Monday, March 12, 2018

Endeavour Series 5 - Icarus - Episode review

My review of the previous episode: Quartet.

That's it for Cowley, then. Mr. Bright begins the episode announcing the station's closure, to a welcome return of an opera soundtrack. The news confirms Fred in his plans to retire. Fancy, in love with Trewlove, has bought a ring. Trewlove wants to transfer to the Yard.

At first, I thought Morse was taking Thursday's retirement so hard that he'd quit the police force, but it turns out he's going undercover as a teacher at a boy's school. He's not alone. Trewlove is along to play Mrs. Morse, a narrative stretch that does actually push the characters in interesting directions, but still feels implausible.

Division is concerned about a missing teacher, John Ivory. Even more so since the two officers investigating his disappearance died in a car crash. Eddie Nero's son, Brett, is at the school. He's one of a chorus of snarky and sarcastic young students, including a bullied boy named Clarence Stanlow and a list of Dickensian names like Clunchfist, Queach, Summerhead, Morris Minor, Rackway and Gaudibund.


Morse isn't at the school long before he finds a bloodied shirt in his desk - riddled with over twenty stab wounds, says Max. It reminds Morse of Julius Caesar, the play the boys are currently practicing. Not long later, he discovers the body of Roundtree, a boy expelled soon before Ivory disappeared. Professor Bodnar says Ivory was a bully who corrupted the boys, but Mrs. Seymour claims Ivory protected the weaker ones from the others - first Roundtree, then Stanlow.

The matron, Mrs. Seymour, says Ivory wasn't on good terms with the leader of the corps. The man, Blackwell, is a bully who flogs the students and belongs to Lady Bayswater's "Make Britain Greater" coalition (still a totally distracting modern motto).

Meanwhile, on the home front, newlyweds Morse and Trewlove chat about death and the future (Trewlove, as she did in her first episode, hints that she might have weirdly morbid tastes). Fancy is jealous, and turns all his pipsqueak glory onto Morse, who rolls his eyes and tells him to grow up. Trewlove says she sees their relationship as a fling, which makes sense. Fancy and Trewlove didn't work for me, and I actually find it more affecting to know that Fancy's love is unrequited.

A midnight call from Charlie Thursday reveals that he's been operating as a front for organized crime, and Fred's retirement savings are gone for good. Win is heartbroken that Fred would give his savings to Charlie without asking. Soon after, she storms out of the house with packed bags, dropping a vague hint about secrets and Joan.

While Trewlove doesn't want to be defended, it's pretty clear after this season that she needs to be. When Clenchfist, Rackway, and Queach - stoned out of their brains - corner and threaten her, she wilts. But it reveals the vital clue - drugs are involved at the school. Ivory was working with Nero, who's currently got his hands busy dealing with Cromwell Ames.

Speaking of the devil, Ames's attempt on Nero's life leaves him unrepentant and uncooperative. Thursday, Strange, and Fancy find Ames anyway, bringing him to the station on murder charges. Since they don't really have any evidence, they let him go. It's too bad, because later Ames and company sweep into Nero's HQ, guns blazing. George Fancy is killed in the crossfire (called it!) and when it seems Division's red tape may have contributed to his death, Bright snaps back into his not-ours-to-question-why-what-what old self.

As the gang clear out the Cowley station, and Trewlove heads to London, the situation is left infuriatingly unresolved. While George's death adds a soberness to the episode for about ten minutes, Bright's passivity is unbelievable and the other characters' acceptance of his orders is just frustrating. I've enjoyed his character arc. I can't believe the man he is now would take that sitting down.

A man was gunned down due to Division incompetence. His killer is still out there. You don't get to say it's not your problem REGINALD BRIGHT. 

And are we to believe that it's Jim "The Establishment" Strange who rallies the troops? Not Endeavour "Break Into A Factory To Find Evidence" Morse or Fred "Oh Bugger I Seem To Have Left My Tobacco In The Car" Thursday? Consequences are delayed for Fancy's killer, which worries me, as I remember how we never got the resolution to the Blenheim Vale case, another Endeavour cliffhanger.


There are a lot of delayed consequences in this episode. Besides the fact that three boys threaten a woman and get away with it, we never see the abusive teacher Blackwell really punished. Our rogue's gallery of villains all die in a shootout, cancelling out any payoff we could have gotten on that storyline. It doesn't actually matter than Nero's son was at the school. Charlie sees no consequences for his actions but Fred's anger, and Joan smooths over Win's exit by saying she'll be back. Nothing matters.

Excepting Fancy and Trewlove, none of the arcs we've been waiting to see resolved actually have a resolution. Thursday doesn't resign - the Thursday family drama remains a ball and chain shackled to the show's forward progress. Joan/Strange isn't even hinted at. The much-hinted-at Cromwell Ames has less than five minutes of screen-time. The episode doesn't commit to anything. Russell Lewis could bring back Bright, Thursday, Strange, Max, maybe even Trewlove in the next season. That the episode ends by picking up the interminable Joan/Morse romance was so soapy that I could hardly believe it.

It was bad.

Series 5

Russell Lewis has run out of ideas and is clinging to the old ones. The only reason this season needed to be this long was to give us more time with Roger Allam before he left the show. Since he didn't, the whole season feels even more aimless and frustrating. I'd been hanging on, hoping the finale would provide the reason for the protracted, meandering season, but since it didn't, I'm forced to reevaluate the rest of the season poorly.

The best episode in the season was probably Muse, a strong start which promised Morse's development towards John Thaw which did not materialize in later episodes. Passenger, in retrospect, was more style than substance, but still entertaining. Cartouche and Colours were both awful. Quartet was a middle episode. As for Icarus, it's competently made but a mess of stereotypes and overwrought conspiracy compounded by its dreadful lack of resolution. The only good thing I have to say about it is that it has lovely cinematography (which it does.)

Unless the show can move beyond the Thursdays, it will never get anywhere, and the future's not looking good.

Notes:

  • That Stanlow has a wall full of assassinated icons and is reading A Nation of Immigrants seemed to telegraph rather too obviously that he's on the side of the angels. I was happy for this to be subverted. 
  • Also subverted - the friendly witness who gives tons of useful information and then turns out to be the killer. In this case, Bodnar, who turns out to be innocent. But I also feel like he's a character Lewis invented for ease of exposition, much like Dr. Schneider last week.
  • “Gentlemen, I’ll start with George, if I may. We don’t want him lying here in such company a moment longer than he has to.” Awww, Max.
  • Do people really act that aggressive and angry when they're high on - what was it - heroin? Maybe if they're going through withdrawal, but that wasn't the vibe I got. That the evidence of addiction wasn't more obvious in the boys ran against my instincts too.


My reviews of Endeavour:
Series 1
Series 2
Series 3
Series 4
Series 5

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 TumblrTwitter, or Facebook.

Longish

9 comments:

  1. I actually didn't mind this one - although I think they were trying to shove several episodes/storylines into one! I thought the undercover Morse-Trewlove pretending to be married quite ridiculous and not necessary - but I actually called it that it was to give her as much screen time as possible because she is leaving (she has confirmed that - if she is back I suspect it will only be for one episode)

    And would Morse go undercover using his own name ? I think it was just so they could call Trewlove "Mrs Morse" which would make more sense if she was going to stay (normally they try the compromising scenario a la Strike/Robin to maximise UST)

    Again - beautifully acted etc - loved the return of the opera music at last !

    Re:Joan/Morse - I love Joan (and the actress is wonderful) and I have wanted a romance since seried 2 - but please - just do it or not. If she says no at the beginning of the next series (and I wonder if they have already filmed it) I will scream. Give some fans what they want or get her to say no at the end of this ep so we could start afresh in series 6. I did like Joan's scenes with her Dad.

    I think they will only do 4 eps and film later so hoping that gives Russell Lewis lots of to,e to work on the episodes and really deliver like he has in the past.

    I loved Passenger and did like Muse as well but not the rest - just seemed focus on characters that went nowhere (the French gal for one but I have money that she will be back)


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  2. Hi Hannah

    Between Vera and Endeavour we had ten weeks of new and original television, which was something to look forward to and it was really entertaining. Thank you for all your very well written and insightful reviews. I agree 100 percent with your analysis of Icarus, so there's no point belabouring it. I read that ITV have commissioned more episodes of Endeavour for next year, which apparently will include Fred Thursday, so I’d like to revise my comment from last week:

    That lingering hand on Morse’s shoulder; Thursday’s long goodbye is only just starting!

    Thanks again Hannah. I'll be back next year.

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  3. Scores
    Muse 8+/10
    Cartouche 4-/10
    Passenger 8/10
    Colours 1/10
    Quartet 8-/10
    Icarus 8+/10
    Hannah, I like a lot of your thoughts and comments and I too felt the series demonstrated a widely varying standard of story telling(and that made me wonder if I watched for pleasure or just to hope it got better).
    The death of Colin Dexter seems to have caused the loss of the academic side of the story- nice touch to see a painting and newspaper pic of him- and this lack of cleverness has weakened the story
    Next series
    Hopes
    1. Bright, a charming, old world person who should retire gracefully-Square peg/round hole no end of whittling or shaping would make him fit modern policing
    2. Fred- To DCI Training school- keeps him in contact with Morse
    3. Jim- To Regional/Serious Crime Squad- keeps him in the loop
    4. Trewlove- Serves time with Met, Realises it’s staffed by the likes of Insp Box, after 2 years comes back to take up uniform Sgts post
    5. Joan- becomes Mrs Jim and quietly fades
    6. Win- Eventually comes back but life isn't always smooth
    7. Max- Continues as before
    8. Dorathea- as always in the background
    Morse- Works out of new station on routine CID jobs (mainly around colleges), New boss, crimes that show/match his intellect

    Wishes
    1. The new series covers a wider time frame- 2 years maybe?- as Series 5 seemed to almost cover real time and thus went into overload,
    2. They try not to spin the story to 35 episodes (Matting Morse and Lewis) at the expense of good stories
    3. Trewlove meets up with Gardener Hathaway, Marries him, leaves force, becomes mother to Hathaway
    4. Dorathea and Morse have a much deeper relationship- not a sexual one but such a deep liking/fun thing that it helps steady Morse (and also helps explain why he never settles after her death- he is about 30 and she 55ish?)
    Til next series,
    All the best

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    1. I agree that Colin Dexter must have had more of an influence than we realized now that he's gone.

      Agreed that Bright has to go - but I would like him to go out in a flash of redemptive glory, not just toeing the bureaucratic line.

      Fred would get more money and time off as a C.S. Alternatively, I could see Jim being promoted.

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  4. I enjoy your reviews. I just can’t see Joan with Jim Strange. I think she’d be more attracted to a grad student than a copper especially after being threatened in both Home and Coda because she’s related to one.
    Also as Morse is the most clever man in Oxford how is it he wouldn’t know the woman he loves and his flat mate are involved? Doesn’t seem possible to me.
    I think Morse and Joan are going to have a coffee in series 6. They’re intrigued with each other. It may not end well for them but three years of flirting and longing with bad timing deserves some opening up, exploring and being together for a while at least?

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    Replies
    1. To be fair, Morse is both the cleverest man in Oxford and sometimes the most dim. He often overlooks the emotions of those closest to him - particularly when they aren't female - so I could see him overlooking Jim's interest in Joan. As it is, I don't think Joan and Jim are already in a relationship, but I see it as a definite possibility.

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  5. Thanks for your reply Hannah. Eventually for an ending to the show, and I hope that doesn't happen soon, I could see Trewlove marrying Philip Hathaway and having a daughter, but thereafter something goes wrong and she calls Morse from London at 3 am, says the wolves are circling, as he talked about in this episode. So naturally with a damsel in distress, he goes to her, one thing leads to another, Bob's your uncle, and Morse is James Hathaway's father, perhaps he never knows about it though, like the head military guy in Colours. While far fetched, it would explain the many similarities between Morse and Hathaway. I believe that the writer would not let them say goodbye to keep open a future relationship. Alternatively, Morse could father a child by Joan, again perhaps he doesn't know about it, although he still hasn't uttered her first name yet!

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    1. That would be utterly absurd and soapy, but a large part of me would love it. The drama!

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