30 March 2014

ENDEAVOUR: Trove


The second series of ITV's smash hit Endeavour picks up four months after the conclusion of Home. Morse has been on light duties at a local station since the passing of his father, and we rejoin the action on his first day back with Bright, Thursday, Jakes, Strange, DeBryn and the rest of the City Police gang. Celebrations are underway to mark the Battle of Hastings, with Miss Great Britain Diana Day leading the procession. A girl clambers onto her float and turns a gun on her. She fires, but all that leaves the gun is red paint. The girl is arrested, and taken down to the station.

Elsewhere, as a parking warden checks tickets in a back street, a body falls from the top of Beaumont College. The man is hard to identify at first, given that he carries a dozen different business cards all bearing different names. Via a trip to London, where he's beaten up pretty badly, Morse discovers he was a private detective. The girl is revealed to be the daughter of a local Labour MP (Mrs Batten) and she's most definitely characterised as what we would now call a feminist. This continues the theme from the first series that I always noted but never mentioned of outsiders and secrets. Each family seems to have its own eccentric or suppressed minority, whether it be the institutionalised daughters or the dead murdering son or the campaigner. I really like this strand of Russell Lewis' writing, since it's handled so well and shown unbiasedly from both perspectives, leaving viewers to come to their own conclusions. I hope it continues throughout this series.

To compound the mystery of the apparent suicide, Morse is alerted to a missing girl and a robbery. He becomes convinced that all three jobs are connected - and he's almost right. It's a dangerous move to have the lead character of your drama be so determinedly against the rest of the main cast, as Morse is here. He's desperate to prove (to himself as much as anyone else) that he is still capable of doing his job. It works to an extent, but also feels like it goes on just a little too long, and is a little over-emphasised. It comes to light that Mrs Batten employed the private detective to spy on her husband as he was becoming increasingly absent. The missing girl is also found dead in the escape route from the college where the trove was stolen from.

Through a complex series of explanations that are best unravelled by watching the episode, it turns out that the MP's husband and a model agent were working together. Mr Batten was in fact the real father of the missing girl; whilst in Burma he assumed the role of the captain when he was killed. He ended up having dinner and bedding his real daughter before they both discovered each others' true identities. He then decided he couldn't risk her exposing him, so he and the agent conspired to murder her. The theft was completely coincidental as far as I can tell.

I've probably got some of the details wrong as it was quite a confusing episode. Not to Moffat standards by any length (at least we were shown this in the right order) but it required greater concentration than usual, but not to its detriment. I really enjoyed the introduction of the character of Monica too, picking up once more on Lewis' minority theme. She seems likeable and I hope any relationship they might have doesn't compromise either character. I'm sure in this trusty writer's trusty hands it won't. It was great to have the whole team back. Bright was being especially nice to Morse and it's enjoyable to see his softer side come to the fore. I didn't mention Dr DeBryn, the pathologist, during my reviews of the first series - another oversight. He's frequently competing for being the best thing about his scenes, and that's saying something. James Bradshaw should be proud.

Roger Allam was brilliant as always, cycling between the affectionate father figure, the hardened copper and the subservient officer with unfathomable ease when required. He is one of the most accomplished actors on our screens today and it's a crying shame he's not more widely regarded. Or perhaps it isn't, as we might then lose him from Endeavour, which doesn't bare thinking about. Even DS Jakes is more kindly than normal, and I even found myself agreeing with him once when he was correcting Morse for speaking out of turn. It's great the Lewis has allowed these characters to remain that instead of simply becoming caricatures, moving through the motions of cliches and traits.

An enthralling opening episode then. I did enjoy it, but as previously mentioned it does make you think. I liked Morse's unwavering single-mindedness, even to go so far as accusing the college master of the theft and the murder. Kristoffer Nyholm's direction was filmic in places and standard in others, but I did enjoy his movement of the camera, something I think's very important nowadays for dynamic direction. A very talented cast and crew come together to show that Endeavour still has potential. I can't wait for the rest of Series 2.

In a Nutshell: A fresh mystery with lots of strands and red herrings with enjoyable tics for Morse-heads.



You can watch Trove on the ITV Player here.

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