The Endeavour Ending’s Inspector Morse Tributes and Easter Eggs

Final episode ‘Exeunt’ cleverly folded in several tips of the hat to Colin Dexter’s Morse universe.

John Thaw eyes in Endeavour finale screengrab
Photo: Mammoth Screens/ITV

Warning: contains spoilers for the Endeavour Series 9 finale and the Inspector Morse finale.

There have scarcely been more elegant TV endings. In its final episode ‘Exeunt’, Endeavour bid farewell much in the restrained and upright manner of its central characters. Like them, it said a great deal without saying too much, and paid purposeful tributes with a light touch.

The finale’s last moments played out dialogue-free with a meaningful passing of the baton. As young Morse (incidentally, this prequel’s working title) drove his black Jaguar Mk 1 out of the Blenheim Palace grounds, he passed a red Jaguar Mk 2 travelling in the opposite direction. Each driver clocked the other in their rear view mirror – the eyes of Shaun Evans in one, and the eyes of Inspector Morse star John Thaw in the other.

That moment was a call-back to almost the very same at the end of the 2012 Endeavour pilot ‘Overture’ in which Thaw’s eyes reflected back at the young constable as he checked the mirror in his new car. This being Endeavour, that was far from the only call-back and tribute paid in ‘Exeunt’.

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‘The Dead of Jericho’ Choir and Blenheim Palace

Endeavour and Inspector Morse comparison screengrabs - Exeunt and The Dead of Jericho
Endeavour ‘Exeunt’ (L) and Inspector Morse ‘The Dead of Jericho’ (R)

The very first episode of Inspector Morse ‘The Dead of Jericho’ (1987) featured the detective’s choir rehearsing for, and then performing ‘My Soul There is a Country’ in black tie. ‘Exeunt’ ends with Morse in black tie performing as part of the Oxford Scholars’ Choral Association dress rehearsal at Blenheim Palace.

That’s also not the first time Blenheim Palace has been used as a location in Inspector Morse. 1995 episode ‘The Way Through The Woods’ featured the discovery of a body in the palace grounds. What made that one special? It was written by Endeavour creator Russell Lewis (and script edited by Mammoth Screen’s Damien Timmer), making Blenheim Palace both the start and the end of Lewis’ journey with the character.

Speaking to The Times, Lewis said that he wanted to end Endeavour at Blenheim Palace as a special tribute to Morse creator Colin Dexter as that was the last place he and actor-director Shaun Evans had seen Dexter at a Q&A event, before Dexter passed away in 2017.

Lonsdale College, ‘The Remorseful Day’, and Fred’s Turn

Endeavour and Inspector Morse comparison screengrabs - Exeunt and The Remorseful Day Lonsdale College
Endeavour ‘Exeunt’ (L) and Inspector Morse ‘The Remorseful Day’ (R)

While the choir performance in ‘Exeunt’ echoes the very first Inspector Morse episode, the music performed references the very last. In ‘The Remorseful Day’ (2000), Morse visits the fictional Lonsdale College (Endeavour’s alma mater) to interview a doctor and former paramour of murder victim Yvonne Harrison. The detective finds the doctor rehearsing a section from Fauré’s Requiem, the very same piece performed by Morse’s choir in the Endeavour finale.

That requiem provided the soundtrack to one of Inspector Morse’s most famous scenes, as the detective collapsed from a heart attack on the lawn of Lonsdale College, before dying later off-screen in hospital. That scene was paid homage in ‘Exeunt’ when DCI Fred Thursday suffered a turn and almost collapsed in the very same spot. Before being led to a nearby bench, Fred looked up at the College spires and the shaky camera was a direct visual quotation from the same moment in ‘The Remorseful Day’.

Robbie Lewis, DCI McNutt, ‘Codex’ and Falstaff

Inspector Morse screengrab Kevin Whately in 'The Remorseful Day;
Kevin Whately and John Thaw in Inspector Morse ‘The Remorseful Day’

As soon as a character from the North-East with the surname Lewis turned up in Endeavour Series 9 episode ‘Prelude’, fans were alert to a possible link with Inspector Morse’s famous DS Robbie Lewis… and in ‘Exeunt’, that link was confirmed. Young Andy Lewis had been murdered by DI Lott’s men for investigating the disappearance of his mother Brenda, murdered almost a decade earlier after making unsavoury discoveries about the crimes of Blenheim Vale. When Endeavour and Thursday discuss shutting down the case, Morse mentions “a cousin, a young police cadet, Robert, in Newcastle” who is making the arrangements on behalf of the family. That’s surely our man.

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Robbie Lewis isn’t the only future character referenced in ‘Exeunt’. ACC Bright points us in the direction Morse will go next with the line: “I hear Division are to reopen Cowley under DCI McNutt, he’s looking for a new Bagman. I could speak to them…” McNutt was also referenced in Endeavour Series 2 episode ‘Neverland’ as a potential new guvnor for Morse if Fred Thursday should retire. Inspector Morse fans will recognise the character as having appeared in ‘Masonic Mysteries’ (1990), as a retired police officer-turned-vicar and Morse’s former mentor.  

Back to ‘Exeunt’, Morse finds a partially finished Oxford Mail cryptic crossword on the breakfast table of first victim Dr Bevin and remarks that something important must have dragged the scholar away from a puzzle set by Codex. The clue’s in the name – Codex was the real-life setter pseudonym of Morse creator and novelist Colin Dexter.

In the ‘Exeunt’ pub scene during which Morse confronts Thursday about having killed Tomohawk at the biker bar, Endeavour quotes Shakespeare’s Henry IV, saying “I know thee not, old man.” It’s a line spoken in the play to Falstaff, a role for which Endeavour’s Roger Allam won a prestigious Olivier award during the 2010 season at London’s Globe theatre. In fact, according to this in-depth interview by Damien Barcroft with Endeavour creator Russell Lewis (one of a great many on Barcroft’s site, all well worth a read by fans), Allam’s Falstaff was one of two roles that made the Endeavour team seek him for the part of Fred.

The Mysterious Choirmaster

Endeavour ‘Exeunt’

Colin Dexter’s cameo appearances are well-documented throughout Inspector Morse, Lewis and the early series of Endeavour. Until he passed away in 2017, Dexter could be spotted at college drinks receptions, at debates, among church congregations and in many many more settings across the episodes. Even after his death, the Endeavour cameos continued in the form of photographs, graffiti, newspaper clippings, and in Series 9, a poster in Burridge’s department store advertising discounted Dexter Satchels, to name just a few.

Apt though it may have been, it isn’t Colin Dexter who has the final word in the Endeavour finale. That honour goes to the choirmaster who speaks to Morse after the Blenheim Palace dress rehearsal. Endeavour hands over his music and asks “Is that it?”, to which the half-seen choirmaster replies “That’s it”.

Who is that man? There’s no help as yet from the episode credits or official confirmation from Mammoth Screens, but surely it would only have been right for the final line of the series to go to one person – Endeavour creator Russell Lewis. However, Lewis has since confirmed on Twitter that it isn’t him, so the mystery continues…

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Endeavour Series 9 is available to stream on ITVX in the UK. It will air on PBS Masterpiece in the US at a later date.