Endeavour series 6 episode 3 review: gruesome and emotional

Series six's penultimate episode tells a dark story with real emotional heft. Spoilers ahead in our review...

This review contains spoilers.

6.3 Confection 

A sunny day in rural Oxfordshire, and blood is about to be spilt. The Chigton hunt is out for the day, enjoying a now-illegal pursuit that some describe as ‘sport’. Those who can think of other words for it – and I suspect writer Russell Lewis is among their number – might feel a jolt of anticipatory nausea at the sight of a sanguine streak on a young woman’s face as the group of hunters ride back after their morning’s entertainment. This isn’t going to end well, and not just for old Reynard. 

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When Greville Creswell’s horse appears riderless and in distress at his family’s stately pile, a search party is immediately launched, only to discover a grisly scene in the bucolic countryside. Creswell, his head obliterated by a shotgun blast, lies prone in the grass. DeBryn calculates his exact time of death from his wristwatch, its mechanism shattered by the initial, immobilising shot. The Creswell clan, local bigwigs at the head of a confectionary business that’s ruled the roost in the picturebox village of Chigton Green since its foundation in 1832, is immediately divided. Sons Murray (Jack Hawkins) and Rupert (Ben Lamb) are grappling with the decision over whether to sell out to a larger competitor, while a rift is deepening between Murray’s unhappy wife, Clemmie (Claudia Jolly), and Rupert’s fiancée, former factory worker Sarah Clamp (Katie Goldfinch).

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The village is soon abuzz with malicious gossip behind the flower arrangements and the pristine shopfronts, a situation only exacerbated by the discovery of Mandy-Jane Bell, cut down in her driveway, and her husband, Rennett, dead by his own hand. As Box cheerily declares, this is – you guessed it – an open-and-shut-case. Can you also guess who doesn’t think it is, and will go to considerable lengths to prove his alleged superiors wrong? The discovery of Happy Families cards, a popular collectible game given away in tubs of the eponymous Creswell sweets, leads to startling revelations about the true undercurrents of misery, pain, and spite that poison every aspect of Chigton Green’s fetid little community. 

In tandem with this, Strange is still carrying out his own investigation into the trafficking of heroin cut with quinine in Oxford’s environs, a dismal trade that has claimed yet another life. Strange’s building conspiracy theory about Box’s odd lack of interest in pursuing that line of enquiry would normally be Wagner to Morse’s ears, but our man’s no longer too sure about all this ‘icon of truth and justice’ business. His encounter with young widow Isla Fairford (Olivia Chenery) has made him wonder if there might be a different kind of future on the cards for him, after all. While this tentative affair takes its first faltering steps, Bright is facing tragedy at home and Thursday is crossing a line that will devastate long-time Endeavourfans. 

Confection is another strong episode in what has been a fine series so far, setting up a number of extremely promising developments for what remains of the fellowship of Cowley, while presenting us with a compelling, satisfying mystery. The colourful array of villagers introduced to us during the case could have dragged us into Cluedo territory, but there’s a cold brutality to this story that leaves an appropriately harsh aftertaste once the sugared late-Sixties colours have been digested. Company secretary and covert agony aunt Judith Neal (Tilly Blackwood) is a particular highlight, brimming with intrigue behind her prim exterior.

Even for particularly dark series, Confection is unusually gruesome by Endeavour’s standards, with lashings of gore and a perspective, skilfully evoked by director Leanne Welham, that brings us eyeball-to-eyeball with corpses and spares us no detail of their demise. (Some viewers will appreciate being forewarned that this includes the aftermath of a suicide.) This feels not gratuitous, but necessary; Lewis’s script somehow finds sympathy for all those drawn into this tangled web of cruelty, while implicitly pointing the finger at us as we peer over Morse’s shoulder. One scene in particular, as the young copper carefully enters a house of death in search of the perpetrator, is so tense that you might briefly find yourself fearing for his safety. Quite a feat, all things considered. 

The emotional heft of this episode is what will linger in the mind, though. From Bright’s grief for the impending loss of his beloved wife (Carol Royle) to Fred’s inability to overcome Win’s distance from him, Anton Lesser and Roger Allam are given plenty of space to shine. Fred, in particular, is on a very rocky road that can only distance him from Morse. The repercussions, should his actions be discovered, will be profound. 

“The second time, you barely feel it,” Box tells him as he shoves an envelope full of cash across the table. We’ll see how that works out.      

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Read Gem’s review of the previous episode, Apollo, here.