Sunday, January 15, 2017

Endeavour Series 4 - Canticle - Episode Review



My review of the previous episode: Game.

Mrs. Joy Pettybon is on a crusade to Keep Britain Decent. An elderly widow, Mrs. Pettybon is quick to denounce anything to do with sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, and - it seems - fun. She's accompanied by her timid daughter, Bettina, and happy-go-lucky colleague, the Reverend Mervyn Golightly.

Social conservative with frumpy child? Clearly said child is repressed and longs for freedom from her hidebound mother (or so I thought, reading the summary). And sure enough, Bettina promptly falls for Morse when he arrives to investigate death threats against her mother. Bettina reveals to him her secret life of smoking cigarettes and drinking vodka. She's terrified her mother will find this out and she will go to hell. (Spoiler alert: this is not how Christianity actually works).

The topic isn't necessarily a bad one to examine, but Canticle brings very little of interest to the table. All the main characters are on the right side of history, and there's never any doubt of that fact. Mrs. Pettybon - a thinly veiled stand-in for Mary Whitehouse - is so hypocritical and bitter that she turns into a caricature well before the half-way mark of the episode. Add in a sympathetic gay magazine editor - Dudley Jessup - whose life Mrs. Pettybon destroyed, and she's pretty much checked every box in the Evil Prude Bingo. It's all a bit tedious.

But let's not forget the other half of the episode, which is devoted to the antics of a popular boy band called The Wildwood. The first body discovered in the episode is that of Barry Finch, a laborer who worked on the estate where the band is hanging out (Lewis fans will recognize the location from Whom the Gods Would Destroy).

The Wildwood is led by Nick Wilding - whose poetic aspirations alienate him from the rest of the band. He's sleeping with both Emma Carr and Pippa Leyton - a pair of young groupies - but he seems unusually upset about Barry Finch's death. The rest of the band consists of Nick's fierce brother Ken, the laconic Christopher Clark (secretly married to Anna-Britt) and drummer Lee "Stix" Noble. Lastly, there's their manager, Ralph Spender, who is quick to pooh pooh any hint of scandal, and lounges in elegant buildings that contrast dramatically with the bohemian lifestyle of the band.

Speaking of which, this is a glorious episode, visually. A fun opening sequence features brightly-clad dancers on an Oxford lawn (and original music from Russell Lewis and Matthew Slater). While the stand-out images from last week came from the eerie, atmospheric pool, Canticle revels in the vivid colors of The Wildwood's Bright Young Things, recalling the slightly otherworldly world of Joss Bixby in Ride. 

Of course, there are more drugs involved this time, which brings to mind a Morse episode I recently revisited: Cherubim and Seraphim. In that episode, Morse is befuddled by insular teenage communities. He can't believe that his niece, Marilyn, could be involved in drugs and parties. When his colleague, Lewis, describes trying drugs years before, he's puzzled, as he is in this episode, when Thursday mentions trying kief in the desert.

Even in Canticle, Morse is a man out of his time. As Nick Wilding rambles on about their generation's search for enlightenment, he notes that Morse is wearing a suit. Morse doesn't fit in with the 60's, like Trewlove, or even the WWII era of Thursday. It's easier than ever to imagine Shaun Evans morphing into his older, contrarian self.

As for good old Fred, he's still taking Joan's loss hard, snapping at Win and refusing to discuss the situation without a scowl on his face. After a full season of Dark Thursday, I kind of wish we could get back to the heroic side of everyone's favorite mentor, but presumably this thread is going somewhere, since Morse appears to be in contact with Joan. (By the way, what's ever happened to poor, neglected Sam Thursday? Not a tear shed for his absence.)

All in all, Canticle's a bit hit or miss. It's competently directed, and I was never bored, but the melodramatic resolutions to its two main plots are unfortunate. I'm still invested with the main characters, but I hope for a better, more nuanced case next week.

My review of the next episode: Lazaretto.

Notes:
  • The tarot card at the end of the episode - Lovers - represents pretty much exactly what you'd think: a pair of lovers. Whether those lovers are Joan and Morse, Bettina and Morse, or (is it too late to hope?) Monica and Morse we must wait and see.
  • "What a lyrical child you must have been, sergeant."
  • At one point in the episode, Nick Wilding refers to Huxley's The Doors of Perception. In Cherubim & Seraphim, which deals with drug overdoses, Morse mentions The Doors of Perception to Lewis. I can't help but think Endeavour is making an intentional callback to that scene (working now, as foreshadowing). Of course, Canticle's conclusion casts an interesting light on Morse's later confusion about and aversion to drugs. I can see why he would dislike them, but pretending he completely missed the world of the 60's is a little disingenuous, in the context of this episode. 
  • If you're going to have Morse tripped out on drugs, let's at least get a glimpse of his mind palace. Though in his case, I suspect it would have been a mind pub.
  • Most of this episode is written in very broad strokes, but I thought Bright and Thursday's conversation about evil was quietly profound. It was a nice touch after the overblown caricature of Mrs. Pettybon and the self-important hedonistic rambling of Nick Wilding.

Longish

50 comments:

  1. Why Sam is neglected?, I thought he was going to the army and he must be in touch with his parents by mail or something. Am I missing something?

    The character I feel is left aside is Monica, I hoped a screen shot of her in this episode taking care of Morse.

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    1. I just mean that his absence isn't mourned like Joan's is. Nobody seems to miss him.

      But you're definitely right about Monica. I've been complaining about that ever since series 3.

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    2. I lost faith ( pun intended ) tonight in Endeavour. IMHO the episode got long and boring and stupid. Usually the show doesn't fall prey to stupidity, but Bettina and her "mummy" were indeed, such caricatures it was embarrassing. Bettina only needed to smack Mummy once... case closed. Hopefully, DCI Morse will get back on track

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  2. we are heathens here in Britain Hannah

    uptight hypocrites of the bible thumping persuasion are to be ridiculed & exposed, didn't you know? Permissive society it's called

    Trewlove picking up the clue about The Kinks was interesting - the band was indeed refused entry to the USA for some ridiculously tedious reason.

    Last week there were lots of mirrors, this time there electric fans everywhere. What can that be about? Anyway, superb episode for me, my favourite show

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    1. I don't mind hypocrites being censured! I applaud it. But I wish it wasn't so cliche.

      I picked up on the mirrors too, but not the fans.

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    2. the band was indeed refused entry to the USA for some ridiculously tedious reason.

      Yeah, they ticked off the American Federation of Musicians, the trade union. They didn't join and subsequently didn't pay dues and they had numerous fights onstage when they were on a US tour. Ray Davies and Dave Davies could not stand each other and the rest of the band did not particularly like either one of them, and fist fights during the performances spilled over into the audience. The last straw was getting into a fist fight with the Dick Clark TV people in July 1965. The union had the right to withhold work permits based on behavior (and for not being union members) and they did. The Kinks later admitted that the ban was the best thing that happened to them artistically. It gave them time to mature and to stop getting drunk every night. And become more introspective about British life which found its way into their songs. Whether any of this counts as a "tedious reason" in your book, I don't know. But the Kinks admitted that it was their own fault--and the large number of British bands touring the US then supported that conclusion.

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    3. I noticed that about the fans, more so because it was odd to have such hot weather :)

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  3. ...since Morse appears to be in contact with Joan.

    I took it that this was the first time Joan called Morse (given his conversation with the operator) and that whole phone call was strange. Firstly, I would be concerned that the person was in distress given the hushed/labored sounds on the other end. Secondly, why did he throw the phone? I would be placing a call to the local police for a safety check while I hurried out the door to catch a train to check on her in person. And what was with the "Miss Thursday" business? Strange.

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    1. Good point that I forgot to mention. I thought the same thing. His reaction didn't make any sense.

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    2. He still called her "Miss Thursday" when she left.
      And when she left, she said she needed to. He's given her the distance she's requested. Chasing after her would be against her wishes - and her desire to not be hounded by police.

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    3. I don't think he ever called her anything but Miss Thursday. But it did sound like the person on the end of the line was in some distress or perhaps danger.

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    4. So you think Morse got Joan pregnant, but you question me questioning whether he would call her "Joan?" Odd.

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    5. And I have a recollection of Morse calling her Joan. During the bank robbery or when she was leaving with her suitcase.

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    6. I agree with your comment and queries, Darrell. Whatever the less than subtle plot/characterisation in this episode, it does serve to encourage us to review where Morse is as a person re his values and personal life. He seems to retreat to apparent conservative convention in dress and speech when under pressure, hence the 'Miss Thursday' questioning response to the silent phone call. He's a sensitive lad!

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    7. Darrell: No, I don't think Morse got her pregnant. But a pregnancy involving a third party (not necessarily someone we know) would also help explaining why she left so peremptorily last season. I think it makes a lot of sense.

      Speaking of which, I looked it up and it was not Morse that called her Joan in Coda, but Strange. Incidentally, she also gave the false name "Joan Strange" to the bank robbers in that episode. We also know that there's a Mrs Strange later....

      Please somebody stop me before I go any further with this ridiculous fan theory.

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    8. I couldn't swear to it, but I think Morse has always addressed Joan strictly as Miss Thursday. Even in the final scene of Coda: When he first gets out of his car, he says, "Miss Thursday, where are you going?" Then as she leaves, she says, "Take care of yourself Morse." Then he says, "You too, Miss Thursday." He has always been formal with her.

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    9. I rewatched that scene, and you're correct.

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    10. I love how all Oxford plod have adjectives for surnames: Strange, Bright, Innocent, Trewlove.

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    11. I got the idea there was not any phone call at all...Morse was having a flashback from his LSD trip, which is why he threw the phone.

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  4. From sublime to ridiculous in less than 168 hours.

    Whenever Morse and Thursday venture from the spires of Oxford to the estates of the Midsomer countryside, the episodes always seem to become ponderous (e.g.: ‘Ride’, ‘Arcadia’ and ‘Prey’ – most of Series 3!) and ‘Canticle’ was no exception.

    I’m not quite sure what the episode was about, or more importantly, why anyone was meant to care. What was the point of the ‘Mary Whitehouse’ storyline? To get Morse in trouble with Chief Superintendent Bright yet again? Or possibly to introduce yet another love interest for Morse? Am I being overly pessimistic in concluding that Morse may never find Trewlove? For what it’s worth, I would have counselled Morse to stay with Monica Hicks; she was a real find.

    Note to Russell Lewis: put Morse on a train to Leamington Spa straight away. And leave him there until he finds 'Miss Thursday'.

    Best line:
    Morse: “What day is it?”
    Thursday: “Corned beef.”

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    1. Since I doubt Bettina will be around for another episode, I really don't see the point of the storyline except, perhaps, to add remind us that this is a Historical Period Different From Our Own.

      I'm still hoping for the return of Monica!

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    2. “And one was fond of me and all are slain,” according to Max DeBryn in episode 4.1. “Love and fishing. Sooner or later it all comes down to the same thing. The one that got away.” Perhaps that’s the theme of Series 4.

      Although she hasn’t featured in the first two episodes, Joan Thursday certainly has loomed large. And perhaps that was the point of the ‘Mary Whitehouse’ tread – for Bettina Pettybon to remind Morse just what he’s lost.

      It will be interesting to see where Russell Lewis goes with this storyline. Somehow – and I’m not quite sure why – I don’t see Morse and Joan riding off into the sunset and living happily ever after.

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    3. "The one that got away." I picked up on that rewatching the scene - Morse seemed to take the phrase to heart. Another way that the Bettina Pettybon thread echoes Joan - when she leaves, her mother says "she'll be back," and Thursday says, "No, she won't." He seems oblivious of the parallel, but perhaps not.

      The Joan storyline is interesting in that we know it can't happen, so I wonder why we're lingering on it. I'd much rather we go ahead and meet Hugo de Vries or other things on the checklist.

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  5. Thank you Hannah. I think I may have enjoyed the episode slightly more than you did - even a mediocre episode of Endeavour is better than most of what's on tv on this side of the pond - but there were so many notes that were irritating.

    - As you wrote, the caricature of Mrs. Pettybon was boring and predictable.

    - Bettina telling Morse that she loved him... Yikes.

    - Jessop not telling the police for days that there was someone else (who turned out to be Emma) in Mrs. Pettybon's dressing room. Wouldn't that have been among the first things that would have been discovered in a police interview?

    - The whole Emma-was-a-madly-jealous-killer resolution was a bit trite.

    - Why weren't all of the band members and their manager arrested as accessories after the fact for dumping the body?

    I really liked the opening - thought it was going to be a much different episode tonally. It was good to see Morse and Thursday get back, at least somewhat, to their great camaraderie, and I liked seeing Thursday by Morse's bedside awaiting his revival.

    My favorite line was Max telling Strange, "What a lyrical child you must have been, Sergeant."

    Thanks again Hannah.

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    1. Agreed about the Max line. He routinely gets the best dialogue.

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  6. Really enjoyed last night's episode having lived through the era.Hoping that Bunny Boiler Bettina has left stage right but she may well crop up again.Best lines were the 'what day is it...' scene and loved the clever 'appearance' of Colin Dexter.Think Morse threw the phone in frustration( the GPO would not be happy with him ripping it out of the wall in his anger.Explain that away young man..)Still sticking to my original theory regarding Joan.Not having travelled in to London,Leamington had an abortion clinic..Could be way off the mark but only time will tell.Living this series but only 4 episodes.Gonna RIP the phone out the wall in frustration....!!!

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    1. That's an interesting theory re: Joan, and makes a lot of sense. It would add a lot more weight to her disappearance, as well. Otherwise, it's rather mystifying why everyone is so upset about it.

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    2. No so mystifying why they're upset. She was very close to her parents and then she leaves with no contact. My parents would have been distraught.

      Interesting theory about the abortion clinic.

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  7. Did anyone else believe that the TV host and interviewer was based on Simon Dee ? The actor had the same look, same stylish clothes and mannerisms of Dee who had a very successful TV programme 'Dee Time' in 1967.

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    1. Same stunt with the cape, too. I liked Dee's wife, Twittily, better though. Legs for miles!

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  8. Ooh, I missed the Colin Dexter "appearance" - where was he hidden?!

    So many pop culture references in this episode; I immediately said "Simon Dee" when the TV host appeared.

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    1. Just at the end of the episode, there's a newspaper with the headline of the band breaking up. Mr. Dexter's photo is at the top right corner of the page.

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    2. Thank you so much! I remembered the newspaper & has guessed a photo of Colin must gave been on that, but couldn't check because I had deleted my record! Though that you have been kind enough to tell me exactly where to look I will view on ITV Player! (Why are these tiny details both so fascinating and satisfying?!)

      I grew up very near to Oxford and was 11 and 1967, where we are in Endeavour at the moment. I do think that they evoke wonderfully that exact period of Oxford as it is in my childhood (approaching teenage) memories. And it was exactly around that time that we were becoming aware of it being the swinging 60s, so a "summer of love" pop episode seemed absolutely fitting. I loved this one!

      Thank you again!

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    3. Excuse the various typos - it's too early in the morning for my brain! And my fingers!

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  9. Just discovered your blog, and was impressed with your review for this episode, Canticle.
    I too found myself sighing over the predictable cliche of the Mrs Pettybon character, and it was nice to see you had picked this up as well!
    Overall a pretty good episode, but I do feel like the series has lost a little bit of direction since series 3, which I really loved, especially the more dramatic moments.
    Though I'd mention two bits of this episode I thought were highlights
    -'Have you tried Mushrooms before, Morse?'
    'Only as part of an English Breakfast

    Thought the 'Jennifier Sometimes' song was perfect, and really captured the era. Nice attention to detail.

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    1. Thank you. I agree that this series' arc hasn't been as compelling as I might have hoped, but then I didn't think series 3 was as interesting as the previous two seasons. It's difficult to craft intriguing arcs about a character whose endgame we already know.

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  10. I am assuming that the corned beef in Thursday's sarnie would have been the Hereford kind ?

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  11. Well I thought this episode was just a load of rubbish from corny dancing start to tarot card finish. I was wondering if there are new too Young producers or something. I have only just watched it and have the rest of the series recorded. So, I do hope it will get better as have always loved Morse, Lewis and Endeavour. But this was just embarrassing I'm afraid.

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    1. Yes, this episode was an outlier from a usually good show. It gets better!

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  12. 'Morning! I just discovered your comments this morning about a series my wife and I simply "worship"!

    May i state I'm sovery fond of your notes and remarks about these characters? So very British in a way!
    From France with affection! P.A.

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    1. Thanks! I'm American, but thanks to years of watching such programs, my writing does tend to have a British tang. Glad you enjoy it.

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  13. Can someone explain to me the death of Rev. Golightly?

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  14. The poor Reverend did not in fact *Golightly* into that good night. He ate the chocolates laced with laxatives that were meant for Mrs. Pettybon. Postmortem, it was determined that he had an undiagnosed aortic aneurysm. So the two combined, well, blood and guts, to paraphrase Strange.


    My thoughts about the mother/daughter Pettybon story line, yes, cliched to an extent, were indeed to show the parallel with the father/daughter Thursday relationship. Hadn't Thursday been the overbearing, overprotective father, when it came to Joan's dating life? Perhaps after the trauma of the bank robbery, she couldn't stand being stifled anymore. I got the sense in Canticle that Thursday was close to that realization. ( I do like the idea that she might be pregnant...by the bingo parlor announcer slash assasin!)
    That said, it's the Nurse Monica story line that baffles me. And I noticed from the trailer for the next episode, she's back on the scene. What?

    My favorite line from tonight's episode:
    Jessop: How can love be dirty?
    Morse: Well if it isn't, I expect you're not doing it right.

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    1. So nice of you to answer right away. But I didn't follow who wanted to disturb Mrs. Pettybon, perhaps not lethally. It's not our murderer, is it? That's what's been bothering me. I can't find it anywhere online.

      Monica has always confused me. Maybe I haven't seen every episode. First she was in a flat in Morse's building, and then she was his nurse in the hospital. Isn't that a bit coincidental? But I guess that stuff happens often in the original Inspector Morse too.

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    2. I think that's the best way to read the Pettybon storyline - as a parallel with the Thursdays. The thought only occurred to me on the rewatch, as Thursday says, "She won't [come back]."

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    3. It was Emma, the murderess, who dropped off the chocolates in Mrs. Pettybon's dressing room at the tv show. She was getting back at Mrs. P. for trying to get the band's record banned.
      I'll admit that I had to go to the script, but it's there, at the end as Thursday whirls through the confessions trying to wrap everything up.

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  15. I'm a recent convert to Endeavour. It's just brilliant but has to be watched a few times to really take in the story. I still don't understand who 'mislaid' his sergeants exam paper.... and who keeps tampering with evidence. Is there something I'm missing?? Annd please don't say 'it's the Masons' because I want to know exactly who. Whoever it is is male and wears a ring on the little finger of their right hand.

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    1. They don't reveal it in the show. We're just supposed to assume it's the Powers That Be, I guess.

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  16. Your "mind pub" made me giggle. :)
    I def enjoyed this episode, much more than the previous one, which was too straightforward for my taste. Endeavour's guess as to what actually happened and the identity of the killer was an inspired leap of intuition that older Morse was famous for.

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