Spoilers, obviously, but it’s been out for more than four years so…
Oxford’s Dreaming Spires, an opening if ever there was. Endeavour consistently uses its openers to dual purpose, one to lay out the players and stages that will become important in the mystery ahead and two, an insight into the world of this young Morse. His outlook and his Oxford both.
This first episode proper of Season One concerns two interlocked deaths, one a young secretarial student and the other a middle-aged doctor. It is a harsh examination of familial politics, how far parents will go for their children and the damage that can be done when you believe you know what is best for another person. Quite a lesson for the times.
My favourite television shows all have the same number one rule: You are probably wrong. The crosswords appear in Girl as they did in Pilot. Morse and his cryptic clues. As with solving a cryptic crossword, once you are alerted to something you need to pay attention. There are rewards in Endeavour if you are willing to dig out the references. Morse goes to see a Vicar about a bike and we are rewarded with a series of tidbits*.
It is a wonderful introduction to the cast, this ensemble that works like its own family. They grate and pull against each other, they tease and fall out and will defend each other with tooth and claw when attacked from the outside.
As the cast assembles around Morse and Thursday we see the lines drawn. How Morse inspires loyalty in those who understand him and derision in those who do not. How quickly we come to dislike Bright for his arrogance and need for the simple answers to win out. “Matey”, that single word that indicated who was speaking before a name announced, another example of the gentle tip-of-the-hat towards the Morse we know. Standing at the end of Season Three it is a credit to cast and creators that our once simple feelings towards this gang become so complex.
The set-ups in the first part of each episode are beautifully subtle, we see the possibilities before we see the evidence.
Time and again we see people leaving Morse behind. And yet he learns, scolded for being untidy we see him ironing. The subtle hints at how personality builds from experience are more obvious on repeated watchings. Thursday, a regular army man is all spick and span, willing to see people rise through the ranks on merit but unwilling to hear any insubordination. Morse from the signal corps is less bothered by rules and regs but cannot let the smallest detail slip from his grasp. These are not characters found as they are written but whole and complete in themselves from the minute they step onto the screen.
At the end of Girl none of the players are in the same position as they were at the beginning. Lives change, people move on, there are deaths and disappointments. Families alter, suffer and fall apart but the meaning of family is the same.
The love I have for this show is first and foremost and finally all in the writing. I have spoken before about how much I adore Russell Lewis’ work and as the episodes build up we can watch how everything ties together. Details are remembered and it is a rewarding experience to watch the plot unfold.
*Running over a dune is an effort: Endeavour / After beard teased, a surprise will lead you home: breadcrumbs