Warning: contains spoilers for Endeavour Series 9 Episode 3 ‘Exeunt’.
For the most part, the Endeavour finale kept its feet on the ground and provided answers to long-held fan questions. One scene however, set a new mystery. Why, between saying goodbye to Fred in Radcliffe Square and attending his choir’s Blenheim Palace rehearsal, does Endeavour go alone to a churchyard and fire a gun?
It’s not just any gun, but Fred Thursday’s Webley service revolver, a war memento that’s made various appearances in Endeavour since Series 1, and most recently used in a shoot-out with DI Lott’s goons. Fred didn’t pack it for the removal men with the rest of his belongings, and has it with him when he and Endeavour say an emotional goodbye. “Why don’t you take this,” he asks. “You might need it, if you’re staying.”
Endeavour nods and places the gun in the boot of his Jag. He is staying in Oxford, having promised Fred that he’ll watch over Fred’s daughter Joan and her new husband Jim Strange. “You’ll keep an eye?” asked Thursday, to which Endeavour smiled and answered “Always.”
That smile could be a clue to one interpretation of the Endeavour finale gunshot mystery. Because it’s not just any gun, and it’s also not just any churchyard. Endeavour shoots the weapon while sitting on a bench outside the church in which Joan and Jim were married. (Jim calls it All Angels, perhaps in reference to Saint Michael and All Angels Church in Oxford’s Summertown – the old stomping ground of Morse creator Colin Dexter – though the filming location looks different to the real place.)
In that same churchyard, Morse discovered the headstones connecting corrupt Inspector Lott to the false identity he adopted to buy Blenheim Vale. Next to the Lott family plot was the grave of infant Lionel Godfrey Chambers, whose birth certificate Lott had obtained to create the persona behind his hooky front company based in Bermuda.
So that’s the context for the gunshot, but what might be the explanation?
“Morse, Sir. Just Morse.”
One interpretation is that the scene functions as a symbolic suicide for the character of Endeavour, allowing for his figurative rebirth as simply Morse, the iteration of the character as played by John Thaw in Inspector Morse. In this scenario, Endeavour pulled the trigger in the churchyard as a final ending to this version of our man. It didn’t kill him – obviously – but it ended this timeline (which, as the more pedantic among us have noted, doesn’t always quite tally with the established Morse series of events.)
Left behind by his father-figure Thursday, with his true love Joan lost to another, perhaps Endeavour went to the churchyard to end himself. The Blenheim Palace rehearsal scenes therefore function as a kind of afterlife in which Endeavour exits the stage (as Bright’s speech from The Tempest describes their world) just as John Thaw’s character enters – hence their two cars crossing on the bridge.
Staying on more solid ground, fans might choose to believe that Endeavour had no moribund intentions, but instead shot the gun in that location as a symbolic release of the love he held for Miss Thursday – now Mrs Strange. That could explain the choice of locale. Perhaps he went to All Angels to kill off the part of him still in desperate love with Joan and to start anew, knowing a future with her would never be his.
Justice for Blenheim Vale?
Or the gun was fired in anger, into the Lott family memorial, to punish DI Lott for his terrible crimes. There was some justice in the biker gang killing Lott, as Fred said in that pub, but the need for revenge for the deaths of Andrew and Brenda Lewis was still there, and Endeavour fired the gun in rage.
All possibilities, each with their own merits. The truth is, unless one of the Endeavour insiders sees fit to solve the mystery, that’s what it will remain – a moment of ambiguity in a beautiful finale that mostly gave concrete solutions. After all, as someone wise once said, not every question gets an answer.
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.