17 February 2014

ENDEAVOUR: Girl


Endeavour, for those of you out of the loop, is a prequel series to Inspector Morse, which famously starred John Thaw as the eponymous Oxford-based detective. It stars Shaun Evans as a younger version of the same character, and is set in the 1960s; the first series specifically in 1965. Roger Allam (DI Fred Thursday), Anton Lesser (Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright), Sean Rigby (PC Jim Strange) and Jack Laskey (DS Peter Jakes), who can all be seen in the above photograph, complete the line-up of regulars.

The main focus of this opening episode (commissioned off the back of a 2012 pilot) is the family of a nuclear physicist who helped develop a bomb that killed 300,000 people during World War II. They are all made out to be suspects to begin with, before we are introduced to other supporting characters such as a Post Office owner and his son, and the local vicar. All these characters are very well written. We get to know them in a short space of time, and the same is true of the main cast.

The member of the Sloan family we spend most time with, as a result of Morse doing so, is Pamela, Sir Edmund's youngest daughter. She's epileptic and, due to her treatment both by her family, and by the orderlies at the institution they sent her to as a young teenager, mentally unstable. She is very endearing though, and it's hard not to be on her side when her older sister refuses to let her see her own son, Bobby. Sophie Stuckey is brilliant here, and gives a very affecting performance. 

All the odds are stacked against Morse from the start. Bright is new to the station, and intends to reform it for the better. DI Thursday has appointed Morse as his runner, to handle new cases, but Bright isn't happy with this decision. He makes it plain to all that he feels the position rests with a Detective Sergeant, such as Jakes. The rivalry between the two policemen is well-pitched. It feels competitive, but Morse's casual disregard of position, and willing to solve the case is a highly refreshing break from the hysterics that crop up so often in similar situations. It's nice too that Bright follows through on his short temper, demoting Morse after what he deems as a few mistakes.

It does of course all come together at the end, and Morse solves the case with the help of Reverend Monkford (Jonathan Guy Lewis). There are lots of twists and turns in this mystery, and it's risky making the main character so unliked by his peers in an opening episode (but quite the reverse by Pamela) but it certainly pays off when he manges to crack the case. Lots of subtle clues are dropped, but it's likely you'll be too enthralled by the drama to notice them. Another highlight is the recreation of the period; every last detail is stunning. It's a visual feast, and at no moment did was the curtain ever lifted. I was mightily impressed by both this, and by Ed Bazalgette's (a name I wasn't familiar with) direction. The atmosphere of the piece was also helped in no small part by the music of the rather exotically-named Barrington Pheloung.

An intriguing first episode. It would be wrong to describe the pace as relaxed, but at no point does it feel slow. There's an interesting case to solve (which Morse does aptly) and Shaun Evans is simply astounding as Endeavour Morse. He's almost matched by Roger Allam and Sophie Stuckey, but not quite. Sean Rigby is also instantly likeable. If the rest of the series is this good, I have no difficulty seeing why it was recommissioned so quickly.

Excellent.



You can buy Girl as part of Endeavour Series One here; the IMDb page is here.

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