Icarus, in Greek mythology, made wings of wax and feathers. But when he flew up the sun melted his wings and he fell.
Icarus is also the name of episode 6 of season 5 of a British crime drama, Endeavour. The series is set in the sixties, a time characterised by drug use. Youngsters flew high on the wings of various hallucinogens for youth is prone to experiment. And many came crashing down from those highs. Much like Icarus the Greek whose tale has come to us across the vastness of the past.
But in the episode, Icarus, it’s November 1968.
Endeavour revolves around a set of police detectives in Oxford, a university town in the UK. The show acts as prequel to another famous British crime series, Inspector Morse. Morse’s first name is Endeavour. And the show is about his early days in the force.
The sixties were still a time when birth mattered. Endeavour Morse’s father was a taxi driver. But he attended Cambridge, another famous British university. Yet he opts to be a cop. And it is his tastes in music, art and literature that enrich the series.
As Icarus opens, we see the police team we know so well on the verge of folding up. Detective Sergeant Endeavour, meanwhile, is sent to act as teacher, undercover, in a school. He’s to look into the disappearance of the teacher he’s replacing. The officers investigating what happened to James Ivory have died in a car crash
Morse is accompanied by Woman Police Constable Trewlove who will act as his wife. From earlier episodes we know that she’s in a relationship with Detective Constable Fancy. But for now, alone in their new living quarters, Morse plays music while Trewlove works on her toes. We wonder if she will be another of his lady loves for Endeavour has just lost another love. In Quartet, Claudine says farewell to him.
Claudine was introduced to him by Joan, the real love of his life. Joan is the daughter of Detective Chief Inspector Fred Thursday who is a kind of mentor to Endeavour.
Thursday has been sent to look into gangland matters. The show regularly features a gangster called Eddie Nero and his son is also at the school. Most of the school boys Endeavour has to teach are terrible bullies. And they are prejudiced, speaking badly of Jews and others such as the sons of rich gangsters.
The school’s games teacher is sadistic. His attitude will ring a bell for us in India. There are people who believe we have to be tough, that we have to take our country back to some golden age. Often, such folks display a love for the military. And in the worlds of such people there is no room for weakness.
Of course, a body is found. It’s not the missing teacher, however. It’s a student the school had expelled. Drugs are being used by the school boys. Drugs supplied by gangsters.
But Thursday is caught up in the tension between gangster Nero and his West indian rival. Things come to a head and the police have to rush to Nero’s place. As the show crescendos into a spiral of violence and tragedy, Jim Reeves sings He’ll Have to Go.
While the show is not all dark, there is stark loss and bitter betrayal and bleak locales shade the drama. But there is always exquisite scenery and Endeavour is a fine practice of cinematography.
Endeavour is based on crime novels written by a Colin Dexter. A part of fan enjoyment of the series are its regular features and during his life Colin Dexter would star in cameos. After his demise he continues to appear in photos. In Icarus he is in a picture on a wall behind Thursday in one scene.
Icarus is directed by Gordon Anderson who also directed the first three episodes of season five of Shetland, also a fabulous British crime series.
It’s always Russell Lewis who writes Endeavour episodes and fans breathe a sigh of relief as season six surfaced after a lull.