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.