As Oxford City Police Station closes in the Endeavour finale, death strikes one of one of the station's own.
DeBryn: I'll start with George if I may. We don't want him lying with such company a moment longer than he has to.
The Season 5 finale opens with the inevitable announcement: Oxford City station will be closed down on the 30th of the November. Transfers will come for at least Morse, Strange, and DeBryn to head to Thames Valley, where we will find them 20 years hence in 1987. As for the rest, since the British papers very helpfully headlined the Monday after the finale aired "Who Didn't Survive The Endeavour Finale?", we knew someone wasn't coming out the other side.
I assumed the answer was Thursday. He has days until his retirement, telling Morse how much he loves Oxford, and Win talking about how "we've still got our health." But then Charlie loses the money Thursday lent him, which was all their savings. Retirement has been canceled. (Win is so mad.) And here's George Fancy in the jeweler's shop buying Trewlove an engagement ring, right after she tells Morse on their undercover assignment she's put in a transfer to Scotland Yard because she has her career to think about. That's a bad sign.
Speaking of the undercover assignment, the show sets it up as a fake-out, leading fans to think Morse, upon hearing Oxford City is closing decided to take leave of policing altogether. His next jump: Coldwater school, teaching Sixth Form, replacing the recently disappeared James Ivory. He's even already befriending Mr. Bodnar, who is in charge of Fifth Form. The ruse is the Division's idea after the local DI and DS were killed in a traffic accident just after the disappearance of Ivory.
This is the first time the show has directly set the higher-ups to be the bad guys, not giving Bright the full picture. Perhaps they assume the sheer lengths they are going to would lead everyone to understand how dangerous the case is? Morse and Bright dismiss the car crash as unrelated. Thursday grumps it's just not "real copperin'." Bright picked Morse for the job, but neither Thursday or Fancy can come with him, as two men living together would raise eyebrows, so Morse's bagman is Trewlove, posing as his spouse in an apron and 60s housewife 'do to die for. (There's only one bed, so Morse takes the tub, which is only made funnier by Fancy's raging jealousy.)
Morse: That's a rather grim subject for someone painting their toenails.
Morse is in danger, though the biggest threat may be the boys who enter his Sixth Form classroom. These 16-year-olds are kings of the school having been raised by Masters who are just as inhumane as they are. Lead by Rackway (Sam Clemmett, who currently can be seen on Broadway playing Albus Potter in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) these kids run over Morse, beat the younger boys in the hallways, and spend their free periods getting stoned in the woods. The class also includes Nero's kid Brett. The students know something about Ivory's disappearance, but what it is, they're not saying.
As for the Masters, Bodnar is a sweet sort. The nurse matron genuinely cares for the kids. But aloof headmaster Mackenzie doesn't care much about anyone who is not his daughter, allowing the abusive brute Blackwell to run wild. According to Bodnar, Ivory was also a horror show, he made the kids into the gang Morse sees. Some of this jives with what the kids reveal. For instance, the typical upper-class racism and talk of "ubermensch" were not only supported by Ivory, he singled out the Jewish kid in the class with nicknames.
But when Morse catches the Sixth formers beating up a younger boy named Stanlow, the boy attaches himself to Morse for protection and insists Ivory had been his protector, encouraging him to find himself some heroes. (Stanlow's wall is plastered with JFK, RFK, MLK, and Lincoln.) The Matron also reveals Ivory protected the kid from Blackwell's beatings. Meanwhile "Mrs. Morse" seeks out Mrs. Ivory, and invites her to dinner, but Trewlove's position is mostly to cover for Morse being crap at this undercover stuff.
Morse's inability to hide what he's really doing at least brings up evidence: someone drops off a shirt, confirmed to be Ivory's, covered in blood, and then later Ivory's bloody wallet. But when Morse turns up a body in Ivory's private drinking hangout, it's not the missing teacher. It's a recently expelled student, Roundtree. Turns out Roundtree was Ivory's pet, not unlike Stanlow, and for the same reason. Blackwell bullied the kid, beating him to the point of internal bleeding for days. The reason Roundtree was expelled was for punching Ivory after the two of them fell out. But the cause of death wasn't murder. The kid OD'd on heroin.
Morse: Career won't hold you at three in the morning when the wolves come circling.
And thus our cases of Nero/Aims and Ivory are connected. Nero is running a heroin & hashish trade. That's what Aims wanted to take over. Ivory, as an upper-class white man who summered in Morocco, was a perfect conduit. No one would expect a teacher to be drug running. Nero's kid being in his class was a coincidence, though Division didn't know it. Nero's son is actually a good kid. It was Rackway's gang and Roundtree who were users, hooked by Ivory. When Ivory disappeared and the cops started sniffing around they were killed by a lorry full of explosives. Sadly, Division kept everyone in the dark. When Fancy sees Aims head in to confront Nero, no one tells him he must stay in the car and keep himself safe. It's a very unsatisfying end to the season-long Oxford underworld plot. Instead, the cops show up and everyone's dead, including George, who went down in the shootout.
Morse and Thursday do get one last collar though. Morse realizes Stanlow's grief at losing his teacher and the assassinated men on his wall have taught him the wrong lessons. Endeavour may be a British show, but they know they have an American audience, and about our school shooting problem, so the timeliness of this can't be discounted. Stanlow is stopped before he kills, and his confession reveals who did in Ivory: The Matron. She recognized Roundtree was on heroin. She followed Ivory to his assignation with the headmaster's daughter and stabbed him to death. She did it to protect the kids.
As the station closes, Nero and Aims are finished. Brokenhearted Trewlove heads to Scotland Yard. Bright decides to resign. Thursday's late change of heart on retirement means he hasn't gotten his new assignment. But one last plot thread remains: DeBryn says Fancy was shot with a gun not found at the scene, leaving an open case for Morse and Strange to take with them, and a promise to see it done.
Seeing Fancy's life cut short does spur Morse to action, finally. The season closes with him standing in front of Joan, asking if that coffee might still be on offer. Let's hope he's finally not too late.