If Broadchurch has, as I said in my last post, underlined the continuing appeal of the whodunit, then Endeavour does not only that but also highlights the seemingly endless potential of Inspector Morse spin-offs. I enjoyed the pilot episode when it was screened, and the first episode of the first full series, Girl, was a high quality murder mystery.
A great deal of credit has to go to Russell Lewis, the writer, who has taken the essence of the original series,and the character as played by John Thaw, and given us a very appealing prequel set in the sixties. The plot of Girl was clever and the revelation of the culprit's identity took me completely by surprise. Pleasurable surprise, I must add. As I said yesterday, it is good to be fooled fairly, and I thought Russell Lewis paced the plot twists perfectly. There was even a neat little code which provided a crucial clue to that person's name. Colin Dexter would have been well pleased, I think.
The acting, too, is very good. Shaun Evans catches the young Morse's bolshie but vulnerable personality, and Roger Allam, as DI Thursday, is humane and believable. Some comic relief is offered by Anton Lesser's prissy disdain for the young cop. Sophie Stuckey, playng a suspect with epilepsy whom Morse fancies, handled the tricky role of the girl of the title very well.
Setting counts for a great deal in so many TV crime shows,and of course the Morse franchise has the inestimable advantage of being set in one of the most photogenic of cities. I wonder sometimes if people who are less keen on Oxford than I am may get bored with the endless flow of cop shows set there, but all the signs are that demand for those shows is as strong as ever. Yes, the broadcasters are playing it safe, and that's why a less conventional series like Broadchurch is so welcome. But if subsequent screenplays are as sharp as this one was, there is a good chance that Endeavour will run and run.