!!SPOILERS!! !!SPOILERS!! In this post I will be not only reviewing the episode but also looking at the locations, music, literary references and other interesting facts and trivia within the episode. So, if you haven’t seen the episode, look away now.
Endeavour. Series 4, Episode 1. ‘Game’.
First shown on the 8th January 2017 in the UK.
Chronologically this would be episode 14.
Directed by Ashley Pearce: Ashley Pearce is a veteran director of crime dramas on TV: Maigret Sets a Trap 2016, Agatha Christie’s Poirot 2008-2010, Silent Witness (TV Series) (2 episodes) 2004. He also directed a few episodes of one of my favourite TV shows of recent years, Downton Abbey.
Written and devised by Russell Lewis.
It is two weeks after the traumatic Wessex Raid, Joan Thursday leaving home and Morse realising he loved Joan. Fred and Win are still trying to cope with Joan’s departure as is Endeavour.
A body is found floating in the Cherwell river and is identified as Richard Neilson. Neilson was part of team who built and designed the Joint Computng Nexus – a “thinking machine” at Lovelace College.
With what looks like a suicide as Richard Neilson had stones in his pockets, becomes more like foulplay to Endeavour when another body is found drowned but this time in a bath at the local swimming baths. Endeavour believes there is a connection but Thursday and Strange do not.
Magdalene Bridge over the Cherwell where Neilson’s body is seen floating.
While these events are happening Endeavour has to cope with having failed his sergeant’s exam. An automatic fail as his exam paper was mislaid and never reached the appropriate authorities.
Meanwhile the Joint Computng Nexus (known as JCN -Jason) is being readied to compete against a Russian chess master Prof. Yuri Gradenko.
Murder, chess, Oxford, mysteries and dark secrets it can only be another Endeavour episode.
This episode was an excellent opener for the new series. After a few, in my opinion, lacklustre episodes in the last series, (‘Prey’ anyone), this was a great leap forward in style, writing and direction. Russell Lewis the writer of the episode has done all Endeavour Morse fans proud. I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with this episode.
The episode was beautiful in its rich, dark tones not just in the story but in its lighting and cinematography. The scares within the episode were real and visceral and never cheap. So many of today’s horror films are based on the ‘cattle prod’ jump to scare. What I mean by ‘cattle prod’ is that a scare will come out of someone jumping out in front of the screen or something dropping onto the camera. All very tedious. This episode never plumbed any such depths when it would have been so easy to do so especially when Morse and Endeavour were searching the tunnel that ran beneath the swimming baths. The abduction of Tessa Knight was subtly done but still give us all a little jump and scare.
Roger Allam and Caroline O’Neill as Fred and Win Thursday were excellent as two parents trying to cope with a missing daughter and what feels like an empty house.
Roger Allam and Caroline O’Neill as Fred and Win Thursday
The scenes between Fred Thursday and Shaun Evans were sublime. It was like watching a father and son trying cope with each other’s belief in their feelings of blame regarding Joan’s leaving home. I got the impression that Fred not only blamed himself but also in a small way, Endeavour. I believe Fred felt that if Endeavour had let Joan know of his feelings sooner she may have stayed. Morse was probably thinking the same thing.
However, the rest of cast especially the regulars were in fine fettle especially I thought James Bradshaw as Max DeBryn. Max had one of the best lines in the episode, “This one is as ripe and runny as a rancid Roquefort” referring to the body of Richard Neilson.
Of course the episode wasn’t perfect. As with some other episodes Russell can write lines that sound Miss Marpleish or wouldn’t sound out of place in Murder, She Wrote. By this I mean is that the lines are rather too obvious and signal what is coming next with the subtlety of a foghorn and disco lights. For example, when Tessa Knight says to Dorothea Frazil that the next time she will see her it will be on the front page of a newspaper one knew that she was going to be the next victim. The episode ‘Prey’ was the worst with such telegraphed plot lines. In that episode when Chief Superintendent Bright was relating his story about his encounter with a man eating tiger in India it became obvious how the episode was going to end.
But putting that all aside it was a pleasurable way to spend two hours. I hope they haven’t set the bar too high with this episode when it comes to the next three episodes.
The episode’s cinematography and direction reminded me of the Morse episode ‘Service of all the Dead‘. Like that episode the camera lens looked into mirrors, looked through glass often distorted and the sets and scenes were awash (pardon the pun) with a lot of reflective surfaces. Water played a major role in the episode and of course is forever referred to as looking like glass. Of course, water has many meanings from an element that cleanses, gives life, takes life. In dream interpretation water can represent an attempt to not deal with a toxic situation; to sweep it under the proverbial carpet. The crime writer Kent Finn’s latest book is titled ‘Jolly Deep Water‘. More on Kent Finn later.
The episode had some lovely nods to the original Morse series which I will go into later.
So my rating for this episode is 8 jags out of ten.
As most of you will know Colin Dexter will not be appearing in the series four episodes due to ill health. However the producers have made sure that he appears in the episode in one way or another. In this episode Colin’s picture hangs in the office of Dorothea Frazil.
The first piece of music we hear is Erik Satie‘s (1866-1925) wonderful Gnossiene.
I literally smiled that this piece was played as I love Satie’s work. Probably his best known work is Gymnopédie No.1.
Next up we again have a favourite song of mine. (Have the producers of the show been looking at my CD collection?). It is song by Jefferson Airplane called ‘White Rabbit‘.
There is also a piece of Jazz being played when Morse visits Kent Finn’s house but it was too quiet to identify.
The first quote is by Max Debryn to Endeavour when Morse enquires about his thoughts on love. Max replies, “and one was fond of me and all are slain“. I personally didn’t recognize the quote but thanks to two of my blog readers, Lazaro and Edward who pointed out that this quote is from Alfred Edward Housman (1859 – 1936).
Ask me no more, for fear I should reply;
Others have held their tongues, and so can I;
Hundreds have died, and told no tale before:
Ask me no more, for fear I should reply—
How one was true and one was clean of stain
And one was braver than the heavens are high,
And one was fond of me; and all are slain.
Ask me no more, for fear I should reply.
After JCN the computer has beaten the Russian and all the team are celebrating outside, Professor George Amory tries to get the Russian to take some champagne by saying, “Napoleon’s dictum“, (this is around the 50 minute mark). This is a reference to Napoleon saying, ‘it is better to fight against a coalition than to fight as part of one’. There are quite a few dictums related to Napoleon but I think the afore mentioned one is appropriate in relation to the cold war during the 1960s.
The next is said around the one hour and ten minute mark. It is said by Dorothea to Tessa Knight, “Tread lightly child, tread lightly.” This is probably paraphrasing Aldous Huxley’s quote from his novel Island;
“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days… Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me…So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling…”
The book is more or less about a a cynical journalist who is shipwrecked on the fictional island.
“What piece of work is man” is said by Kent Finn. The quote is from Hamlet.
The team behind the building of the JCN computer are based at the Lovelace College. The scenes in the college were filmed at St. Catherine’s College, Manor Rd, Oxford OX1 3UJ.
Is the use of Lovelace a reference to Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852) an English mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage‘s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine.
The body of Richard Neilson was seen floating under a bridge at Addison’s Walk.
The area of Binsey was mentioned in the episode as the place where the Leighton-Asbury family lived. I cannot be sure it was filmed in Binsey and cannot locate the house but here is a map as to where Binsey is in relation to the centre of Oxford.
The opening scene was filmed in the Sheldonian theatre in Oxford.
The painted ceiling is by Robert Streater.
Up next is the location of the swimming baths. A huge thanks to a blog reader who goes by the name Shirewitch for telling me about this important location in this episode. The internal shots were shot at the Health Hydro in Swindon. However, I am not sure where the external shots of the swimming baths were shot.
Interesting Facts and Trivia.
Around 15 minutes into the episode we find DS Strange and some fellow officers watching a tennis game on television. This was the Wimbledon women’s final between Billie Jean King and Ann Haydon-Jones. Billie Jean won.
When Morse and Thursday decide to look for the location of a house in Binsey owned by someone with a surname that begins ‘AS’ they ask for help from the team that built the JCN computer at Lovelace College. The computer was originally designed to sort through postcodes etc. Dr. Broderick Castle volunteers to enter the information but Dr Clifford Gibbs points out that Castle had entered ‘rudrum‘ when he should have entered ‘redrum‘. Of course ‘redrum’ backwards is ‘MURDER‘.
The computer has been named Jason in regards to its initials JCN. Is this in reference to the killer Jason in the Friday the 13th series of films?
Dr Clifford Gibbs has on his shoulder at all times a small white mouse.
This is probably a reference to the James Cameron film, ‘The Abyss‘. The character in that film was called Alan ‘Hippy’ Carnes and he also carried around a small white mouse on his shoulder. 1967 is of course the summer of love and the hippy movement is at its height.
Todd Graff as Alan ‘Hippy’ Carnes in ‘The Abyss’.
I believe that the chess game and situation was a nod to the man who Endeavour was named after, Jeremy Morse. Jeremy Morse was the template on which Colin Dexter based Endeavour Morse on. Apart from being a English banker he was also a chess composer. A chess composer is a person who creates endgame studies or chess problems. A lovely nod to Jeremy by Russell Lewis the writer.
I personally believe that the character of Kent Finn is the future Hugo DeVries, Morse’s nemesis in the episode, ‘Masonic Mysteries.
Adam James as Kent Finn
Ian McDiarmid as Hugo DeVries in Masonic Mysteries.
My reasons are twofold for why I believe Kent is Hugo. Firstly, Kent’s knowledge and love of wine but more importantly Kent’s surname of Finn is the main character’s name from the film ‘Star Wars; The Force Awakens‘. Ian McDiarmid who played Hugo DeVries was a main character in the Star Wars universe playing Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Tada. I am feeling rather chuffed to have seen this and I make no apologies for my boast and chuffed demeanour. Also it is almost 2am and I am knackered. I couldn’t get started on this until about 9:30pm as that is when my mum fell asleep. Meanwhile back on Tatooine I mean my blog. Oh God my geeky nerd self is loose.
The nice reference to the original Morse series was the inclusion of the actor James Laurenson who played Professor George Amory.
James was of course in the first Morse episode, ‘The Dead of Jericho‘ thirty years ago.
I don’t think there is any real need to point out that a two characters had the names of Chess pieces: Dr. Broderick Castle and Tessa Knight.
One of my very observant blog readers pointed out a well observed connection: “32 minutes in after the body of Daniel is found in the swimming pool, the pool receptionist says “In 1959 nobody died, in 1960 nobody died, in 1961 nobody died”.
This is lifted from The Day Today current affairs show parody, where Steve Coogan as a pool attendant says “in 1975 no one died, in 1976 no one died, in 1977 no one died, in 1978 no one died….”
I don’t know if there is any connection to the writer or whether he’s just a fan of The Day Today.”
Here is the scene Julie is referring to;
The big question of the episode is who was the tarot card reader. I have racked my brains, what’s left of them, but to no avail. I am sure we will soon find out.
CAST of ‘Game’.
Shaun Evans as Endeavour Morse.
Roger Allam as Fred Thursday
Dawn Hope as Adelaide Smalls
Tristan Sturrock as Dr. Bernard Gould.
Chris Fulton as Dr. Broderick Castle
Abram Rooney as Dr. Clifford Gibbs
Gillian Saker as Dr. Pat Amory
Geff Francis as Grantly Smalls
Ms Porfrey played by uncredited actress.
Anton Lesser as Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright
James Bradshaw as Max DeBryn.
Daniel Attwell as Mick Mitchell
Katherine Kingsley as Mona Davies
Richard Neilson played by uncredited actor.
Ruby Thomas as Tessa Knight. Ruby appeared in the Lewis (TV Series) as Kate Cameron. The episode was – Dark Matter (2010).
Sean Rigby as DS Jim Strange
Caroline O’Neill as Win Thursday
Abigail Thaw as Dorothea Frazil
Adam James as Kent Finn. Adam appeared in the Lewis (TV Series) as Ethan Croft in the episode – Your Sudden Death Question (2010).
Dakota Blue Richards as WPC Shirley Trewlove
Robert Luckay as Prof. Yuri Gradenko
Natalie Grady as Ruth Hargreaves
Well people that is it. I’m sure i have made errors in my tired state so please forgive me. I hope you have enjoyed this post and I will do this all over again for episode two. So, until then, thank you for all your support and take care.
Oh as a P.S. you may have noticed I have changed the sides of the blog by the addition of photos of actors from the Morse universe.