Endeavour 2.03: “Sway”

Try to remember the kind of… November.

Everyone is wearing a poppy for remembrance, which should give you a clue that this episode will concern the past and the sins committed then. It also concerns a murderer who is very much present in the minds of Morse and his colleagues, and who plans to continue murdering in the future unless they can stop him.

Time is of the essence in “Sway.” The endlessness of time; mathematical infinity; ouroboros, the snake that devours its tail, symbolizing eternity…

Time; and possibly the Rolling Stones, although I’m not certain about the last part.

As the episode begins, a newspaper headline trumpets the case of the moment:  “Woman Strangled – Oxford housewife willingly opened door to killer.” This refers to the murder of Anne Curran Matthews.

At the office, Morse is typing up a report for Chief Superintendent Bright concerning the “amalgamation” of police stations. This might pose a problem for Morse in the future, but it’s certainly not enough to occupy all of his intellect right now. He’s turning over the Curran Matthews case in his mind and associating it with another open case. They’re not identical, but there are similarities.

Moments later, another victim is found. Vivienne Haldane, the wife of an Oxford professor, has been strangled with a silk stocking. (“Not hers,” says Dr. DeBryn.) Physical relations had taken place within an hour or two of death. (“Nothing to say ‘unwillingly,’” says Dr. DeBryn.) And the pieces begin to fall into place for Morse.

There are now three cases involving women who were strangled with silk stockings. More specifically, married women who spend most of their time apart from their husbands and who weren’t wearing their wedding rings when their bodies were found.

It’s November 1966, and we are in the process of affixing the Swingin’ to the Sixties. People’s attitudes toward “physical relations” are changing. There’s all kinds of hanky-panky going on. For proof we have dodgy salesman Joey Lisk (Max Wrottesley), who brazenly channels Michael Caine in Alfie.

Good Neighbor Monica.

Even Morse is looser than we’ve seen him, thanks to his fascination with Monica Hicks (Shvorne Marks), the cute nurse from across the hall. They met in “Trove;” planned a date that ended in an awkward misunderstanding in “Nocturne,” and finally connect here in “Sway”—complete with fireworks.  (It’s Guy Fawkes Night, after all.) Monica is a thoroughly modern woman, confident and bold. You might imagine she’d intimidate our reticent hero, but he’s too smitten to let shyness stand in his way.

Still waters run deep, as Morse reminds us regularly. But he’s not the only one. Even DI Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) has a passion long-simmering beneath his unflappable exterior. A passion separate from his love for Win (Caroline O’Neill) , with whom he’s about to celebrate 25 years of marriage.

DI Fred Thursday, also known as Sergente Fredo Giovedi apparently.

The idea of a love that lasts forever comes into play quite a lot in “Sway.” The plot is driven less by academic riddles than by human foibles as Morse and Thursday reveal aspects of their personalities we haven’t seen before. Keep an eye on PC Jim Strange (Sean Rigby), who’s evolving from a cheerful copper into someone a bit darker. And I don’t know about you, but I hope there’s something behind those looks Joan Thursday (Sara Vickers) has been sending Morse’s way. Not to take anything away from Monica, mind you.

Character-driven this episode may be, but writer/creator Russell Lewis makes sure we don’t lack for allusions. I suspect the stockings used as a murder weapon owe something to Albert DeSalvo, the “Boston Strangler.” Scenes at Burridge’s department store where the stockings were purchased give a distinct nod to Are You Being Served?, the classic British comedy series. And even though I can’t place the blind piano tuner or the street chalk artist, their presence must be significant, right? (If you know, please tell!)

The episode title has me baffled, however. It might refer to “Sway,” a mambo from 1954 sung by Dean Martin. Yet I can’t help but think of the Rolling Stones’ “Sway” with its lyric about “circular time.” (Was it foreshadowing in “Nocturne” last week when the precocious school girl asked Morse if he liked the Stones? There is a lot of foreshadowing in Endeavour.)

Maybe I’m reading too much into this. If so, I have company. Morse has been doing a lot of overthinking recently, too, and this episode is no exception. When it comes to matters of the heart, overthinking won’t help you. (As DS Jakes says, sometimes “infinity” is just an 8 on its side.) When it comes to Endeavour, however, overthinking is part of the viewing experience.

Next week, Series 2 concludes with “Neverland.”

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.


  1. Susan Hazlett

    I hate for this series to end next week when fans have been waiting nearly a year! It is very well done as is this blog. I am wondering if you will also review “Inspector Lewis” when it returns in October? I hope so!

  2. Leslie Gilbert Elman

    @Morse lover – Thank you! We review all the Masterpiece Mystery programs here. That includes Inspector Lewis and the new episodes of Poirot coming at the end of the month. Stay tuned!

  3. Dottie

    Michael Caine in Alfie? It’s the right time frame, I guess – 1966 – but I would have guessed Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot, especially since they joked about Joey Lisk’s Cary Grant impression. He even buys a double-breasted blazer like Tony’s. There may be another reference, too: Joey’s lover calls him Josephine in her secret diary, Tony’s alias in drag.
    This has been driving me crazy! So I’d appreciate any light you can shed. It’s a wonderful series.

    • lee

      Lisk cites lines from the movie Alfie while looking at himself in the tailor shop mirror, exactly as Caine had done while looking into the camera lens.

  4. Leslie Gilbert Elman

    @Dottie You may be right! Or maybe it’s a combination of the two?

  5. Paul H

    With reference to “Sway”; here in the UK the Dean Martin track was used throughout the episode, especially when the murderer is dancing with his last near victim. I understand copyright problems or maybe just sheer cost of using it in the US led to different music being used in the Masterpiece version.

  6. Bladimir

    Paul, do you know what was the song that replaced Sway in that last scene when the murderer is dancing with his last victim? I’ve been looking for it, but it’s been almost impossible to find. Thanks

  7. MorsemanTom

    Unfortunately I haven’t watched “Sway” yet, but as to the blind piano tuner there occurs one in “Ulysses”. He walks through chapter eleven, the so called “Sirens”-chapter, and the recurring tap tap of bis cane gives the chapter ist very own rhythm.
    Don’t know if it helps, but I thought since EndeavourMorseLewis are so full of allusions of all sorts that this one might come in handy.
    Love the Oxford Crimeshows and your blog.

  8. Leslie Gilbert Elman

    That’s one mystery solved! Thank you.

  9. Diane Cial

    What was the secret and GUILT that Thursday’s wartime girlfriend had that caused her to kill herself?

  10. Doris Chero

    She betrayed her resistance comrades in the village, not the local lad Ugo, who was blamed for it. After the war Ugo and his father were executed for the crime. It was strange she was the only one to survive the resistance wipe-out.

    • Anne

      I figured out she was the traitor BUT were any of her injuries real? Was she shot? Or did she lie about how she met Armstrong? We probably don’t have enough info to know…

      It was odd about her surviving an execution, and that is a clue in itself.

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