Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Endeavour Season 2 - Neverland - Episode Review

My review of last week's episode: Sway

The season finale begins with Nunc Dimittis, the Canticle of Simeon (here's a good recording):

Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant
depart in peace
according to Thy Word,
for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation
which Thou hast prepared
before the face of all people.
To be a Light to light on the Gentiles
And to be the glory of Thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father
And to the Son
And to the Holy Ghost,
As it was the beginning,
Is now and ever shall be,
World without end. Amen.

The music is intercut with scenes of D.I. Thursday who, like Morse at the very beginning of the season, is taking a medical exam. Resembling Simeon, Thursday feels the encroachment of age, and the advent of a younger generation. We’ve always known that, however enjoyable, the Thursday-Morse partnership couldn’t go on forever. From the first moments of Neverland, we feel that gentle shift begin.

Given a verdict of poor blood-pressure, Thursday heaves a hearty harrumph but, slowly, begins to consider early retirement. Morse is simultaneously drawing closer to Monica and a domestic life, and is thinking of leaving the police force himself. If he doesn’t, Thursday advises him to work with “Macnutt, maybe. Macnutt’s good.”

While all this is going on, two runaways, a boy and a convict, are keeping the Oxford City Police (soon to be Thames Valley Police which Morse made famous) busy. Murder draws the two investigations together, and D.C. Morse begins to track down old sins which c.l.s. All of this is going on while the Oxford City and Thames Valley are merging. Inevitably, there is corruption in the force, and things quickly point towards our favorite jerk, D.S. Peter Jakes, who finally gets a chance to do some real acting. These developments only give Fred Thursday, the decentest cop on TV since Christopher Foyle, even more reason to think of retirement.

I think the writer was going for a tighter, conspiracy-paranoia feel, but instead the pace was leisurely and deliberate—I felt most of the plot points coming, and picked the killer from the usual smattering of half-developed characters based on the detection rule of thumb: Least Likely Person Dunnit.

But the slow pace has me torn. I think Endeavour sometimes reels into drama in a way that its predecessor refused to do, but for a season finale, especially a Corruption-In-The-Ranks thriller, some thrills would not be amiss. A dramatic scene with Strange is followed by an exposition-heavy conversation that saps the sense of urgency which should be building. On the other hand, given the theme of growing old, and Thursday’s steady personality, the pace matches the story - quiet and restrained, almost to the very end.

The story itself might have utilized its incipient themes to greater effect. A decision made near the conclusion makes sense in light of revelations about the case, but could have been given more build-up to connect the twin story-lines further. Themes of childhood, lost innocence, and the inability to face reality dovetail with choices regarding duty, honesty, and broken trusts. I’d have liked to see Morse ponder these things in greater detail—the bittersweet loss of innocence, and what it could mean, on a spiritual level. (After all, he’s just the type—Thaw’s Morse was often looking for the fawn, and disappointed by the difference between his ideals and reality, between art and artists. But maybe I’m asking too much.)

Overall, I think this episode is the best this year, capturing the pace, wit, characterizations, and humor that made the show unique. Going for a darker feel, the second season has ended by feeling a little bit dull, though, I must comment, it’s still miles ahead of LewisNeverland changes that, allowing itself some humor amid a dark case, thanks mostly to Roger Allam, Anton Lesser, and the lovely cantankerous James Bradshaw as Max Debryn. Phlegm fatale, indeed.

There are several scenes that count as my favorites in the series, especially when Shaun Evans quotes Housman (and BOOM flashback to The Remorseful Day). It’s hard to pick between the two performances, Evans does a great job (as always), of straddling the line between mimicry and innovation. But Morse has always been a sorrowful character, and Evans’s younger incarnation can’t quite capture the deep sadness of Thaw’s aging detective. However, in this context the poetry isn’t actually about Morse.

The climax (which I didn't see coming at all) definitely has a Sherlock-esque feel (as in They Cannot POSSIBLY End It There), and I’ll be the first to murder the ITV executives if they don’t commission a third season (UPDATE: It has been renewed.)

5/5 stars (this on the condition that next year’s first episode compensates with some tense pacing—as I suspect it will.)

My review of the season 3 premiere: Ride

Want something good to watch? Check out my full list of British detective shows.



  1. When can we expect to see a conclusion to the stoy "Neverland"? We know they can't leave Morris in jail and what about Thursday in hospital. How long do we have to wait?

    1. It's the season finale, so who knows. At this point, ITV haven't even confirmed that a third series will be made. I'll be keeping an eye out, however - it would really stink if this was the end.

      In the meantime, check out Inspector Morse, the show upon which this one is based. It's worth the time (though, fair warning, it's a bit dated).

  2. ". . . it’s still miles ahead of Lewis."

    I think you need to revisit Lewis--it really is the perfection of the style of storytelling invented by the Morse showrunners. It also, rightly, makes Oxford--Oxfordshire--the star of the series. I, too, had a hard time learning to love Lewis, having seen all the Morse(s) in first-run. Change is hard--especially given the circumstances of an untimely death. I even walked away after a few episodes. But I came back with fresh eyes and realized juts how special it was. You can't get anything like it anywhere else. A good Lewis marathon one Fall or Winter weekend might bring you around as well. YouTube is a good place to do that, if you know the current "secret." For Morse, it's substituting the episode number for the "O" in MORSE, e.g., M26RSE. Fow Lewis, it's best to just search for Inspector Lewis and look for the full episodes. Make sure you get the ITV versions where you can because PBS here cuts some pretty important things from the episode to accommodate that Masterpiece intro. Yes. They really do. Sometimes the scene giving you the critical clue.

    1. Just a heads-up for commenters. Copy your work before you hit "Publish." I had to type the above three times because the verification process was getting hung up and just "disappearing" what I had written. That's the reason for the typos--I lost interest. I apologize for that. If Ms Long wasn't worth the effort, I would have given up after the first hiccup.

    2. I'm warming to Lewis.

      Ironically, my mom and I are watching an episode on ITV at the moment. While I like its leisurely pace and solid, plodding decency, Lewis as a character just doesn't have the same depth as Morse. Because of that, he, by necessity, can't be as interesting in the lead role - especially on a long-term basis. Coupled with the show's reliable political correctness, that turns me off more than anything. However, Hathaway provides a nice contrast, and his musings on Christianity are interesting (*and* Laurence Fox is musician who I enjoy in real life.)

      The passage of time since April means Endeavour has somewhat faded in memory, but the time hasn't done it many favors. Lewis does feel more consistent in quality, and less absurd in plotting, perhaps because it doesn't aspire to drama. (And in April, I hadn't seen any Lewis in a long time, so maybe I just change day to day.) Your point about Oxford being a character in Lewis is a good one - I can use a good dose of the dreaming spires any day, and a series' setting is an important factor. I think it's the only character that continues from Morse to Lewis, because they so drastically changed Kevin Whately's character that he might as well be playing someone else (which is okay, but takes some getting used to.) Endeavour has nostalgia on its side on that count, since you do at least have Morse, Strange, and Max carried over. (I binge-watched the entire Morse series in 2012, and discovered Endeavour a few months later.)

    3. So...yes, I think I repent of "miles ahead of Lewis" - if only because it's comparing apples and oranges.

  3. Season three won't be shown until sometime in 2016. That's a long time spent hanging from a cliff, how many viewers will remember, or care, about where the characters were at the end of Neverland?

    1. Has it been renewed? I've heard rumors but nothing official. I could see them getting a season out sometime in 2015 - we've been averaging one a year so far. But it is difficult with the delay.


WARNING: Blogger sometimes eats comments - copy before you post.