Warning: contains spoilers for Endeavour Series 9 episode ‘Prelude’.
Anyone who thinks the MCU goes deep with Easter Eggs needs to look to the other MCU: the Morse Cinematic Universe. From Colin Dexter’s novels to the Inspector Morse TV adaptation to spin-offs Lewis and Endeavour, everything really is connected. Characters, place names, and in-jokes for vigilant viewers criss-cross them all, and nowhere more than in Russell Lewis’ reference-packed prequel.
In its ninth and final series, Endeavour is calling back to one of its earliest and most dramatic unresolved cases – the Blenheim Vale child abuse scandal cover-up explored in Series 2 episode ‘Neverland’, and a property conspiracy seeded as far back as Series 1.
In the opening episode of Series 9, a murdered body leads Morse and Thursday to a private investigator hired by the dead man. The PI – former Detective Inspector Ronnie Box played by Simon Harrison – is himself a surprise call-back to Series 5 and 6’s police corruption plot. The murder victim was named Andrew Lewis (a Lewis from the North-East? You don’t mean…? Quite possibly) and was in Oxford investigating the disappearance of his mother Brenda in September 1963. Brenda’s last known place of work was Landesman Construction.
That company was first mentioned on Endeavour all the way back in Series 1 episode ‘Home’. It was the firm behind Oxfordshire’s 1966 Booth Hill property development (the debate over which featured one of several Endeavour cameos by Inspector Morse creator Colin Dexter).
According to the articles of association Morse dredged up in that episode, Landesman Construction was owned jointly by gangster shareholders Vince Kasper (the son of an old hood from Fred’s London days) and the Fletcher Brothers (a fictionalised version of The Krays). Vince Kasper was arrested for bribing public officials in the Housing Department, but Landesman Construction lived on thanks to its public face: Josiah Landesman.
In Series 2 episode 4 ‘Neverland’, we met Josiah Landesman, played by Richard Dixon. Landesman was introduced as a wealthy pillar of the community whose company donated £1000 to the Police Widows and Orphans Fund. He was later revealed to have been part of a child abuse ring operating in the late 1940s and early 1950s at the now-derelict Blenheim Vale Boys’ Home – the site of which Landesman Construction planned to redevelop as the new police Divisional HQ. The company had put a stop to an archaeological dig on the grounds of the former residential home, fearing what might be dug up there after the disappearance of a young boy years earlier. In the Series 9 opener, the site remained undeveloped.
Residential boys’ home Blenheim Vale was first mentioned in Series 2 episode ‘Sway’, when stabbing victim and Burridge’s employee Norman Parkis was said to have lived there as a child. It was “a place for, well, the ones that ain’t quite right,” said Parkis’ colleague. As Series 2 finale ‘Neverland’ horrifically showed, it was the place itself that wasn’t right.
After a prison escapee was found beaten and drowned, in ‘Neverland’ Morse and Thursday uncovered the historic child abuse scandal centred on Blenheim Vale. The escapee had been one of six boys (though there were likely many more) known to have been sexually and physically abused during their time at the correctional institute. One, “Big Pete” disappeared as a child – believed to have been murdered by the abusers and buried on the grounds, another hanged himself on a tree in the grounds, one went to prison, one became a clerk, another a ventriloquist, and another became a police sergeant. That was DS Peter “Little Pete” Jakes, who left Endeavour in Series 3 and emigrated to the USA to start a family with his girlfriend.
Four men had colluded in the historic child abuse at Blenheim Vale: Assistant Chief Constable Clive Deare, town hall Alderman Gerald Wintergreen, Josiah Landesman and Dr Fairbridge, the home’s doctor who was well aware of the abuse and not only helped to cover it up but also allowed the sexual abuse of his young daughter Angela. That daughter grew up to murder her father, Wintergreen and Deare, but Josiah Landesman escaped. In Series 9, Fred describes him as “the one that got away.”
“No-one’s seen hide nor hair of Joe Landesman in six years,” said ACC Bright in the Series 9 opener. “There’s talk from Interpol he went abroad, Spain, Portugal…The company had property there,” replied Fred.
Fred Shot, Morse Framed, & an Establishment Cover-Up
Thursday and Morse paid a dire cost for uncovering the Blenheim Vale child abuse. They didn’t realise until too late that ACC Deare had been one of the abusers and had used his position to cover up the scandal for decades. Deare lured Morse into a trap, where he was shot at by fellow corrupt officer DI Chard, but escaped in time to unite with Thursday at a second trap Deare had laid at Blenheim Vale. Deare shot Thursday but before he could kill Morse, Deare was killed by Angela Fairbridge, who then fatally shot herself.
That wasn’t the end of it for Morse. Deare had set another trap for him by strangling Chief Constable Standish using Morse’s scarf, leading to Morse’s arrest and temporary imprisonment. In the opening moments of Series 3 however, a sequence reads the following shameful verdict:
“The finding of this board is that the tragic events of last December, which led to the shooting of DI Thursday and the arrest of DS Morse were due solely to a mental breakdown suffered by ACC Clive Deare. We are also of a view that further investigation into other extraneous matters would not be in the national interest, to which end, all investigative materials relating to Blenheim Vale Boys’ Home are to be sealed for 50 Years.”
It’s unknown whether Big Pete’s archaeological dig friends discovered his remains buried on the grounds, but that official cover-up would likely have stopped any details from being released. The traumatising abuse suffered by the Blenheim Vale children – or as the report would have it “extraneous matters” – was hushed up, one scandal of many, unresolved…until now. As Endeavour reaches its final series, it’s going back.
The Return of Blenheim Vale
Series 2 finale ‘Neverland’ “left a number of unresolved issues and ghosts in a case we never really got to the bottom of,” says Endeavour actor-director Shaun Evans in the Series 9 ITV press pack. “There was a feeling that it was still always bubbling away and something we hadn’t properly solved.”
Series 9 will revisit those discoveries, promises Evans. “That was where police corruption at the highest level was reflected and shown within our stories.”
“That thing of London and Thursday being pulled back into that world which he thought he’d left. It’s unfinished business. And also that police corruption at a high level. We never really closed the circle at the end of ‘Neverland’ and this is an attempt to do that. With the same threat, the same conflicts now as then.” We know Morse will survive this fight – he has to – but if Thursday goes up against dangerous gangsters and top ranking corrupt officers from his past, could it be the end of him?
Endeavour Series 9 continues on Sunday the 5th of March at 8pm on ITV1 in the UK. It will air on PBS Masterpiece in the US at a later date.