This review contains spoilers.
The final episode of Endeavour’s third series opens with a funeral. It’s far from unexpected, given that we’ve been noting disturbing hints of impending tragedy ever since we first learnt of Thursday’s failing health. However, the cortege belongs to someone else entirely: local villain Harry Rose, whose mourners are under the surveillance of none other than Thursday and Strange. The scene neatly encapsulates two of the major characteristics of the show in general, and this series in particular. Its melancholy points to sad events yet to come, while highlighting writer Russell Lewis’ taste for allusions to scenes and characters familiar to fans of Inspector Morse. The gangland funeral in Kensal Green cemetery is a direct reference to a scene in the 1991 episode, Promised Land, and the dead man on that occasion was Peter Matthews, one of the bank robbers in this episode.
Coda depicts the ending of a number of cherished relationships that have been constructed during Endeavour’s three series, although, as it turns out, none of them actually concludes with a death. Morse returns to his alma mater, Lonsdale College, for an evening concert, and runs into his former tutor, Dr Felix Lorimer (the excellent Mark Heap). Lorimer is keen to arrange a proper catch-up, but he has more on his mind than mere nostalgia for Morse’s student days. He informs the detective that his estranged wife has a disreputable new boyfriend, and asks him to look into the man’s background. Morse is reluctant, but is shamed into acquiescence by Lorimer’s wounding comments on his student’s own infatuation with Susan, the ‘brown-eyed blonde’ who still haunts our Endeavour’s inner life.
Nina Lorimer (Samantha Colley) is dating bingo caller Paul Marlock (Robbie Carpenter) and, when confronted by Morse, has a very different view of her husband’s suspicions. She believes he is responsible for the murder of Clissold, a local businessman recently found shot dead in his car. The stage is set for another complex mystery, which erupts into drama when Thursday’s suspicions that Harry Rose’s place will soon be filled by other would-be kingpins are proven correct. Cole Matthews (Tom McKay) and his brother Peter (Tom Mothersdale) are planning a robbery at the Oxford bank at which the late Clissold was a customer. Morse is caught up in the raid, along with Thursday’s daughter, Joan. Before the day is over, there will be bloodshed, terror and uncomfortable revelations about exactly how far a dying Thursday might be willing to go in hunting down the men holding Joan hostage.
While the bank robbery is key to the episode’s plot, its heart lies in the relationship between Morse and Thursday. The two men’s positions have been reversed here, with Thursday suspended early in the episode for roughing up an associate of the Matthews brothers, and Morse – so jaded at the beginning of this series – acting as the voice of reason and restraint. Thursday is increasingly finding the more belligerent Strange to be his preferred ‘bagman’, and Morse is clearly distressed by both men’s hints that, once he’s passed his sergeant’s exam, he should think about moving on. With Jakes gone, Bright back to his usual remote self, and WPC Trewlove irritated by Morse’s assumptions about her personal life, the station is not as welcoming a place as it once was. Although Morse and his mentor are eventually reconciled, the balance has shifted, and we get the sense that things will never quite be the same again.
We always knew that Morse’s love life was doomed to disaster, of course, but hope springs eternal even when we really ought to know better. The shared trauma of their hostage experience brings Morse and Joan closer together, leading to Morse’s realisation (courtesy of a touch of jealousy at Joan’s brief fling with the manipulative Marlock, along with a touching montage of all the shy detective’s missed opportunities with her in the past) of his slow-burning love for Thursday’s daughter. Sadly, Joan has seen too much of the perils of life with a policeman, and decides to leave Oxford for a fresh start elsewhere. Shaun Evans and Sara Vickers have one last bittersweet scene together, in a conclusion to their story that’s been foreseeable from the beginning, but is no less wrenching for all that.
In a generally mournful episode, there are some bright spots of humour. Max DeBryn usually gets the best lines, and Coda is no exception to that rule (2Alimentary, my dear Morse” is his remark on the stomach contents of the departed Clissold). Morse’s outsider status is usually mined for pathos rather than laughs, but his attempt to come down to Marlock’s level by mentioning the ‘bird’ he’s brought to the bingo (Trewlove, undercover) is hilariously unconvincing and perfectly delivered by Evans. Terry Pratchett fans will be delighted to learn that Thursday’s own mentor was a certain Sergeant Vimes of Cable Street, while those on the lookout for references to Morse’s future will enjoy spotting his college acquaintance Jerome Hogg (also seen in the Inspector Morse episode, Greeks Bearing Gifts).
Death may not, after all, claim Thursday at the end of this series, but its presence has always haunted Endeavour, as Coda makes very clear. Morse’s sweet exchange with his mentor on Joan’s rescue takes place at Lonsdale College, the place where his story began, and where it will eventually end with his passing in The Remorseful Day. With Joan’s departure, we know exactly where time will lead him. Still, the man himself deserves the last word on his ultimate fate. When posing as a house buyer in order to question Nina Lorimer, Morse looks around him at the trappings of suburbia and tells her, “It’s not for me.” Much as he might wish otherwise, he’s telling the truth.
Read Gem’s review of the previous episode, Prey, here.