Pitch-perfect. There. It’s not often I start with a conclusion.
It would have been so easy to miss this one. It could be perceived as mining the very last minute nuggets out of a successful franchise. Lewis was OK, but I never took to it as I did Morse. It was hard to imagine and accept Lewis – the sort of ‘thick’ one in Morse – as promoted and in charge. Even maturity and some bitter life experiences could not really turn him into ‘canny’ and the brightest could it? And so we were now promised young Morse, the ‘making of’ Morse, if you will. But, as I say, it was pitch-perfect.
The programme opened with a missing teenage schoolgirl in Oxford. Additional police help is drafted in for the search and Detective Constable Endeavour Morse is one of those delivered by bus and taking up lodgings in the city. Shortly after, a student is found dead: an apparent suicide. Endeavour’s keen observational skills take his investigation off on a tangent when it comes to the girl and this does not impress his new colleagues. Until her body is discovered…
The story was beautifully scripted, acted and presented, and felt true to its era. Barrington Pheloung’s accompaniment was almost, but not quite, the Morse theme, making it so reminiscent and evocative of the same character.
Endeavour came across as the young man he surely would have been: one with a backbone that sought truth and justice at all costs; one with an eye for the ladies but undergoing his first experiences of thwarting; one who heard and saw the beauty in music and those who delivered it.
Various tributes were discreet, but in force. John Thaw’s daughter Abigail played a character who thought she’d seen Endeavour before, but when countered, said ‘… perhaps in another life?’ Creator of Endeavour Morse, Colin Dexter, had another of his Hitchcockian cameos in the programme. The plot employed crossword compilation in its machinations, something Dexter knows a lot about as an avid crossword compiler in addition to writing his Morse novels.
Shaun Evans proved perfect as Endeavour. The exuberance of youth was evident, but in the delivery of many lines he sounded like the later Thaw’s Morse, albeit not as an intended copy at all. It all felt so natural. In the role of the boss who discovers and nurtures him, Roger Allam’s Detective Inspector Fred Thursday was a beauty. If the Morse we learned to love and trust could recommend anyone, it would be him.
This was classic Morse, if earlier Morse. For writer Russell Lewis and the production team it is a triumph. And it does beg a series.