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A New Season of 'Endeavour' Has Arrived on PBS
August 9, 2020  | By David Hinckley

Inspector Morse just won’t quit being on television, long after the TV odds say he should have eased into retirement.

He’s almost become like TV comfort food, though that’s not exactly how you’d describe the seventh season of the British police drama in which he stars, Endeavour.

Endeavour launches its seventh season Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery series (check local listings). In keeping with the show’s past pattern, and we all know how important past patterns are in the mystery game, this season will consist of three mysteries, each two hours long.

That’s how they were shown in Britain back in February, two hours at a time. For PBS purposes, each mystery is split in half, so the season here will consist of six one-hour shows.

The first of the three, titled “Oracle,” turns out to be dense and rather dark. Inspector Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) and his partner Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) catch the case of a woman found murdered along a local towpath, and find it involves some shadowy characters – including a woman who says she saw what happened even though she wasn’t there.

Most police dramas try hard to sort out the events and characters of a particular story as quickly and efficiently as possible, so viewers can understand the setup before moving into the detecting part. Endeavour seems in no hurry to do that, partly because, at this point, long-time viewers will already understand the many nuances of Inspector Morse’s backstory, some of which play into new cases.

Whatever the reason, some viewers will find themselves still wondering halfway through “Oracle” how particular details fit into any sort of larger picture.

Fortunately, it’s worth sticking around until they’re sorted out, even though Morse has a quiet side that at times makes him seem almost morose and gives Endeavour something of a melancholy air.

It’s still possible to come to Inspector Morse for the first time with this season of Endeavour. It’s not possible to ignore the fact Endeavour not only has a backstory but a future story.

Endeavour is a prequel to Inspector Morse, one of the most acclaimed of British mystery programs. Inspector Morse ran from 1987 to 2000, and a dozen years later, the character returned with Endeavour.

Both shows draw on the Inspector Morse novels written by Colin Dexter.

The older Morse of the earlier show wasn’t your standard detective, except that, like all TV detectives, he had troubles and issues. He was awkward with women, striking out a lot of the time, and he made mistakes as a detective, at times focusing on the wrong clues and arresting the wrong people.

Things tended to straighten out, but Morse has never had an unerring detective sense, and Endeavour skillfully explores the roots of his less than perfect detective record.

The seventh season begins with a rebirth of sorts. In Season 6, Morse and Thursday were busted to lesser gigs by a couple of corrupt bosses. They eventually overcame that problem, though not always in a smooth way, and the new episodes draw on the wariness they acquired during their season in exile.

Morse does seem to have a possible new shot at romance, but based on everything else we know from his past and future, don’t make any premature bets.

Endeavour has been a reliable pickup for Masterpiece Mystery. At a time when COVID-19 has thrown a number of TV shows into the same disarray as the rest of our lives, it’s good to have a fresh season available for summer Sundays.

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