Word to the wise: You’d better be on your toes when you’re dealing with Endeavour.
If you’d forgotten this, the first two minutes of “Trove” will remind you. They’re a deluge of information: Miss Great Britain participates in a ceremonial ribbon-cutting; Morse undergoes a physical exam; a car pulls into a gas station; a dark-haired young woman reviews the route map of a procession through Oxford; political candidate Barbara Batten makes a campaign speech; someone writes cryptic notes on a hotel memo pad...
And we’re not even through the opening credits!
If there was ever a show to record, rewind, and rewatch, it’s Endeavour. Clues are everywhere, and while you’re concentrating on scanning the screen for visual hints or hunting for Morse creator Colin Dexter’s cameo (Did you spot him?), you’re missing the verbal clues and rapid-fire dialog provided by series creator/writer Russell Lewis.
I’ll admit I did quite a lot of rewinding on this one, partly because I’m a little out of condition Morse-wise (it’s been a year after all) and partly because there really is an awful lot going on in this episode including blind alleys, red herrings, and a couple of deductions that still have me wondering how we traveled from point A to point B.
Endeavour Morse is back at work after four months recuperating from a gunshot wound and the death of his father. “Eventful year for you one way or another,” says Chief Superintendant Bright in the closest he’s ever come to giving Morse an out-and-out “atta boy.”
Needless to say, Morse is the worse for wear. Or, as DI Fred Thursday told his wife, “The light’s gone out of him.” He’s skittish, he can’t sleep, and he’s drinking regularly. He does still have an eye for the ladies, though, including a cute neighbor who’s moved in across the hall and a newly minted Oxford feminist and student at Lady Matilda’s College (a problematic place we learned about in an episode of Inspector Lewis a few years ago.)
Three crimes—or potential crimes—are at the heart of this episode.
First is the suspicious death of a man of many aliases who fell/jumped/was thrown from a roof onto a parked car.
Second is the disappearance of a young woman who, her heartbroken father feels certain, has come to harm.
Third is the theft of artifacts that comprise most of the “Second Wolvercote Trove,” dating back to 1066 and the Norman Conquest of England.
Morse thinks the crimes are related, but then he would. His counterpart, DS Peter Jakes, thinks they’re not, but then he would. Without giving anything away, the truth lies somewhere in between.
There are puzzles, politics, fisticuffs, flirtations, and a scholarly smackdown over the Venerable Bede because, hey, it’s Morse. Ultimately, though, the story loses its way and ends in a jumble—or as Max DeBryn might say, “something of a salmagundi.”
That’s not to say “Trove” doesn’t have golden moments. It absolutely does.
Roger Allam as DI Fred Thursday remains every person’s fantasy boss, brave, strong, purposeful, and loyal.
I continue to appreciate the casting of James Bradshaw as pathologist Max DeBryn and Sean Rigby as DC Jim Strange. They’re terrific in Endeavour and they so perfectly embody the men they would later become in the Inspector Morse series.
Philip Martin Brown, who we’ll see in Death Comes to Pemberley this October, is tender as the missing girl’s father. David Westhead, as beauty pageant promoter Val Todd, does smarm to perfection. And kudos to Jamie Parker as Dr. Matthew Copley-Barnes, this week’s snooty Oxford professor, who utters the gem of a line, “This isn’t a hat, it’s a bonnet” while maintaining a condescending sneer. (There must have been lots of outtakes.)
Then there’s Shaun Evans. He says he hasn’t watched all of the original Inspector Morse episodes and that he’s specifically not channeling John Thaw in his portrayal of Morse. (He told Radio Times he’s adapted his accent from Michael Palin.)
He told Digital Spy he doesn’t understand all Morse references: “They have to be explained to me, because I haven’t seen them all. I’ve read the books, but I haven’t seen all the films. But to me, to be honest, they always jar. I always think, ‘That doesn't make any sense, why are we doing that?’ And they sort of go, ‘That's a reference,’ and I go, ‘Oh, OK, I get it.’ But oftentimes when I read it or I see it I go, ‘That seems odd.’”
He says he’s taking the character in a slightly unsavory direction that comes closer to Colin Dexter’s Morse novels and his intention is to open up Morse to a generation of fans who know next to nothing about the original series.
Well, he can say all he wants. Fact is, he’s tailor made for this role and I hope he’ll play it for a long time to come.
Leslie Gilbert Elmanis 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.