These are high times for fans of Shaun Evans. On Sunday nights he is now on two channels simultaneously. Over on BBC One, in Vigil, the poor man is stuck on board a submarine with an increasingly hysterical Suranne Jones. And on ITV he makes his return as Morse in Endeavour, which is a superior product.
At the end of the last series, Morse’s new love, Violetta, took a bullet for him in Venice. Shades of Bond and Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. This new series, then, is the Quantum of Solace follow-up: our hero hates the world and is numbing his misery with alcohol. When we first see him in this episode, he’s staring into the bottom of a pint glass. Next morning, he wakes up face down on the sofa and still wearing last night’s clothes, then has to haul himself to work when a bomb goes off at the university, killing a secretary.
Period detective dramas are ten-a-penny but Endeavour is a class apart, isn’t it? The acting, the character studies, the set design – it all adds up to an immensely satisfying whole. It is clearly made with great care and attention, and as viewers there is the added layer of knowing that everything we see happening to Morse in this series will shape the Morse of the later, John Thaw years.
The plot of this episode was fine, but not a vintage example of what the scriptwriters can do. The conundrum was finding out how that bomb was linked to a threat against Jack Swift (Julian Moore-Cook), a star player at Cowley Town, and where sectarianism fit into any of it. It was sufficiently knotty to keep us guessing until the end, but the football theme – complete with a cartoonishly awful “couturier to the stars” and chairman of Oxford Wanderers – was a bit light for a drama that is at its best when it strays into darkness.
For viewers on woke alert, there was an early alarm bell: was the death threat against Swift on account of his colour? But we never heard of that again, thank goodness. We did, though, get an unexpected dose of Eamonn Andrews – well, not the real thing, obviously – and his big red book, when Swift got the This Is Your Life treatment.
Just as Kevin Whately’s Robbie Lewis felt like so much more than a supporting player in Inspector Morse, Roger Allam as Fred Thursday is such an integral part of what makes Endeavour sing that it couldn’t go on without him. The lovely Joan Thursday (Sara Vickers, returning after maternity leave) is back for series eight, but I think we can predict that the course of true love for Joan and Morse will not run smooth.
Read More: the king of period detective dramas returns