Show name: Endeavour
Release date: 2023
Genre: Crime drama
Starring: Shaun Evans, Roger Allam, Anton Lesser
Created by: Colin Dexter
Length: 2 hours per episode
Endeavour is a spin off/prequel from the much-loved Inspector Morse detective series.
It has just reached its final season, which is the one I’m reviewing here.
I have also included a review of season 1, below, for anyone who hasn’t seen the show before and might prefer to begin at the beginning.
It’s 1972. Morse (Shaun Evans) is a Detective Sergeant with Oxford City Police.
He works under DCI Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) and Police Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright (Anton Lesser).
His closest friend is DS Jim Strange (Sean Rigby), who’s about to marry Thursday’s daughter Joanie.
The ninth season had three episodes, each of which lasts for two hours of elapsed time with adverts.
The first episode is ‘Prelude’, and it centres around a local concert Orchestra.
In many ways, the final season goes back to a traditional view of Oxford: a city associated with high culture and education as much as tourism.
Here we see international-quality musicians, many of whom trained at a local music school for gifted students. Rivalries in this cut-throat world lead to a brutal murder, but Morse will also solve a death from decades earlier.
The second episode is ‘Uniform’, which centres around antisocial behaviour by a small group of privileged students from the university. All of them are from the aristocracy.
The group is connected (in some way) to each of the deaths that occur.
A homeless man is found dead with glass from in a broken bottle stuck in a neck wound. He had also been beaten.
Another body is found at the foot of a tall building, having been thrown or jumped from the top. From the uniform, it is initially assumed to be a serving police officer.
Everyone is distraught and they volunteer to stay at the office regardless of days off or leave until an arrest is made.
Subsequently, the police realise that the victim was an actor dressed in a costume from a TV show filmed locally and based on a series of detective novels.
This takes Morse and his colleagues onto the set to question the actors about the dead extra. Most claim to hardly know him, and are keener to showcase onset rivalries than help to solve the murder.
An illustrator is found drowned in some land belonging to one of the student’s families.
He was still alive when he went into the water, but gravely injured from what appears to be a road accident. This is consistent with his daughter’s report of his heading off on a motorcycle for a drink at the local pub.
The illustrator had created many of the books’ covers for the series upon which the fictional TV show is based, so everything appears to be connected.
The last episode is called ‘Exeunt’. Naturally, it satisfyingly ties together all the various character arcs from the show as a whole. It also features a series of murders of academics at the university.
An unusual feature of the murders is that the death is announced on the day it takes place, using a fake date of death, in the Oxford Mail. A false number is given for the undertakers placing the notices, which in every instance the newspaper confirms before printing.
The killer appears to be taunting the police.
The final season of Endeavour was satisfying and complete. I felt as if I had said a fond farewell to a much-loved younger version of the character, who was played by John Thaw in the original series.
The tone was well managed to provide a final farewell to Morse himself and (assuming no further spin offs or extension series emerge) the franchise as a whole.
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The Inspector Morse books were so popular that they spawned a TV series in the late Eighties and into the Nineties. It ran for eight seasons.
A spinoff called Lewis, which put Morse’s sidekick centre stage, followed.
More recently, starting in 2012, a prequel series called Endeavour began.
Endeavour was Inspector Morse’s Christian name, courtesy of his Quaker parents.
It’s 1965 in the 2012 pilot, and Endeavour is seconded to Oxford police along with a number of junior officers to help with a missing-persons enquiry.
Endeavour has been thinking of resigning from the police when the secondment happens.
He finds it hard to settle, having already dropped out of university in Oxford and done a stint in the signals’ corps of the army.
The fifteen-year-old girl who has disappeared has apparently been hanging around with older men. Her body is then discovered.
The autopsy shows a pregnancy which was terminated or miscarried. Endeavour is determined to see justice done despite police corruption.
The pilot introduces Fred Thursday who will be Endeavour’s principled and trusty guide. We also meet other characters who will still be alongside Morse in the later years, such as Constable Strange.
Season 1 was broadcast in 2013, after the success of the pilot. Endeavour has decided to stay on in Oxford with the police despite his earlier reservations about continuing to serve.
Chief Superintendent Bright, a perpetual thorn in Endeavour’s side.
There’s plenty of connection to the university, of course, which is always a popular feature of the Inspector Morse franchise. However, my favourite episode in Season 1 focused on missile production in the city.
This is a great reminder that Oxford is a large and vibrant city with so much more to it than just the university, in particular a history of specialist engineering and industry.
A man is murdered during a visit by Princess Margaret to the production plant. The powers that be, including the palace, want it all hushed up as a key sale of missiles to the Middle East hangs in the balance.
Endeavour tracks down the man’s true identity. True to form, this involves noticing that a factory worker owned two pairs of expensive handmade shows, well out of his buying power.
Endeavour finds the local shop, which keeps records of all its customers and is able to identify the man from his shoes.
The discovery of the victim’s true identity brings up a murder committed on Coronation Day, so the theme of royalty and arms sales remains to the fore.
Union tensions with the company’s management are nicely brought out. Safety issues arising out of accidents and then a death cause a walk out. But all is not as it seems.
I loved this episode because, like many of the Inspector Morse, books it focused on an Oxford beyond the university.
Of course, the pilot and Season 1 both feature central Oxford and the university in detail, too. The cinematography was really beautiful, and every possible opportunity was taken for outside filming that showed the city to advantage.
Thank you for reading my review.
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