This Week’s Review: “Endeavour” Series

Once again, I found myself faced with a very poor set of options at the movies. There was absolutely nothing I cared to pay to watch; therefore, I used Saturday, August 19, to get a haircut. I confess that I dislike paying more and more for something that requires less and less work by the barber. As hairlines recede, the rate should go down.

I did not drag out any old movies as substitutes for a foray into the theaters, but I did watch my DVDs of last year’s PBS series “Endeavour;” this was in preparation for the first episode of the fourth season on August 20. It was one of the smarter things I have done this summer.

I have a weakness for British mysteries in general and a severe fondness for the three series inspired by the novels of the late Colin Dexter. I still remember seeing “The Dead of Jericho,” the first episode of the Inspector Morse series. I immediately raided a local bookstore and bought every Morse title I could find. The puzzles were always intricate, the cast was excellent, and the stories were set in Oxford, one of my favorite places on the planet. (A few years later, I enjoyed meeting Colin Dexter at that bookstore, Murder by the Book.)

More was, in some ways, a repulsive person; he was alcoholic, a sponger, insubordinate to his superiors and a tyrant to those under his command; on the other hand, he was a brilliant logician who could see patterns in criminal activity, particularly murder, that no one else could discern. He loved newspaper puzzles and doted on classical music.

After several years, Colin Dexter allowed the character to die, but the market for Morse-related material has never abated. For several years, PBS carried “Inspector Lewis,” a series based on Morse’s assistant who learned well from his crusty old mentor. After that series ran its course, PBS created a prequel series, “Endeavour,” about the early career of Morse.  The first three seasons were well-written and almost as compelling as the first two series; the new season seems to be off to a good start. The prequels have been very good about explaining how Morse became the bitter alcoholic of the original series.

The first episode of the new season began at the point where the third series left off; the script assumed that the viewer knew and understood all that happened in earlier episodes. I have learned over the decades that the Morse-related series improve with each viewing because the plot threads become clearer and clearer.

The first episode of the new season was very good; an insane serial killer is drowning people right and left; the young Endeavour Morse and his mentor, Inspector Thursday, finally figure out who the killer has to be while rescuing his latest victim. Since the prequels are set in the late 1960s, the producers have great fun reminding us of the era, and I am constantly reminded of why I did not approve of the 1960s. This episode featured the earliest attempts to use computers to solve crimes, and it helps to be reminded of how slow the earliest computers were.

If you have never seen an episode of “Endeavour,” I would suggest catching up on the earlier seasons before jumping into new episodes.