Two days after the 30th anniversary of Inspector Morse’s first ever appearance on our screens, Endeavour keeps the torch burning with a fourth series. It’s been a patchy-old ride for Endeavour since its inception – yes, its air is thick with Morse lore and what people now call ‘easter eggs’, but over the course of its three previous series, we’ve had the good, the bad and the ugly. With the anniversary in mind, it’s important for fans of the titular, classics-loving detective this series got off to a good start. Thankfully, it did.
NB: Spoileration inside
What I like about Endeavour most, aside from its gorgeous period detail, is the opening montages. It sets out its stall early – surging classical music with small pieces of intercut visual information that show us the nature of what we’re going to be dealing with over the next couple of hours. It’s a good way to set things up, and is in line with Morse’s love of the classics.
So what did we have in this first episode’s opening sequence? We had a drowning of an Oxford prof, an old, ornate swimming pool, and some new technology, this time int he shape of a super-computer called ‘JASON’ who would be taking centre stage in a PR wheeze by Lovelace College – the colleage had developed this computer and would be pitting it against a Russian Grandmaster.
What seemed like a case focused on and around the chess game (would it be something to do with the Russians, after all the mid-to-late 1960s was prime Cold War era; would it be something to do with inter-team boffin jealousy and politics?), soon took a deeper, more sinister turn when more drowning victims showed up and Morse, eagle-eyed as ever, smelled the work of a serial killer. Thursday, on the other hand, refused to believe the cases were linked. I’m not entirely sure how long they can keep this type of conflict within the relationship up – Morse, the righteous one; Thursday the gruff unbeliever. You’d expect Thursday to know Morse and know that Morse is by now (he’s right most of the time), and his old-school ways need to be changed. But there is something reassuring about these two – they have reached the old, married couple stage of their relationship and they bicker away happily. Thursday and actual wife Win were dealing with the departure of daughter Joan in typically stiff-upper-lip ways, and Thursday’s ire seemed to be focused on Morse. Morse, on the other, hand was furious when Bright informed him that he had failed his Seargent exam because the papers weren’t delivered on time. So both men were angry, and both took it out on the other.
But there was a case to get to grips with and, as more seemingly disparate victims were being drowned, Morse was increasingly perplexed as to what was going on – until he found a cryptic message at one of the murder scenes. He was off. And do was a new, young journalist at the Oxford Mail – not only was she being flirtatious, stealing Morse’s notebook and having a go at Dorothea for being over the hill, she told her boss that the next time she’d see her was in a Fleet Street newspaper. Unfortunately, she was wrong. Thanks to the help of JASON, the next time we saw her was floating, drowned in the killer’s isolated farmhouse. Her close-to-the-edge reporting got her into deep, deep trouble.
What seemed like a disparate group of victims were all tied together by an emotionally disturbed young man who was working on the JASON project, and still traumatised by the suicide of his younger sister a decade earlier (which he had caused).
So a dark start to the fourth series, and a very satisfying and enjoyable one. After a patchy third series, this felt like a much more believable case and the pace was just right. Yes, credulity had to be stretched a bit, but suspects were built up, knocked down, there was a serial killer, even some jeopardy and chasing at the end… everything you want from a solid procedural crime drama. All in all, a return to form.
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