After 11 years, it’s finally time for the final episodes of Endeavour. The Morse prequel has had a superb life of its own, as we witnessed the young Morse (Shaun Evans) undergo his formative years of policing in Oxford, under the watchful eye of DCI Fred Thursday (Roger Allam). This final run, set just three years before the first Morse, promises to answer loads of questions about the character, not least why Morse never mentioned his mentor – but first, it’s time for a ‘Prelude’.
It’s 1972. Morse has returned to Oxford after treatment for alcoholism, and he’s immediately thrown into the thick of it after a murder case linked to a famous orchestra, led by the renowned Sir Alexander Lermontov (Nicholas Farrell). A mysterious man has turned up dead in the venue for a post-performance drinks reception, and the only clue the detectives have to go on is a missing shoe – that is, until death rears its head within the orchestra. Morse investigates with Thursday, but his mentor is distracted by both the violent death of a former informer who might have had a message for him and the return of his son Sam (Jack Bannon) from the army.
things take a darker turn as the orchestra’s secrets spill out
‘Prelude’ really hits the ground running, with an exciting opening linking the informant’s murder to the classical performance (a wonderful directorial choice by Evans, pulling double duty, and one he uses throughout the episode). And the bodies keep piling up, although the central case here involves hate messages and a murder in the orchestra. Although Morse is first linked to the musicians as the guest soloist (Christina Poole) requests his help (and an unconvincing semi-romance is hinted at), things take a darker turn as the orchestra’s secrets spill out. Although the identity of the murderer is perhaps a little obvious and the motive feels a little undercooked, I think the clues on the way were superb. Only Endeavour could use sheet music notes as such a relevant clue and make it work so well.
Really, though, the central murder is not the key focus of the episode, and writer and creator Russell Lewis clearly knows it. Instead, he’s concerned with the relationships between our characters, and the way that this run must inevitably lead into Morse, and so the groundwork is beginning to be laid. Long-time viewers will remember many of the call-backs, and it appears we’re likely to be revisiting one of the show’s darkest episodes, ‘Neverland’, and tying up some of the loose ends. Morse visits the site of Blenheim Vale, a care home that was the site of horrendous child abuse (impacting, among others, Morse’s former colleague Jakes). Many of the perpetrators of the abuse were killed in that episode, but one escaped, and the whereabouts of one of the abused children remained unknown. It looks like we might finally get those answers.
a bittersweet piece of television sending these characters towards their inevitable fate
The question, though, is how does Thursday fit into all this. I praised Allam throughout my past blogs, and I continue to do so (the episode’s final scene is heart-breaking, as he says so much in a glance and a choked word), but we know something has to happen to him. Bright (Anton Lesser) suggests a promotion at another station, while the surprise reappearance of Ronnie Box (Simon Harrison) and hints at a darker London suggest something in Thursday’s past might be coming back to get him. I’m gripped, and honestly a little worried given my investment in the character, to learn the answer.
Morse, meanwhile, inches closer and closer to the character we know he will become (there’s a Lewis reference, too, which I really hope is a spot of foreshadowing). Evans fits the character like a glove, carrying with him an air of melancholy that will define his later years, and the scene when he learns that Joan (Sara Vickers) is engaged to Strange (Sean Rigby) is absolutely superb acting (whether or not I remain unconvinced by the relationship). You can feel his pain, and his grief at a love that always remained out of reach.
For now, though, ‘Prelude’ is a real welcome back, and a bittersweet piece of television sending these characters towards their inevitable fate. Those brief moments of Morse and Thursday in the sun, enjoying Oxford and their partnership, are rapidly coming to an end. Although Lermontov references the famous musical ‘curse of the ninth’, Endeavour remains as compelling as ever.