Another week, another strong episode of Endeavour, although ‘Quartet’ feels somewhat different in places to the usual episodes this series – it’s that classic trope of crime shows, the spy episode. Secrets are concealed just because (although less so than in a typical spy episode, it must be said), and nobody is ever what they seem. In the backdrop of this, we all have a nice degree of character work and the groundwork really laid for the series finale.
At an international sporting event, a competitor is shot and killed, leaving a little boy wounded in the crossfire. He is saved just in time by Dr DeBryn, and Morse is determined to find justice and the perpetrator. The investigation quickly reveals that the supposed assassin was also murdered, and the case takes on international ramifications as special branch arrive and take over. The rest of the force are content to leave the case alone, but Morse is committed to seeing it through, despite the potential risk to his own life. Meanwhile, as he deals with a case of suspected domestic abuse, DCI Thursday has come to a decision about his future on the force.
What started off on a predictable level evolved into the episode’s most compelling strand
‘Quartet’ was, at times, more James Bond than Endeavour – we saw Morse being escorted about by government agents, breaking into a private compound and even sharing snarky comments with a Bond-style villain (German perfumier Sebastian Fenix (Mark Ready), though I’d be lying if I said I could really figure out where he fit into the plot). I enjoyed some of this stuff, and it makes sense for the Cold War to intrude upon 60s Oxford, but I did feel that it was perhaps getting a bit far away from what makes Endeavour tick (the same criticism was true of series 4’s ‘Harvest’ and the finale chase in the nuclear power plant).
The main case contrasted massively with the one that occupied Thursday. He is concerned that local newsagent Joe Dozier (Andrew Paul) is inflicting vicious abuse on his wife Elsie (Mary Roscoe), and spends a bit of time trying to help the situation before Elsie winds up hospitalized. Thursday is keen that Elsie escapes the abuse before she winds up being killed – later, when he hears of a death at the house, he fears he may be too late. I expected this story to play out one of two ways, and I was completely wrong on both guesses – what started off on a predictable level evolved into the episode’s most compelling strand.
It was also topped off with the news that nobody wanted to hear – Fred Thursday is retiring (and, presumably, that means we’re losing Roger Allam too). He tells Morse that he’s going to turn in his “tin star” because he’s uncomfortable with the newly-emerging world of bureaucrats interfering in investigations and thugs committing crimes – his dismay at the senselessness of the murder of the lorry driver in ‘Passenger’ gave us some hint of this. It’s possible this reaction may be probed further in ‘Icarus’ now that we have met Cromwell Ames – he appears at Eddie Nero’s bar, telling him that his time is up. Are we going to be seeing gang war in the final episode? And, more importantly (based on certain hints throughout this series), will Thursday make it to the end credits?
It only helps ramp up anticipation for the final episode in what has been an incredible run of TV
Elsewhere, love has bloomed and vanished. Out on the river with Claudine, Morse sees Fancy and Trewlove sharing a kiss – tragically, his own love life was about to disappear. He is concerned early in the episode that she is planning to leave town – this fear is soon realised, leaving Morse to drown his sorrows at a bar and share another soap opera ‘will-they-won’t-they’ moment with Joan.
On the supporting cast, it’s a typically strong showing – both Dozier and Paul Durden (playing Oxford English professor Alexander Richmond) now lay claim to be the only actors to have appeared in all three Morse shows, and Ellie Haddington puts in a very steely performance as a language tutor who may know a bit more than she first lets on.
Although I enjoyed ‘Quartet’ and although it is a strong episode, it may be the weakest of this run so far simply because elements of it feel a bit out of place in the world of Endeavour. Still, it’s a typically compelling watch, and it only helps ramp up anticipation for the final episode in what has been an incredible run of TV.
Next week: After the mysterious disappearance of a teacher, Morse finds himself investigating the dark and secret world of a public school.
You can read our review of the previous episode, ‘Colours,’ here.