited months in anticipation of the new series, I felt cheated. It’s like the producers missed out an entire episode. Like you said, I wanted resolution to the cliff-hanger from Series 2. Perhaps all will be revealed (in flashbacks?) in the next three shows – I certainly hope so.

    I agree with your comments about the production design, which was stunning, but I thought ripping off The Great Gatsby was disappointing; it didn’t work for me at all. And the ending, what can I say? Russell Lewis broke the tenth rule of Detective Fiction from Father Knox’s Decalogue:

    10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

    Having just discovered your blog, I look forward to your reviews of the rest of the series.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why none of these things really bothered me I find difficult to say. The twin thing I don't emphasize in the review, but it really was quite absurd, and like you, I immediately thought of the Rules of Detective Fiction. Completely ridiculous.

      I'll admit, too, that part of my indulgence comes from the fact that this is so much better than the Sherlock special. Both avoid satisfactorily wrapping up questions from their previous seasons, but Endeavour is far less guilty on this scale. I think the largest problem is that it approaches the topic with a lack of fanfare, which feels out of place after the over-the-top grimness of the season 2 finale.

      As for The Great Gatsby, I was so swept up in it all that I didn't realize it until it was beginning to diverge. Dropping Morse into a classic novel isn't a terrible idea, either (in this case he seemed quite suite), but it would have been nice if Russell Lewis had made more of an effort to disguise that fact.

      I'll end with this: I disliked the lack of interest in wrapping up the Blenheim Vale case, but man if that scene between Thursday and Morse didn't nearly make up for it. The two have such a wonderful rapport together. I'm glad they're back.

      Delete
    2. Had no one read the Great Gatsby in the 1960'S? It seemed ridiculous that no educated Oxfordian recognized the similarity of the case with a famous novel. It was annoying.

      Delete
    3. I'll agree I was thrown into confusion during the first half hour, wondering what did I miss? I was also confused by the conclusion and had to re-watch it to make sure I saw what I saw. Darn, but the accents are just tricky enough I need to use close captioning to understand the dialog.

      As I read the review and the responses it occurs to me that this is exactly what life is like. Don't we often find ourselves on the outside looking in and only seeing bits of details?

      I think this is exactly how Morse felt, alone in a prison cell, creating and recreating the previous events while also trying to construct what was happening during his absence from the world.

      We just don't like feeling left out as an audience, expecting that the the author owed us the privilege of seeing the story being typed on the page, while looking over his shoulder.

      It is the stuff that makes us lie awake at night, confused by the variability of our fellow mankind, puzzling out why life can be so bad one moment and the next we are taken aback by the beauty and mystery.

      As much as I don't want to admit I don't like being left out, I think thematically it is exactly what must happen in this story, leaving a bit of mystery in Morse's early life for us to tease out.

      Delete
    4. You're describing an interesting distinction between real life and art. While art aspires to realism, it is ultimately an artificial form - taking the chaos of reality (or what appears to us to be chaos) and shaping it into the order of narrative. Therefore, what may be realistic is not always good storytelling - and I would argue that shutting us off from such an important moment in Morse's dramatic narrative was a bad storytelling choice. I'm not saying the author owes us anything per se, but the story did seem to suffer without this information - like a detective left out a vital clue in his case against a criminal. It's the rule of show, not tell.

      Delete
    5. I enjoy Grantchester as well. Look forward to BBC Masterpiece Mystery every week

      Delete
    6. But saw The Great Gatsby comparison from the Jump. Morse as Nick Carraway etc

      Delete
    7. Yes of course, I should agree that after this long of a wait, it would have been nice for the producer to give us some kind of refresher so we could catch up. I worked last Sunday night and so only caught part of the beginning in the lunch room. I was totally confused and thought that I had missed something important.

      In one of my favorite movies, Blade Runner, Ridley Scott used the technique of obfuscation in the opening sequence. Harrison Ford is navigating around on a planet gone to junk, while camera work artfully partially obscures our vision.

      I noticed a similar scene as Morse is told that drinks are available in the parlor, "follow the music." He enters the room and we see quick blurring shots of curtains blowing around, a woman's face blurred by sunlight. Very dreamlike. Similarly there is a scene when he enters the mansion that uses an camera effect to create a psychedelic vision of the dancers.

      This unique camera work in Endeavor is very interesting to me.

      Delete
    8. Yeah, I really love the new style. It's very different from the very classical style of Lewis (which Endeavour has copied thus far), or the clunkiness of Morse.

      Delete
    9. Hannah, I got interested in this Great Gatsby connection and borrowed the 2013 Leonard DeCaprio Great Gatsby movie from the library.

      Voila, there was the cinematography of the curtains and sunlight, the disco dancers, among many other similarities. The cottage next to the mansion is more upscale. The death by shooting is more complicated, but water is a common thread. And of course the narrative is written by Nick, who is not a detective, but a writer. Watching the extras on the DVD, we discover that the producer for this movie also holds the rights to Great Gatsby.

      Looks like Endeavor's producer may have watched this movie at some point during the production of the Ride episode.

      Delete
    10. I haven't seen that film, but I recalled from watching the trailer the vivid colors and style of that particular adaptation when I was watching Ride. I did like this episode the first time I watched it - but it's beginning to seem more lazy in retrospect.

      Delete
  6. Fantastic review! Thank you so much! I am a big fan of the show. I enjoyed the episode, but agree that the reveal was a bit convoluted: one thing I remain confused about: why did Conrad murder the gal at the beginning with the car? How did she even come in contact with him? What was their relationship???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He did it to frame Bruce Belborough.

      Delete
    2. Ah got it! Thank you Hannah. Looking forward to your review of the next ep!!

      Delete
  7. Just found your site. Thanks for all the reviews. I shall work through them gradually. I love Endeavour. I'm 65 and it really takes me back. I've not enjoyed the investigations much in this series (oh my God, the "twins", that's been done to death). But Morse and Thursday are wonderfully drawn. And the chemistry seems so real.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! You're right - Russell Lewis should've done his research. Back in the day, Father Ronald Knox even banned the use of twins in his 10 Rules of Detective Fiction, due to overuse. I will say this: episode 3 features a plot which certainly hasn't been over-used. Curious to see what you think.

      Delete
    2. I found the tiger plot very Agatha Christie. And I could do without all the nods to the Morse books. People and situations are just tossed in like hand grenades. But, as I said, the overall atmosphere and main characters are wonderful. I think we are very lucky to have so many great actors who are willing to give TV mysteries their all.

      Delete
    3. I rarely watch anything but British TV mysteries. Some really superb stuff out there.

      There aren't so many nods to the books are there as to the previous show or Inspector Lewis. And it is becoming tedious. Earlier seasons were far more subtle and restrained about it I think.

      Delete
  8. I agree. (And I agree about the latest Sherlock. They are so far up their own backsides, trying to clever...). I'm English (from London) but I've lived in Central America for half my life. PD James is my favorite author but the TV shows are of poor quality, IMO. I did read all the Morse books back in the day as well, when they first came out. And I have all the TV series on DVD. Lewis went downhill, which was a shame because, again, the characters and actors were great. It's the writing that's letting these series down now.

    I'm also a big CS Lewis and Tolkien fan. The last Ring book came out when I was at university, it was a very "in" (is that today's "cool"?) thing to read it.

    Your blog is a real labor of love. And very well done. Kudos to you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What part of Central America? Last June I spent a week in Antigua, Guatemala. Beautiful country.

      P.D. James would be my favorite mystery author, certainly. She elevates it to another thing entirely. And to be fair - it must be very difficult to adapt her works, because their strongest factor is the elegant prose. Even so, I've not been very satisfied with any adaptations of her work thus far.

      I've loved the Inklings for ages, though I've yet to invest in the others the way I have Lewis and Tolkien. Tolkien, especially, was an incredibly formative influence for me.

      And thank you for reading! I've been blogging 4 1/2 years now, since I was 16, and it's been a terrific experience, getting to know people of similar interests.

      Delete
    2. Costa Rica and Panama, mainly. But I've been all over Latin America. I studied languages and first came over in 1972.

      It'll take me a while to read through the blog but I really enjoy your reviews - plenty to mull over. You write very well for such a young person.

      Delete
  9. What is one to make of the transparency of Morse/Monica? The latter was in at least two scenes with the former and neither showed the slightest flicker of recognition, emotion, etc. What can that be? What gives?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, it's bizarre! And quite annoying. Are we simply to assume something happened in the interim, which we didn't observe? It's a large and frustrating plot hole.

      Delete
    2. Hannah: Writing from America. Tonight, episode 3 of series 3 airs. Waiting two years for the return of Endeavour was brutal, so it's great to have it back. After seeing Episode 2 last week, in which we see Monica briefly (as mentioned, twice with our hero (I assume we are referring to episode 2)), I was somewhat confused.

      After seeing no resolution of the Morse/Monica story in either episode 1 or 2, I wondered if the versions broadcast here had been edited. Searching for answers led me here, but given your latest response, and equal bafflement, perhaps I have as much info as you do (the episodes shown here are 90 minutes).

      Anyways, I too was let down by the twins anglers "Ride," but somehow the screen presence of Shaun Evans and Roger Allam are enough to keep me happy. It's just unfortunate that we only get four episodes a year.

      Delete
    3. The American versions were edited in a choppy manner, I've heard, so we missed a scene in Ride with Monica, but it went no further towards explaining where their relationship is now. As I recall, she's not even in episodes 3 and 4.

      Delete
  10. Hello Hannah - I'm also writing from the States. "Ride" left me sufficiently befuddled that I turned to the Web for clarification - and here you are! It's a relief to learn I'm not the only one still trying to sort it out. For instance: I didn't catch whether the twins were direct descendants of the magician. Clearly he exerted parental influence over their young lives, since he had chosen to exhibit one and hide the other. But what was the source of all Joss' inherited wealth? Presumably the magician hadn't accumulated all that treasure, performing at country fairs. What's more, why deprive the hidden brother of that wealth? At adulthood, both could have departed from the magic act and lived comfortably, not to mention harmoniously.

    I'm not actually complaining here. I enjoy the whole Morse/Lewis range a great deal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, the whole thing really didn't make sense. Never mind that the twins solution is infamously scorned in detective fiction, but that the prodigal son (the magician *was* their father) could never make a life for himself? Really?

      The wealth was not inherited - Joss built up his little empire in order to impress Kay, and partnered with that black market guy (whose name I can't recall) who attended Joss's party.

      Delete
    2. Was Joss the character who said (to Morse) his money was held in trust until reaching the age of majority? If so, that's how I came to the idea that the wealth was inherited or otherwise bestowed upon him. Perhaps I have utterly scrambled it.

      Delete
  11. I agree with this. I seem to be in the minority here but I am very disappointed in season 3. Outlandish plots, mysoginism is rampant, dramatic bursts that come out of nowhere and don't have time to evolve or resolve, plot details left hanging (where is the baby from episode 2?). Morse and Thursday are stuck in a world of caricatures and sensationalism. The intelligence, warmth, and humanity are gone.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Just finished rewatching Season 2, in order to catch up with Season 3. I'm not sure at what point I thought.. WTH it's Great Gatsby.. but it was around the time Bixby was introduced. I was annoyed. I will agree that yes, yes production etc was fabulous. But it was a sheer rip off and Morse was plopped in.
    I was googling while watching it to see the actress' name who played the wife as she looked familiar, and saw "the spoiler" blurb that it also had ripped off The Prestige. So unfortunately I knew what to expect, although just found out about it earlier then the light bulbs would have gone on. It's as if the writers just pasted two story lines together, or threw them in the blender and put some Morse and Thursday in. And Strange. And Jakes (I'm starting to like him).
    As much as I tried to like this episode (I've watched Season 2 in the past two nights), I was let down. Just like Sherlock, Season 1 was amazing, Season 2 was meh... not bad.. good, but not AMAZING.. and Season 3.. I seriously hope will not be like it.

    Although I must find this top 10 everyone is talking about. Have a laugh for sure. Oh twins. Really?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I certainly thought Endeavour's third season was better than Sherlock's, though I tend to prefer Endeavour generally to Sherlock. I think the best way to look at Endeavour's third series is as a show trying lots of new things.

      Delete

WARNING: Blogger sometimes eats comments - copy before you post.