Monday, July 7, 2014

Endeavour: Nocturne (BBC, 2014)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2014 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

After Love My Dog (see below) I switched the channel to PBS for the next episode of Endeavour, the British series that takes the character of Inspector Morse and flashes us back to 1966, when he was just Constable Morse and just starting out as a British police detective — and annoying his superiors with his insistence on linking seemingly separate crimes and attributing them to the same person, or at least to the same interest. This episode was called “Nocturne,” a title inspired by the Chopin nocturne (Op. 9, no. 1) that figures prominently in the plot, and takes place at a girls’ school in the British countryside that a century earlier was the home of a titled family which had returned to Britain following a stint in India in which they’d made their fortune in tea — only three of the family’s four daughters were brutally murdered and the fourth was declared insane and shut up in a mental institution, where she died decades later without having had any kids of her own. Writer Russell Lewis seemed to have been taking the Ross Macdonald trope — the gimmick he introduced in his 1959 novel The Galton Case of having the detective obliged to investigate and close a case from a quarter-century earlier in order to get the clue he needs to solve the more recent crime he is also investigating — and pushed it to the absurd extreme of requiring Morse to solve the century-old murder in order to gain a clue as to who committed the current crime, the murder of a septuagenarian antiquarian who was nosing around the girls’ school doing research on the family that had once lived there until they came to so brutal an end. Personally, I thought the killer was going to turn out to be the writer who had published a book on the old crime some time before, and who was attempting to reproduce the original crime by abducting and knocking off students at the school so there’d be renewed attention to the affair and he could get his book back in print, but instead it turned out to be the direct descendant of the family gardener, who was in fact an illegitimate descendant of the father of the original owners of the estate from an affair he’d had with a woman in India, whom he had brought back to the U.K. but entrusted to the care of the gardener, whom he told to pass off the boy as his kid — and thus matters rested for generations until Parliament started debating a bill to remove the restrictions on illegitimate children inheriting, thereby giving him a motive to knock off anyone potentially between him and reclaiming the old estate. I quite liked the show, especially the virtually Gothic direction of Giuseppe Capotondi, who was particularly effective in the scenes in which the schemers are trying to make it seem like the ghosts of the original murder victim are still haunting the house. But as Charles pointed out, it’s also the sort of plot that really pushes the long arm of coincidence and the resolution is so far-fetched it’s too unbelievable to be satisfying. But I was amused that the filmmakers had the entire story take place during a hard-fought World Cup match in which the British team make it to the finals — and the BBC and PBS chose to air it during a real World Cup!