24 March 2014


While it may not be the best of first three episodes of Endeavour, I think Rocket may be my favourite. I think a large part of the credit for this lies with Craig Parkinson, this week's killer. While I enjoy all the manipulatey-haven't-got-a-sodding-clue-'til-the-end stuff, I prefer a straightforward (but not simple) mystery. 

This weeks in Murdersville Oxford, Her Majesty 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. Arriving at the British Imperial Electric Company's facilities, they learn the factory floor worker was killed with a screwdriver driven through his right eye socket - not a concept or image for the faint-hearted. Whilst Jakes and Thursday interview the family who run BIEC, Morse employs the help of PC Strange to work through the floor workers. In this initial part of the story, three suspects are created outside of the Brooms - it could have been any of them - Lenny Frost, Reg Tracepurcel and Dr Werner Volk. Each seem to have motives exceptional to their colleagues.

Over the course of the following hour, it is uncovered that the man who was murdered wasn't who he said he was. He had been accused of the murder of his girlfriend Olive Rix twelve years earlier and so had fled the country. He had returned to spy on the Brooms, convinced one of them did it. During his observations, he'd worked out who the real culprit was (Tracepurcel) and intended to inform the family all at once on the first day they'd all been together in ten years. This was why he had to die. Tracepurcel's motives for killing Rix aren't made blindingly clear, but the implication is rape. To throw the Police off the scent, he murders Lenny Frost; it was known there was bad blood between him and Malleson (the first victim).

The clue that leads Morse (and led me) to working out who it was is first presented early on. I'm pleased to say I got it right then - almost. In footage shot before Her Majesty's arrival, Reg is wearing his jacket, but when meeting her he's in shirtsleeves - without it. I thought it must be because he got blood on it, but it's actually because he got paint on it. Morse is shoved by Bright into the door frame of the cupboard where Malleson was found early on, leaving a mark on his jacket. The same must have happened to Reg.

Another pleasing aspect of this episode is Alice Vexen, who Morse was at university with and now works for BIEC. It's inevitable that Morse would meet old friends, so it's great to see it handled so well. Vexen used to have a crush on him, but after one date she shows real character development and ends it due to Morse's unrequited love for another girl. I know it's often done these days, but it's handled maturely here. Craig Viveiros' beautiful direction makes everything feel like it was shot on location; it's gorgeous.

A great mystery, which has a finite end, and strengthens the core unit of the regular cast further. Their positions in the team are clear now. When he can, Thursday brings Morse along instead of Jakes. It was wonderful to see Bright under such pressure too; his neck would've been on the line if Her Majesty's safety were compromised. But the standouts as always have to be Shaun Evans and Roger Allam. They lead the series well, and it's refreshing to have the secondary character be more senior than the lead. Overall, a really exciting episode - I can't wait for the finale.

In a Nutshell: Proper British craftmanship.

You can buy Rocket as part of Endeavour Series One here; the IMDb page is here.

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