Endeavour (Season 2), PBS

With its focus on developing the titular young policeman's edgy personality, season 2 is a welcome addition to this Brit whodunit.

Created by Colin Dexter, author of the Morse books, and the series’ plots and characters

Screenwriting by Russell Lewis

Directed by Colm McCarthy

Starring Shaun Evans, Roger Allam, Anton Lesser, and Abigail Thaw

Mammoth Screen and Masterpiece co-production for ITV Studios

PBS Masterpiece Mystery!

June 29 – July 20, 2014; 9 p.m.

A welcome new season of “Endeavour,” the prequel to the legendary “Inspector Morse” series, revisits young Detective Constable Endeavour Morse of the Oxford City Police CID as he hones his deductive powers in four complex new episodes set in the 1960s.

The brilliant 33-episode “Inspector Morse” series (1988 – 2001) ended with the death of the Morse character, while its star, the late lamented and talented John Thaw, died in 2002. Sergeant Robbie Lewis (Kevin Whately), Morse’s subordinate in “Inspector Morse,” became “Inspector Lewis” five years later in a new series starring a more mature Whately, with Laurence Fox as his cool, Cambridge-graduate sidekick. The “Inspector Lewis” series ended in 2013 after 30 episodes, leaving “Endeavour” as the sole heir to the Inspector Morse legacy.

Shaun Evans (“The Take,” “The Last Weekend, “Silk”) is outstanding in the title role. The foundation of the older Morse’s personality was laid with a heavy trowel on young Endeavour in the first season (the ale, the Jaguar, the opera, the crosswords). This season focuses less on the older Morse nostalgia and more on developing the young policeman’s personality. His Endeavour is edgy, with an incisive mind and a manner so neurotically insecure that he is lucky to be able to get to work on time. He portrays well the early development of Inspector Morse’s brilliance, remoteness and idiosyncrasies.

Young Morse has the benefit of the tutelage of his mentor, the hard-nosed but soft-hearted detective inspector Fred Thursday. Roger Allam, a talented actor who has played both Falstaff and Prospero at London’s Globe Theatre, imbues gravitas as well as compassion to Thursday.

The first episode, “Trove” (June 29), involves the purported suicide of a man who only Endeavor thinks may have been murdered. Two other seemingly unrelated cases, a missing girl and the theft of valuable artifacts tax Endeavor’s substantial deductive abilities. Another subplot involving lawless members of the police and Oxford citizenry continues throughout the season. I watched this episode twice in order to be certain that all necessary clues were provided in advance to viewers. I found them all, but don’t leave the room during this episode, or you might miss an important connection.

An elderly man is murdered with a ceremonial dagger in “Nocturne” (July 6). The investigation leads to an isolated school for girls housed in a mansion befitting a Gothic novel. Deep in the school’s history are a series of murders that seem to impact the present. This is a satisfying, less cerebral episode, but with lots of thrills and chills.

“Sway” (July 13) involves a woman found choked with a black silk stocking. A serial killer may be after the women of Oxford. I wasn’t able to watch this noir-ish episode, but I look forward to it.

The final episode, “Neverland” (July 20), also centers on a scary old building. This time, it’s a now vacant home for boys. A missing boy, a dead journalist, and a prison escapee are clues to evil deeds of the past. Corruption in the police force and in Oxford society bring danger to Endeavour and Thursday. A very satisfying story line was marred a bit for me by a “to be continued” sort of ending. This is a cheap trick not worthy of the series. But I will happily stay tuned to watch the next season, due next year.

Emily S. Mendel
emilymendel@gmail.com
© Emily S. Mendel 2014 All Rights Reserved.

San Francisco, CA
Emily S. Mendel is a writer and photographer, whose work has appeared in numerous publications. She regularly contributes to culturevulture.net, where, in addition to writing about travel, film and television, she is the creator of its electronic arts column. Ms. Mendel, recently retired from her law practice, is relishing the opportunity to pursue her love of travel, photography, film, theater, ballet, bicycling, and computer games…and to write about them.