The 1960s marked a decade of change for Britain. It seemed that by 1969 the country had undergone radical change; progress in technology, society and politics seemed to have transformed Britain. This, however, is something of a misnomer – great parts of Britain remained the same as they had been in the 1950s and decades previously. This was seen mostly in the countryside, where everything seemed to remain in amber, preserved forever.
After discovering another case of a drug overdose Morse (Shaun Evans) and Thursday (Roger Allam) are called out to a murder in the middle of a country fox hunt. The victim is confectioner Greville Creswell. The death leaves Creswell’s family in shock; yet things take a strange twist when the main suspect for the crime, Rennet Bell is found to have murdered his wife Mandy Jane before killing himself. While DCI Box (Simon Harrison) declares it to be an open and shut case, Morse believes that the poison pen letter campaign that has spread throughout the village is the true cause of the three deaths and his investigation leads him to the horrible truth.
The third episode of Endeavour begins with something of a change of scene and tone for the programme. This series has, in the past two episodes, tended to keep to the dark side of Oxford whilst only partially exploring the surrounding countryside. This episode, set in the village of Chigton Green appears, at first glance, to have more in common with other ITV crime dramas such as Granchester or Midsomer Murders than with a traditional episode of the Morse prequel. Yet, this episode demonstrates that even though the scenery may be pleasant, the countryside can still hold as many vicious secrets, contain as much murderous intent and be as liable to cause as much pain as any town.
Russell Lewis’ sublime script combines the two main strands of the episode artfully; this particular episode’s mystery is with Strange (Sean Rigby)’s continuing investigation into who is responsible for the new quinine laced drugs that are killing so many of Oxford’s addicts and how they are related to the death of George Fancy. Lesser writers would simply create an exposition dump in the episode, but Lewis avoids this by neatly and efficiently tying the two strands of the story together.
There is a great deal of reflection – both demonstrate how a corrupted mind can bring about untold misery to others, but they also demonstrate how corrosive both types of poison are; though the poison pen letters are emotional poison they still cause misery and death in the same way as the drugs being peddled in Oxford are. This mirroring is done beautifully by Lewis and gives the episode more gravitas. Lewis imbues the story with a sickly sweetness, like Creswell’s chocolates, that slowly turn sour. By allowing Morse, who still feels angry that he doesn’t have any place that he can feel as if he fits in, to be tempted by Chigton Green – Lewis artfully advances Endeavour’s character arc; he is unsure where his future lies and whether he can accept the path that is set out for him. By giving him the option of a settled life, Lewis endears us to him more; we truly feel his pain when he realizes that he cannot have the normal life that he yearns for. As Strange says towards the end of the episode when Morse asks why he should be so different for wanting a family “Because you are.”
The acting in the episode is phenomenally good. As ever Sean Evans deserves a great deal of praise for his performance – his desire to solve the case and have some sort of family for himself are both excellently done. When Thursday rebukes him for going on a date with suspect Isla Fairford (Olivia Chenery) and says that he must always “be a copper first” and Morse responds by asking “Well it hasn’t got you anywhere has it?” the hurt on Thursday’s face and the realization of what he has said stun them both. Evans and Allam play this scene to perfection and the magnitude of what Morse has said is beautifully played by both actors.
Allam is similarly excellent in the scene with him and Box in the pub. Box attempts to offer Fred a bribe – to cut him in on the corruption that Box is a part of. Both actors play this scene extraordinarily well. Simon Harrison gives Box a sense of real depth in this particular part; he isn’t simply some stereotypical bent copper but a man who has seen how a lack of protection and care sent his father to an early grave and who feels justified in taking bribes to ensure that he is able to not end up like his father. Allam’s performance in this scene is also electric – he knows exactly when to pause and when to seem as if he is unsure how to respond to Box’s suggestion.
Confection is a perfect third act to the new series of Endeavour. It combines the series arc neatly with this week’s murder mystery to demonstrate a powerful point about the toxicity of hate and gossip – an admirable parable to the times we live in – whilst also allowing us to further understand the motivations behind our main characters. Through its excellent combination of superb writing, swift and stylish directing and engaging performances Confection proves to be another excellent addition to the Endeavour canon.
Endeavour Continues Sunday at 8.00pm on ITV