Endeavour 5.6. Endings & Loose Ends

DATELINE: Disappointing Finish to Season

 last endeavour

Inspector Morse has certainly come to the end of one line. Season wraps are often cliff-hangers, but this one seemed less definitive. There is no cliff and no hanging story. Morse’s entire Oxford station has closed and been re-assigned. He is now separated from most of his closest associates.

Like most series that attempt to close the loops of character stories at season’s end, the price is the actual mystery of the tale. Endeavour is so concerned with the loose ends that the big picture suffers in the final episode.

This season closer featured a few of the regulars in smaller than usual, compact scenes: Abigail Thaw, daughter of the original Morse actor, showed up for a funeral at the end of the show, in her role as the tough news journalist.

Thursday’s daughter seemed about to re-kindle her role in the life of Endeavour Morse, and the Thursday and his wife have split over trust issues.

The Chief has tendered his own resignation but has some solace in that those left in service will work to learn who was responsible for the death of one of their regimen.

As obvious, this mystery episode about Morse going under cover as a teacher at a hoity-toity school was really secondary to the wrap-up of a variety of story lines that have grown this season—and travel backward four other seasons.

We know only that the original series set in the 1990s featured the coroner and one of Morse’s fellow officers, in a supervisory capacity, twenty years later. Beyond that, we may come to the only other fact: Morse remained unattached, unlucky in love.

A sixth season will come next year. It will be largely unrecognizable in terms of the past few years. The deadly 1960s are about to give way to the overwrought 1970s. The series may be on its last legs.

 

 

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Endeavour 5.1 Returns to Egghead Crime

DATELINE: Thinkers Apply

 Shaun Evans Morse’s Code

Young Morse, now a detective sergeant at the Oxford, England, constabulary, returns for a fifth season of Endeavour. It is welcome murder mystery territory, adjacent to Agatha Christie Land in an episode called “Muse.”

Morse’s first name is Endeavour, though no one ever calls him by that. As played by cutie-pie Shaun Evans, he is an anti-social, opera-loving, crossword puzzle kind of guy. He is, according to one of his colleagues, “prickly.” We like him.

The series returns for its longest season, owing to its growing popularity, and its setting which is the Swinging 1960s. As this fifth season opens, we are on the edge of the historic assassination of Martin Luther King. It’s not a plot device, merely a marker of the times.

If there seems to be a flaw in the series, it is that the Beatles haircuts that were all the rage of Carnaby Street and London appear to be absent in the students of Oxford as shown here.

As for the murders in academia, we find ourselves once again mixed in with a dangerous group of scholars. Between organized crime and academic dons, Morse must weave his over-educated presence, fitting into neither world. He is amused when his superior, Fred Thursday (Roger Allam’s crusty vet) talks tough to thugs.

This season the usual supporting cast members all return—the business-oriented female cop (Dakota Blue Richards) who respects Morse and likely finds him attractive but unapproachable. She must stoically stand in the interrogation room while a prostitute suspect slices and dices Morse’s character with a scathing psychological analysis on the mark.

There is the coroner with his macabre humor, and the head honcho Anton Lesser as the standoffish commander of the precinct.

This case centers on a Faberge Egg, now on display and likely to be stolen when a series of odd murders occurs in conjunction with its showing before auction.

The suspects are always cleverly lined up, and the red herrings are never ahead of Morse’s eye.

This was a juicy, intelligent murder mystery to start the new season, which is rushing headlong into the world crises of the 1960s and 1970s. Every little movie is a gem and, in this case, a jolly good egghead story.

 

Catching Up on Endeavour

DATELINE:  Better Late Prequel

shaun evans Shaun Evans

The only episode of the British detective series Endeavour we have missed until now was the “Pilot” (so-called), the opening episode that set the tone and introduced most of the key characters back in 2012.

Of course, fans of PBS mystery series know that Endeavour is a prequel of sorts to the popular detective show Morse (starring John Thaw) as a non-conformist police detective in the Oxford academic community.

Shaun Evans is the whelp twenty years earlier—showing all the qualities of the curmudgeon detective decades later. Making the show the Zeitgeist of the 1960s in England is not easy, largely ignoring the Beatles.

Roger Allam quickly inserts himself as the lead detective Fred Thursday who takes young Endeavour under his wing after seeing some impressive, if not scholarly, detective insights.

Some of our favorites show up in their young and younger incarnation—including Abigail Thaw as the hard-driven newspaper editor who is Endeavour’s resource and James Bradshaw as the unorthodox medical examiner Max. Each provides delightful scenes in the series.

Evans manages to carry it off as the boyish Oxfordian gone copper. He is not well-to-do as the stereotype accepted by others follows him. He is, in fact, working class with exceptional knowledge and artistic appreciation. It surely puts him out of place in both worlds of town and gown at Oxford.

The opening episode has Morse involved with a charming opera singer, wife of a don, played by Flora Montgomery. Endeavour starts to see dark clues of a child sex ring of young girls and high-ranking officials, which may drive him from the police force before his career truly starts.

We were delighted with performances from Harry Kershaw and Patrick Malahide as suspects in murder. It’s just high-brow enough to delight with its intelligence and charm. The only true reference to John Thaw occurs when Evans looks into the rear-view mirror to see Thaw’s eyes in 25 years.

Endeavour S4 Finale

DATELINE:  PBS Masterpiece

Shaun

 

Each season of Endeavour, the continuing prequel saga of Detective Morse, now in reverse order, has one superb episode that towers over the other excellent mysteries. The finale of S4 is top-drawer.

Endeavour is a prequel, of course, taking John Thaw’s original Morse back to the 1960s when he was a young investigator. The latest called “Harvest” starts with a 1962 murder that he opens as a cold case in 1967.

As usual, Roger Allam and Anton Lesser are around as Morse’s supportive superior officers.

In many ways this is the most modern episode so far: it deals with the red herring of an atomic energy plant emitting radiation. The tie to the murder of an Oxford botanist muddies the waters in a small town near the nuclear plant. Cleverly planted clues abound.

As a tarot card relates during the investigation, Endeavour (Shaun Evans) is facing “death,” in some form. He scoffs as that is his line of work, and the other insight is that he is unlucky in love. Yes, we’ve seen plenty of that over the four seasons.

This one hinges on autumnal equinox, which Morse notes is a scientific time, though cultists and local Stonehenge followers seem particularly in a state of high anxiety.

Entwined with the case, we have Morse’s complicated relationship with his superior’s daughter, which seemingly comes to a head. Alas, more information must await S5, which promises more episodes as this cast and storyline sharpens. We await more murders.

Lazaretto on Endeavour

 DATELINE: The Only Good Detectives are British

SE   Shaun Evans, Heartthrob

The third entry in this Endeavour S4 series takes superstition and murder to a hospital ward at Cowley General. It seems Bed #10 has suffered an inordinate number of deaths over the past six months.

When Superintendent Bright takes ill, he is transferred to the same ward where the mystery becomes unsettling to Morse (Shaun Evans) and the new acting Superintendent, Thursday (Roger Allam).

The 1960s are only slightly more evident in this episode, owing to the cars and less technological medical situations. As for the mystery, it is always clever to solve and filled with red herrings.

Set in Oxford, the cerebral capital of education seems rife with crime.

The usual suspects turn up, but it’s the usual members of the police investigation that always have a turn to remember. It’s a marvelous supporting cast, especially James Bradshaw as the creepy coroner who seems always to enlighten Morse with a witty clue.

Morse is known for his brainy solutions that even his Superintendent (Anton Lesser) has come to respect him.

Shaun Evans provides a boyish, though aging boy, who remains catnip to women. Indeed, the subplot of the series remains the bodies of women who have thrown themselves at him, including DI Thursday’s daughter who has left town because of Morse (more or less) as women continue to swoon over him.

Roger Allam as Thursday is not a saintly mentor and is not above using his contacts in the criminal world, nor showing a little tough love when he roughs them up. Beneath the barnacles, he is still a shrewd detective and a perfect foil for Endeavour.

The arc of the season is short, only four episodes, with one remaining, but already the show is renewed for a fifth season with a promised increase in the murder rate to allow for more mystery movies.

Thank heavens for good British detectives.

Endeavour: S4, E2, ‘Canticle’ & Bad Acid

DATELINE: Morse in Swinging Sixties

Shaun

Doing a period murder mystery set in the Swinging Sixties is not easy, but Endeavour makes it pop culture time. So much can be a tad off, like scruff on the band members which actually came along a few years later.

The episode recreates one of those “Hullaballoo” style dance numbers with garish colors and plastic slick clothes to open the proceedings.

Inspector Morse (Shaun Evans) is thrust into the turn of the musical screw when rock became the season of flower children. He must investigate the band called Wildwood, which resembles so many of those one-hit wonders in the era when LSD became the tripping drug of choice.

We certainly recall Jackie Gleason leading a crusade against the smut accusations against the Doors, and something akin parallels the latest episode when a young man may be sexually involved with a band member, giving us an early exponent of the groupie mentality. Prudish condemnation arrives from the older generation.

Morse in his blue suit is more a child of the 1950s as police detective—as his boss Inspector Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) fully epitomizes the gruff professional Scotland Yard type we have grown to expect.

The usual suspects are all present, but veiled appropriately from quick solutions to the crimes: the greedy business manager of the group, the female hangers-on of the band, an moralist crusader, and in-fighting boy band members.

Morse prefers Wagnerian opera to rock, but still manages to be sucked in by every woman who bats her lashes at him. It seems far more credible when one of the rock group’s sensitive song-writers flirts with him.

Don’t be fooled. A bad acid trip is not far off and could untrack the brilliant detective in another clever, fascinating murder mystery in the series.

If you have not discovered Endeavour, you have three full seasons to savor.

Endeavour Morse Returns & “The Game” is On!

 DATELINE: Oxford Sleuth

 Endeavour 1

PBS has brought back another highly intelligent detective show for a fourth season, Endeavour. Of course, strawberry-blond Inspector Morse patrols the territory around Oxford University where culture and mayhem seem to go hand-in-glove.

Complicating matters is the fact the series setting is the 1960s. The new fangled technology is not yet upon Scotland Yard, and brainpower still reigns supreme. His nemesis at the station is a world-weary Roger Allam, always in rare form.

The first episode is called “Game” about early computers taking on Soviet chess champs.

Young Morse (Shaun Evans) is slight and, like all attractive Brit men, looks decidedly gay. Women do seem to like him, often to the detriment of his work, but Morse remains stalwart and impervious to their attentions, considering them impediments to crime resolution.

The latest case puts everyone in crisis mode: Morse’s superior has personal problems with his grown daughter moving away—and Morse’s attempts to try to achieve promotion seem thwarted by unknown forces.

He remains the most brilliant detective in Oxford, holding his own against Russian chess-masters, ruthless members of the media, and assorted weird supercriminals. The suspects in this go-round are professors, media snoops, and a smug best-selling novelist.

With a spate of peculiar drownings among an assortment of victims with not much obviously in common, Morse finds himself at odds with superiors and those who would undermine his talents.

You will find these short movies (90 minutes usually) a challenge to solve and admire the acting and the writing, lost arts in most films nowadays. There will be three additional episodes to consider.