For the first time since 1992, we are in a Morse episode set in a different country. Morse is in Venice, falling for a pretty Italian woman named Violetta. He's not there long, but it starts the story - and the new decade (1970s, 2020s) - off on a romantic foot.
Meanwhile, in Oxford, foul play is afoot. A woman, Molly Andrews, is murdered on a towpath. Thursday is convinced the killer was Carl Sturgis - the dead girl's boyfriend, which Morse calls into question fairly quickly on his return to duty. Bright isn't alarmed, but he assigns Morse to revisit the case, which creates conflict between Thursday and his former protege.
The good news is that the two men don't immediately fall into the same conflicts - they're old friends at this point, so there's no point in getting insanely angry over a professional disagreement. But as Morse continues, he uncovers other discrepancies - leads ignored, brushed over. Thursday has embraced a foregone conclusion. A boat was logged going through the area of the murder, with a skipper, Abraham Patrovski, who has a bad reputation. Thursday didn't follow up on that. He seems angry and burnt out with the job, with life. He takes it out on those around him, even poor Win.
There are more suspects. Dr. Naomi Benford is the pretty, telegenic new scientist who's just nabbed a television contract. Dr. Dai Ferman (a scoundrelly Welshman) and Dr. Jeremy Kreitsek (the awkward lone POC in the department) work are her colleagues. They all report to the slightly cartoonish misogynist Professor Blish (imagine a creepy Steve Martin). All three men are jealous of Benford's success. Collectively, the scientists' work is about measuring psychic ability, an endeavor which the episode views with friendly agnosticism. Interestingly, it's Morse the Brain who's more open to it than Thursday the Ordinary Guy. But I guess Morse has lived through a few years, some bad drugs, a cult or two, a ghost, revisiting his Quaker upbringing, and a tiger that might as well be supernatural since he said in Nocturne that the only thing that comes after death, in his experience, was "the police." Naive materialist child.
The question comes up again when Thursday and Morse meet a woman, Jenny Tate, who seems to be having visions (she's often followed around by Tony Jakkobsen, the chef where she works, so there's another Suspect). She gives a....not terribly convincing account of her vision of the murderer. She knows one important clue, but she might have found that out many ways. She doesn't strongly describe the killer. It's unclear in the end whether she was actually involved or not, so the incident seems to exist more for thematic reasons than plot ones. It's weird that neither Thursday nor Endeavour try and find out if she is lying. Hashtag believe psychic women, or something.
That switcheroo keeps happening. The episode spins up some interesting conflicts, but they all unspool when they're reaching their climax. Morse and Thursday almost have an argument, but not really. Thursday and Mrs. Thursday have an argument in which he accuses her of never experiencing bloody real life - but she experiences it almost exactly after that, and is unimpressed. The characters question the reality of the supernatural, but in the end, the psychic seems to have been a distraction from a rather obvious suspect - we don't even get the full story of the murdered woman's death.
Some of that is foreshadowing, mind. The Morse, Thursday, and Strange conflicts are clearly being set up for later. Thematically, the supernatural stuff works too, as Bright grapples with his wife's illness and her request that he join her in her prayers for faith healing. It seems tradition that there's always a great Thursday-and-Bright-Talking-About-Life scene in these later seasons, and this is another good one. Yes, the faith healers may be weird (and, I'd add, probably heretical) fundamentalists, but who has not faced the question - what if they're right? And we miss out because we didn't believe? It's a haunting thought.
Speaking of haunting thoughts, that brings me to the other big development in the story - Morse and Violetta. A haunting teasing through line. And Ludo, who's a fun character, feels like Joss Bixby 2.0,. This time a rival as well as a friend. Of course Morse has the most appalling luck in love. I'm curious to see where this is going. Violetta is mysterious, but little more than a beautiful cipher at this point.
My review of the next episode: Raga.
- "The female of the species might hold good for Kipling, but he never walked a crooked mile in these brogues."
- Dorothea Frazil briefly meets Sally Alexander, a feminist crusader who was Abigail Thaw's real-life mother, John Thaw's first wife. And it gets better - the woman playing Sally is Abigail's daughter.
My reviews of Endeavour: