A canticle is usually sung in a church. And a typical canticle of the Sixties sings us into the story. This episode of Endeavour, a very stylish crime drama from the UK, opens with rainbow colours.
The story intercuts to a very religious elderly widow, Pettybon. She is part of the National Clean Up Television Society, the Keep Britain Decent campaign, and considers herself the guardian of national morals. In other words, she is like many Indian ‘aunties’. She finds pop music and everything on TV disgusting. Yet she watches TV avidly to identify all the ‘bad’ words used: bloody and so on. She and her supporters hold morality rallies.
As it so happens, The Wildwood, a pop group, is rehearsing nearby. Detective Constable Endeavour Morse meets the members of the group: brothers Nick and Kenneth Wilding, Clark, Lee “Stix” Noble and a bunch of female groupies. Where there’s a pop group, there are often female fans who are very loyal.
Endeavour is there to investigate reports of marijuana use. As we shall soon find out, marijuana is the least of the headaches that DC Morse will have to tackle.
Endeavour, in his suit, sticks out like a sore thumb in contrast to the pop group where everybody is either dressed psychedelically or is popping LSD and the like. He does not belong with the moralists either.
However, young Morse has to babysit Pettybon as she is being threatened for her views. A rather irritating task when there is a death to be investigated. A labourer, Barry Finch, associated with the pop group, has been strangled.
Instead of investigating the death, Morse has to accompany Pettybon and team who are to appear on a TV show. The sequences have some splendid music from a Sixties icon:
The pop group is also there and Joy Pettybon attacks Jennifer Sometimes, their latest song. It has too much S-E-X as she puts it.
To make matters worse, Dudley Jessop, a gay activist disrupts Pettybon’s TV appearance. DC Morse has to step in to save the newspaper man from her supporters.
And soon Reverend Golightly, Pettybon’s side-kick, also dies in a suspicious manner. He has been poisoned! He ate chocolates that were sent to Pettybon.
Could this be Jessop’s work? Jessop’s magazine had to close down as a result of Pettybon’s battle against him for being gay.
To make things merrier, Pettybon has a daughter, Bettina, who can’t seem to keep her hands off men. Outwardly a mouse, behind her mother’s back, in her own room, she smokes and drinks. Morse has to fight tooth and claw to keep safe from her advances when he innocently accepts her invitation for a drink.
He learns that Pettybon’s husband, Bettina’s father, killed himself when he was about to be prosecuted for being gay.
A symptom of the times? The Sixties are known for sexual liberation and Canticle pumps up the issue with helpings of free love between the pop group.
Nick of the pop group has slept with groupies, Emma and Pippa, and is upset at Barry Finch’s death.
And Barry Finch was killed during a sexual experiment between three people. The group’s manager shifted the body to save the group from police pestering.
The Sixties were also all about ‘opening the doors of perception’ – ideas written about by Aldous Huxley. Drugs are consumed and the show makes the point about the danger of it all.
Endeavour has his doors opened for him when one of the group’s groupies, Emma, spikes his drink. She is jealous that Nick and Clark are lovers. Her emotions reach a point of no return and she gives Morse a drink with a lethal dose of LSD. Morse, of course, loves his drinks but hates drugs. Luckily, Detective Sargent Strange and Detective Inspector Thursday rescue him in the nick of time and he is very cute as a convalescent. He’s really been led up the garden path by all the liberated ladies in this episode!
Besides Bettina and her seductions and Emma and her special beverages, Endeavour has had to see the groupie girls sunbathing. Yet, he never feels free with any of them.
The story also lingers over the continuing sorrow of Detective Inspector Thursday and his wife about the disappearance of their daughter, Joan.
Fred Thursday feels responsible for his daughter’s leaving home. This is evident when he warns Pettybon that if her daughter leaves, she may not come back. His cynicism is rising making him feel angry with pop groups and all the things that he blames for making his daughter leave.
Like other Endeavour episodes, Canticle also boasts some fine classical music. As opposed to a canticle, a requiem is for mourning. And there is much to mourn for many in Morse.
Morse is still sulking at his failure in the police exam and he is always delightful in this mood. His brush with death by LSD brings us a tender scene between him and Thursday. Though Thursday has his own son, as well as a daughter, he seems fatherly only towards Endeavour and that too is very strained and stiff.
Canticle is about hiding feelings, about public masks and private lives. As Pettybon’s daughter tells her:
You’re not kind. You’re wicked. And godless!
If we have any doubts about which way the show’s makers hang, Thursday’s quiet reminder to Bright is that evil is as old as humans.
The show also has the usual ingredients – other characters and regular features. Woman Police Constable Trewlove is as clever and pretty as ever. Detective Sargent Strange continues to please as does the witty pathologist Max DeBryn.
Colin Dexter, the author of the detective novels upon which Endeavour is based, would regularly appear on the shows. As he aged and after his death, he appears as photos. In this episode, he shows up in the top right-hand corner of a newspaper.
Canticle continues with the ending we have come to expect where a shadowy figure lays out tarot cards – a clue about the episode that follows? In this case, it was Lovers. Does that spell romance for Endeavour? We can’t be sure of that to go by his thoughts on the matter.
Jessop: How can love be dirty?
Morse: Well, if it isn’t, I expect you aren’t doing it right.
And, while that may be true of Morse and love, director Michael Lennox, with many fine films to his credit, does right by Canticle .
I have to apologise for a lapse on my part and what ought to follow Canticle precedes it. So our next post jumps to Harvest – troubles bubble and brew amidst ancient village rituals in the season’s finale.