Endeavour series 2, ITV, with Shaun Evans, Roger Allam PREVIEW

Pictured L-R: SEAN RIGBY as PC Strange, SHAUN EVANS as Endeavour, JACK LASKEY as DS Peter Jakes,ROGER ALLAM as DI Fred Thursday and ANTON LESSER as CH SUPT Reginald Bright.
Endeavour and the Oxford squad. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★★

ITV: returns Sunday, 30 March, 8pm

Story: May 1966. DC Endeavour Morse returns to Oxford City Police after a four-month absence from duty. Reunited with DI Fred Thursday, still reeling from being shot and the loss of his father, the detective’s involuntary furlough has left him mentally wounded.

ENDEAVOUR was only meant to be a one-off to celebrate the Inspector Morse‘s 25th anniversary in 2012. But here he is back for a second series, following a hugely popular one-off and first series.

It’s been a clever reboot. The production is as good-looking and stately as ever, which the traditional Morse fans clearly adore. For the younger audience it has the sex appeal of Shaun Evans, giving a fine performance as the tortured bright-spark of a detective.

The conceit of Morse/Endeavour is that he is man who would never be in the police. He is too

 JESSICA ELLERBY as Diana.Endeavour 2 ITV
Diana knew the missing girl

intellectual, too cultured and aloof to fit in. He has few friends in the force (or outside), and as we prescient viewers know he is destined to never rise to a level in the force that his abilities deserve.

Thursday is worried about Endeavour

As Trove, the season two opener, begins, we encounter Endeavour back where he was in the pilot – wondering if the police service is the right career for him. It is four months after the traumatic events of the previous series when his father died and he was shot.

Yet he is immediately pitched into a brain-tease of a case that only he is equipped to unravel. During a street parade, a man plummets to his death from a council building. The dead man has multiple identities, but Endeavour works out who he is – and that this suspected suicide is not all it seems.

JESSIE BUCKLEY as Kitty Batten. Endeavour 2 ITV
Hot-blooded Kitty causes an incident at the parade

His boss, DI Thursday, looks on with fatherly concern as the younger man concocts various theories connecting the death with the disappearance of a young woman. Meanwhile, the chief superintendent – played by Anton Lesser, who’s cornered the market in smarmy arrogance in every drama from Game of Thrones to Garrow’s Law – just wants Endeavour to be put on traffic duty till he turns 45.

Puzzles and beauty contests

Writer Russell Lewis throws in a puzzle for Endeavour – a jotting on a note by the dead man’s bed – and a glimpse at the burgeoning world of celebrity in Sixties Britain, with beauty pageants and dodgy agents looking to promote ingenues into stars worthy of a supermarket opening or photo shoot.

‘Simon Dee asked me if I liked his shirt,’ one character says. ‘You can’t put a price on that.’

What makes Endeavour such a success? Shaun Evans and Roger Allam are likeable performers playing an interesting duo of mentor and successor, but whose relationship is not always smooth-going. The stories are also full of evocative detail and look splendid.

Endeavour is interesting because the character evolves

SHAUN EVANS as Endeavour.
A battered Endeavour questions a witness

And there is the enjoyment in unravelling the overarching mystery – Endeavour’s character. Russell Lewis drops hints in every tale about how Morse got to be the man audiences loved when played by John Thaw. In the last season we witnessed his cold relationship with his dad.

Here, aficionados will spot a bumptious academic Thaw encountered in 1991, but who is seen in this opener as a younger man, who Endeavour puts firmly in his place in a nice scene.

And Endeavour evolves (unlike Lewis). During this series he starts off a bit of a mess, drinking too much, unsure if he is right for the police. That changes by the final film, Neverland – and there are revelations about Thursday to come. Endeavour is a young man with future.

Cast: Shaun Evans Endeavour, Roger Allam DI Fred Thursday, Anton Lesser Ch Supt Reginald Bright, Sean Rigby PC Strange, Jack Laskey DS Peter Jakes, James Bradshaw Dr Max Debryn, Abigail Thaw Dorothea Frazil, Caroline O’Neill Joan Thursday

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