Where does a lovelorn British opera fan go to celebrate New Year’s Eve? In Season/Series 7 of “Endeavour,” Morse has taken a two-week holiday to Venice and attend to the opera, “La sposa fedele” or “The Faithful Bride.” We’re plainly told that this season is about love and their will be faithful and unfaithful brides as we journey through this.
This three-episode season is in many ways like an opera with three acts. There are two actual operas, “La sposa fedele,” but that may or may not be the actual music we are hearing.
One was written by Pietro Alessandro Gugielem with an Italian libretto by Pietro Chiari and debuted in 1766. In that opera, Rosinella and Pasqualino are a couple who are separated after a shipwreck. The Marchese del Vento Ponente and Conte Lelio both hope to win the heart of Rosinella but when she learns her love Pasqualino has safely landed, and now works as a servant, she remains faithful. Act 2 has “confused meetings in the dark.” By Act 3, they are allowed to marry.
Giovani Pacini’s 1819 “La sposa fedele” is two acts with a libretto by Gaetano Rossi. I can’t find a YouTube recording from either.
The song we do hear is “La Sposa del Demonio o La Cura Per L’amore” (Wife of the Devil or the Cure for Love).
For Endeavour Morse, he is currently unattached. Joan Thursday, the previous object of Morse’s affection, will not return, but she will figure in the ending. In Series/Season 3, Joan Thursday had been traumatized by an armed bank robbery and she left Oxford only to find herself in a troubled relationship with Morse coming to her aid in Series/Season 4 by lending her money although she refuses his offer of marriage. Joan suffered a miscarriage and still, Morse asks Joan out for coffee at the end of Series/Season 5, but when Series/Season 6 begins, she refused his offer and told him that they would never work as a couple.
In Series 2-4, there was Monica Hicks (Shvorne Marks), Morse’s neighbor and a nurse. In Series 5, there was Claudine (Claire Ganaye), a French photojournalist.
Episode 1: Oracle (9 August 2020)
The first episode of Series/Season 7 is “Oracle” and that has no musical meaning. Merriam-Webster defines “oracle” as:
1a: a person (such as a priestess of ancient Greece) through whom a deity is believed to speak the prophecies of the Delphic oracle— D. F. Marksb: a shrine in which a deity reveals hidden knowledge or the divine purpose through such a personc: an answer or decision given by an oracle ambiguous oracles
2a: a person giving wise or authoritative decisions or opinions She became an oracle of pop culture.b: an authoritative or wise expression or answer
In this season, there will be a woman who seems to be an oracle and this episode itself will predict the arch of the series. This season also addresses some weighty issues: sexism, racism, dementia, insurance manipulation and the consequences and lingering repercussions of colonialism.
Season 7 begins in 1969, six months after the start of Season 6. Chief Superintendent Bright (Anton Lesser) had transferred out of traffic and is back in charge at Castle Gate CID. Thursday is the DCI with DS Strange and DS Morse, but Morse is the “bagman.”
Before the credits roll, we see Morse (Shaun Evans), head downcast and his shirt stained with blood. He’s in a strange interrogation room seated opposite an unknown man. The situation seems serious and in the background stands a man in an unfamiliar uniform. Morse, in voice over tells us:
The good ended happily and the bad, unhappily. That’s what fiction means. When the overture begins, you don’t know what the opera might be or where the story might take you, whether it’ll be comedy or tragedy. This…is a story about love.
We see rats and crows in a cage, but how these figure in to the plot won’t be revealed Episode 3. A few cats will be involved. Birds will be a recurring imagery within this season. Think of these first moments as an overture, with visual instead of aural hints of what is to come. Jim Strange (Sean Rigby) is on duty and answers a phone call.
Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) and his wife, Winifred (Caroline O’Neill) attend a variety show. The comedian on stage tells a corny joke:
You’ll like this one, you’ll like one, have a listen. So, I’ve got this dog and I love my dog, but I had to take it to the vet’s the other day. Vet took one look at it, picked him up, checked his eyes,
checked his ears, checked his teeth.
Then he went, “I’m really sorry, I’ve gotta put the dog down.”
I burst into tears, “Why you gotta put him down?”
He said, “He’s really heavy.”
The Thursdays get an order of chicken and chips. Their waitress, Jenny Tate (Holli Dempsey), has a sudden feeling of disquiet. The Thursdays will end up celebrating the New Year at home in front of the telly.
Morse will celebrate his New Year in a hotel with red walls in the arms of a fellow opera lover, Violetta Talenti (Stephanie Leonidas). Dark-eyed and with long black hair, she is in an expensive green gown and has a luxurious hotel room. She is too upscale for Morse, but this is Venice and Italy seems to be a place where the English find their passions.
New Year’s Eve isn’t a good night for everybody. Molly Andrews (Lucy Farrar) is murdered on the towpath. Thursday and Strange investigate and while Thursday believes Andrews’ boyfriend, Carl Sturgis (Sam Ferriday), murdered her, Sturgis has an alibi. When the investigation becomes stymied, Bright asks Morse to take a look at the case and, with his characteristic blunt arrogance, Morse manages to annoy Thursday.
Morse’s investigation leads to a university where a group of scientists are studying “latent brain activity” and Andrews was one of the test subjects. The waitress from the variety show, Tate, is also involved in the research and has told one of the researchers, Dr. Naomi Benford (Naomi Battrick), she had seen the towpath murder in her mind.
Benford contacts Morse who goes to meet her and bumps into Dorothea Frazil (Abigail Thaw) at a women’s civil rights meeting. He asks, “What is it that you’re all hoping to be liberated from, exactly? Is it just the dishes, or light housekeeping in general?”
Frazil tells him, “Patriarchal hegemony, in the main.” Before Morse and Dorothea can meet again, Benford is murdered.
Morse and Thursday question Benford’s colleagues, Dr. Jeremy Kreitsek (Reece Ritchie) and Blish. Blish is the more outspoken and quite controlling. At his home, his wife asks him to write her a cheque. Blish asks Morse and Thursday, “Do you let your wife have her own chequebook? I know it’s all the fashion, but money seems to me, a man’s job.”
Blish doesn’t approve of women in science:
On the whole, I think women are too emotional for the life scientific. They just get under your feet in the lab.
If they’re not crying about who they do love, they’re crying about who doesn’t love them. It’s a distraction.
Blish’s wife suspects something, that Benford must have been attractive.
While pondering the towpath murders Morse is renovating the home that he bought, but he can’t forget the lustful nights of his Italian adventure. When he attends a classical music concert, someone steals his wallet. Morse gives chase, but the thief escapes. A darkly handsome man comes to his aid, introducing himself as Ludo (Ryan Gage), someone who had attended Oxford at the same time as Morse, but been in a different college. Morse had been at Lonsdale and Ludo claims to have been at Beaufort.
Ludo is rich and generous; he charms Morse and invites him to his home. Ludo, who originally hinted that he had been unlucky in love, turns out to be married to the lovely Violetta.
In the end (June 1970), another woman is accosted on the same towpath where Molly Andrews was murdered, but a man is killed and we hear the slashing of flesh and a body dropping.
[SPOILER ALERT: Blish admits to the murder of Bedford because he was infatuated with her, misreading every one of her actions, but he denies the murder of Molly Andrews. ]
Episode 2: “Raga” (16 August 2020)
This episode begins with a commercial. You might even think you’re watching the wrong channel, but this episode readily identifies a paradox. Foods from certain countries are welcomed and even celebrated, but the people who create those cuisines aren’t necessarily greeted with open arms.
At The Jolly Rajah, we use only the freshest spices, the choicest meat. We use only the freshest spices, the choicest meat and the highest quality vegetables, to bring you the very best of Indian cuisine. From a romantic dinner to a full wedding reception, The Jolly Rajah. Only two minutes’ walk
from this cinema.
Poor Strange is watching the telly, trying to follow a cooking program of Oberon Prince and even following in the accompanying book. Failing utterly, Strange calls the Indian restaurant and places an order with a bit of difficulty. Restaurant owner Uqbah Sardar (Madhav Sharma) is succumbing to dementia.
In another part of town, candidate Martin Gorman is running on the British Movement.
It’s no accident that I use the word “invasion” advisedly, because it contains the word “Asian.” Since the war, we have been literally swamped with a tidal wave of people from our former territories and colonies. But we left! We gave them their countries back! If the British Movement is about one thing, it’s about British jobs for British workers. British homes for British families! And British hospitals for British patients! It’s not the colour of your passport that makes you British; it’s the colour of your skin!’
In another part of Oxford, people are enjoying a fight that includes a black man called Johnny Simba, who is “all the way from Africa.” On the streets, Anglo-Indian youths have a street fight with supporters of Gorman and one of the Anglo-Indian youths is stabbed.
Of course, there’s white and there’s British and those things aren’t necessarily the same thing. A young man named Gerwazy Radowicz, goes by the name Gary Rogers (William Allam) to fit in and he adds racist punk to solidify his credentials. He’s a supporter of Gorman. Although Morse and Thursday eventually find him, his mother has hidden his bloody clothing. Gary claims, “I didn’t stab anyone; I wasn’t there.” The witnesses withdraw their statements and Thursday are forced to let him go. Gary might feel lucky, but his luck runs out.
Thursday haunts the towpaths, uneasy that Blish admits to one murder but not the other. He even warns Bridget Mulcahy (Flora London) about walking alone. Yet the main official focus is on the murder of the Jolly Rajah’s delivery man, Aziz (Raj Awasti), found dead at the flat of Oberon Prince (Neil Roberts). Prince can’t be found. Mr. Aziz had wanted to speak to Uqbah Sardar (Madhav Sharma), who thought it must be about money.
Uqbah Sardar’s sons, Doctor Farook (Sia Alipour) and brother Salim (Shane Zaza) are concerned about his mental condition. Sardar also disappears. Salim’s wife, Nuha (Hiftu Quasem), is concerned about her husband’s clandestine activities but that turns out to be his interest in leaving England.
Morse asks Frazil about Oberon and she only met him a couple of times, but she also mentions a farmer that “drowned in the pigswill” and this “is the sixth freak accident.” There will, of course, be more.
Gorman isn’t as choosy about the people he associates with off the campaign trail. He runs a floating card game which his daughter, Ilsa Trent (Deva Wareing) who helps. Prince was one of the men who showed up and he had recently won big. On the night of his death while dining at the Jolly Rajah, Prince had given a certain all-in wrestler the hint that he wanted to hook up later that evening at his home. There’s another connection between the Jolly Rajah and the murdered man, Farook is having an affair with the soon-to-be divorced Ilsa, an embarrassing situation for Gorman.
Thursday has bought two canaries because he tells his wife he wanted some beauty in life. He’s finding it hard to deal with the ugliness of is work and continues to work on his own time. Thursday, who had earlier been warned off by Morse about tailing Carl Sturgis, continues his night time wanderings near the towpaths but instead of finding a killer, he finds Uqbah Sardar, who admits he knew Aziz was skimming. Uqbah Sardar wished he had paid Aziz more.
According to Merriam-Webster, “raga” is:
1: one of the ancient traditional melodic patterns or modes in Indian music
2: an improvisation based on a traditional raga — compare TALA entry 1
Oddly enough, Thursday and Morse learn that Prince had just been to the Jolly Rajah and then after returning home, called with an order. Tracing the call, they find that two calls were made from a telephone booth not far from the restaurant. Thursday and Morse deduce the only possible person who could have made the order was, Rafiq Sardar (Pal Aron), the cook, and Uqbah’s brother. He was the only staff member who didn’t know Prince had dined there that evening. It was Rafiq who was stealing money. “Mr. Aziz saw me. He gave me a chance to come clean.”
Rafiq owed Oberon Prince £13,000. Yet he also felt that his brother owed him the money because they agreed to split things 50-50. They didn’t put it in writing and Uqbah didn’t remember the agreement. “I was cheated. He said he couldn’t remember our arrangement.” Rafiq also admitted, “The cards get into your skin” and “I broke the golden rule–don’t chase your losses.”
By killing Prince, Rafiq erased his debt and by killing Aziz, no one knew that he was taking money from the till. “Two birds with one stone,” Morse says.
During the episode, Ludo continues to court Morse, coming by after a trip to the Mediterranean where he schmoozed with Steve McQueen. He tells Morse that Violetta is away, and invites him to his place, but she is at home. Violetta pursues Morse and in the end, seduces him.
Episode 3: “Zenana” ( 23 August 2020)
The moon is full and the Concerto No.4 in F Minor,
‘L’inverno’, by Antonio Vivaldi is playing. It is winter 1970. The wolf is at the gate, but who is the wolf?
: the part of a Hindu or Muslim dwelling (as in India) that is reserved for the women of the household … she had one distinct advantage where she could trump her male rivals: her access to Indian zenanas. No Englishman could go into the quarters of Indian women, and Fanny [Parkes] was determined to make the most of the opportunity and to report from beyond a frontier that her rivals could not cross.— William Dalrymple
We are in Lady Matilda’s College, a women-only school, and a woman is declaring:
Admit men into our women’s college, you would invite the wolf inside the citadel. We cannot underestimate this. The barbarian is at the gate! Within this college we are safe, we are free. Beyond the pale, we are neither of these things. We are prey.
A blonde woman is singing “Ave Maria” in the courtyard. A woman puts the situation in Oxford out plainly:
I just don’t understand why they’re asking us again. Of the nearly 40 colleges in Oxford, only five are open to women. Five! And yet, the faculty are once again entertaining the idea that Lady Matilda’s should open its doors to men.
Yet elsewhere, another woman is murdered at Corax House. Thursday suspects Carl Sturgis and he’s arrested and placed in Farnleigh Prison while he awaits trial. Thursday says:
It was the flasher that threw us off the scent: Tony Jakobssen. He had his throat cut, completely different MO. Of course, it’s now clear that Jakobssen was got rid of because he’d strayed on the killer’s hunting ground.”
This sets up a problem. Thursday believes himself right and that means Morse was wrong. Bright sums it up:
I’m not suggesting any repercussions for him, not for a moment, no. But we invested too much faith in his
abilities, backed his instincts too wholeheartedly. We gave him his head. Overindulged him. And he was wrong.
A third woman is murdered: Petra Connolly (Charlotte Potter). Bright and Thursday know they are wrong. Morse and Thursday are snapping at each in front of pathologist Max DeBryn (James Bradshaw) and Strange. Thursday attempts to show it can’t be Sturgis, but Morse replies: “Let’s not clutch at straws to save our blushes. Three women, one man. It’s the same killer for all.”
Morse is definitely in the wrong elsewhere. He continues his affair with Violetta, meeting her at the empty apartment of Violetta’s dancer acquaintance. Ludo had come to him with his suspicions, and he tells Violetta, “We will have to tell him, sooner or later.”
Violetta isn’t ready to end things too soon because for Christmas she and Ludo will go to Cortina d’Ampezzo for a skiing vacation.
A man dies when his ladder breaks and the verdict is “death by misadventure,” but Morse suspects there’s more to it. There’s a pulley accident that results in a death. The daughter says, “He did want to make it nice. He was working all the hours, sold his big car for something smaller. He even chased in a couple of life policies he had.”
Morse continues to investigate on his own, looking into someone from the first episode: Jenny Tate.
Tate is troubled by visions and in a room, she’s created a strange collage of clippings and a vision of a monster that she says she sees out of the corner of her eye. Morse is worried about Tate’s well-being, but she pleads, “Please, don’t tell anyone about this. I don’t want doctors. They’ve put me away before and I know what those places are like.”
She tells him about cousin Kevin and how she was blamed for a fire that killed her family. Tate went by a different name as a child: Phyllis Linden.
Morse continues to follow the spat of “freak accidents.” Frazil tells him, “I turned up nearly a dozen fatal accidents in Dover and Uttoxeter in the past year.” He takes his work home–against policy. Ludo calls him up and visits; he notices this “catalogue of bizarre accidents.” Ludo believes Violetta is unfaithful.
Morse tells him, “I’m the last person you should ask about this. I’m sure it’ll be all right. Give her some time to think about things. You know, give her some space.”
Another woman dies, Dr Nancy Deveen (Naomi Yang), falling from a ladder. Her estate should go to the college (Lady Matilda’s), but her house is heavily mortgaged and “she redeemed a couple of policies, life and annuity.” There Morse bumps into Ludo and Violetta, supposedly there to “discuss a charity concert.” Thursday takes Morse off and finds another bagman.
The women at Matilda’s decide to take matters into their own hands, set a trap and end up chasing a man, David Clemens, who, in his panic, runs into a car. He ends up in a coma. He was the man who found Molly Andrews yet the tune that he whistled was different: “Molly Malone.” The towpath killer whistles “Antonio.”
This troubles Morse, but more trouble is on the way. He gets a call from Ludo: “I’ve booked a table at Augusto’s for one tomorrow.” Ludo arrives, then Morse, but Violetta, dressed in red, also arrives, and is, Ludo says, “a rose between two thorns.” Violetta is asked to choose and she chooses Ludo and Ludo explains, “She is used to the finest, Morse. A policeman?”
Bright’s wife has returned from the United States after receiving experimental treatment for growths in her lungs. There’s a possibility of remission. She intends to buy a Christmas tree and put decorations up. She had a “nice young man with the faith healers” go up into the attic and get the Christmas decorations down. “He even tested the lights and they’re working.”
Soon after, Frazil of the Oxford Mail calls Thursday and Thursday is forced to inform Bright that his wife has died. She was shocked while putting up the lights. Bright breaks down, unable to believe that his wife could have died when they had hope of remission. He attempts to call her.
Morse immediately suspects this is another “freak accident,” but Thursday won’t allow Morse to drag Mrs. Bright into his investigation. After Thursday leaves, Strange asks Morse about “the caper.” Morse explains he now knows the why of it. He explains about what happens when people buy up your life policy. “Let’s say I buy for 3,000, and then, a year later, I cash in for ten.”
Strange understands, restating it: “So, someone’s going around
buying life insurance policies and collecting on them by making sure the sellers die in what, to all intents and purposes, look like freak accidents?”
Strange and Morse go follow up different leads. Morse discovers that Sturgis is the name of the maternal grandfather of Johnny and Doris Linden. George Fontayne went missing, but likely was the body later identified as Johnny’s. Johnny set the fire to cover up the murder of George and ended up killing his aunt, uncle and Cousin Kevin.
Strange goes to Aspen Park Drive and finds Sturgis there. Sturgis offers to make Strange a cup of tea and whistles, “Antonio.” Strange is spooked, but he also hears a movement upstairs and goes to investigate while Sturgis is busy making tea. Upstairs, Jenny Tate, is gagged and bound. Sturgis attacks Strange and Morse comes to the rescue, but Sturgis ends up dead. Looking about later, Thursday and Morse realize they should have been working together. The caged crows and rats that we saw from the first episode are there.
Before Christmas, Morse can’t help but ask Bright about life insurance policies. “Did your wife get rid of any of her financial assets lately, specifically her life insurance? Because if she did, I fear whoever bought it from her may have had a hand in her death.” Bright becomes angry and demands that Morse leave.
On Christmas, Thursday’s wife sends him to check on Bright. Bright admits to Thursday that Morse was right. “We did redeem our life insurance policies, both of us, so we could afford the trip
When Thursday returns home, his wife has a packet of materials, that Morse sent to Joan and was forwarded to their house.
Dear Miss Thursday:
Contained herein are materials that I ask you bring to the attention of your father. All he needs to understand is here enclosed. To my lasting regret we parted on poor terms. The fault was mine entirely. He has ever been the best and wisest of men and a better friend to me than I could have wished for or deserved. I let him down.
I am sorry to presume upon you but I’ve burnt all my
bridges and you are the last and only person I can think of who might extend to me the benefit of the doubt.
Please forgive my brevity, I have to make the boat train to Venice. There’s never the time to say
all that one would wish. As you will no doubt hear, I have made an appalling mess of things.
Much of it I can’t put right. But I should have failed
even further were I not to try to retrieve what I can from a situation wholly of my own making. Should I fall short and things end badly, please believe me to have been yours, always.
Morse is set to start at Kidlington on 4 January 1971. Before that, Morse will be off again to Venice where he expects to meet Violetta. Violetta and Ludo were the buyers of the life insurance policies and together they helped the policy owners meet their untimely ends in freak accidents.
Morse accosts Violetta at the opera, and she swears that she will give up Ludo. A letter slid under his door sets a meeting place and Morse loads his gun. Thursday is not far behind.
Now the opera intercuts with the action. Ludo knows Morse is out of his jurisdiction. “We all have our entrances and our exits, Morse. Our parts to play. Even you.” Morse was, Ludo tells him, “my useful idiot, my pet police.”
When Violetta arrives, Ludo takes hold of her. Ludo tells Morse that he doesn’t even know Violetta’s real name. He found her at 15, living barefoot on the backstreets of Naples. Ludo holds a gun to her head and gets Morse to put down his gun. “I should have done for you in England, but she convinced me that a dead policeman wasn’t in our best interests.” Ludo seems ready to escape with Violetta, but changes his mind about Morse.
Ludo shoots at Morse, but Violetta takes the bullet. Thursday has arrived and shoots at Ludo, chasing him to the edge of the water. Ludo shoots and Thursday shoots back, hitting him. Ludo falls into the water.
Violetta admits to Morse, “I’ve done terrible things. It was true. Us. Always. Ti amo.”
As Ludo said earlier in the series, some people are unlucky and certainly Morse is unlucky in love.