'Endeavour' Season 7 Finale: Tension Explodes Between Morse & Thursday (RECAP)
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Endeavour Season 7 Episode 3, “Zenana.”]
Can it be the end already? Season 7 of Endeavour whizzed by, with more than enough storylines for a typical season’s four episodes squeezed into three. And while past years of the British crime drama have included arcs that spanned the season, none have been as intricate as the towpath killer case, which has tested the skills and the psyches of Oxford’s Detective Sergeant Endeavour Morse and Detective Chief Inspector Fred Thursday (Shaun Evans and Roger Allam) like nothing before.
Forget what happens between Morse and his secret lover Violetta (Stephanie Leonidas). I was more worried that Morse’s relationship with longtime mentor and partner Thursday would be irrevocably broken when the tension that’s been building between them all season finally explodes in the season finale, “Zenana.”
This episode begins where mysteries usually end: with the apprehension of a suspect. After Bridget, the woman who was murdered in the final minutes of last week’s installment, is found by the canal, Thursday feels vindicated. It appears that the person who killed Molly Andrews on New Year’s Eve 1969 wasn’t the man they charged. That means Thursday was right and Morse was wrong!
After Molly’s boyfriend Carl Sturgis (Sam Ferriday) is taken into custody, there’s a time jump from mid-1970 to the end of the year. (You can see snow on the roofs of Oxford.) Morse is still canoodling with Violetta (Stephanie Leonidas) and suggests telling her husband Ludo (Ryan Gage) about their relationship, but Violetta says no. “It would kill him,” she warns.
As for police business, Morse is jumping down a new rabbit hole – looking into a series of deaths that were deemed accidental but that Oxford Mail journalist Dorothea Frazil (Abigail Thaw) thinks may be connected. Then Morse and Thursday get a call they never expected: Another young woman has been found dead on the towpath!
The victim, Petra, was a student at Lady Matilda’s, an Oxford women’s college that’s fighting to keep from going coed. Does this mean Sturgis isn’t the towpath killer? Thursday hopes that’s not the case, but solving a murder suddenly takes a back seat to Morse and Thursday’s game of one-upmanship. Morse asserts his superior intellect, Thursday calls out his arrogance, and Detective Sergeant Strange (Sean Rigby) has had enough of them both. “That’s the face we want to show the world now, is it?” he admonishes. “God almighty, what’s the matter with you?”
After Morse promises to ask for a transfer once the case is solved, his investigation leads him back to Jenny Tate (Holli Dempsey), the woman with psychic abilities who knew things about the towpath killer case in Episode 1, but couldn’t direct the police to the killer. Among other things, the terrified Jenny tells Morse a frightening story about being the only survivor of a fire that killed her family when she was a child.
Then another woman from Lady Matilda’s is killed. It appears she fell from a ladder, but Morse finds the circumstances suspicious, and she has something in common with the other accident victims – she had recently cashed in a life insurance policy.
Yet another young woman walks along the towpath at night. She’s attacked, but the women of Lady Matilda’s are lying in wait and descend upon the assailant, who is hit by a car and seriously injured. Police discover he’s David Clemens, the man who found the first body on January 1. Is he the towpath killer?
Before that’s resolved, Morse endures a most uncomfortable lunch with Violetta and Ludo, who now knows he’s being cuckolded. “What shall we drink to? Friendship? Love? Fidelity?” Ludo asks mockingly when the champagne is poured. Alas, despite all his scholarly knowledge, Morse remains naive in the ways of femme fatales. When each man extends his hand to Violetta, it’s the wealthy Ludo’s that she takes.
That’s not the only heartbreak to befall a member of the Thames Valley Constabulary that day. The wife (Carol Royle) of Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright (Anton Lesser), who recently returned from experimental cancer treatment in America thinking she could be in remission, is killed in another apparent freak accident, while hanging Christmas decorations!
But Morse has figured out what’s going on. Someone’s been buying life insurance policies and killing to collect on them. Thursday doesn’t believe him, so Strange and Morse team up, and Morse, for a change, remembers to say thank you.
Strange goes to the site of one of the accidents: a large, creepy house, where he finds...Carl Sturgis, who claims to be watching it for a family friend. When Sturgis starts whistling, as the towpath killer did, and Strange hears banging from above, he rushes upstairs and finds...Jenny Tate being held hostage! Morse pulls up in his car, Sturgis stabs Strange, and Morse and Sturgis battle until the towpath killer falls down the stairs to his death!
Explanations are in order, and we get them when Thursday shows up. Most importantly, Strange will survive, and Jenny was Sturgis’ sister. She thought he died in the fire when they were kids, but he escaped. Sturgis was responsible for the first three towpath deaths: Molly Andrews; the male flasher, who was killed because he was in the way; and Bridget. Petra was killed by copycat killer Clemens. And Sturgis isn’t connected to the accidents. He was at the house because he worked for a funeral director and knew it was empty.
As for the freak accidents, Morse traces the regions where they’ve been happening – Leicester, Uttoxeter, Dover and Oxford. What do the first letters of each word spell? Ludo! He’s been playing Morse all year.
Christmas comes and Thursday seems to miss Morse. When he reads a letter the junior detective wrote to his daughter Joan, in which Morse calls Thursday “the best and wisest of men and a better friend to me than I could have wished for or deserved,” Thursday is moved to follow Morse to Venice, where he has gone to apprehend Violetta and Ludo. But Ludo shoots Violetta, who dies in Morse’s arms. “Ti amo” are her final words. And Thursday has his partner’s back. He fires at Ludo, who falls into the water.
So the scenes of Morse loading his gun and wearing a bloody shirt in the first episode are explained. Also the voiceover that promised, “This is a story about love,” although to me that means the bond that exists between Morse and Thursday. Yes, let’s call it love. Morse and Thursday may keep their emotions in check, but Evans and Allam (not to mention Lesser in this episode) can rip your heart out with their beautifully understated performances.
There’s no word on when Season 8 will start filming (Evans is busy with another program at the moment), how many episodes it will be or if it will be the last. If Season 7 is any indication, it appears darker days lie ahead. Writer Russell Lewis is turning young Morse into the older, crankier detective of Inspector Morse. But is it too late to hope for a slightly modified timeline?