13 April 2014

ENDEAVOUR: Sway


Sway is a bit of curious entry into the second series of Endeavour. It comes nearly five months after the events of Nocturne with that being set in June of 1966 and this mainly November. I assume this extreme passage of time is to allow the subject of the Sergeants' exams to be raised again in next week's finale. I don't know how soon Nocturne occurred after Trove, but if it was say a month, then that would place it around May. Prior to this, Morse was said to have been serving on light duties for four months, placing the Sergeants' exams around the December/January/February time. It would seem logical then, that this will be a topic dealt with in Neverland. It's nice that Endeavour 'dares' to do this sort of thing. One thing that does worry me is that Morse is aging quicker than Shaun Evans. I'd like to see Evans play this role into his forties (possibly beyond), possibly a special every few years or similar. It will become apparent eventually though that he is John Thaw, and seeing as the original Inspector Morse series began in the eighties, the latest we can realistically have Evans playing the role (unless he overlays Thaw, which I wouldn't be adverse to) is about '75.

But to Sway. Allowing a few intervening months also works in the favour of this story as it allows a reputation of a strangler to be built up. It's always a bit dubious having a serial killer murdering four or five times in the space of a week in these sorts of scenarios (but it was pulled off well in the first series). This episode really takes a lot of room to breathe, and it's all the better for it. I can't put my finger on it, but Sway seemed to have a different tone to normal. It's based around the fictional department store of Burridge's, but how is initially unclear. The only clue to three murders is a pair of black tights - the murder weapon. All three victims were married women living alone, which is the clue to the answer really. After two successive killings - one of another woman and the other of a kind-hearted stock assistant - Morse pays a second visit to the only supplier of the particular tights in England. It turns out he is most definitely involved with the women, but not in their demise. 

There are even more subplots than normal in this episode, but not distractingly so. One of the assistant managers is framing customers to make it look like they have been shoplifting before taking ten pounds for his silence not to get the Police involved. Morse comes across this when the staff member in question makes the mistake of trying extract Win Thursday's money. He's duly dismissed by the store's relatively new manager, taking over from his father after his recent demise. That may sound cliched, but it isn't played as so in Sway. I liked that he wanted to take the store in his own ways rather than sticking to the established routine. He was very personable, and now we've had Burridge's introduced, I'd like to see it again in the future. It does feel odd that such a prolific store hasn't been mentioned before, but business may have picked up in the three months since Alan took over. In other words, since Nocturne

Andy Wilson's direction shows exactly what you think it does in the opening moments; the first victim is seen with a man, who turns out to be supplier. The supplier lead a second profession as some sort of escort, it would seem. However, someone in particular has taken a disliking to this man. Rob Jarvis stars as Roy Huggins, a delivery man for Burridge's. His wife slept with the supplier, and when he found out, he raised his hand to her for the first time in their marriage. She hit her head on the fire surround, and died. He blames the supplier for his loss and so has been murdering those who he has spent time with, to make him suffer. Jarvis is really affecting as Huggins throughout. The only explanation I could think of was him, or the professor (husband to Huggins' first victim). I found it hard to believe that Jarvis' character would be the culprit however, as he played the memorable role of cuddly barman Eddie in damn-near every episode of the BBC's long-running crime-drama Hustle. He was fantastic in that, as here. The spectrum of emotions Jarvis conveys is really astonishing, and I'm glad to see him getting more meaty parts now. I hope to see him cropping up in other things.

I would have liked to have spent a little more time with the professor, as the sadness to his character was interesting, and there could have been space to explore his potential as the murderer as well. Nevertheless, it's a good guest turn. Moving on to another aspect of this story, Fred meets a lady with whom he was 'acquainted' during his time in Italy in the Second World War. It's implied that he's deeply ashamed of his actions, as this story also coincides with Fred and Win's twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Her own husband died a number of years ago, and it's obvious that she's very lonely despite all her friends. Towards the conclusion of the episode, she's found with her head in the oven. I really liked that Thursday's life was explored a bit more, as Roger Allam is such a good actor. He's 60, would you believe. Every scene he's in sparkles, and even if the dialogue wasn't up to much, I don't doubt he could still make it sound convincing. Sway was also a chance for Sean Rigby as Strange to shine. I think it's probably safe to say this is leading to some sort of promotion - whether to a sergeant or a detective constable - come Neverland. He's consistently amiable and dutiful. The whole regular cast of Endeavour is so strong, that don't think my not mentioning them is neglecting their efforts. Quite the opposite, in fact.

One of my favourite aspects of this episode though was the blossoming relationship between Morse and Monica. I loved seeing them together, and although Shaun Evans does the serious acting very well, it's lovely to see him smiling too. He looks completely natural and at ease when with Monica - his nurse flatmate, and now girlfriend. I think they're both quite enamoured with each other. My favourite sequence of them is when they leave the hospital to catch the bus, only to miss it. Although it's completely silent, with no dialogue spoken, you can just sense the connection they share and it's a wonderful bit of acting from both Evans and Shvorne Marks. I've enjoyed watching this relationship blossom so I hope it isn't killed off (figuratively or literally) next week whilst still in the honeymoon stage. I trust in Russell Lewis to serve the characters well, and I really hope we get a third series.

In summary then, Sway does seem to be building up to the series finale, but it's got a great mystery at its heart too. I don't know how Lewis managed to contrive so many different walks of life of the principal and supporting characters into this story, but that's one of the things that makes Endeavour so unique for me. It's not all about the job, and the setting is so glorious to revel in. Just look at the anniversary celebration party for an example of what a good job the production designers do. Props also to Barrington Pheloung for a well-scored series. A great addition to the collection of episodes. I'm beginning to get worried, as every series must have an 'off' episode now and then, and with every strong serial, I fear it's growing closer. I pray it's not Neverland. I'm also worried for the supporting characters, mainly Win, Monica, Jakes and Bright. I suspect at least one of these people will be on their way out of the series come this time next week, which is such a shame as particularly the latter pair are being given much more rounded characters now. I think some shake-up in the line-up is inevitable eventually though, to try and attract the 'casual' viewer.

I leave you for now with this.

In a Nutshell: Another gripping story with a lot of enjoyable context.



You can watch Sway on the ITV Player here.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, it's very interesting that you've noted the time elapses - something I was entirely oblivious to (and have no idea how you fathomed!) but it does add a missing context.

    I wanted to comment mostly on (and I will quote you)

    "This episode really takes a lot of room to breathe, and it's all the better for it. I can't put my finger on it, but Sway seemed to have a different tone to normal."

    As I also picked this up but for me the feeling seemed to be lead by the different introductory rhythm, conducted by the song 'Sway' - which feels like a tango to me. Almost all other episodes (as I recall) are begun with the very much more strident and abrupt tones of opera. It seems that the opening sequences opened very different when working with the rhythm of a 4/4 Swing/Tango. The camera angle style differs a lot too; I noticed quite a lot of very close up face shots. Some from the floor; others from head height; all with excellently thought-out, atmospheric lighting. I know nothing about film directing or camera work, but I do photograph people frequently, so you tend to notice what you work with a lot and have an open observation of such to better develop the craft. (I think I have be inspired to take some more shots from the floor!!)

    I believe that each episode of Endeavour is shot by a different director and because the show is so beautifully and evocatively created, I'm watching all for a second time so that I can pay attention to areas other than the story.

    So far this director; Andy Wilson (who has impressively diverse credits) is my favourite because he seems to be keen to bring the personal lives of the characters to the forefront. Close up photography enhances this, and there is quite a richly emotional storyline in this episode; as we see Thursday's past love deeply shake his composure, and it is perhaps the only episode where Morse shows fleeting moments of true happiness.

    Before I sign off, I must credit all of the makers of this series and all of the cast who are outstanding. I will additional and ardently, also accolade Shaun Evans for his deeply vulnerable portrayal of Morse. One of the keys to the success of this series is that most women feel a deep desire to protect and nurture Morse (just as his girlfriend has in this series) and it's difficult not to be mesmerised by those amazing blue eyes. It's fantastic that a 4th series has now been commissioned. :-)

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