Photo: Mammoth Screen/ITV

Endeavour – ‘Cartouche’

Time for a trip to the movies – this week’s Endeavour has a decidedly theatrical touch about it, with film stars and affectionate jabs at horror rocking up throughout the episode. It’s a typically strong outing, and includes more humour and the touch of both darkness and sadness that the show can do well.

Oxford plays host to a veteran film actor, star of an iconic horror movie about a murderous Egyptian mummy, who is in town to visit a local cinema. The death of a retired policeman turns out to be one of a series of murders linked to the film, which offers the newly-promoted DS Morse a fresh case to pursue, putting him up against a supposed curse and a haunted cartouche. Morse and DCI Thursday must also take on racists who have targeted Oxford’s Kenyan Asian population, and the chief inspector finds his hospitality put to the test when the family pays a visit.

Allam is always superb, but he is greater than superb in these moments

Writer Russell Lewis is so good at putting together these stories – they are difficult to solve but never feel as though their solutions are unearned, and tonight is one such mystery. We head through a case that takes a few different tacks – the curse and an aggrieved Egyptian archaeologist, past arrests of the murdered policeman, the potential target being the film star – before leading to a surprisingly powerful conclusion (again, the killer is more sympathetic than you would expect). On the crime front, Eddie Nero also makes a reappearance – we’ll await the episode that sees him being taken down, and hope that this slow building is worth it.

On the emotion front, Thursday has a lot to do. His more jovial side comes out as he deals with his extended family, but Allam really succeeds in playing him as attempting to be stoic. He has two such scenes in this episode – dealing with his brother (Phil Daniels) asking for a loan, and a brief conversation with his daughter as he tries to reconcile his concern for her with his efforts not to meddle too much in her life – the relationship between the two that has been built up in previous series makes this disconnect all the more hard-hitting. Allam is always superb, but he is greater than superb in these moments.

I get that we’re meant to think Morse is being a bit of a grump, but I find myself siding with him

As Morse, Evans has a bit more to do than usual because of a spark of romance – he spends a night with a young woman who turns out to be Thursday’s niece Carol (Emma Rigby), and is tasked with showing her around the city. A more caring side to him is shown, and seems all the more caring because it is contrasted with him still not being fond of DC Fancy. Fancy is shown here having a bit too much to drink on assignment, and questioning why he should bother being thorough when investigating what he believes is an obviously natural death – I get that we’re meant to think Morse is being a bit of a grump, but I find myself siding with him on this one. (There is also a degree of sadness for fans of Morse – young Morse laments the lonely death of the policeman, to be told by Thursday that the same won’t happen to him because he’ll ‘make better choices’ – tragically, we know this isn’t the case.)

I found some of the stuff on prejudice and racism to be a bit heavy-handed (if entirely accurate) – Bright (Anton Lesser) and Thursday discuss it in the former’s office and Bright gives off a little spiel about why hatred in any form is hatred. He’s not wrong, but it comes quite early on and just feels like it’s making a point – a point that, annoyingly, isn’t really returned to in the episode. The plot thread of the racist thugs is somewhat underdone, and it’s a shame given the strength of the rest of the episode.

‘Cartouche’ is a typically enjoyable Endeavour, and the film flourishes couple with 60s Oxford to make an episode that feels both glamorous and gripping. Bolstered by the usual strong performances and plot, Endeavour again proves why it is a highlight of Sunday night television.

Next week: Endeavour investigates the disappearance of a local woman, with initial fears linking it to the unsolved murder of a teenager several years earlier.

You can read our review of the previous episode, ‘Muse,’ here.

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