04 January 2016

TV Review: Endeavour - Ride

At long last, Endeavour is back! For those of you who somehow managed to miss the first and second series, broadcast in 2013 and 2014, this show is a prequel to the much-loved Morse starring John Thaw with Shaun Evans taking on the title role. Headed up by Russell Lewis, who has written and served as an executive producer on every episode, Endeavour has long been one of the most underrated television dramas.

At the end of the second series, the biggest case yet concluded with Roger Allam's DI Fred Thursday fighting for his life after being shot, and Morse framed for his (attempted?) murder. Lewis had a huge task ahead of him to wrap up that explosive storyline two years later and still make this episode accessible to new viewers, and happily he does so with great aplomb.

The whole construct of this story is remarkably sound. Having been released from jail after being acquitted of shooting Thursday (yes, he survived - hooray!) Morse has gone into his shell, and not returned to the force. But before long, he crosses paths with Thursday and returning characters Jakes, Strange and Chief Superintendent Bright as a case begins to get complicated. What I like about Lewis' writing in particular is how well all the elements of his stories marry together so neatly whilst standing up to individual scrutiny, as with how the world Morse finds himself in leads him to return to his work here.

The highlight of this episode for me was the reunion of Morse and Thursday. This partnership has always been at the forefront of the series, but I'd forgotten just how much I'd missed it. For once, it's Fred leading the investigation, but that soon changes as Morse can't resist immersing himself in the world of police work once more. Surprisingly, of the pair it's him that is more haunted by the events of the previous episode and Evans brings a new, sharper edge to the character. Eventually he will wear down, but for now it's interesting to see the difference and the other characters' reactions to it. This certainly looks to be another engaging run for the series.

If I had one regret about this opening episode, it would be how little we see of the supporting cast that we've grown to love over the last eight episodes. The fleeting appearances of Caroline O'Neil as Win Thursday and Shvorne Marks as Monica Hicks are enjoyable, but in future episodes I really would like to see more of them. That said, putting Morse and Thursday centre stage here was absolutely the right decision and necessary given what the pair have gone through. I also appreciated the closest thing to an apology we're likely to get from Bright, as he encourages Morse for the first time.

Of course, it's not just the script that's exemplary here, as every element of the production reaches the high watermark set by the first two series. Sandra Goldbacher's direction is particularly good, no doubt aided by the extremely talented director of photography Suzie Lavelle, who's making quite a name for herself recently. The way we are guided through the story visually is of a standard far beyond the ratings this show typically achieves, something which is true of any department you might care to name - from script to costume design.

The explanation to the main narrative is arguably a little confusing but it's one of the most devilishly clever plots yet, which is saying something. All in all, this is a massively enjoyable 90 minutes of drama and more than proof, if ever it was needed, that the series still has legs.

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