Raising Cain, not Lazarus – Endeavour’s Lazaretto 

Lazaretto opens into a hospital with a shot of what looks like an operating table in the limelight. Cut to earphones – a patient is listening to music. The scene shifts to show us an in-house radio station for the hospital, run by a bespectacled young man, a volunteer librarian at the hospital, we later learn. The opening sequence shifts to a nurse tying a tag on a patient’s toe – a sure sign he’s dead. And the corpse is wheeled to the mortuary in a set of shots that scream creepy.

A ‘lazaretto’ was where sailors were quarantined to control cholera or plague outbreaks on ships.  Infected as well as healthy but suspected cases were lodged together in cramped quarters. A death sentence from which there was no escape, sometimes.

This episode of the British crime series, Endeavour, is set in a hospital. Bed 10, at Cowley General Hospital, is a death sentence. On this bed, in Fosdick Ward, three patients have died in the past five weeks. Even the chief surgeon finds it fishy as most of those patients were recovering well.

As luck will have it, a certain Terence Bakewell is brought to the hospital. This man was part of a bank robber gang. He decided to turn informant against the gang and was safely in prison. However, in the hospital, the gang might find a way to kill him for his betrayal. Detective Inspector Thursday is anxious and Detective Constable Morse and other detectives play bodyguard.

Now, we know that Bed 10 is fatal to its occupants and we groan when Bakewell is put there. And in handcuffs …  As it happens, a gossipy patient, Mr. Talbot, has things to tell Morse about Bed 10.

The bank robbery in question was the shattering climax of Series Two. Joan, DI Thursday’s daughter, was in the bank when it happened and ran away from home, soon after, blaming herself for endangering her policeman father who had bravely but recklessly confronted the gangsters.

So, Thursday is quite justifiably tense about the prisoner in the hospital. To make things merrier, Chief Superintendent Bright is also hospitalised for an ulcer. Thursday, with enough on his plate, now has to play boss, a role he’s not happy with as it prevents him from focusing on protecting the informant.

Meanwhile, Morse is called to look into what seems like an accidental death. An old lady, a Mrs Zacharides, is found lying dead in her house, surrounded by strewn papers and belongings. A seizure or foul play?

Nothing links her to the hospital until her daughter mentions that her husband died in Bed 10, months back. Mrs Zacharides suspected hospital staff of stealing his things. And she made such a fuss that she was not allowed into the hospital. The daughter mentions that her mother had got a letter from someone at the hospital and was expecting that person on the day she died but there is no sign of the letter.

At the hospital, the list of suspects mounts as does the body count. Sister Clodagh McMahon exchanges conspiratorial glances with Dean Powell, the surgeon who is locking horns with the chief surgeon, Sir Merlyn Chubb. Powell and staff feel that Chubb is messing up as his hands shake a lot – a bad thing in a surgeon. Morse decides to investigate. Nestling, in the bouquet of clues, are the white sweet pea flowers placed on Bed 10 after each death.

Typically, in an Endeavour episode, the closing credits carry a hidden message – in this case, the name of Henry Eckford, the Scottish horticulturalist who bred the flower.

Sweet_Pea-4
Aftabbanoori, CC BY-SA 3.0

Endeavour is based on another British crime show, Morse.

Who is Morse? He’s Endeavour in the later years. After the success of the series and of an offshoot, Lewis, Endeavour was made to delight us with the adventures of a younger Morse. We can see most of the signs characteristic of the older man in Endeavour: a fondness for drink and Wagner’s music.

Morse and offshoots are created from the novels of Colin Dexter.

Colin_Dexter (1)
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use

Until recently, Colin would put in an appearance in all the shows. In this episode he’s there as a caricature, in a picture on the hospital wall. The delight of fans is to spot him in the shows.

Endeavour Morse shares some of the author’s tastes. Besides Wagner’s music, he is fond of crosswords. Indeed, solving a murder mystery involves chasing clues. And Morse minds all kinds of disparate clues to tackle the complexity of crime. The show itself regularly sports a clue in the credits. Here, it was the name of the famous flower breeder.

However, life is not a bed of roses for Morse. Unlike the author, who seems to have had a happy married life, Endeavour has a weakness where it comes to women, and a part of the enjoyment of the show is his love life. Lazaretto is studded with Morse’s women. The one he once loved and lost. His nurse neighbour with whom he’s had a fling. And Joan with whom he’s secretly smitten, and who appears merely fond of him. It’s been weeks since she left home.

In this episode, Morse tracks her down but cannot persuade her to return. She, on the other hand, extracts a promise from him not to tell her parents anything. What is worse is that, as he leaves, he sees a man about to visit her. A man who’s taking off his wedding ring … The sequence has a memorable moment where Morse and Joan’s passion for each other simmers big time.

Joan has come between DI Thursday and DC Morse. Thursday is like a father figure for the reclusive Morse but, of late, sparks are flying between them. Morse can’t stomach Thursday’s penchant for violence.

Thursday’s plate is full with playing boss till Bright is better, trying to protect the informant, agonising over his daughter’s disappearance. He is also distraught about Win, his wife – she’s sinking into a depression. She hasn’t even made him his lunch sandwiches which marked the days of the week in earlier episodes. Fred Thursday appears no longer capable of living up to her words in Coda:

Fred will sort it. He always does.

Both Thursday and Endeavour are learning to get along without love.

One of the many charms of Endeavour, Morse and Lewis is that they are all interrelated. In Lazaretto, the mother of Susan, whom Morse once loved, bumps into him at the hospital. The mother’s character – played by another actress – also appears in an episode of Morse. It is these little things which create fertile feeding grounds for fans.

Another such interpolation is a thriller in the hospital library, authored by Kent Finn. The fictional novelist had appeared in an earlier episode, Game.

Endeavour, like actor Shaun Evans, who plays him, is from a humble background – a fact of significance in the Britain of those days where aristocrats still commanded some respect. To add fuel to that fire, he is agnostic with a sharp brain, rich with classical education. And yet it’s a struggle for him in the career. He has stood up to authority and pays the price. Though he’s bitter, his stance and brilliance are beginning to win him the respect of colleagues and even that of the bigot, Police Chief Superintendent Bright.

Director Börkur Sigþórsson of Trapped brings legendary Icelandic skills to the task, lending stylish doom and gloom to this British drama.

Russel Lewis writes almost all the Morse and Morse offshoots and tends to enjoy referencing, especially from the world of cinema. Lazaretto’s lugubriousness is nicely balanced by with a gentle throwback to the hilarious Carry On‘s Doctor series which are ripe with nurse-doctor romances.

The episode wraps up with a shot with which we have become familiar: a pair of gnarled old hands dealing out tarot cards. A clue to the episode that follows?

Or just one of the many red herrings that garnish the show, like the talking parrot who can only squawk

Evil Old Cow

With each episode, and even on a second watching, my respect for everyone involved in the making of Endeavour grows. Nasir Hamid has a fine photo piece on the shooting of the episode.

My endeavour is to get the show aired in India for it will surely be better inspiration than the stuff we routinely get from the US.

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Endeavour’s Opening Gambit for Season Four – Game

Chess, a nerdy game, is much less in the news now than it was at the height of the Cold War between the erstwhile Soviet Union and the US. The first episode of Endeavour, a cerebral crime drama from the UK, involves chess. And computers.

Things get high tech as Endeavour returns for a fourth season. With gigantic computers of yore, chess and a psychopath, we’re soon fed into the Morse system.

Morse is a character from a detective novel series by Colin Dexter. And Endeavour is the younger Morse, before he became Inspector. Morse and Endeavour and another show, Lewis, are interrelated. And it’s a miracle how they’ve kept it all together, making each individual drama complete in itself and yet connected to many other things.

The episode begins with a delightful piece by Erik Satie, played on a fascinating instrument, the Cristal Baschet. Good classical music, as well as signature tunes from the Sixties lend majesty and add to the pleasure of this aesthetically pleasing show.

Swimming pool scenes float in to the music. And the drama officially begins as a corpse is discovered. This one is fished out of a river with a pocketful of stones. A suicide, we presume. The deceased was a scientist. Part of a team of super nerds headed by a man in a wheelchair, Professor Amory. The professor’s beautiful daughter is around too. Did love for her drive Dr Nielsen to kill himself?

The team is working on a computer. For us, the sight of the Joint Computing  Nexus brings a smile. However, Jason, the gigantic computer in the episode, is an awesome beast and we learn that Jason will be playing chess against a Soviet champ.

However, soon, there is another death by drowning. At the local swimming pool/public baths this time. What’s more odd, the lady had a bath at home and, so, why would she have used the public one?

Frederick_Street_wash_house
Built in 1842, this was the first public wash house in Britain. Public Domain

What is even more puzzling is that there’s something in her nose and ears. And then there’s another death at the baths. Morse suspects foul play. He finds that all three victims played chess and he turns his gaze onto the scientists. However, Detective Inspector Thursday and others think he’s making something out of nothing.

Clues begin to surface and it’s pretty Trewlove who discovers that the mysterious combinations of letters and numbers, on the bath closets, are, in fact, chess moves.

988px-Dakota_Blue_Richards_portrait,_2012_(tone_crop)
Dakota Blue Richards by Jack Alexander, CC BY-SA 3.0

Meanwhile, tension is brewing between DC Morse and DI Thursday, especially after Joan, Thursday’s daughter, left home. Morse has more to be morose about than the loss of the woman for whom he secretly hankers. He has failed to pass the Sergeant’s exam, only because his paper got lost.

Morse has ruffled important feathers and that’s possibly why his paper flew away.

More aggravating is a pretty and driven young journalist who keeps popping up. She gets Morse to exchange information with her and, though he’s cautious and aware that he should not give away too much, the lady light fingers a vital notebook out of his pocket. And there’s hell to pay, naturally.

Talking of journalists, the daughter of the actor who plays the older Morse in the series by that name, stars as one in Endeavour. She has a soft spot for the Detective Constable and it is on the wall of her office that we see a picture of author Colin.

His appearance was a must in all the shows and, as age made personal presence hard, we now find him hanging on walls, in a frame. Once upon a time, it was the mighty Hitchcock who would thus insert himself into his films.

Jason, the gigantic computer, joins the fray to generate a list of possible suspects. And, turn by turn, these emerge out of the woodwork, including a crime fiction writer, Kent Finn, whose latest novel seems to mirror the murders. And whose walls are adorned by death masks.

L'inconnue_de_la_Seine_(masque_mortuaire)
L’Inconnue de la Seine, Public Domain

One mask, recorded the face of an unidentified young woman who, around the age of sixteen, … had been found drowned in the Seine River …, France around the late 1880s. A morgue worker made a cast of her face, saying “Her beauty was breathtaking, and showed few signs of distress at the time of passing. So bewitching that I knew beauty as such must be preserved.” … In the following years, copies of the mask became a fashionable fixture in Parisian Bohemian society.

Wikipedia

Written, as usual, by the fabulous Russel Lewis, this episode, like the others, strews the drama with references. Most of them go over the head for those who are not of the UK. But it would be interesting to see how one could do such a thing in an Indian TV drama, making references to film classics. It would be engaging as the audience eagerly looks for and unravels these delightful little nothings.

Game is directed by Ashley Pearce who has quite a few other series to his credit, including some of Agatha Christie’s Poirot mysteries.

The Series boasts high fandom and morseandlewisandendeavour.com has a very thorough piece on Game.

Endeavour is a major delight for fans of the Sixties and the costumes and settings bring the decade delightfully to life. While many today may not have heard of Woodstock, the name will ring nostalgic bells for many around the world. The song, below, is played in a scene with Jason and his caretakers.

Endeavour Series Three – Quadruple the Pleasure

This is the third post of a series examining the pleasures of the various seasons of Endeavour, a fine crime drama series from the UK.

Series Two threw us off a cliff-hanger and Series Three opens to some mighty fine sulking and skulking by young Endeavour.

Episode 1: Ride – Directed by Sandra Goldbacher

The episode, say reviews, references Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Since I’ve not read the masterpiece, all I can say is that this did not detract from my enjoyment. Reviews also claim that the plot is too convoluted but, there too, I cannot agree.

Ride is an essential episode in the series. Neatly tying us to the present whilst tidying over loose ends from the fracas of Series Two’s finale. There is an air of magic – coin tricks and fairgrounds form the background here.

Synopsis from Wikipedia:

March 1967. Morse is disillusioned after spending time in prison following his last case, and even though he is exonerated, ponders his future with the police. Having relocated to an isolated lake front cottage, Morse is befriended by an unhappy millionaire and his friends. At a funfair on Cowley Green a young girl, Jeannie Hearne, is spirited away into the night, seemingly without explanation. When her body is found the next morning, Inspector Thursday investigates and discovers that Morse’s new friends are involved. When Morse’s millionaire friend is killed, but then appears the next day, Morse realises his future is as a detective and the solution lies at the funfair where Hearne went missing.

Ride also boasts several good pieces of period music:

“Puppet On A String” rings the right nostalgia bell.

Episode 2: Arcadia – Directed by Bryn Higgins

Race issues compound a formula laced with New Age commune philosophies and corporate heartlessness. Broken glass in baby food, and Rhodesian sugar pepper an episode that boasts several heart-stopping moments. Highlights include the entry of pretty Trewlove.

“She’s a woman in her mid- to late 20s in the ’60s who is joining the police force. She’s very, very bright and a really good-looking woman as well, but she’s not willing to use that. ” 

Shaun Evans in Endeavour’ Season 3 finds Morse ‘completely disenfranchised

The shows, Endeavour and Morse, both flaunt a fleet of such names: Strange, Thursday, June, Bright and so forth. One of the many bizarre high-brow charms of the show.

Synopsis by Margaux:

a cleverly constructed drama that stands on its own, with a nicely tied whodunnit that leaves you guessing till the end. Artist Simon Hallward is found dead in his burnt-out flat. His room is full of solvents and the police are quick to label the fire an accident, while Morse’s attention is drawn by the Teasmaid next to the victim’s bed. Hallward had dropped out of college to join a nearby commune. Suspicious, Morse and Thursday visit ‘House Beautiful’, run by the high-handed Gideon Finn (Max Bennett) and the spiritual Ayesha (Amelia Clarkson). Thursday takes an immediate and intense dislike to their lifestyle and worries what happens behind closed doors. “Free love?” he snipes, “In my experience, that’s the most expensive kind there is.

Thursday’s featured sandwich – his wife’s sandwiches are a staple in the show – has bloater paste and this is not all that’s fishy about it.

A song from the episode:

I’ve stuck to the pop genre as it’s apt to the time but an Endeavour always has fine pieces of classical music too, not to mention Barrington Pheloung’s marvellous oeuvre.

Episode 3: Prey – Directed by Lawrence Gough

Recently, I reviewed a wildlife book on another blog. When I was young, Disney hadn’t quite put the diapers on the concept and, thus, books about wildlife delighted in stories of maneaters. This episode brings back the good old fashioned thrill of the creature feature with, of course, all the elegance of any Endeavour show. Speaking of which, there are scenes in Prey that refer to both Jaws and Jurassic Park.

One of the show’s charms is that it is related to another series, Inspector Morse,  recently voted greatest British crime drama of all time. And to another Morse offshoot, Lewis. The three, mostly delightfully but sometimes annoyingly, keep referring to each other.

Unusually, a character from episodes of Lewis turns up in Endeavour and that is the father of James Hathaway, Philip Hathaway.

Endeavour: Connections to Morse and Lewis, Part 11. ‘Prey’ (S3E3)

This is one of my favourite episodes of the show!

Synopsis from Wikipedia:

Early June 1967. The missing persons case of Danish au pair Ingrid Hjort proves far from routine, pulling Endeavour into the duelling worlds of Oxford scientific academia, the city’s vast parks, as well as an urban legend said to haunt the untamed wilderness of the Oxfordshire countryside.

As usual the choice of music is brilliant:

Scarborough Fair is a signature of the times, apt to the ‘hippy’ vibes of the happy campers, one of whom will shortly disappear.

Episode 4: Coda – Directed by Oliver Blackburn

Another exciting season’s finale with Morse in the thick of things – in this case, a bank robbery.

This one is indeed nail-bitingly tense. Morse is writing an exam and his academic roots surface again as he is thrown into a case involving a man who used to be his professor at University. Meanwhile, a crime lord is being laid to rest, spawning lethal rivalries. Thursday is still coughing away but it’s more than ill health that’s pushing him out of the Police Force. Morse and he bare fangs at each and this is not all that snarls things up until you emerge unraveled at the superb denouement.

Synopsis from Wikipedia:

Mid June 1967. Gangland loyalties are tested when criminals vie to replace their dead boss Harry Rose. Police loyalties are tested when Fred Thursday is suspended for hitting an informant. Bank staff loyalties are tested where Joan Thursday works when armed robbers trap them along with Morse, who is there investigating a killing and payroll robbery. As hostages are taken, he and Joan try to conceal their identities. Morse realises he is part of someone else’s plan to conceal another crime.

Series Three has all the usual ingredients: crosswords and clues, Thursday and family, Abigail Thaw, and Endeavour’s doomed and gloomy love life.

Here’s a tune from Coda – it’s played during a fight scene where Thursday and Strange rough up some baddies in a bar, with Thursday coughing ominously:

I’ve finally managed to get my hands on a Colin Dexter, the author of the Morse books. Though he did not write the Endeavour stories, Colin Dexter loved the TV series and he’s appeared in most of them in charming cameos. Series Three has him in all the episodes but he has not been easy to spot. Spot the Colin is a worthy endeavour for show watchers!

We return soon with a post on Series Four – in the meanwhile, here’s a preview:

Endeavour, Series Two – More Morose Morse?

 

A bruised and battered Endeavour sulks and skulks his way around delightfully convoluted plots in Series Two. Still in ‘green synthesis’ mode, the show hits its best with the Fifth season. Meanwhile, series two continues to delve deeply into the angst of being Morse.

It has all the other regular features, as well. Telly and Travels says

… I am ashamed to admit that the places I recognise most in Endeavour, Lewis and Morse are the public houses. 

As always, all the episodes are written by Russell Lewis, for whom my respect grows.

Though the Shaun Evans pouts are as adorable as ever, some reviewers find the series somewhat lacking in contrast to the previous season.

In the words of  The Passing Tramp

 Series Two, however, I found ultimately disappointing, despite some very high points (episodes 2 and 3). 

Series 2 – 2014 – Trailer

In the course of looking for stuff about Endeavour I came across a fascinating site that shows you how long it takes to watch the show.

Episode 1: Trove – Directed by Giuseppe Capotondi

“Forget It, Morse; It’s Oxfordshire.” says:

The first episode of the series,”Trove,” about a murder case embroiling a British beauty queen, Diana Day (Jessica Ellerby), had a somewhat dodgy plot, depending on a hugely unlikely coincidence of the tragic Greek sort (and yet one that has been used a number of times now in modern cop shows), forced motivation, and the seemingly obligatory Colin Dexter theme of the beautiful young woman having sex with a muuuuuch older man, but it still entertained (happily, Morse got to do a bit of decoding, a nice nod to Colin Dexter’s puzzle-oriented mysteries).

  Episode 2: Nocturne – Directed by Giuseppe Capotondi

longish95.blogspot.com is another site that offers pleasurable reviews of the episodes

This … episode of Endeavour takes a Scooby-Doo twist, complete with a haunted mansion, creepy little girls, and a historical mystery.

Episode 3: Sway – Directed by Giuseppe Capotondi

Another common factor in the Endeavour series is a touch of colour – to make amends for the racism in the UK in those days? In this episode, a Black nurse, Endeavour’s neighbour, with whom an intimacy of sorts has developed, struggles with the detective’s flickering signals.  By now, we sort of gather that it’s Thursday’s daughter for whom he yearns.

As usual, actor Allam, Inspector Thursday, has good reviews for the episodes:

Set against the backdrop of Fred and Win Thursday’s 25th wedding anniversary and Fireworks Night …

… The story starts in typical fashion – the death by strangling of three married women, none of which appear connected until Morse makes the sharp observation that none of the victims were found with their wedding rings. In the course of the inquiry, DI Thursday comes across a woman he had “known during the war”, (and, in fact, “known” during the war) who is so shocked at the sight of him she faints – not that he looks any less stunned. Who she is and why she’s important to him are made clear pretty quickly, but what this means for their lives two decades on is less so.

Episode 4: Neverland – Directed by Geoffrey Sax

 

Featuring a ventriloquist and tackling the delicate issue of abuse in a home for rehabilitating children, this episodes pits the protagonists against society’s big guns.

denofgeek.com has some classic write-ups on the episodes:

…Neverland dealt with horribly topical subject matter in the same compassionate, tasteful manner to which we’ve become accustomed over Endeavour’s two series so far. … ‘Neverland’ depicts a society in denial of its worst impulses even as it indulges them under cover of ‘charity’ to its least fortunate.

… Neverland shows us the first steps on Morse’s long and lonely road to Inspector status, and creates a welcome continuity between the young detective and his jaded future self. …

We end on a cliffhanger, with Thursday fighting for his life in hospital and Morse languishing in prison, accused of murder. 

IMDB has a delightful page with trivia and more:

When Morse follows the franked letter to a law office, the plaque outside the door reads “Vholes, Jaggers, Lightwood, Solicitors” … lawyers who play prominent roles in Charles Dickens novels. Vholes in “Bleak House”, Jaggers in “Great Expectations” and Lightwood in “Our Mutual Friend”.

Now, that was a spectacular ending for a season – high drama. Whatever some may say, Series Two has its charms.

More Morse? Endeavour – Series One

Here in India, and, by extension, perhaps in many other regions of the world, we’re not exposed to a decent variety of TV shows from the UK, as opposed to from the US – Australia and Canada are next in frequency of being featured. Europe, in general, is denied a fair representation and the case is worse with the remaining continents. There are broad regional preferences, of course. Each nation will tend to favour itself and immediate neighbours besides the US/Australia/Canada. Thus, Malaysia had a greater selection from China, Japan and Korea not to mention others. Truth to tell, much more regional variety than is to be found in India.

In my TV viewing years, I recall some comedies such as Fawlty Towers from the UK but not much else and I’m pretty certain there has not been an increase in the years since I forsook TV. Frankly, for Indians, though we have a large number of people who claim to be ‘native’ speakers, “my good self” included, it is harder to comprehend the ‘Queen’s’ English than it is to make head or tail of a US accent. Subtitles are as much in order as would be the case for a Japanese TV show in India. And yet Endeavour will not need to strive to engross. It’s that good.

For the anglophile, out of the closet or not, Endeavour will be a delicacy. It is, indeed, a gourmet treat with its tendency to be laced liberally with literary and other rich cultural references. While the visuals enchant the eye and frequently bring classical painters to mind, besides Morse’s own love for opera, the music of such as Wagner not only graces the audio track but forms an integral part of some plots.

While I definitely hope to make my readers watch it and get hooked, it’s also my pleasure to provide die-hard fans, like myself, resources to fan the fandom flame.

With each post about each series, the endeavour will be to offer the best fan sites and, perhaps, glimpses into their individual focuses. Today, it’s a list of things about Endeavour that are

Good to Know

  1. It’s always Thursday on Endeavour. Actor Roger Allam, Inspector Thursday, is one of the main characters in the Endeavour series. Initially, he’s the only one who appears to appreciate Morse’s talents – a quick reminder that Morse’s first name is Endeavour.  For more such fascinating detail, visit Allam’s Inspector Morse Fact File.

Thursday has a wife, daughter and son and his family life forms a good deal of the regular drama on most episodes.

More importantly, the actor has a wonderful page of episode summaries on his site.

2. The author of the Morse novels almost always appears in the shows, Hitchcock style.

Colin Dexter makes his appearance at 42 minutes and 40 seconds in the dining hall.

Endeavour S01 E01 ‘Girl’: Review, Music, Art, Literary References, Locations etc.

3. The daughter of the actor who plays Morse in the original series is a staple on Endeavour.

Played by John Thaw’s daughter Abigail, the character’s name of ‘D. Frazil’ is actually a bit of a crossword clue of the type Morse was very fond of. Frazil is a type of ice, so “de-ice” is to Thaw.

Endeavour’s continued tip of the hat to Morse is a fitting tribute to its’ predecessor

Those were some of the regular features. Now for the fun part!

Series 1 – Trailers

Girl: Episode 1. Directed by Edward Bazalgette and written by Russell Lewis

While everyone in Oxford appears to be dolling up for a night out, Endeavour is preparing to settle in with his copy of Moriarty’s Police Law. This book is a real thing—“An Arrangement of Law and Regulations for the Use of Police Officers”—that a young officer would have studied to pass his exam for promotion. That it’s called Moriarty’s is just a happy coincidence considering that Endeavour Morse will do the full Sherlock about 23 minutes into the episode…

But first, a corpse:

Margaret Bell, age 20, is found dead of an apparent heart attack. Seeing Margaret fit and fine just a few moments earlier, we have no reason to believe a heart attack was her actual cause of death, and her G.P. confirms as much shortly after. She did have a weak heart, but if she’d been taking her medication she shouldn’t have suffered a heart attack. The doctor has questions, and now so does Morse.

criminalelement.com
Fugue: Episode 2.  Directed by Tom Vaughan and written by Russell Lewis

… of course it is focused on music. Morse and music go together better than bacon and eggs. The episode opens with choral singers, specifically Morse, who has been spotted by the local newspaper as he leaves a concert he performed in.

As ever, we settle back into the pattern of seeing all of the puzzle pieces in the opening interspersed with the credits. Pieces, players, games. This plot rotates completely around Morse but the mystery beneath it all is fascinating without that. A serial killer is working his way through Oxford using the deaths in operas as a means of killing his victims. The killer leaves clues for Morse, taunting him, and eventually stabbing him as he leads Morse a merry chase. Meanwhile there is a traitor in the camp and every one we see seems to be tied back to a musical theme.

Endeavour S01 E02 ‘Fugue’: Review, Music, Art, Literary References, Locations etc. pampers you with spoilers – no true fan is immune to such blandishments.

With a name like Fugue, how can reviews not rave about the music?

Before we get to Barrington Pheloung’s spine tingling theme tune at the end, this week’s episode served up an impressive body count, more than a liberal sprinkling of Oxford’s dreaming spires and another intricate and compelling storyline. As if to punctuate the point further even the climax is fittingly set among these very spires. The plot is driven by a medley of soprano duets, arias and sonatas which proves a mesmerising cocktail.

Endeavour’s skills are tested to the limit

archiveofourown.org has a tongue-in-cheek go at the episode. Quite entertaining even if you’re yet to watch the story.

Locales, we have mentioned in a previous post, are one of the many charms of Endeavour – you seriously want to buy a ticket to the UK after catching an Endeavour or two. As you see below, someone has beaten me to it!

I’ve compiled the various answers I received here for anyone else who might be interested in doing their own mini-Endeavour locations tour:

1) Magdalen College, bridge over to Addison’s Walk

2) Radcliffe Square or St Mary’s Passage by the Radcliffe Camera (possibly the same place!)

3) Queen’s Lane, by the back gate of New College

4) Possibly the side of Jesus College, opposite one of the exits to the Covered Market

5) Roof of Trinity College chapel

6) Broad Street or Turn off High St down King Edward St, this is between Christchurch & Oriel College (again, possibly the same place)

7) Merton College

8) Merton St, outside Merton College or Logic Street

shappeybunny.tumblr.com
Rocket: Episode 3. Directed by Craig Viveiros and written by Russell Lewis

This might be my personal favourite of the series.

the Queen is visiting a local missile factory, to aid relations with the Arabs, who are thought to want to place an order for 36 weapons. It’s a suitably grand occasion and the bunting’s out for HRH. The rest of the staff are assigned to oversee her safety, but Morse is left on general duties once more. This week that means making sure the crowds stay in order as all the ‘wooden’ police are busy at the factory. Jakes’ condescending manner is heightened again, and the way he talks down to Morse really makes it seem like Russell Lewis is setting him up for one hell of a fall in the final story of this series.

A few hours after the Queen has left, just as Bright is congratulating himself on a successful operation, Morse receives notification that a body’s been found.

… Craig Viveiros’ beautiful direction makes everything feel like it was shot on location; it’s gorgeous.

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Home: Episode 4 – Directed by Colm McCarthy and written by Russell Lewis

The series winds up with an episode that delivers quick punches. Thursday is up against powerful old foes. His daughter, June, and we know that Endeavour suffers from unrequited love for her, is giving the Inspector more heartburn than could any of the famously unappetising sandwiches his wife makes him.  We get a peek at Morse’s family.

Also,

In this episode the viewer discovers why Morse has a limp in later life. A storyline from the young Endeavour Morse to coincide with the real-life injury sustained by John Thaw and thus a physical element that Thaw brought to the character of Inspector Morse.

Trivia
MUSIC

At the very start of the episode we hear Faure’s Requiem: VII In Paradisum. This piece is of course very significant in the world of Morse as the same piece of music was playing when Morse collapsed to the ground with a heart attack in the episode, ‘The Remorseful Day’.

Endeavour: Connections to Morse and Lewis

The site is rich in detail, has photos and plenty of spicy trivia.

And with that we bid the series farewell, moving on, soon, to the second series of Endeavour while I eagerly await news of the upcoming sixth series.

Worthy Endeavour – Morse Younger and More

I never thought I’d live to see the day when a film would make me want to read a book. And, I’m amazed that I’ve never heard of Colin Dexter. To go by the films and TV shows, the books should do me nicely.

I’ve always loved crime as a genre. Specifically detective driven stories. Film, TV show or novel, I’ve dipped into these mysteries with fervour. Somehow, along the way, I ended up almost exclusively transfixed by Keiji/Tantei type J doramas or films.

The_Detective_Is_in_the_Bar_poster
“The Detective Is in the Bar poster” – Fair use via Wikipedia

And that seems to have held good as far as reading goes too – save that translations are rarely as fast output as subtitles. I have to thank Youtube for introducing me to snippets of this and that, from here and there, and breaking the spell. To some extent only, to be fair. Excellence, par excellence, belongs to the Japanese and none else.

So it was idle surfing on Youtube that led me to the Endeavour series. And to have, thus, found that Colin Dexter has written a series of detective novels featuring an Inspector Morse. While there exist films and TV shows based on the Inspector, more recently someone took it into their head to create a series about Morse before inspectordom – Endeavour.

The Morse series, film or TV show, are easy to find and you will quickly discover that Inspector Morse scrupulously avoids giving us his first name. Though the Morse shows are quite engaging, they are not really so well made. 

The Endeavour series, on the other hand, the fifth season, in particular, are an aesthetic pleasure and pure delight so far as story and acting go too.

Overriding all the other plus points in its favour, Endeavour boasts Shaun Evans.

Shaun Evans on the Pressures of Playing a Beloved Character like Morse

The actor is brilliant – mobile features and an endearing eccentricity of manner combine to charm. Think of him as a classy Hugh Grant if you must or whatever else can replace that Divine Disaster.

We watch him hone his deductive powers as the case devolves into a complex murder inquiry led by Morse’s new mentor, Inspector Thursday (Roger Allam, “The Queen”). A Jaguar owner and ale drinker, Thursday allows Endeavor to pursue his own obscure clues, which include first-edition poetry books and hidden crossword puzzles. Suspects abound — the girl’s boyfriends, an Oxford Don, a Jaguar salesman, various women and certain higher-ups.

Shaun Evans (“The Take,” “The Virgin Queen”) is outstanding in the title role. His Endeavour is edgy, with an incisive mind and a manner so neurotically insecure that he is lucky to be able to get to work on time.

Culture Vulture
Endeavour: Behind the Scenes | Shaun Evans as DS Endeavour Morse | ITV

… what separates Endeavour from other crime series. “It has this class about it,” he says. “The cinematography is exceptional…”

Cracking the Morse code

And that is it, in a nutshell – a visual delight, the show endeavours to do its best in all aspects.

Set in Oxford, the series exposes the viewer to visual experiences guaranteed to make you want to visit the locales and quaff something at one of the featured pubs or something of the sort.

Oxford_Skyline_Panorama_from_St_Mary's_Church_-_Oct_2006
DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0. Oxford skyline facing south towards Christ Church Cathedral and Tom Tower of Christ Church,  from The Church of St Mary the Virgin.

In the first Endeavour, aired in early 2012 , a young girl is murdered. Her boyfriend has, perhaps, committed suicide.  One soon discovers that there is rarely just the one corpse in the Morse code.

The police uncover secret orgies for the mostly high and mighty. The girls, on the other hand, are underage. Detective Inspector Thursday and young Endeavour go about it in their signature ways and the tale has a very interesting twist to it.

There are scenes which stand out in memory, reminding one of classical paintings. Rembrandt and Rubens influences…

Endeavour DVD Trailer – 2012
Directed by Colm McCarthy, and written by Russell Lewis

While the film is a little raw around the edges in terms of making, this is not something most viewers would notice and it has its share of scenes which can be framed and hung up on a wall as art.

Young Morse is not as alcoholic as his older self on the Morse shows. However, I’ve decided that British detectives and policemen knock back a decent amount on TV shows. And Endeavour tries to live up to the task. You might even design a drinking game based on glugging down one of each drink used on the show.

So far, Season Five is the acme of the series and I look forward eagerly to the sixth season.

You might want to prime yourself by viewing some Inspector Morse shows first but Endeavour is quite standalone and any episode is worth its weight in gold as an entertainingly educative experience – proof that quality is never a bore. Go catch some Endeavour today! Find out where to watch.

Endeavour_morse
“Endeavour morse” – Fair use via Wikipedia

Train Orientations – Tracking Christie’s Orient Oeuvre

Retaining charm over the years, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, as book or film, makes a good anytime gift to self or another – the ultimate luxury being to read/watch it on a train. On the Orient Express!

With several screen versions, film and TV, to its credit, this murder mystery continues to engage. But has the latest movie remake run out of steam?

Book to cinema is a flight of fancy that many enjoy.  And train journeys have much more romantic potential than flights. Their lure is probably only second to that of an ocean cruise. Geographies whizz by. As the external world flees past, an internal ecosystem evolves. People bond and the inescapable closeness can brings out hostilities.

As it is, train tales occupy a good chunk of popular focus:

How to experience the allure of trains in literature
The Literary Express: From Agatha Christie to Khushwant Singh
Railway Novels: Sensation Fiction and the Modernization of the Senses

And crime on a train is a frequent favourite, on screen or in a novel. Train chase scenes are guaranteed thrills. We might even say that a crime on a train falls into the closed door mystery bracket.

Murder on the Literary Express – Top 10 Train Thrillers

Deemed to be among her nine best, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is based on real experiences of travel, including unexpected halts and co-passengers. Choosing the train as setting, she joins an illustrious line of writers who have staged their fictional dramas on the Orient Express.

In Bram Stoker’s Dracula the vampire escapes by ship while his pursuers board the Express.

Next comes Graham Greene with his Stamboul Train and that is one book I shall seriously consider reading – on a train.

And this is followed by Ms. Christie with, first, a short story, and, then, the novel. Preview the short story on the Amazon cover below:

In Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot version, he boards the express and, obviously, there is a murder. Poirot is faced with ethical issues – and one of the movie versions makes much of this for its Catholic worth. So, this is a book that offers you, not only an adventurous ride in a very luxurious train, but also milks the moment for its moral worth. 

The reviews all rave over Poirot’s grey matter and burst with spoilers.

For my part, I will only tell you that, not only is the book inspired by the author’s own travel experiences, but she also used an event in the news to bolster her art. 

Charles Lindbergh was famous for many of his groundbreaking flights including the first solo transatlantic one. Details of the kidnapping of his son appear to have inspired Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.

The novel was written in Istanbul, in a hotel called the Pera Palace Hotel which has kept her room as showpiece. Now, won’t that make a nice pit stop on a Christie nostalgia trip? 

Christie made her first unscheduled trip on the Simplon Orient Express in 1928, after the failure of her 14-year marriage to Archie Christie. Already a seasoned world traveller, Christie left England on an impromptu solitary adventure passing through Italy, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Greece to Istanbul.

After crossing the Bosphorus Strait, she joined a Simplon Orient Express extension to Damascus, then rode a six-wheeler bus across the desert to Baghdad. On the trip she witnessed her first archaeological dig, and met her second husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan.

From 1930, the Taurus Express linked the Simplon Orient to Turkey, Syria and Baghdad. Despite greasy food and bed bugs, Christie loved the scenery and adventure enough to take several more Orient and Taurus trips, sometimes arriving two days late, delayed by floods, breakdowns or border bureaucracy.

She recognised the five-day delay when a train was stuck in a Turkish snowdrift in 1929 as an ideal murder-mystery setting, and drew the motive for her 18th novel, Murder On The Orient Express, from the kidnapping of aviator Charles Lindbergh’s toddler son in 1932.

Real-life mystery behind Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express

The novel’s plot has won praise:

Christie isn’t the one deceiving the readers, in the end — the readers deceive themselves. 

What makes Murder on the Orient Express’s iconic ending work so well

The first film version of Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express , made in 1974, was a success

The more recent film plays around with the plot.

Overlong and joyless, it’s the cinematic equivalent of a giant, opulent express train trapped in the snow, heaving and off balance. Buy another ticket. Skip this train. 

A Joyless Ride

However, the scale of the film is grandiose down to costumes:

Vogue met Oscar-winning costume designer Alexandra Byrne to learn how she sourced the Thirties garments for the film’s female leads – from the missionary’s prim travelling clothes to the princess’s lavish jewellery.

Dressing The Women Of Murder On The Orient Express

There is also a Japanese version but I found it a bit laboured:

With such a history of remakes, is it time to call it a day? Or do some stories helplessly beg endless screen interpretation? If so, what is that quality? Even as we ponder, academics, somewhere, are busy disentangling such things and writers  and script-writers tussle with considerations of ‘best treatments’.

More to the point: What would be the best way to enjoy the book/movie? On or before a train journey? And let’s not forget the option of audiobook.

Now, in case you are tempted to do it on a train, what about the real thing?

orientexpress

Welcome Aboard – VENICE SIMPLON-ORIENT-EXPRESS

These days, one takes the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express precisely for the journey, rather than to get from A to B. Passengers celebrate wedding anniversaries, birthdays, and, according to Girotto, divorces, along the way.

 On the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, the murder mystery is not included