I remember 11 years ago, settling down for the night to watch a one-off TV special. It was Endeavour, a look at the early years of Inspector Morse, and it was a welcome way to fill the Lewis-shaped hole in my TV life. It was well-received, and it grew into one of the most consistently clever and engaging series on TV, and one that I’ve followed avidly. But all things must come to an end, and it’s Endeavour’s time. Appropriately, there’s a funereal feel to the final episode, ‘Exeunt’, but it’s ultimately a sublime celebration of camaraderie and love that caps off a glorious run.
Spoilers do follow, but I don’t think I could do ‘Exeunt’ justice without them.
Morse is called away from the ongoing investigation into Blenheim Vale to look into the accidental death of a scholar, who’d seemingly fallen down the stairs. It looks like an accident, but he finds something interesting in the newspaper – a death notice for the deceased, printed before his fall. Thursday is facing pressure to close down Blenheim Vale, and a number of faces from his past appear and threaten to catch up with him should the digging continue – with his move to a new station underway, as well as the forthcoming wedding of Joan and Strange and the trouble caused by Sam on his mind, what will he choose to do? And how will the two men part ways, as they are destined to do?
The culprit is obvious the moment they appear onscreen
Let’s get this case out of the way first of all, because it’s not really where the focus of ‘Exeunt’ lies. It’s a little underdone – it’s a typically clever idea for a case, but it only occupies about 50% of the episode’s runtime and suffers for it. The culprit is obvious the moment they appear onscreen, and the finer details of what looked to be a very intricate scheme are largely glossed over because there’s not time. It was probably a bit much for an episode that needed to wrap up a lot of other things, and it was the stumbling point of an otherwise superb finale.
And oh, what a finale it was. The reappearances of Arthur Lott (Danny Webb, not seen since that pilot) and Charlie Thursday (Phil Daniels) led us to the truth about Blenheim Vale, and the truth that led to Morse missing the wedding. We had a dream sequence in which Morse finally told Joan the truth about his feelings, a pay-off that could never be but which tugged at the heartstrings nonetheless – Evans has sold this unrequited love across nine seasons, and the bittersweet resolution was necessary but painful nonetheless. We feared that Joan’s death would be the cross Morse had to bare – instead, it was the knowledge that his love could never be reciprocated, and that his best friend would marry the woman he so cared for.
Then the final 15 minutes, which were perfectly judged. I anticipated that there would be tears, and those final scenes between Morse and Thursday delivered them. There was time for one last pint, in which the secret that split this duo was finally laid bare, and it was love that motivated it – in hindsight, despite the omens for Thursday’s death, this was the most satisfying solution, even as it broke your heart. It transpired that, in order to protect Sam, Thursday killed a biker in self-defence – so, to protect himself and his family, Thursday needed to go far away, and Morse could only protect him through silence. He had to remain silent, keeping the idea of Thursday alive in his heart as his mentor finally failed him.
There were weaknesses on the case front in ‘Exeunt’ but, frankly, they didn’t matter
We had one final confrontation, one final scene between the two actors who’ve been the heart of this series, and both Evans and Allam killed it – so little was said, yet they said everything with their eyes. Anton Lesser’s melodic voice was employed for the epilogue from The Tempest, complete with images of characters past and present, although of whom made Morse the man he would become, and then we had a final sequence that paid homage to John Thaw and ‘The Dead of Jericho’, where everything began all those years ago. It was truly time to say goodbye to Endeavour as Kate Saxon’s camera framed a passing of the torch – now, Morse had arrived, and what could be a more fitting conclusion?
There were weaknesses on the case front in ‘Exeunt’ but, frankly, they didn’t matter. This was an episode concerned with setting up the future, putting our characters on their paths and bringing full circle the legacy of Morse, and it did that perfectly. We knew names like Morse and Strange before, but the actors gave them new life. And the development of new characters such as Thursday and Bright, who grew before our eyes as the world changed, was superb – kudos must be paid to the actors who brought Oxford to life. But there’s also special credit for the crew who made this such a prestige production, and to Russell Lewis for devising and scripting a series that never dipped in quality, not throughout its nine series.
‘Exeunt’ is an appropriate title, as now all the actors have left the stage and the show is over. All that remains for me to say is thank you for following along with me and my Endeavour blogs and, for the very last time, mind how you go.