It seems that no sooner has a new series of Endeavour begun than it’s already at its end, but what an end it is. ‘Degüello’ (a bugle call indicating that no quarter will be given, hinting at a big threat) is a very busy episode, that delivers on two series worth of groundwork and offers our leads yet another chance to shine.
Morse and Thursday are called to the Bodleian Library to investigate the murder of one of the librarians, stabbed in the back, with a set of muddy footprints near to the body their only clue. Morse soon discovers a link to a seemingly innocent college bequest and a pair of academics with a long history and their own motives for killing the librarian. However, the investigation is quickly side-lined by a local tragedy, which unites the former City police officers and leads them to uncover both the scale of corruption in Oxford and the solution to the crime that has haunted them all – the murder of George Fancy.
It does lead to some fantastic performances, which stand out in a way that some other suspects this series have not
There’s a lot going on in ‘Degüello’, and I’d be lying if I said it was all particularly easy to follow – the murder mystery kind of becomes incidental, and I’m still not certain who actually killed the librarian. It does lead to some fantastic performances, which stand out in a way that some other suspects this series have not – of particular note are Alexander Hanson as the incredibly slimy councillor Clive Burkitt and Aidan McArdle as Dr Jasper Nicholson, a man haunted by a guilty secret.
Where this episode really plants itself is the corruption conspiracy that has been bubbling away throughout the series, and it boils down to a nice solution that culminates in a very gripping scene between the key conspiracy players and our leads (similarly tense is a scene in which Bright, pursued by some criminals, is at serious risk of being murdered – I was on the edge of my seat, and I shan’t reveal how it pans out). Some of the characters aren’t making it out alive, you just know, but who is another question entirely. There has been two series worth of build-up to this final resolution, and ‘Degüello’ does not disappoint – the narrative is so layered and well-presented, and even though we first meet some of the key players this episode, it feels earned.
Few shows have an actor this good, let alone five of them in leading roles.
This feeling is cemented in no small part by the strong acting of our lead players. Bright, suffering all series, finally has a chance to come into his own once again, a leader when one is desperately needed. The two Thursday storylines become interlinked – his flirtation with corruption and his struggling relationship with Win (there are hints of reconciliation and divorce) force him to consider what kind of a man he is, and what side of the line between right and wrong he ultimately wishes to fall on. Lesser and Allam are brought into the spotlight as they both face hard choices, but Evans is the tentpole around whom all of this hangs – his Morse is such an understated performance, and it does so much. Few shows have an actor this good, let alone five of them in leading roles.
I’ve mentioned Simon Harrison and Richard Riddell in past episodes, calling them out for playing almost comically obstructive police officers – ‘Degüello’ shifts all that, really giving them a chance to shine. Special mention must go to Harrison, whose Box shows hidden depths that will really shape a rewatch of this season. He appears in the tense finale but, given his somewhat flexible morality, does he eventually turn out to be a hero or villain?
A seventh series of Endeavour has now been confirmed, and ‘Degüello’ leaves the show in an interesting position – writer Russell Lewis has confirmed that the show is nearing its end, and I’m not sure where exactly it will head next. However, on the strength of the sixth season, the seventh can’t come soon enough. Endeavour is a show that boasts fine acting, layered stories, beautiful filming and music and an atmosphere that screams quality – there are so few shows like this and, if you haven’t started watching it, you’ve six seasons of magical television to catch up on.