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Endeavour, Series 4 Finale, ITV | reviews, news & interviews

Endeavour, Series 4 Finale, ITV

Endeavour, Series 4 Finale, ITV

Is the 'Morse' prequel turning into 'Midsomer Murders'?

Shaun Evans as Endeavour: still waiting for that elusive promotion

There were signs of a collision as early as the second series. The event loomed larger in the third last year and last night, after an actual car crash, it finally happened: Endeavour became interchangeable with Midsomer Murders. How are the mighty fallen.

Morse, investigating the disappearance of an academic in 1962, had doors slammed in his face while Morris Men practiced their menacing moves in the picturesque village of Bramford. The local yokels were preparing for the autumnal equinox (even though the trees were covered in green leaves) just as they were when the botanist, checking radiation levels from the nearby nuclear power station, met his untimely (but, as it turns out, much-deserved) end. They, like much else, proved to be mere window dressing.

The episode and the series ended with a bang and a gong

Viewers of both series will have had a distinct sense of déja vu when the nasty man’s car was eventually found under a tarpaulin in a barn – a scene straight out of a recent episode of Midsomer. Although the latter scene was not blessed with a wonderfully timely thunderstorm. How director Jim Loach (who makes good use of drones and handhelds) must have thanked his lucky stars.

The tarot cards turned over at the end of each of the three preceding episodes were revealed to belong to a batty old woman called Dowsable Chattox – “Goddess bless thee!” – who gave the sarcastic Morse a reading. How Sheila Hancock, John Thaw’s widow, kept a straight face is the real mystery here. Was this really the best way to pay tribute to some of his finest work?

Russell Lewis wrote all four episodes this season and the strain showed. It would be too much for anyone, however talented. The way he has coped is by reducing a detective drama to the slapdash tropes of a soap. The only drama in Harvest lay in the emotional triangle of DI Fred Thursday (pictured below), DC Morse and Joan, Thursday’s errant daughter (Sara Vickers). As always Roger Allam as Thursday was the star of the show but Shaun Evans, now lending Morse a touching vulnerability, is clearly learning from him – and giving him a run for the money. They are the only ones who provide a hint of subtext.

Lewis, demonstrating a talent for emulation rather than ambition, has nothing to say. (I once wrote a full-length script of The Daughters of Cain for Morse – it was unused but producer Helen Zeigler should give my agent Jonny Geller a call. I couldn’t do worse…) Copying the undertakers who are never far away, he resorts to digging up dead bodies.

Last week, in Lazaretto, we glimpsed from behind Susan, Morse’s true love in Dead on Time (1992), at a funeral. It was an odd episode, directed by Icelander Börkur Sigthórsson who had great fun turning Cowley General into the Overlook Hotel. There was much talk of the Matthews gang, first encountered in Kensal Green Cemetery in Twilight of the Gods (1993). The fourth season has only been memorable for such incidentals. Cameo roles – Phoebe Nicholls as a snobby cow in Lazaretto, Sylvestra Le Touzel as a surrogate Mary Whitehouse in Canticle, Michael Pennington as a deranged scientist in Harvest (yes, there is a nod to Dr Strangelove) – and the stalwart playing of James Bradshaw as young pathologist Max and Sean Rigby as DS Strange have compensated for the weak scripts but, alas, they are just icing on a very stale cake.

So what else? The episode and the series ended with a bang and a gong. If you ever wanted to see Morse in a Flake advert, this was your chance. The parrot in last week’s episode is no more. The girl from Omaha seemed to be there as a sop to American audiences.

At least such folk guarantee a fifth series will (dis)grace our screens next year. Having consulted the cards, my predictions for it are: Morse finally gains promotion, Chief Superintendent Bright’s tummy troubles worsen (Anton Lesser is a busy man) and DS Strange, although he never comes out of the closet, reveals himself to be…queer!

If you ever wanted to see Morse in a Flake advert, this was your chance


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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What a vile, bitter and embarrassing piece. 'I once wrote a full-length script of The Daughters of Cain for Morse – it was unused but producer Helen Zeigler should give my agent Jonny Geller a call. I couldn’t do worse…)' - do your shirt up, your belly's showing.

I presume this gentleman is not the lovely Hugh Laurie...

Have to agree David...unnecessarily snarky. It's a bit of fun. And it's very well-produced and much loved fun. The plots are neither here nor there - the 'soap's the thing. These new Morses are like the Marvel comics of old - you watch to see what happens to the characters you care about just as much as for the whodunnit. I suspect a vast number of overseas viewers also watch for a depiction of beautiful England as it is, and a made-up England as it never was - certainly not as it was in 1968, or indeed in the 1948 or 1958 it might have been rather more like this time around! And we watch too for a handful of glorious performances -Roger Allam of course, but this is an ensemble piece. The disappointing thing is that there is much here that the Sherlock writers/producers/'showrunners' could learn from - it is, after all, more or less everything they were doing a few years back...Meanwhile, Mrs M and I think it's going to be a long slog waiting for Series 5.

I must say that the Oxford depicted here is not entirely dissimilar in my mind to the Oxford in which I lived for a year in 1961 as a small boy and from 1969-71 as a visiting young teenager from America. It's one of the reasons I enjoy watching the show. Perhaps they take it back a bit too far, though: while those old-style buses were still very much around, the newer ones (no conductors, sliding door at the front) were beginning to take over. And the cars were perhaps a bit more modern. Still great fun, though.

Many thanks for your comments. A first, I think, from a Rodes Scholar... MS

Endeavour...please get rid of that moustache

Ah my sentiments exactly. Splendid material, going (or has it already gone) the way of most TV drama where writers treat the audience as idiots. A pleasant village in Oxfordshire near to a huge power station is in fact Royston Vesey, Police allow a bunch of amateur druids (led by the local doctor) to chant incantations next to them whilst they dig up a radioactive murder victim, Morse can't get in a nuclear power station but 2 armed men (and a hostage) can. Never mind nice Joan Thursday suddenly turns into a femme fatale - knocked about by her lover who is not apparently unafraid of Fred Thursday (now that is daft) And did Morse just get his GM in the post? Cobblers.

The village used was near Henley-on-Thames.

What rubbish saying ENDEAVOUR is like midsommer, This is a great series and long may it run

A good summation of the way Endeavour has 'collapsed' in this series. Yet you finish with the word queer. Unless you're referring to the idiom of the late 1960s, I would have thought using the word gay was more respectful and less sneering a way to finish this nice piece.

I wasn't sneering. Morse loves crosswords and a synonym for "strange" is "queer"...

Mr Sanderson, you make some good points but then go and spoil it all by confusing Promised Land with Twilight of the Gods, which I believe you even appeared in as an extra sitting next to John Thaw. I'll forgive you though, as you did write the seminal Making of Inspector Morse book in '91. Would love to see your script for TDOC; would be surprised though if it was better than Julian Mitchell's...

Mea culpa. Even homos nod... You are quite right: Julian's script was better – but he is a genius!

As a big fan of inspector morse, lewis and endeavour surely some of the endeavour episodes will not be as good as others just as was the same with the inspector morse episodes. But I thoroughly enjoyed Series 4 of Endeavour and cant wait until series 5.

But Mark Henderson's review was much more enjoyable than that last episode of Endeavour and didn't take two hours to read

I watched Endeavour on Sunday night and as I watched I began to think, "Am I watching Midsomer Murders?" Endeavour used to be full of great dialogue and not so easy to figure out murders. But slitting throats and carving stars around victims' eyes is right out of the pages of Midsomer Murders. I will continue to watch Endeavour because I like all the characters and am anxious to see what develops with Joan Thursday and Jim Strange. It seems the writers are having "writers block"

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