Harvest, the finale of the fourth season of Endeavour, a classy British detective show, opens with black and white shots of a car. The car swerves to avoid a lorry and we swerve to another time. It’s September 1967 and a skeleton is unearthed at an archaeological site in a marshy place near Oxford.
Detective Inspector Fred Thursday and Detective Constable Endeavour Morse leave Oxford to investigate the discovery. Is the skeleton Matthew Laxman, wonders Thursday. The botanist was last seen in that area in the autumn of 1962.
However, Dr DeBryn, the witty pathologist, certifies that the corpse was ritually sacrificed. Just as the team is brushing off this bitter ‘harvest’, Endeavour sees glasses near the bones. Were they Laxman’s?
Alison, the botanist’s wife, says they might be Laxman’s. And she mentions a friend of his, physicist Donald Bagley. The two were part of a protest against Bramford B, a nearby nuclear plant.
Once upon a time, Bagley supported using atomic energy. However, after his wife died of leukaemia due to radiation, he turned against it. Bagley has teamed up with a street preacher to protest against the plant. The preacher, it so happens, was the last person to see Laxman.
Morse also meets an American living in the village. Her husband is employed at the nuclear plant. Morse is suspicious as the man is not straightforward about whether or not he was in the UK when Laxman vanished.
Morse and Thursday find it hard to visit the plant until a journalist helps Morse sneak in to speak to the manager. The man scoffs at the fears of villagers about safety.
At the nearby village, no one volunteers any new information. Not even clairvoyant Dowsabelle Chattox, whose home will be flooded to expand the plant. Sheila Hancock, who plays the woman, is, in real life, the step mother of Abigail Thaw, who plays the journalist, and who is, actually, the daughter of John Thaw, the actor who does Morse in the main series where Endeavour has attained inspectordom. As clairvoyant, she brings out the witch-like character of an old woman with supernatural vision.
The soothsayer’s son is creepily interested in Selina Berger, who claims to have spotted Laxman’s car near the plant. In fact, her sinister brother, a doctor, works there.
Finally, a village scarecrow is discovered sporting Laxman’s jacket. The villagers acknowledge that Laxman had come there to visit the power station.
Endeavour’s flat is ransacked. Looking into the matter, Detective Inspector Thursday finds a photo of Joan, his daughter, in Morse’s flat. In the finale of Series Three, she left home, fearing that she would always bring danger to her father. Thursday had come to her rescue when she was held hostage, along with others, including Endeavour, during a violent bank robbery.
With Joan gone, her mother, Win, slips into brooding. The relationship between the parents is filled with painful silence. It is as if their daughter is punishing them. Have they been too controlling? Win whines that, though they are detectives, neither Thursday nor Morse have located Joan.
Detective Inspector Thursday finds an address on the photo he took from the room of Detective Constable Morse. And he goes to Joan. He soon gathers that she is having an affair with a married man who has children. He, naturally, tries to make Joan change her mind but the lover enters the room at that point and tells Thursday to go.
Thursday catches the man outside and beats him up to stop him seeing Joan. Some good does come of it all, however. When DI Thursday gets home, he finds his wife bursting with joy because Joan called to say she was alright and promised to call again.
Later Joan goes to Morse. He notices that she has been beaten but she says she deserved it. She thinks it was because she got pregnant. Morse proposes.
On the one hand, Harvest has cutting edge modernity – a nuclear plant – and, on the other, there are villagers doing ancient dances and preparing for primitive ceremonies.
Government cover-ups are suggested and, with Endevaour’s standing up to corruption in the police force, Harvest pits Endeavour Morse against unseen and powerful forces.
The story is full of red herrings – who killed Laxman? The villagers for some autumnal sacrifice? The government to hush up something about the nuclear plant? After taking us for many a merry wild goose chase, the episode presents us with a twist in the tail.
As usual, besides red herrings, the show has a fine blend of music. As with everything about the show, it is a feast for the senses and an education in refinement.
And to balance that classical piece, there’s a typical number from the sixties.
With this post, we wrap up Series Four. The fifth one is outstanding so hold your breath till the next post!