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  • Writer's picturePaul Gainey

Endeavour

Fans of a TV show always fear the finale will end with death. In the case of Endeavour, which has just bowed out after 11 years, we knew the police protagonist – Sgt Morse, played by Shaun Evans – must survive.


He needs to hand over the role to John Thaw in Inspector Morse, which preceded Endeavour on our screens but follows it in the story of the Thames Valley detective created by Colin Dexter.


The death of at least one other character was expected, though, with Morse’s boss and mentor, Roger Allam’s DCI Fred Thursday, the biggest worry.


The writer of all 36 episodes, Russell Lewis, acknowledged that the real challenge of the last Endeavour was to explain why, in the 33 episodes of Morse, he never once mentions Thursday.


Endeavour’s final episode teased viewers’ fears by starting with a funeral, corpse unspecified. Might everything flashback from Thursday’s interment? But that body turned out not to be his, and neither did a second one. A subplot involved death notices in the Oxford Times, sometimes for people still alive.


Several Funerals and a Wedding might have been the subtitle of this script in which Morse had to watch the woman he loved, but sacrificed for work – Thursday’s daughter Joan – marry oafish Oxford copper Jim Strange.


Further tortured by serving as Strange’s best man, in a brilliantly excruciating scene, he had to stand in as groom at a church rehearsal when Strange was late.


So, having explained Morse’s later life as an embittered bachelor, the episode had to settle why he ceased to speak of Thursday.


Screenwriter Lewis included lots of neat quotations from the franchise: the young copper singing in a choir matched a scene in the first Inspector Morse, a shot of the officer in a hospital bed shadowed one in the final Morse.


But the most significant references were in Latin: a touching double tribute to Dexter, a former classics master, and Morse, who had his own passion for ancient languages. Latin phrases appeared on each menacing obituary announcement. “Death has come with a new terror!” Morse translated for less educated colleagues.


The episode’s title, Exeunt, is the classical end-of-scene direction that means: “They all leave the stage.” While mentions of opera, a Morse passion, have filled Endeavour, the key references at the last were theatrical.


Lewis made devastating use of the brutal lines from Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part II, when the newly crowned Henry V dismisses his former mentor Falstaff: “I know thee not, old man.” Those words from Morse to Thursday marked the rupture between them that had been building in these final episodes due to the older copper’s involvement with some corrupt policemen.


But there was to be no banishment and, though the script flirted with it, no repeat of the heart attack that will eventually fell Morse. Instead, by Oxford’s Radcliffe Camera, there was a solemn valediction. “You’ll keep an eye,” said the old man, truncating a sentence for the last time. Morse even kept his gun.


From the charnel house of Blenheim Vale we moved to Blenheim Palace where two Jags, black and burgundy, passed in a golden sunset. The drivers’ iridescent blue eyes caught each other in the rear-view mirror just as they had in Endeavour’s pilot episode. You’ll keep an eye indeed. In his own way Evans has proved Thaw’s equal.


In their final scene together, Thursday gives Morse a gun, implicitly to protect himself from the bent coppers. Morse is then shown sitting on a churchyard bench with a firearm. When he’s off camera, a shot goes off.


This climax raises various possibilities. The best bet seems that Morse, having lost his love and his favourite colleague, contemplated putting the End into Endeavour but chose life instead, with the added poignancy that, very unusually, viewers know what happens to him next: the pains carrying on will bring.


The absolute final shot, though, could not have been more true to the franchise. From above, the black Jaguar the cop drives in Endeavour is seen passing the red Jag from Inspector Morse. What a perfect end to one of the classiest vehicles in TV crime drama.


The fleeting glimpse of the Inspector Morse actor John Thaw’s twinkly eyes in that rear-view mirror, the subtlest of parting gifts to the veteran fan.


The goodbye scene when Morse revealed that he had retrieved Fred’s life savings, putting his life at risk to do so. “You turned out all right. Knew you would,” Fred said, looking into Morse’s eyes, Allam’s voice breaking so authentically it fair got me in the throat. Here was purest male friendship, distilled to a few stiff-upper-lip sentences but brimming with love.


What a finale. The tenderness of the writing, the care taken over every beat of the script with little nods and winks to previous parts of the canon; at times it was almost too poignant. Here was sentiment but never sentimentality. It was a classy end with a proper sense of closure, but it will be sadly missed.


Driving away, young Morse in his inky dark Jaguar passed older Morse coming the other way in his red Jaguar, and the handover was complete. Endeavour transitioned to Inspector Morse and, well, that’s it folks. Mind how you go.



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