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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Endeavour series 2 – punch-ups and romance await

ITV had a press launch for series two of Endeavour yesterday, and if the opening film is anything to go by the drama gets better as it goes along and will pack a few fascinating new storylines.

There will be four two-hour films in the series, starting with Trove, which picks up four months after the traumatic events for Endeavour at the end of the last series.

The year is now 1966 and Endeavour is immediately, and perhaps too quickly, pitched into a major case, featuring a young woman’s disappearance and a murder. It’s a beautifully produced film, made all the more sombre by the use of Brahms’s Ein deutches Requiem, but this being the Sixties, My Boy Lollipop also pops up.

Shaun Evans – ‘Endeavour is evolving’

Shaun Evans was at the launch to talk about the new series and said, ‘At the beginning Endeavour is thinking, Is this the right place for me, am I in the right job? The great thing is that Endeavour is evolving.’

And Roger Allam, who plays Endeavour’s detective boss Thursday, added, ‘This series starts with Endevour coming back to Cowley station having been wounded and also having had the death of his father at the end of the last series. So I think there’s concern on Thursday’s part about whether he’s going to be as sharp and imaginative as he was. Here was someone who had a particular way of working that wasn’t usual in the police, but that was a very good ability to have in your police station, that imagination and intelligence. So his concern whether Endeavour will get back to that.’

Endeavour takes a lot of physical punishment in the opener, and Thursday is revealed to be handy with his fists. On the bright side for Endeavour, it appears love could be in the air.

World Cup and romance

England’s World Cup Final will form the backdrop to one story, and there are going to be major developments between Endeavour and Thursday.

The series writer, Russell Lewis, said, ‘What we didn’t want to do was let it fall into too comfortable a relationship that became predictable week in, week out. We didn’t want them rubbing along like an old married couple, so they’re constantly finding things out about each other.’

When questioned about Endeavour’s faltering romantic record, Russell suggested his bookishness may have given him too idealised an expectation of love. Roger Allam speculated on the Endeavour’s idea of the perfect dat – ‘It’s obvious. They stay in reading Henry James aloud, listening to Tannhäuser. It’s the perfect romantic evening.’

The making of Morse

It’s certainly been a near perfect re-imagining of author Colin Dexter’s Morse. What was intended to be a one-off to celebrate Inspector Morse‘s 25th anniversary in 2012, quickly became a runaway ratings success for ITV.

Russell Lewis told me, ‘The reaction from the audience just knocked us all sideways. Morse himself is such a well-loved character that they wanted to see more.

‘What we didn’t want to do was present him as a 45-year-old bloke in a 25-year-old skin and bones. He shouldn’t be as world-weary as he becomes. He’s taken one or two knocks already but the next 20 years would add to that. What our stories were about was the making of Morse.’

The launch date of the new series is yet to be announced.

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