Returns June 29th, 2014
On the surface, Endeavour may sound like it’s full of tired clichés. Inspector Endeavour Morse (a brilliant Shaun Evans) is an emotionally damaged young detective who investigates complex murders in 1960s London. But Endeavour remains one of the most endlessly fascinating characters on television.
Created as a prequel series to Inspector Morse, which ran for thirteen years and starred John Thaw as the detective in his later years, Endeavour begins in 1965 as the young detective is writing his resignation letter. He’s never been one for dead bodies; he actually gets sick around them and doesn’t care much about attention and flashy cases. He simply likes the puzzle that cases represent and he often attacks them with a zeal that’s made him an outcast with other police officers. They feel he’s been given too much too young and is just plain weird.
Endeavour also benefits from being one of the most exceptionally well written and acted dramas on television. The character of Endeavour Morse is a sometimes frustrating mix of contradictions. He is compassionate but deliberately cold, he wants companionship but isn’t sure how to go about getting it, he’s a genius yet he struggles with understanding human behavior. Even when he is hard to understand he always manages to be likeable. Most of this is due to Evans, who veers between all of these emotions and does an exceptional job in the lead role, especially when you consider the fact that to TV mystery fans, the character for decades was utterly connected to John Thaw.
Ultimately it isn’t the cases that take center stage in Endeavour. Yes they are fascinating, but what really matters here is the impact they have on our lead. “Home”, the first season finale, is one of the finest and most devastating hours of television in recent memory. The episode encompasses everything that is so great about the show: it is quiet, introspective, and deeply personal. As Endeavour leans in front of his mother’s grave, you can see he is shaken to his core. As a viewer it’s hard not to feel the same way. Endeavour manages to be so emotionally rich that every moment is felt.
Endeavour is also gorgeous to look at. Set in 1960s London, this doesn’t look like some swinging London full of culture, art, and changing music. Sure all of that’s going on, but Endeavour shows no interest in it so instead all of that is pushed to the background. Instead the world he lives in is bleak, drab, somewhat depressing, and always engaging. It is, in short, so connected to the character that it simply adds another magnificent aspect to an already splendid show.
Endeavour, from the beginning, had a lot of things working against it. Endeavour Morse is a difficult character to like and he is a legendary figure in literature and television. But this adaptation stands on its own as one of TV’s finest, best executed, best acted, and most underrated shows. Endeavour is well worth a watch.