A fantastic story, very complex and twisted, beautifully performed by all concerned. An incredibly tight script, and notable for being the episode where his name is finally revealed.
One of the latter episodes, and for my money possibly John Thaw's finest performance in the much loved role. I mention I find it a tough watch, not through the story or quality of the episode, just because of the venomous and abhorrent character that Richard Briers created with Sir Clixby Bream, even that black hair is repugnant. The scene where he confesses his misdemeanour to Shelly Cornford is shocking, but well executed.
All the cast shine through, Maggie Steed and Judy Loe are particularly good.
So good, I wondered if there was a consideration for it to have rounded of the series. 9/10
This episode hit so many right notes for me, that it would have been a great finale for the show. Morse solves the case, reveals his first name, and at long last, gets the girl. Walk off into the sunset, fade to black. That would have been great.
Interesting side notes: after watching all the previous episodes filmed in old standard-def 4:3 format, it was stunning to see an HD 16:9 episode. Also, nice to see Roger Allam when he was young, and it's great that he's now the senior partner in Endeavour.
Morse and Lewis determine that the second victim has been gathering material that allows him to blackmail just about anyone he wants. He's been concentrating on two rivals for promotion at Oxford. The murderer is nailed down properly but the true villain is the smiling dude with dyed hair who is in charge of the promotions at the college. That would be Richard Briers as Sir Clixby Bream (a name to conjure with). Boy, is he a rude lump of moral deformity or what? He hounds the wife of one of the ambitious candidates for promotion into servicing him, then cackles and tells her he's not going to give her husband the post anyway. He revels in his evil. The wife is Holly Chant, who has a nice figure, a queer face, and a soft, seductive, and somehow reassuring American voice. She could be on late-night FM radio announcing that the next selection will be the Academic Festival Overture. I was sorry to see her get it.
I was glad that the other candidate -- the one who isn't her husband -- wasn't guilty of anything more than a bit of musical beds because he's an anthropologist whose specialty is the Pacific Islands, the same as I are. I do think they could have made him a little more attractive though.
Morse's father was obsessed with an explorer of the Pacific Islands. In fact, Morse's first name is revealed and it has to do with Captain Cook, the British explorer who discovered Hawaii, at that time called the Sandwich Islands. It's ironic in view of Cook's later becoming a kind of unwilling human repast himself.
Here are just some of the many irritants:
# 'I never think, Sir. Didn't get a degree' is a pale shadow of 'I wouldn't presume to *think* in an Oxford college. I *imagine*..' which had suggested all of the contradictions of Morse's position - his time at Oxford, his choice of career, his lack of ambition, being nourished by the job itself, his talents being applied in a way that Academe would scarcely appreciate.. But in this episode, it is replaced with a chip on his shoulder, perhaps even an appeal to class envy.
# Ingratiating himself to Adele Cecil, Morse denounces Verdi's work as being only good enough for cheering one up (perfectly reasonable); but the set designer should have paid attention - Morse's office later has a Verdi poster on the wall. Or, even more clumsy, was this intentional?
# Shelly Cornford's dubbed unbroken screaming as she rolls down the college staircase (not to mention Lewis' inept CPR - open her airway, man!)
# Far too much personal background info about Morse in one episode, with all the subtlety of a 'Popular Classics' compilation CD. Too many references to his parents; and then of course the first name 'reveal' travesty, signposted with the Quaker mother (clang!) and Captain Cook-obsessed father (clang!) hints.
# Indeed, there is too much repetition in general e.g. there are at least half a dozen gags about Morse not having any money and Lewis having to pay for the round of drinks, newspaper etc. Mildly amusing the first time, unbearably ham-fisted by the fifth or sixth.
The queasiness is somewhat abated by my sympathy for the actors and crew, who manage to get through it so well, especially Richard Briers.
Actually Lewis' own series, later on, after Morse has died, is much better; more intense use of the university, and his sidekick, Hathaway is really an interesting part of the whole series and it's excellent production, writing and acting and musical scoring as well. So, in conclusion, I watch it