INSPECTOR MORSE: Episode 29: The Way Through the Woods: Review + Locations, Literary References, Music etc. SPOILERS.

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SPOILERS AHEAD!

Where’s Colin?

This is at one minute and 40 seconds. Colin and others are standing on the raised garden of the Fellows Grade, Exeter College.

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Directed by John Madden. John also directed the Morse episodes; Dead on Time (S6E1), Promised Land (S5E5), The Infernal Serpent (S4E1)

Written by Colin Dexter (characters), and Russell Lewis.  Russell has written all the Endeavour episodes. He also wrote the story of the pilot episode of Lewis as well the Lewis episodes The Dead of Winter, Falling Darkness, Old, Unhappy, Far Off Things and Fearful Symmetry.

First broadcast in the UK 29 November 1995. This was almost three years since the last Morse episode, Twilight of the Gods, was broadcast.

Though this episode is sometimes referred to as episode one of series eight it is actually the first of five one off specials.

While reading my review why not play a piece of music from the selection on the right hand side of the page.

SYNOPSIS

Parnell is murdered in prison as he awaits trial for the killing of five people, two couples and a lone girl Karen Anderson. The case was solved by DCI Martin Johnson and Sergeant Lewis while Morse had been holidaying in Bayreuth. Morse doesn’t and never has believed that Parnell killed Karen Anderson. While Parnell was dying he made a death bed confession to the prison chaplain that he never killed the girl, Karen Anderson.

When a body turns up at Blenheim Palace, Morse Lewis and Johnson race over to the scene expecting to see the body of Anderson…but it isn’t her body who is found instead it’s one of Morse’s chief suspects, George Daley. Morse is assigned to the case and because he believes there is a link he also reopens the Anderson case.

Morse solves the case with the help of postcard found in Karen Anderson’s bag that had been found dumped at a roadside near Blenheim.

REVIEW.
(warning, this review will contain some spoilers)

We fans in the 1990s had to wait almost three years for a new episode but boy was it worth it. Morse is grumpier than normal and Lewis certainly is not a happy chap at all. Poor Lewis is seeing his career coming to a screeching halt and like DCI Martin Johnson tells him, ‘Morse is holding you back and you don’t want to end your days a bitter, old sweat DS.’ The tension between Lewis and Morse is palpable and one feels the TV screen is working flat out (get it, flat screens) to contain the anger, animosity as well as the tension that ripples, ebbs and flows through the episode.

Both John Thaw and Kevin Whately are on the top of their game and one gets the feeling that the three year gap between episodes had helped them recharge their character’s batteries and bring an extra vigour to their respective roles. Though one could never write that Whately and Thaw never gave it their all when playing Lewis and Morse but I felt that in this episode it was like they were enjoying playing their roles more than they normally did. A holiday from one’s job can do that. (Though Whately and Thaw were both working on other projects during the three year gap it was a holiday from their Morse Universe jobs).

The dialogue sparkles and crackles throughout the episode and there are times during the episode where one expects bullets instead of words to leave Lewis’s mouth as he stands up to Morse’s brash, thankless and at times insulting treatment of Lewis. The one outstanding scene amongst so many good scenes is where Lewis makes Morse fully aware how he is feeling about his life, Morse and his career.

The episode moves along at what feels like a faster pace than many of the previous Morse episodes but it still retains the inherent traits of a Morse episode; classical music, Oxford, Oxford Colleges, pub scenes, Morse falling for the wrong woman and beautiful locations. Russell Lewis’s sharp, incisive writing is one reason why the episode feels as if it moves at a pacier speed than normal but John Madden’s directing certainly contributes to the pacing of the episode. There are no filler scenes used to pad out the episode unlike the more recent Endeavour episodes.

The only reasons I give the episode eight jags and not a nine or ten is due to the episode containing two of Russell Lewis’s favourite tropes; incest, an unhinged female character and gunplay.

Jags out of ten:

MUSIC.

The opening piece is String Quartet in g minor by Claude Debussy. This is played intermittently throughout the episode. I only have access to the complete work which is glorious.

The piece is played at the recital in Exeter College, Fellows garden at the three minute mark.

Thanks to Nate who provided the following information;

Here are the points in the Omega Quartet’s performance you’ve posted which are used in the episode.

episode beginning – Omega Quartet performance 11:37 (first part of third movement)

episode 2:44 – Omega Quartet performance 4:50 (last 2 minutes of the first movement, starting at score rehearsal number 4)

episode 19:17 – first 50 seconds of third movement.

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During the dinner between Morse and Claire Nate has informed me that the music being played in the background is, Footprints in the snow” (Prelude, Book 1, No. 6).

Around the one hour and 12 minute mark Johnson is singing Dem Bones as he passes Morse on the stairs.

LITERARY REFERENCES.

In the restaurant scene with Morse and Claire, Morse mentions Reichenbach Falls where Sherlock and Moriarty fall to their death, (well, apparently). That moment is from “The Final Problem”; by Arthur Conan Doyle.

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At around one hour and 21 minutes Morse is looking for something in Daley’s workshop to tell him where Daley bought his petrol. As he finds a calendar he says, “Seek and thy shall find.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” From the Bible, Matthew 7:7.

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At the end of the episode Lewis quotes Rudyard Kipling though he doesn’t realise he is. “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same.” This is a quote from Kipling’s poem, If. 

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The title of the episode, The Way Through the Woods, is the title of a Rudyard Kipling poem.

The Way Through The Woods

They shut the road through the woods

Seventy years ago.

Weather and rain have undone it again,

And now you would never know

There was once a road through the woods

Before they planted the trees.

 

It is underneath the coppice and heath,

And the thin anemones.

Only the keeper sees

That, where the ring-dove broods,

And the badgers roll at ease,

There was once a road through the woods.

 

Yet, if you enter the woods

Of a summer evening late,

When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools

Where the otter whistles his mate,

(They fear not men in the woods,

Because they see so few.)

You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,

And the swish of a skirt in the dew,

Steadily cantering through

The misty solitudes,

As though they perfectly knew

The old lost road through the woods…

But there is no road through the woods.

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I believe Russell Lewis also uses the phrases in the episode, said by Johnson, “Don’t play the white man.” and “This isn’t white man’s work” to allude to another Kipling poem, ‘The White Man’s Burden’.

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I wonder if Russell Lewis is also referencing Kipling in the character of Karen Anderson via Kipling’s poem, ‘The Female of the Species.’

When the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male …

ART

Karen Anderson’s postcard found in her bag.

The Woodman’s Daughter by John Everett Millais.

File:The Woodman's Daughter - John Everett Millais.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

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In Dr Mitten’s flat we see various reproductions of famous paintings.

The Beloved (‘The Bride’)’, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Rossetti like Millais was part of the Pre Raphaelite Group of painters.

The Beloved ('The Bride')', Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1865–6 | Tate

This time we are looking at the painting on the left.

Beata Beatrix’, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Beata Beatrix', Dante Gabriel Rossetti, c.1864–70 | Tate

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The poster on the right of the screenshot can be seen in Morse’s office at about one and a half hours. Unfortunately it is never seen clearly.

The poster was also seen in the Morse episode Twilight of the Gods.

LOCATIONS.

At 41 seconds we see prisoners at Farnley Prison.

This is Oxford Prison, New Road, Oxford. This was Prison A-Wing. It was closed in 1996.

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One has to assume that Wytham Woods is used for the location of Wytham Woods.

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Colin and others are standing on the raised garden of Fellows Garden, Exeter College.

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As the camera pans from Colin and others we see Morse’s Jag.

Morse is driving through Radcliffe Square and then parks in Brasenose Lane.

The route of Morse’s car.

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We are now in Fellows Garden, Exeter College proper and the raised garden is in the background.

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The home of the Daley family. UNIDENTIFIED.

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At six and a half minutes we see Morse’s jag.

Morse is driving down St Aldates and then drives into Floyd’s Row and the police station.

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At the 10 and a half minute mark we see Karen Anderson and George Daley at a petrol station. UNIDENTIFIED.

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Morse is driving down Turl Street.

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Morse enters the bookshop of Claire Osbourne.

The bookshop on Turl Street is now run by Oxfam but I believe back in the 1990s it was called something else. The Oxfam bookshop has been used in many episodes in the three series of the Morse Universe.

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At 15 and a half minutes George drives into work. This is Blenheim Palace.

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Where George Daley’s body is found. I’m not sure if it’s Blenheim.

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Morse and Lewis park the Jag outside Brasenose College on Radcliffe Square.

The car is parked where the arrow points.

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However, though Morse and Lewis walk into Brasenose it is not all shot in Brasenose. Where the Bursar is made aware of Morse’s arrival it is Brasenose.

The Bursar and the others are standing where indicated  below by the arrow.

This is the front quad of Brasenose.

When the Bursar shows Morse and Lewis where Daley worked we are now in Exeter College, Fellows Garden where the recital was held.

When we see Dr. Alan Hardinge phoning while Lewis and Morse leave we are back in Brasenose again.

Dr Hardinge is in the Brasenose College room indicated in the photo below.

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Morse inquires about Wytham Woods at the Land Registry Office. UNIDENTIFIED.

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David Michaels cottage. UNIDENTIFIED.

I’ve read that the location has been given as Leith Hill, Dorking, Surrey but I can’t find it to verify that information.

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Morse and Lewis visit Park Town in Oxford.

Morse parks around where the arrow indicates below.

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The home of the Hardinges. UNIDENTIFIED.

PUB LOCATIONS.

Our first pub scene at around the 37 minute mark.

I believe it is the Lamb and Flag Public House, St Giles’, Oxford. It may be The Eagle and Child but I don’t think it is.

The map actually has The Lamb and Flag on the wrong side of the Lamb and Flag Passage.

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Morse and Lewis argue in a pub at around the one hour and four minute mark.

I was told some time ago that this is White Hart pub, Wytham, Oxfordshire.

Actors who appeared in The Way Through the Woods and/or Endeavour or Lewis.

Gary Powell who played Steven Parnell also appeared in the Morse episode The Dead of Jericho as a constable.

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Robin Soans who played Alisdair McBryde.

Soans appeared in the Endeavour episode, Fugue.

CONNECTIONS OTHER THAN ACTORS TO THE LEWIS, ENDEAVOUR SERIES AND PREVIOUS MORSE EPISODES.

A tenuous link but a link all the same. In this episode Lewis lays out all of Karen Anderson’s photos to create a timeline of where she had been.

In the Lewis episode Old, Unhappy, Far Off Things (coincidentally an episode written by Russell Lewis) Hathaway uses photos to create a timeline for Lewis.

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In the pub scene at around the one hour and four minute mark Lewis brings Morse a pint and states that it’s a bit cloudy.

In a scene in a pub with Jim Strange and Endeavour in the Endeavour series episode, Prey there is a similar scene.

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There is a scene in Pylon, when Morse meets Thursday to hand over his report, that reminded me somewhat of a scene in the Morse episode, ‘The Way Through the Woods‘, with DCI Johnson and Morse.

Miscellaneous.

At around the two minute mark Morse buys Claire Osbourne a programme. She says, “The tide of feminist globalism passed you buy then.” Morse replies, “I’m with Canute all the way.” Morse is referring to King Canute The story of King Canute and the tide is an apocryphal anecdote illustrating the piety or humility of King Canute the Great, recorded in the 12th century. In the story, Canute demonstrates to his flattering courtiers that he has no control over the elements (the incoming tide), explaining that secular power is vain compared to the supreme power of God.

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We can see from pictures on Strange’s wall that he was once a submariner. Something that is never mentioned in the Endeavour series.

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While sitting in the office above Morse says that with Johnson’s interview techniques he was surprised Parnell never confessed to the A6, Julie Wallace and the Whitechapel murders.

The A6 murder is referring to James Hanratty, also known as the A6 Murderer, was a British criminal who was one of the final eight people in the UK to be executed before capital punishment was effectively abolished. The Julia Wallace murder is referencing William Herbert Wallace an Englishman convicted in 1931 of the murder of his wife, Julia, in their home in Wolverton Street in Liverpool’s Anfield district. The Whitechapel murders is referring to The Whitechapel murders that were committed in or near the largely impoverished Whitechapel district in the East End of London between 3 April 1888 and 13 February 1891.

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In the same scene as above Strange says while he and the rest of the force were hunting the killer Parnell Morse was sunning himself in Beirut. Morse corrects him and states, Bayreuth. We can assume that Morse was attending the Bayreuther Festspielhaus, home of the annual Bayreuth Festival for the Wagner festival.

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One of the bigger factors of this episode in regard to the cast is the first appearance of Clare Holman as Laura Hobson. Of course Laura Hobson will become a bigger part of the Morse Universe in the Lewis series.

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Essex College stands in for Lonsdale College, Morse’s alma mater.

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In this episode we have one of Morse’s infamous rants on Lewis’s poor grammar.

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In Strange’s office around the 51 minute mark Strange says, “You better walk out of the woods with more than a shovel in your hands.” I wonder if this is a reference to the film The Godfather. A gun has been placed in the toilet of restaurant for Al Pacino’s character, Michael, to collect and kill two people. Sonny, Michael’s brother, tells Clemenza who is setting up the gun situation, ‘Michael better walk out of that bathroom with more than his dick in his hand.

British Phrases/Colloquialisms

In the pub scene when Morse and Lewis are arguing, Morse says “After the Lord Mayor’s Show. “Said of a disappointing or mundane event occurring straight after an exciting, magnificent, or triumphal event. from the proverb “After the Lord Mayor’s show comes the dust-cart” (“donkey-cart”, or “shit-cart”). Bringing up the rear of the Lord Mayor’s Show is a team to clean the manure of the pageant’s horses.

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When Johnson meets Morse in the hospital at around the one hour, six minute mark, Johnson says to Morse, “Don’t play the white man. “Play the white man is a phrase used in parts of Britain meaning to be decent and trustworthy in one’s actions.” Due to it’s racist connotations it is rarely ever said now.

THE MURDERED, THEIR MURDERER/S AND THEIR METHODS.

George Daley is the first victim. Shot by Karen Anderson. George realised that the woman he saw at the petrol station was Karen Anderson. He followed her and demanded sex.

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David Michaels is shot by Karen Anderson.

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There is another murder that of Dr Mitten but that occurred before the timeline of the episode. He was killed Karen Anderson.

CAST

John Thaw as Inspector Morse.

Kevin Whately as Sergeant Lewis

Gary Powell as Steven Parnell

Vivienne Ritchie as Claire Osborne

Steven Crossley as Prison Chaplain

Christopher Fairbank as George Daley

Maggie Shevlin as Margaret Daley

Malcolm Storry as DCI Martin Johnson

James Grout as Chief Superintendent Strange

James D. White as Philip Daley

Robin Soans as Alisdair McBryde

Neil Dudgeon as David Michaels

Michelle Fairley as Cathy Michaels

George Beach as DC Renton

Kay Stonham as Lynne Hardinge

Shaun Williamson as Garage Cashier

Author: Chris Sullivan

Up until a few years ago I was my mum's full time carer. She died last year, 2020, of Covid. I am now about to start my third year year at Edinburgh University studying for a second degree this one being English Literature. My other degree is in Ecological Science. At the moment I am attempting to write a novel.

12 thoughts

  1. Great review, well that goes without saying, and after reading about having to watch Terminus three times, I hope you have been able to purge that and replace it with one of the best Morse episodes. Whilst I haven’t liked the gunplay in Endeavour episodes – I’ve found some of it overdone, partiuclarly in series 5 and 6 I think it was – I found it in keeping in The Way Through The Woods.

    1. Hi Mark. I agree about the gunplay in this episode being in keeping with the episode but apart from the episode The Promised Land this is only other episode that contains gunplay and of course Russell Lewis introduces it into the Morse series in his one and only written episode for the series.

      1. I had to remind myself of how much different the source novel was compared to Russell Lewis’s screenplay, reading David Bishop’s verdict: “Turning Karen into a psychopathic killer driven to murder b sexual abuse and incest is simply crass and the final bloodbath just gratuitous. A shame, because this epidoe otherwise has much to recommend it”.

        I’ve never really thought about it too much, always finding this episode in my top 10. I’ll have to revisit the book to see how the equivalent character was created by Colin Dexter.

  2. I always look forward to your reviews, Chris. They are so comprehensive and I always learn something from them. For example, I am familiar with Kipling’s If poem but not his other works you mention. I’m not sure I agree with one of your reasons for the 8 Jags, that being a woman scorned trope. I don’t think Karen was scorned, she was preyed upon and defended herself. Some of her anger I’m sure was because of her past abuse. This episode is always in my top 3 and I would give it a 9+. I also agree with Mark’s comment that the gunplay had a reason for being in the episode and was not gratuitous. It also served to give us that wonderful scene when Morse draws Karen’s fire to save Lewis. Additionally I absolutely love the last scene when Morse appreciates Lewis always seeing the glass half full and although he knows better, he agrees with Lewis that the quotation from the poem If comes from the lawn tennis court. It shows how much he cares for Lewis.

    1. Hi Kathleen. You’re correct that I shouldn’t have included a woman scorned as a trope in this case but I have replaced it with another of Russell’s favourite tropes, an unhinged woman.

  3. Great review, as always. I have a little more information about the Debussy pieces.

    Here are the points in the Omega Quartet’s performance you’ve posted which are used in the episode.

    episode beginning – Omega Quartet performance 11:37 (first part of third movement)

    episode 2:44 – Omega Quartet performance 4:50 (last 2 minutes of the first movement, starting at score rehearsal number 4)

    episode 19:17 – first 50 seconds of third movement

    As to the quartet being used throughout the episode, I have to disagree. The only spots I’ve heard it are those previously noted.

    One Debussy piece which you didn’t include is his “Footprints in the snow” (Prelude, Book 1, No. 6). It’s played in the background when Claire and Morse are having dinner and he’s discussing his career. It’s bleak music to match the a bleak conversation.

  4. I really enjoy(ed) this episode, which I watched not long ago on BritBox. It was interesting to see actor Malcolm Storry, who I know mostly from DOC MARTIN, playing such an arse of a character.

  5. I forgot how much I enjoyed this episode – and completely forgot that Neil Dudgeon was in it. This is back when he had more than one facial expression that he uses in Midsomer!

    It is fun in hindsight seeing the introduction of Laura Hobson – especially in light of her later relationship with Lewis – he of course being here the happily married man. Correct me as I may be wrong here but in the books were Laura and Max actually in them concurrently and Max fancied her ? I have not read all the books (and not this one) so that maybe one of those furphys that people write on FB sites.

    I thought the end of the episode was cleverly done and exciting especially when I first saw the episode many, many years ago as at that time I thought that either Morse or Lewis may be killed. Although Morse very unlikely (given the title of the series) Lewis definitely – at least if you hadn’t read the book.

    I think that is what has been missing in Endeavour for me (especially the later series) is how often they put Morse in perilous danger as the centrepiece of the story – we know that he doesn’t die- I guess you can say that for any series I guess just how often and BIG they started making his life/death situations…in the earlier series it was done well (episodes like Home where he is shot but that explains his later limp).

    Although the last two times I have watched this episode (after a long gap in viewings) I felt that the acting of Karen at the end OTT.

  6. This is one of my favourite episodes. Great, intricate plot and some knockout scenes between Morse and Lewis. There’s possibly one twist too many but it’s a very minor gripe. I have to disagree with you about the ending though. I think after such a tense, pressure-cooker story, the only way to end it satisfactorily was with an explosive release, in this case a wild, unhinged Karen Anderson and some fatal gunshots.

  7. I enjoyed the episode and this was enhanced by the review.
    The Daley family, especially George, seemed one dimensional and Cathy Michaels behaved in a way that would at the very least ensure that her husband would ensure she had no access to firearms.
    The interactions between Morse and Lewis were welcome as it moved their relationship on a lot more that other episodes.
    Finally Michael Storry as DCI Johnson reminded me of Simon Harrison as DCI Box; something in the demeanour.

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