Endeavour TV Review: Shaun Evans is impressively understated as young Morse

 

An underground stream, a protest at a beauty pageant, a suicidal con artist and some stolen medieval treasure. They're all connected, of course, but it took the mind of Morse to work out how, in this second-series opener of Endeavour (Sun ITV).

If you thought John Thaw's Morse was improbably clever, his younger self in this Sixties-set prequel really does test credulity – and not just the viewer's. "Tying in a suicide to a missing girl off the back of a single word? You've got to admit that's a stretch even by your standards," said Inspector Thursday after Morse presented his latest theory. All TV detectives are set apart from the run-of-the-mill plod, but this goes double for Morse's Endeavour incarnation (an impressively understated Shaun Evans). For viewers familiar with the middle-aged grump Morse will become, it's almost like watching a modern policeman on loan to a 1960s police force.

That sensation was particularly apparent in this Women's Lib-themed episode. The proto-feminist Morse admired the female candidate for Parliament and found the sexist don objectionable. Then again, by telling off the anti-pageant protester for "making a show" of herself, he also demonstrated patronising attitudes in step with the time – not to mention the genre. Ultimately, in these detective series, it's just as the sleazy beauty pageant agent put it: "One pretty girl is very much like another."

With DC Morse busy debating feminist theory and Anglo-Saxon history with the academics, his superior was left to deal with the rough stuff. Roger Allam is so good as the kindly and competent Inspector Thursday, it's hard to believe the same man was also perfect as cowardly cynic Peter Mannion MP in The Thick of It. In last night's episode, an alleyway set-to with two London gangsters gave Thursday a chance to show off his gentlemanly menace. "I'll have to take off my hat..." he warned them. Needless to say, they soon complied with his wishes.

The strands of the plot were eventually tied up in an ending that borrowed eclectically and unexpectedly from 2003 Korean film Oldboy, and early series of Mad Men. It was a very satisfactory two hours of television. The only shame is that the smarmy Oxford don didn't get his comeuppance. Now there's a man worth taking your hat off for.

If Morse's references to Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum sparked an interest in eighth-century Christianity, Border Country: the Story of Britain's Lost Middleland (Sun BBC2) was the perfect place to pick up. Those who saw the programme title in their TV guide and hoped for a detailed discussion of Byker Grove and Irn-Bru consumption (just me?) were disappointed, but presenter Rory Stewart did have an intriguing theory to propose.

The academic, author and Tory MP believes that the line dividing Scotland and England is but "a pernicious scar first inflicted by the Romans 2000 years ago". Culturally and geographically, he said, this island divides into three sections, not two: Scotland in the North, England in the South and, in between, a lost "Middleland" stretching from the Humber to the Firth of Forth.

He made a compelling case, citing how Roman rule turned this Middleland into "a vast military-industrial zone", while the South enjoyed their baths and aqueducts. He also praised the creative contributions of medieval Northumberland (see Bede) and as a former deputy governor of Iraq was able to make some mildly offensive comparisons between pre-Roman Britain and modern-day Afghanistan.

One obvious and useful comparison was left unexplored: Hadrian's Wall, wild hinterlands, the North vs the South – it's all just Game of Thrones, right?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing