My review of the previous episode: Passenger.
I didn't see that beginning coming.
We start with Fred and Win on the dance floor, impressing a panel of judges. "Semi-finals next," says Win, happily assuming they'll have the time when Fred retires. But will he?
Meanwhile, a debate on immigration between a blonde, priggish woman, Lady Bayswater (an echo of the Le Pens, or is this just my guess at European politics?) and a black man, "Marcus X," takes place at a college. Morse is in the audience with Claudine, who Joan set him up with last week. "Just a girl," Morse says, when Strange asks, and that seems to characterize the relationship well. He sees her as a fling, but he seems rather hurt when she reveals she sees him as the same thing.
As Lady Bayswater leaves the debate, protester Kit Hutchens throws something into her face and is promptly arrest. It's all fine, though, he explains - she deserved it. Hitler danced at her wedding.
On a local military base, we catch up with long-absent Sam Thursday, now Lance Corporal Thursday. He has a pair of mates, Private Oswald and Private Collier, and the regiment is planning to disintegrate and ship out to Germany in a few days. The men are thrilled when a group of alluring models visit the base, but wen one of them, Jean Ward, is killed in the practice shooting range "Murdertown," the Cowley boys have to come in to investigate.
Bright assigns Thursday to a managerial role since Sam is involved. (It's another episode pushing Thursday towards a desk job. Could we see Chief Superintendent Thursday next series? And D.I. Strange, or D.I. McNutt?)
British TV shows never can really capture the military, either the writers or the actors (Nicholas Courtney's Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is a notable exception). When an officer makes a comment about Oswald's "lot," and Oswald snaps back, "What are 'my lot' like?" without suffering any real reprimand, my suspension of disbelief evaporated. Anton Lesser actually has a military bearing, with his ramrod straight back and commanding authority, so his presence makes all the others conspicuous by comparison.
Other soldiers? There's Sergeant Major Davies, a minor character, and the commanding officers, Colonel Champion, Major Coward, and Mad Jack McDuff, who suffers from some form of extreme PTSD.
When Morse and Strange interview Jean's photographer and ex-lover, Justin Farridge, he says she was really the Right Hon. Moira Creighton-Ward, step-daughter of Lady Bayswater. The question of Moira's parentage comes up, Thursday and Morse suspect it could have been Colonel Champion or Mungo Coward. Thursday and Morse confront Lady Bayswater on the topic and Thursday has a hard time reining in his feelings when she goes Full Third Reich on him. Morse keeps his emotions in check, but cleverly manipulates her into telling him what he wants to know.
In a subplot, a segregated hair salon has sparked protests and brings together an improbable number of supporting characters. Police stand outside guarding the shop and patrons, including Trewlove. Claudine darts about taking pictures. Joan Thursday and Kit Hutchens are among the protesters, who are led by a charismatic Marcus X. When one protester lunges at a customer, a riot breaks out. Trewlove ends up with a black eye and Joan ends up arrested, though she's promptly released by Strange (Joan/Strange is totally happening).
The episode as a whole is rather boring. L'affaire de Joan has been going on so long that it's become static. The demise of the Oxford City Police as a thing is a dramatic nonstarter. I'm not really seeing any sparks between Fancy and Trewlove. The story overlooks so many coincidences it could be Midsomer. And the dialogue in this one is downright awful. "The face that launched a thousand snips" and some laughably unerotic conversation about apes between Morse and Claudette are the worst of it.
And whatever happened to Morse the opera fan? Morse the sophisticated ale snob? Morse's hobbies have disappeared, and with them a large chunk of who he is.
My review of the next episode: Quartet.
- After rewatching Passenger, I'm failing to see Fancy/Trewlove happening. He looks like he's about 12. She's so calm and competent that she needs someone more mature.
- As for Joan/Strange I'm torn. Strange has matured, but he's never going to be a character intelligent enough to match Joan. I feel like she might settle.
- I don't feel like this season has a real engine driving things forward. Like season 2, it's fairly aimless, so it's going to have to end with a bang to redeem itself. Take bets in the comments about who's going to die. (Calling it now - Fancy is really Ron Pigot.)
- With the huge focus on the Thursday family it feels like Russell Lewis is wrapping up threads. I predict this season will be the last with the Thursdays.
- Peter Hitchens pointed out the reference to Roderick Spode in Thursday's rant, but also astutely criticized the political inconsistencies of said rant.
- The owner of the hair salon, Mrs. Radowicz, is played by Rebecca Saire, Roger Allam's real-life wife.
If you enjoyed this article, check out my full list of detective reviews.
If you want to keep up with great TV mysteries, follow my detective news site Murder! 'Orrible Murder! on Tumblr, Twitter, or Facebook.