My review of the previous episode: Apollo.
The first body is an overdose. Max and Morse are standing alongside when Strange blunders up and says, "Puked 'is guts up, then?" It's a reminder of Strange's crusade to find Fancy's killer, which plays a back-up role in an episode that's full to the brim with dead bodies. It's also a chance for Max to get in a zinger, as he often does when Strange discusses puke. ("What a lyrical child you must have been, sergeant," is still my favorite, but "Been at the Keats again, sergeant?" ain't bad.)
Russell Lewis had to be frustrated that Inspector Morse already had an episode named Happy Families, because that's the theme of the story more than anything. Unhappy families, of course. There aren't any fireworks (no tigers or haunted houses to be found here, as there usually are in the season's third episode), but this is a strong meat-and-potatoes story which, like last week's story, manages to land quite a few serious character-based punches.
But first, there's the mystery. The Creswells are a snobby rich family who own a sweet factory. When the paterfamilias Creswell is murdered, his sons Murray and Rupert say they can't imagine why. Tagging along are Clemmie Creswell, Murray's wife - and Sarah Clemp, Rupert's fiancee.
When Morse and P.C. Rich Potter are out investigating, they stumble across another body. Her husband's body is indoors. It seems that he may have been responsible for killing the lord of the manor and his wife, Mary Jane, under the assumption that the latter two were sleeping together. He got that idea from a poison pen letter, which Morse finds out from a secretary at the sweet factory, Miss Neal. These poison pen letters have been circulating for some time in the village.
Another body is found at a college - research fellow Rufus Burrow is found dead in a bathtub, apparently a suicide. Morse, of course, suspects there's more to it. Max pushes back. "People do despair, Morse," he says. Max appears to have become Morse's main confidant (as well as Bright's, interestingly), edging out Dorothea, who has a small cameo. Max has become the moral center of the series, the connection to the peaceful domestic life - which is ironic, seeing as how he's the most alone of all the characters. But everyone else, in their respective relationships, are really alone in a more terrible way.
Isla Fairford knows a lot about gossip. In the course of their investigations, Morse and Thursday interview local vet Charles Shepherd. This is how Morse meets Shepherd's very attractive daughter Isla, and her son Henry. She pretends her son's father is dead to avoid it. "No awkward questions. No shame."
"I'm not in the habit of doing this," says Morse, England's lyingest liar, "but would you like to go for a drink?" Dating Endeavour adds at least 5 points to anyone's Likely Suspect score. Morse, however, thinks that this could be his chance to have a normal life and family. Strange snorts, like he's seen every episode of Inspector Morse and knows that's not happening.
Meanwhile, the regular cast is also facing family drama. Fred's last ditch attempt to woo back Win fails. On top of that, he tracks her down at a dancing class, dancing with someone else! (Remember last season, when the Thursdays competed in a dance competition together?) It's all too much for the good copper, and he is finally talked into taking a bribe by D.I. Box. Could he possibly be serious about this? It took a lot of convincing for him to be faking it.
At the same time, it's hard to imagine that Fred Thursday has fallen so far, to stoop to taking bribes from a man who's transparently incompetent. I'll admit, the idea that Morse never mentions Thursday later in life because Thursday fell from the straight and narrow would be terribly interesting (and heartbreaking, of course, in the spirit of this tragic show!) but it feels a bit implausible. I'd buy it if D.I. Box was Fred's sort of guy - an old-timer who fought in the war and knows just how to push Fred's buttons - but Box is slimey and doesn't seem to believe any of his cant about helping people.
And we finally get to meet Mrs. Bright! Mr. B. makes her dinner and bobs around like a concerned turtle as she inexplicably starts to cry. I shouldn't make light of this, because this whole subplot is utterly heart-breaking. Anton Lesser, ladies and gentlemen. He has certainly made the most of his short scenes this season. The scene in which he consults Max about his wife's cancer is devastating.
Lastly, of course, there's Strange, who's on his own and on a mission, which he's pulled Morse into. The final scene of the story, in which Morse realize just how isolated he's become in the station, is a powerful glimpse into his future as a nonconformist genius. This whole season feels like it's been a glimpse into the future - it really does seem like it has an ending in sight, which has imbued the show with a new sense of purpose. I'm looking forward to next week!
My review of next week's episode: Deguello.
My reviews of Endeavour:
If you enjoyed this article, check out my full list of detective reviews.