Thursday, February 21, 2019

Endeavour Series 6 - Apollo - Episode Review

My review of the previous episode: Pylon.

We've seen Shaun Evans in front of the camera, but this is our first chance to see what he can do behind it. It turns out, the answer is: quite a lot. After a rather functional finale established the new status quo, Endeavour finds time to dig into real character conflict in this insightful, thematically rich second episode that balances all of its subplots beautifully.

The story starts with Adam Drake - a snarky jerk - and his girlfriend, Christine Chase. They attend a party with Drake's colleagues - the Humbolts and Wingqvists. Adam and Christine's bodies are discovered the next day at the scene of an apparent wreck. 

Meanwhile, Thursday is assaulted by some thugs and on doctor's orders he's put on light duties, which means he and Morse - newly reassigned to Castlegate CID - investigate the wreck together. Christine's body has been disturbed, and it looks like she died before the "accident."


Morse and Thursday narrow it down to two main groups of suspects. There are Drake's friends, who work with him at the observatory (it's 1969, so guess what major historical event is about to occur). Larry Humboldt and his wife Isobel have two children, an insouciant teenager named Flora and a small boy named Matthew. The other couple are Elliot Wingkvist and his wife, Natalie, who hosted the party. Natalie burned something in the garden before the police arrived.

The dead woman, Christine, on the other hand, was an assistant at a TV studio producing a puppet scifi show for kids. Brother and sister Jeff and Hildegard Slayton run the studio, and another couple, Eric and Marilyn Gidby, are puppeteers. Eric obviously dramatically disliked Adam Drake.

One last outlier suspect: Gideon van Horne. He's a self-help guru who helps people unlock their inner selfishness. Or so Morse puts it, when he confronts Van Horne in the latter's pristine white offices. Van Horne seems utterly unconcerned. He has no shame. Shame is a negative emotion.

And this is a story about shame, or rather, the way shame works in connection to human reputation. All of the scientists are social climbers, jockeying for position. Bright is concerned that he looks a fool because of the Pelican campaign (he's right to be worried). Thursday is worried what Win thinks of him, and he's ashamed that he's not really up to the job anymore. The murderer's motivations, in the end, revolve around humiliation. Morse is no exception. Thursday rebukes Morse for being more concerned for his own reputation than the suspects'. He's wrong in that particular instance, but Morse is worried what everyone thinks of him. "We all know you're smart. You don't have to prove it all the time. Take a day off," snaps Joan when Morse is being a jerk.

That particular scene feels like a snapshot of Older Morse at his worst. It's not the only flash-forward. At one point in the episode, Thursday and Morse are looking at cars. They find a beat-up old jag. Significant Music plays. Could this be Morse's iconic red jaguar?

These feel like real, substantive steps towards an end goal - and if Russell Lewis to be believed, the end is not far away. The signs are more than just respectful nods to the older show (I notice, appreciatively, every time Shaun Evans tugs his ear in the same way that John Thaw did), but more significantly, Morse is starting to show the prickliness and condescension that will insulate him from the world in later life. Sometimes that condescension is warranted, such as when it's directed at D.C.I. Box. But with Joan, it rather dramatically isn't. When she refuses to give in to his bullying, Morse charges off, breaking protocol to interview a minor because Joan wouldn't answer his questions.


This impulsive malcontent seems very similar to Thaw's Morse, while not out of step with the more innocent Endeavour we've known. (Frankly, the mustache is probably here to help take the shine off of Shaun Evans' youthful face.) Morse's wistfulness and idealistic certainty have morphed into frustration and arrogance. His anger is understandable, if his outbursts aren't. This is going to become a habit one day.

Of course, wistfulness remains the sweetness in the bitterness. That scene is followed by another between Fred Thursday and Bright. They're lamenting changing times, times that are leaving them behind. It's a beautifully judged scene and if it and the previous scene were the only good character moments of the episode, it would be excellent, but the story is chock full. Morse quickly realizes Strange is lying about his attempts to find Fancy's killer. Morse meets with Bright, who is genuinely happy to see him (how times have changed!)

The one thing that lets the episode down is how the ultimate resolution hangs on so many coincidences. There's an accident and a sabotage gone wrong and another murder to frame a third party for the sabotage. That last one only worked because part of the car was involved in a hit and run and one of Eddie Nero's men covered it up...Oxford really is the crime capital of the world.

But I guess we already knew that.

My review of next week's episode: Confection.

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

16 comments:

  1. Hi Hannah. I don't believe Strange was lying to Morse. I believe he is, as they say in so many crime dramas, 'following the money' (or drugs in this case). I think Jim believes that by following the drugs trade he will eventually find George's killer. Hope you're well. Take care.

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    1. Morse actually says he's lying, around 1:03:50. It's pretty plain that Strange is pretending his drugs investigations don't have anything to do with Fancy.

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    2. Oh I see. Sorry I read what you had written, "Morse quickly realizes Strange is lying about his attempts to find Fancy's killer." As stating that Strange 'wasn't' investigating Fancy's death.

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  2. Dear Hannah Long,
    I read with interest –and enjoyment! – your review(s). [I discovered your blog when searching for ‘Ride’ : heavy with head cold & binge-watching from ‘Pilot’, I will now have to go back!].
    Two things. The Morsetache in the previous ‘Pylon’ is very clever, while the ‘ineffable’ chimes. Noting your interests, I wondered if you’d read Josephine Tey? ‘The Daughter of Time’ is beloved by academics, but two stand-alones are worthy of your attention: ‘Brat Farrar’ and ‘The Franchise Affair’. The wistfulness is there as well – even the decency that bedrocks Russel Lewis’ scripts. Do give them a go.
    I’ve also appended a further comment on your ‘about’ page. A link to a published (& reprinted) newspaper story that links two of your said interests – ACD and Christianity. Do please have a look if you can.
    Yours sincerely,
    Robert Wynn

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Robert - and apologies for the delay in responding - it's been a chaotic few weeks! I will warn you as far as older reviews go - I started reviewing this show in 2013, when I was (oh my) 17, so the quality of the earliest writing is commensurate with that!

      I have read and loved The Daughter of Time (which, of course, inspired the Inspector Morse episode, The Wench is Dead). Wistfulness and decency are excellent words to summarize Lewis's scripts and they appeal to me a lot, so I'll bookmark those recommendations!

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    2. No, no, no. Don’t say that. I’ve even gone back farther (you’ll see where in my Deguello reply). Wistfulness is, of course, your word ; decency Russell Lewis’s (finally spelled correctly). I’d forgotten the homage to ‘Wench’, and am in awe of your encyclopaedic knowledge. But ‘Brat Farrar’ is awesome…

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    3. Hardly encyclopedic! A friend is just watching Morse for the first time and he's about to start The Wench is Dead, so it was on my mind.

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  3. One simply wonderful aspect of this episode, resonating far more with an old fart like me, was the subplot with the puppets. Those are plainly riffing on the Fireball/Thunderbirds/Captain Scarlet "Supermarionation" shows of the 60s done by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and put out, even over here when I watched them, by the very ITV that would become Morse's home less than 20 years later. There's an odd anti-anachronism to it, though: the Andersons' final puppet broadcasts were on the way out by the summer of '69, and they were ramping up to their first live-action show with much of the same producers and even cast, UFO, set in the then-faraway year of 1980.

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  4. Why are Laura and Matthew Humbolts not returning home? At the end, it sounds like they were going into foster care.

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    1. The children would not be out into foster care but would become wards of the court and so be placed in a care home. The parents would have been seen as inadequate and didn't have the children's best interests at heart. Once the parents could prove to the court they did then the children would probably be allowed home.

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    2. I think the parents and all the other party guests were under arrest by the end of the episode. They all knew Christine died at the party and were aware of the plan to take her body back to her apartment to stage it as an accident. I'm not sure what type of charge that would lead to but I imagine it would be enough to have the kids put in foster care. It's also possible PBS cut a scene that explains it?

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  5. Yes, that's exactly what I want to know! Anyone have the answer??? Dying to figure this out!

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  6. One thing that is worth noting is that this is the second episode in a row where the "murder" is an accident. Seems like lazy writing to me.

    Personally, I was disappointed in the puppet aspect. There was no reason for it to be there. It could have been any business without altering the script in any meaningful way. At least the "Alice" theme of "Pylon" was integral to the plot. I had rather hoped that when they commented that a character had started out as a Punch and Judy man and that they were called "professor" that the script would take off in an interesting direction. Instead, it was just a useless bit of trivia inserted for no reason.

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    1. In a vacuum, perhaps it COULD have been "any business" but placing this episode in July 1969 almost required some reference to the moon landing, and the ITV sci-fi puppet shows of the 60s were quintessentially British and tied into the time and place of the episode. The intercutting of the Apollo 11 audio with the puppet scenes was quite well done. Radio Times did a piece about the authenticity of it:
      https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2019-02-18/endeavour-apollo-moon-rangers-studio-gerry-anderson-thunderbirds-stingray-supermarionation/

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  7. My DVR stopped recording with maybe ten minutes left; both of the VCRs did this. I about went nuts! I got the gist of how "Apollo" ended from this blog, and I thank you all very much. I've been watching Morse on PBS for decades.

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  8. It's available on pbs dot org if you've got Passport access. I'd be careful with other video sites; I checked one before the series debuted in the US and it tried hitting me with some nasty malware. (But I did get to see the full Inspector Bright Pelican crossing ad which never appeared in the Masterpiece version OR on the BluRay.)

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