Shaun Evans plays the young Inspector Morse in PBS's "Endeavour"
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I love murder mysteries set in the bucolic countryside of England with a moody and complicated detective at the center of things. And so I made a point to watch the episode of "Endeavour," the new mystery on PBS, that aired last Sunday night. Set in Oxford, England in the 1960's, it is a prequel to the popular "Inspector Morse" series that aired on PBS in the 1990's. That show's final episode was broadcast in 2000 with Morse dying from a heart attack. John Thaw played the lead character, the enigmatic Inspector Morse, whose first name we never learned until the end of the show. It was "Endeavour." Only one episode of this new show was made, but due to its popularity in Britain, more episodes have been ordered. Based on what I saw on Sunday night, I hope the additional episodes make it to the states. It was really good!
Many of us were fans of the original "Inspector Morse" television series -- it was so much fun to watch. Morse was a moody and mysterious hero, fascinating in his complexity. We couldn't get enough of the beautiful university town of Oxford where the show was set. And there were so many things to love about the show: Morse's vintage red Jaguar Mark II, his obsession with opera and crossword puzzles, his love of good ale, and the mystery of the man himself. Many episodes opened with booming strains of opera as we saw Morse in his home listening to his beloved records, ruminating on whatever was on his mind, usually with a drink in hand. We never understood why he was so lonely and unhappy. But we did know that he was an excellent detective and we enjoyed watching him and his partner Detective Lewis as they endlessly sat in the pubs of Oxford dissecting their cases, or wandered through the idyllic grounds of Oxford University investigating various misdeeds that took place there.
Evans as Morse with Roger Allam who plays his boss on "Endeavour"
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The episode of "Endeavour" this past Sunday night took us back to the beginning of Morse's career when he is in his twenties and called in to solve his first case, the mysterious death of a young teenage girl who is being tutored by an Oxford don. We learn that Morse attended Oxford University for one year, but dropped out because of a failed romance, joined the army for two years and is now exploring the idea of becoming a detective. The show opens with him writing his letter of resignation to the police department. But he gets called in to a case and decides to take it. He is already moody and unsettled, but also obviously an excellent detective as he leads his associates to the solution of the crime. He listens to opera, does crossword puzzles, and is already lusting over a Jaguar that he sees in a parking lot. Turns out it is the exact red Jaguar that John Thaw drove in the original series. The producers found the car and used it in Sunday night's episode.
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"Endeavour" won me over. In it, the young Morse falls in love with a woman who happens to be one of his favorite opera singers. For several different reasons (no spoilers here!) the romance is not to be. Unlucky in love, but brilliant at solving murder mysteries, he is starting to become the Morse we knew back in the 1990's. Let's hope that PBS will air the additional episodes that are being produced, so we can learn more about the mysterious Inspector Morse and what made him the way he was. Come winter time, I can see myself happily settling in with more episodes of "Endeavour," watching the young Inspector Morse solve crimes against the backdrop of the "dreaming spires" of Oxford.