So I’m avoiding all the mind how you go jokes and the so farewell then headlines. I wonder how many people are even aware of E J Thribb? I suppose if you work in the medja.
I’ve been thinking about Endeavour. It was so very good. I said ages ago that it was better than Morse, and I think it would be a harsh critic who wouldn’t acknowledge it so. As I wrote recently, Morse itself seems a bit weird now, more of a sketch than a fully realised artwork.
But that last episode? In fact the whole of the last series? It was good, and welcome, but… well. Don’t read on if you have not seen the final three episodes.
Before I start a word on length. Look away now if you don’t like thinking how everything is a little worse now than it used to be. Old man alert!
Episodes of Endeavour are 10 minutes shorter than episodes of Morse, but they fit in the same time slot. Yes, there are now 10 minutes more adverts than there were in the 80s and 90s. And as anyone who has watched recent ITV or Channel 4 will know, there are fewer adverts, shown more often, so you don’t even get variety. All the adverts are for river cruises and funerals, as far as I can make out.
Luckily, I’ve been subscribing to ITVX so I can avoid the ad breaks while watching Paris-Nice highlights and episodes of Endeavour. I did watch the first of the season live, but will not make that mistake again.
So the show is better but the experience is worse, is what I’m saying. And then there were the last three episodes.
First of all, let’s talk retcon. I think Endeavour has fallen victim to retroactive continuity. This didn’t feel like Thursday’s past coming back to haunt him so much as, how can we create a situation whereby Morse never speaks of him again? So levers were pulled, and furniture was moved, and it all felt a little creaky. So his brother didn’t lose all his money but pretended to so that the gangsters could hold something over Thursday should they ever need to? What? It doesn’t make sense. It would make more sense if his brother had given him a return-on-investment that turned out in the fullness of time to be dirty money. But no, because they couldn’t go back that far.
So then there’s the COINCIDENCE KLAXON of the dead biker being the missing boy from the children’s home, only with a different name, yadda yadda. The 19th rule of Pixar storytelling has some thoughts about coincidence, and so do I. Although this coincidence didn’t get Thursday or Morse out of trouble, it certainly solved a problem for the writers. There was this kid, and he went away and changed his name and he came back to Oxford of all places because…?
Things fall apart.
But I did like the plotlines of the penultimate two episodes, the murder-of-the-week stories. Because the second episode took aim at the £20 note burners of the Bullingdon Club, and the third created a killer who was basically a Brexit Bigot from 50 years ago, murdering people simply for having opinions he didn’t like. So it was like The Nasty Party writ large.
They may not be Nazis*, but they are nasty.
Which brings us to the finale and the falling out. I would have bought guilt as a reason for Morse’s silence. If Morse’s actions had got, say, Thursday and Joan both killed, it would explain his silence (guilt) and Chief Superintendent Strange’s antipathy towards Morse in Morse.
But the showrunners didn’t quite have the gumption to kill off Thursday, and they married Joan off to Strange, which might explain why Morse hates Strange, but not the other way around. They teased a death for Thursday (in the same spot that Morse died, which is cheesy), but they didn’t go through with it.
Instead, they had Thursday be the murderer of the biker, and Morse knew it and confronted him about it and… nothing. Actually, the falling out wasn’t even a proper falling out. They parted as friends. Sure, Thursday was going to make himself scarce, but there was no sense in which Morse was so thoroughly disillusioned with him that he could no longer bear to speak his name.
Nope. Not buying it.
As for the gun. As for the discharge of a fire arm in a church yard, off camera, well, what? It was all a dream? A suicide deferred? I don’t get it, and I don’t think anybody else does either. And don’t bother reading any of those “ending explained” articles. I suspect they’re written by AIs and they explain nothing. Ever.
In the end, I loved it, except for the bits that were put in as fan service and the retconning in an attempt to explain Morse’s silence. Why not have him actually turn Thursday in for murder? That would be a classic detective move. To paraphrase Dashiell Hammett:
When someone’s son is killed you’re supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was somebody’s son and you’re supposed to do something about it. It’s bad business to let the killer get away with it. It’s bad all around-bad for the organisation, bad for every detective everywhere.The Maltese Falcon
So it seems to me that would have been the way to go. It doesn’t matter what the fans think. The character has to be true to himself. And if Morse had arrested Thursday, it would have been a shocker, but in character. And it would have explained his ongoing silence on the subject. And Strange’s attitude to him.
I’ll finish on a positive. Because I did love the show. The whole cast was brilliant, but I must say a special word for Anton Lesser. I fucking love Anton Lesser. And in that last episode, when he said his farewell to the squad, talking about what a privilege it had been etc., I absolutely welled up. Fifteen words, by my count. Fifteen words is all he needed, and I was wrecked.
Keep an eye, won’t you?
*They totally are.