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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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:
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