Endeavour series creator/writer Russell Lewis must be a fan of The Lion in Winter. If you are, too, prepare to be awash in allusions to it in this episode, starting with Jenny Seagrove’s first scene with her husband, played by Martin Jarvis. She’s Nora, he’s Henry, and they’re engaged in a power struggle over British Imperial Electric, the munitions factory that is their family business. Their sons are Richard and Johnny. The family estate is called Chinon Court. If you know the movie, which is about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, you get the idea. If you don’t know it, rent it for goodness sake!
But enough of that. We are here to talk about Endeavour Morse and this episode gives us plenty to talk about.
We open with preparations for a royal visit. Princess Margaret is scheduled to tour the factory and if things go well British Imperial stands to sign a substantial manufacturing contract for its new surface-to-air missiles. The officers of Morse’s station are responsible for security during the visit and Chief Superintendent Bright couldn’t be more pleased with himself about the assignment, especially after he actually exchanges a few words with the princess. Then, just as Bright is regaling the station with the tale of this encounter, the phone rings—as it will—and we know things are about to change.
It seems that while everyone was focused on keeping the princess safe, a man was murdered in the factory and his body stashed in a storage closet. On Bright’s watch!
Now the supercilious Bright has lost his advantage. If he’s to save face, he needs DI Thursday's help—and DC Morse’s—to solve the murder. Oh, how that rankles!
The victim is Percy Malleson, an employee who works on the line in fuselage assembly. Evidence points to him being some sort of spy—but for whom? There are plenty of options and each of them would have given someone a reason to want Malleson dead.
The prime suspect is a disgruntled employee called Lenny Frost (played by Jack Roth, who bears a strong resemblance to his father, the actor Tim Roth). Still… having watched one or two of these programs before, we know Lenny is too obvious a candidate. Nothing is ever that obvious in Endeavour. And anyway, we have something more intriguing to distract us.
Her name is Alice Vexin (played by Maimie McCoy) and she’s Henry’s personal assistant at British Imperial. She’s also an old college friend of Morse’s. Or is she something more than that? Hmm… At any rate, she’s very pretty and Morse is discomposed when he sees her. She mentions “Susan.” Who is Susan? And why does Morse wince at the sound of her name? (Suddenly, I couldn’t care less who killed Percy Malleson!) Are we about to peel back another layer of our hero’s past? When Morse and Alice finally have a few minutes alone it really does seem like we will. But blast it...there’s that phone again!
There’s a lot going on in this episode. The plot is complicated, the dialog is sharp, the fashions and the interiors are 1960s au courant. And even though we know him so very well, our friend Morse is capable of surprising us. I watched it twice and I still missed stuff—although on the second time through I think I spotted Colin Dexter in the background of one scene. (He shows up in Inspector Lewis too; I usually miss him.) My guess is, you’ll also watch “Rocket” more than once. You will not want to miss a thing.
Leslie Gilbert Elman is the author of Weird But True: 200 Astounding, Outrageous, and Totally Off the Wall Facts. Follow her on Twitter @leslieelman.
Read all of Leslie Gilbert Elman’s posts for Criminal Element.