Endeavour Series 9 Episode 2 Review: Thrilling Return of Ghosts From the Past

Endeavour has clearly been saving the best for last, as Series 9 goes from good to great. Spoilers.

Endeavour Series 9 episode 3 Roger Allam and Shaun Evans
Photo: ITV/Mammoth Screen

Warning: contains spoilers for Endeavour Series 9 Episode 2 ‘Uniform’

“But they’re not here, and I am,” should be the words stamped beneath ACC Bright’s face on a range of Endeavour merchandise. With them, Bright went from upright company man to heroic leader of this band of brothers. A band now one brother bigger following the surprise return of DS Jakes – last seen in Series 3 – at the episode’s cliffhanger ending. With a “Wotcha”, Little Pete was back, this time hopefully ready to face his demons.

There was a stirring sense of heroism in ‘Uniform’ as one by one, our men chose good over self-interest. Morse led the charge by offering to draw enemy fire so Thursday could protect his promotion, but when it came to it, Fred stood shoulder to shoulder with his bagman. It took Bright’s direct defiance of Division orders, and DeBryn’s identification of the bodies to get the job done. Now Jakes – first-hand witness to the brutal child abuse covered up at Blenheim Vale – has joined the fray, the truth will out whatever the cost. 

The victory of digging up Josiah Landesman and Brenda Lewis in the grounds of the former Boys’ Residential Home has already cost Morse dearly. While he was inspecting gravesites and getting roughed up by obnoxious heavies, a countdown was ticking. The happy future we all know that it’s impossible for Morse to have was quietly sipping a drink at The Eagle & Child, sitting across from a symbolically empty crossword. Yes, it was inevitable that Morse and Miss Thursday once again missed their chance, but that didn’t stop it from being a cruel turn of fate. 

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Speaking of cruelty, what an exquisite contrast there was in ‘Uniform’ between the solid heroism of our gang and the foul arrogance of The Debonairs. While Morse, Thursday and Bright risked their necks for what’s right, England’s future leaders stamped on those of the poor for entertainment.

Heavily styled after Alex and his Droogs from A Clockwork Orange (a film released one year earlier in the Endeavour timeline) right down to the Kubrickian soundtrack and framing, the society boys were odious villains. All the better to drag them off their college lawn teddy bears’ picnic kicking and screaming. Their imperious attitude to Fred and co. fed into this series’ theme: the greasy machinery that insulates Rt Hon scum from punishment for their crimes. 

Which leads to the question: just how far up does the Blenheim Vale child abuse scandal go? High enough to justify multiple murders, clearly. With Landesman located, all four of the known abusers are now dead, plus a handful of victims and unfortunate witnesses. Just whose orders are Division acting upon, and whose interests are being protected by the cover-up? Might there be any more clues to take from those surrealist paintings, which featured diverse subjects including a royal palace guard… 

The Beefeater may have been a plot point in the career of Jolyon Jolliphant (perhaps fiction’s most ridiculous name?) rather than a clue to our case, of course. The cast and crew of fictional 1970s crime drama ‘Jolly For Short’ were a very welcome addition to the episode, not least for ACC Bright’s enjoyable befuddlement at the identity of his uniformed constable victim.  

Confusion was the order of the day for the Cowley men when it came to the world of television. Much fun was had making Shaun Evans and Roger Allam furrow their brows at the lingo and Equity procedure. Having the show within a show fondly reflect back the genre’s cliches (avuncular pipe-smoking detective leaves no stone unturned…) was a marvellous gambit. Actors making fun of actors is always good for a laugh, and this was done in style. All that, plus the jaunty theme music added useful light to the shade of those weighty Kubrick references. 

(Just think – if Endeavour were to have stuck around for another few years, the Thursdays might have been sitting on their settee in front of an episode of The Sweeney starring a certain someone.)

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‘Jolly For Short’ itself wasn’t the episode’s only knowing in-joke. Kenneth Prior being the murderer was teased early on with his reference to the play in which “all the way through, you don’t know whether it’s [him] or not.” And there was more meta discussion to go with last episode’s talk of ninth symphonies with the news that this long-standing TV crime drama is also drawing to an end, and with an ominous plot about bent coppers to boot.

Ominous was the word for it. Bad omens were flying, from the ‘Jolly For Short’ scripts to Ronnie Box, to the corrupt County goons that smashed Morse’s headlight. If Fred Thursday does manage to walk away from this series unscathed, there’s every chance he’ll trip over all the portents of doom on his way out.   

In Joan and Sam’s tender and well-acted ’99 scene, and in that agonising but extremely watchable family dinner (Strange clearly doesn’t know the rule about leaving work at the hatstand in the Thursday household) the episode also afforded space to show exactly what’s at stake for Fred. After all, ACC Bright’s bold rebellion was based on him no longer having anything to lose. Faced with enemies that come at you through what you love, Fred Thursday has everything. 

Endeavour Series 9 concludes on Sunday the 12th of March at 8pm on ITV1 in the UK. It will air on PBS Masterpiece in the US at a later date.