When we last saw our hero Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) in Series 2, Episode 4, “Neverland,” things did not end well. His boss and mentor, D.I. Fred Thursday (Roger Allam), was critically injured and Morse had been put in prison. That sort of experience will change a man. It certainly changed Morse.
He’s since been released, his named cleared, and the case files sealed for 50 years. (They can be opened in 2017, if you’re counting.) Still not ready to rejoin the police force, he’s essentially gone into hiding in a “dacha” by a lake, where, being Morse, he chops wood while wearing a shirt and tie.
Endeavour being Endeavour, the opening minutes of “Ride” are jammed with seemingly unrelated events that we know will coalesce at some point. Newsreel footage of daredevil Donald Campbell’s death while trying to set a new water speed record tells us this is 1967. The gent being released from prison wearing a spiffy suit points to a gangster element in the story. A shadowy figure rolls a gold coin through his fingers. There’s a stately home, a casino, and a traveling carnival. There’s also a “rather toothsome” red-headed bus conductor named Jeannie Hearne. Why she might be targeted for murder is anyone’s guess.
Then, from out of nowhere, comes Morse’s college friend Anthony Donn. He invites Morse for a drive to a surprise destination. With nothing else on his agenda, Morse agrees to go along for the ride, only to stumble upon his old police colleagues investigating Jeannie’s murder in the woods near his house.
Morse devotees might recognize the name Anthony Donn. It’s a callback to the 1989 Inspector Morse episode, “Deceived by Flight,” aka “the one where Lewis plays cricket,” aka “the one where we learn Morse’s college nickname was Pagan.” (“Pagan” because he refused to reveal his Christian name.)
Here, young Anthony Donn is played by Samuel Barnett—fresh off his stint as Renfield on Penny Dreadful and soon to star in Dirk Gently, BBC America’s upcoming series based on the works of Douglas Adams.
Anthony takes Morse to visit Bruce Belborough (Ben Mansfield), another college friend, whose wife Kay (Jemima West) takes an immediate shine to Morse. A professional model, she’s beautiful, yet obviously bored and seemingly sad. He cannot resist aiding a lady in distress—especially one married to a man who doesn’t appreciate her. Never mind that Kay is well out of his league and, as Morse ought to know, the rich are different.
In this episode, Endeavour series creator/writer Russell Lewis takes his inspiration from The Great Gatsby, centering on the character of Joss Bixby (David Oakes). Handsome, reckless, and wealthy by dubious means, Bixby is Jay Gatsby reincarnate, right down to the elaborate parties he hosts at his mansion. He also happens to be Morse’s neighbor across the lake, which slots Morse neatly into the Nick Carraway role of participant observer.
“What do you do, Mr. Morse?” a woman inquires.
“Nothing. At present.”
“Are you one of the idle rich?”
“Idle, certainly,” he replies.
Oh, Endeavour, we know better than that!
Morse might experience periods of low activity, but he’s never idle. His intellect wouldn’t allow it. So, while he’s doing his best to steer clear of police business, he can’t fight its pull. Poor Jeannie’s body has arrived almost literally on his doorstep. She has a connection to his old Oxford pals. The investigation team is prowling the woods around his temporary home on Lake Silence. Could there be a clearer sign that it’s time for him to return to work?
Certainly, Fred Thursday wants him back in the office. Even Chief Superintendent Bright (Anton Lesser) would like to let bygones be bygones, and not merely because it would make his life a whole lot easier. And, Endeavour needs an investigation to keep him focused, a puzzle to solve, a woman’s killer to bring to justice.
The “Ride” that kicks off Endeavour Series 3 takes some winding roads to lead our hero back where he belongs.
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.