All good things must come to an end. Whether it be an opera, a play or a TV series everything has its time, and everything must conclude. Yet, the final episode of the Sixth Series of Endeavour should not be seen as a depressing affair. Indeed, by the end of the episode our main cast are in a much happier state then when the series began. For Endeavour Morse, Series Six has been like his Divine Comedy; he has journeyed through hell and has exited the other side a better man. Russell Lewis perfectly understands his audience and after the down beat ending to the previous series and all that Morse has suffered through this series there is great catharsis in seeing the status quo resumed.
Degüello begins in a traditional Morse manner with the murder of Obsert Page (Michael Jenn), librarian of the Bodleian. In many ways this feels like a return to form for the series that is so immersed in the subtle nuances of Oxford college life. Yet, Lewis is waiting to subvert our expectations as it soon becomes clear to Morse (Shaun Evans) and Thursday (Roger Allam) that there is more to Page’s murder that meets the eye. It soon becomes apparent that Page’s death is linked to Councillor Clive Burkitt (Alexander Hanson) and a string of corruption that Strange (Sean Rigby) believes connects to the death of George Fancy.
Lewis understands that the key to Morse’s success is the fine line in all of the stories between the profound and the profane. The messiness of murder contrasted by the nuances of Morse’ detection. He also, as Colin Dexter did, realises that part of this tension is between the perception of Oxford’s different parts. This is exemplified in this story by the contrast between the splendour of college life and the horror of Cranmore House – whose location at Martyrs Field is frighteningly appropriate. Both political corruption and failing standards in social housing are subjects which have always been reflected in society, but they are subject matters which are particularly appropriate in this day and age. Thus, Lewis’ utilising of them both endeavours to get the story moving along and also provides commentary on the world in the 1960s. The horror of what happens at Cranmore House is perfectly staged by Lewis – he writes the tragedy with great sensitivity and with a realism that is sure to cause feelings of heartfelt sorrow from the viewers who are watching.
The conclusion of the story is excellently done by Lewis. He uses some great reincorporation (such as the house Morse buys and will live in for the rest of his life being the same house he visits in the first episode) and some redemptive catharsis, both for characters such as DCI Ronnie Box (Simon Harrison) and the audience who are allowed to feel as if the lives of our characters are back on track. Whenever the next series of Endeavour is, Lewis has wonderfully laid the groundwork for another excellent and engaging series of Endeavour.
The work by the cast throughout this episode is phenomenal. Hats off to all of the regulars for excellent performances. Shaun Evans continues to channel a determined resilient Morse. During the scene in which he and Joan Thursday (Sara Vickers) are looking after some of the victims of the collapse of Cranmore House, Evans exudes righteous anger and perfectly expresses why audiences love his character; he is always determined to get to the truth no matter what.
Similarly, Roger Allam gives an excellent performance as Thursday. Trapped between whether he can do the right thing or still continue working with Box and his fellow corrupt officer DS Jago (excellently played by Richard Riddell who is allowed to be truly malevolent in this episode), Thursday ultimately decides to do the right thing. The agony that he is clearly in throughout the episode is brilliantly played by Allam and at times he looks like a truly broken man – he gives a performance that you could only expect from one of Britain’s finest character actors.
Equally engaging is Simon Harrison as DCI Box. Box’s slow emotional crumbling over the course of the episode reveals a man who, desperate to get back what he thought he deserved is now trapped in a web of his own making and cannot escape. Harrison plays this breakdown very effectively and it is a credit to him to make a character that appeared lacking in morals as having a deeper side to him. This vulnerability makes us sympathise for Box and allows us to further understand the dark path he has taken.
Alexander Hanson also gives a superb performance as corrupt Councillor Clive Burkitt. Hanson elegantly plays both Burkitt’s superficial charm as well as his darker side which emerges towards the end of the episode. Hanson knows how to make the viewers skin crawl and he does it with a panache that is enjoyable to witness.
Degüello is a strong and engaging conclusion to the sixth series of Endeavour. It ensures that the audience is left satisfied with how the series has progressed and means we are content to see this series end. It utilises both the great scope of Oxford society and the threat of disorder that comes to it wonderfully. Writer Russell Lewis and the entire cast should feel immensely proud that Degüello and this series of Endeavour as a whole can stand as a testimony to what excellent television can do.
Contributed by Will Barber-Taylor