Endeavour's fourth season finale brings the autumnal equinox and the tarot cards, as ancient rites play out in the shadow of progress. Let's check the readings. The Empress: Joan; The King of Swords: Thursday; The Ace of Wands: Endeavour Morse. The Devil... Well, I suppose that's in the details, no?
Thursday: Time of death?
DeByrn: Two thousand years ago.
Bright returns to the office after surviving Bed #10 last week. First order of business: a dead body that's been found right where the prologue scene set in 1962 left off. It's a missing persons cold case, one Matthew Laxman, who disappeared after being run off the road. The dead body, it turns out, has nothing to do with it, but Laxman's glasses turn up, chewed to hell. After talking to Laxman's wife, who hated him, Laxman's BFF, Professor Donald Bagley, and Nigel Warren, a homeless preacher who Laxman gave a lift to before disappearing, Thursday sends Morse into the town of Bramford to make inquiries.
While Bramford preps for the ancient rites of the autumnal equinox, Morse meets plenty of suspects. There's pair of Americans, Jon and Ros Levin. There's Zebulon Sadler, a gravedigger, and Seth Chattox, a shephard, whose dog follows him everywhere. Then there's Dr. Tristan Berger, and his sister Selina who keeps house, and insists on lying about seeing Laxman's car.
As for our Tarot card reader, her name is Dowsabelle Chattox; Seth is her son. (She's played by Original John Thaw Morse's widow, Sheila Hancock!) She lives outside of town, is quick with a shotgun, and quicker with her card readings. Morse finds his way out there not once, but twice. The second time when Laxman's jacket turns up on a scarecrow, with the Hanged Man card (from episode 1) in his pocket. In exchange, he gets a reading that includes the cards from last week (Death over The Tower.) He'll find his man, but death will be close behind.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Bramford isn't just a town full of spiritualists, reading fates in a deck of cards. It's also the home of the UK's major nuclear power plant. Morse wants to ask them about Laxman, only to discover the beautcratic nightmare designed from keping anyone from getting in. It's Dorothea Frazil to the rescue -- she's been invited for a tour, and brings Morse along as her photographer.
Bright: Well there we are. Not half an hour in the station, all back to normal. Carry on!
The project she's writing about, "Goldenrod," will make the UK one again with the world that's passing their fading empire by. If Laxman discovered radiation being leaked, could Blake and Levin be Bond style villains who had him "removed" to continue their fight to build a resevoir where the Chattox house is? Especially if he teamed up with Prof. Bagley, the father of these atomic energy experiments... until his beloved wife died of an aggressive cancer he blamed on raditation. Bagley *is* acting strangely, once he sees the reports of "Goldenrod."
Blake and Levin swear they never saw Laxman. But evidence mounts that the plant was involved, as that jacket Morse finds on the scarecrow has a telltale "radiation tester" clipped to it. Said scarecrow belongs to Zebulon Sadler, who also has Laxman's car hidden away -- with a giger counter in it.
But all this is a red herring. The power plant is a distraction, an incident waiting to happen. Morse and Thursday are in Bramford, putting together than Selina Berger was in love with Laxman, when the emergency signal goes off hours too early, and they realize it's not a drill. Blake and Levin aren't bad guys. They're being held hostage by Bagley and Warren, who believe they are, without any more proof than those who believe in tarot cards.
Calling their bluff, Thursday walks right up to the barrel of Bagley's gun, willing the man to put it down rather than shoot him. Warren, who is more determined to bring about apocalyptic visions, pulls out a grenade, but quick action by Morse turns what could have been a Chernobyl into something that's not even a mere Three Mile Island -- just an exploded barrel, a concussion and ringing ears.
Morse: Marry me.
Joan: Morse... I don't want your pity.
Meanwhile, this episode circles back to the issue of Morse's failed Sargent exam. Strange tells Morse of a position opening up in London, pushing Morse to consider it. In a rare moment of gentle real-talk, Bright pushes too, pointing out to Morse he puts everyone else first. It's high time he was a little selfish. Morse wonders if they're trying to get rid of him -- especially when his flat is burgled.
The burglary isn't a message. It's just an excuse for Morse's possessions to be in the station, so Thursday sees a photo of Joan with her new address on the back. Dear old dad drives out to Leamington Spa, but unlike Morse, Thursday guesses immediately that Joan isn't paying for this flat on some boutique salary. She's a kept woman, strung along on promises of a never materializing divorce.
Joan throws dad out. She is chosing her own life, she insists, not the simple prefab one he and Win treasure. She wants excitement, adventure...something. But is this really the glamorous life? Thursday makes matters worse with a one-two punch to her married paramore, who we learn is an abuser. She's ruined her life, she thinks, and can't leave him. (If Thursday had known that, he'd have killed him.)
Did you jump a foot when that proposal came out of Morse's mouth? Joan turned him down. (And we assume will continue to do so, as Original John Thaw Morse never mentioned being married.) But with no place to go, except back to a man who beats her, how can this stay the status quo? Win, next time she calls, ask her to come home.
Thursday: Handshakes are for goodbyes.
Married men preying on vunerable women is the answer behind the cold case too. Laxman was sleeping with Selina Berger (another one with the promises of a never materializing divorce.) Seth Chattox, who loved her, couldn't take it. He tried to be good, and help Laxman get his car out after being run off the road. Instead, Laxman sneered because Selina picked him over Seth, and Chattox killed him. Ironically, in the same manner as the first body, from 2000 years earlier. If it's not progress killing you, it's the things that never change.
The Tarot cards were right. Morse got his man, and solved his case -- only for Dowsabelle to walk up with that shotgun and shoot her son dead rather than see him go to jail. That's one way to make a fortune come true.... And another old woman is giving tokens of fate to Thursday and Morse: the Queen, for "services rendered" aka saving the power plant (and Bramford) from destruction. While Thursday and Win are up at Buckingham Palace, Morse gets his medal (and Sargent's promotion) alone. He missed it because he was at the hospital -- Joan rung for him. Her man, when he's not throwing her out, apparently throws her down the stairs for crimes of pregnancy.
The Doctor tells Morse (who he assumes is her husband) that he shouldn't worry, they "can try again" in a couple of months. Somehow we can't see Morse calling up to London now, or leaving Oxford. He's got his promotion, there's no need to go. This is where he needs to be. Series 5 awaits.