DVD review: ‘Masterpiece Mystery: Endeavour’
The silver-haired, scowly-faced British actor John Thaw is long dead and his indelible “Masterpiece Mystery” sleuth Inspector Morse, drawn from a cerebral series of Colin Dexter novels, has earned an honored place in the pantheon of quirky-charactered British whodunits.
Through 33 feature-length TV episodes (1987-2000), Thaw established Morse as a flawed, cranky genius whose various eccentricities, arch snobbishness and odd relationships with suspects and superiors and beleaguered partner Detective Sergeant Lewis (Kevin Whatley) made him a brilliantly unforgettable curmudgeon.
When the series ended dramatically with Morse’s death – followed not long after by the untimely passing of Thaw – the character was further seeded as a classic sleuth in the hearts of mystery fans. So powerful was the cult of Morse that producers eventually hit upon the brilliant notion of spinning off a new series centered on Lewis, with Whatley cannily reprising his role as the older, wiser proletarian inspector now doggedly overseeing crime investigations with his own Detective Sergeant sidekick, the Oxford-educated, oddly Morse-like Hathaway (Laurence Fox). Thus, the splendid “Inspector Lewis” mysteries were born.
Still, Morse fans can’t seem to get enough and have greeted yet another Masterpiece Theater spinoff – the surprisingly good and complex “Endeavour,” which is actually a prequel – with great expectations and scant skepticism.
And, largely, they’ve been rewarded with the first outing in a new series that holds great potential for expanding Dexter’s durable detective into new realms of upper-crust mystery as well as psychological complexity.
Written and devised by Russell Lewis (a veteran of British TV mysteries ranging through “Cadfael,” “The Last Detective” and “Inspector Lewis”), the initial episode harks back to 1965 when young Detective Constable Morse (Shaun Evans, appropriately prickly and cerebral), an Oxford dropout, returns to the city on temporary assignment to assist in the search for a missing 15-year-old girl.
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