Warning: contains spoilers for the Endeavour series nine finale ‘Exeunt’.
It’s almost a year since filming wrapped on Endeavour in August 2022, and longer than that since actor-director-producer Shaun Evans first read the script for his character’s exit. During that time, Evans has reflected on the show’s finale ‘Exeunt’, what his years as Morse have meant to him (spoiler: a great deal), and what the future may hold for his crossword-solving, bitter-drinking detective in the decades before Inspector Morse begins.
In an in-depth and poignant new interview with PBS Masterpiece (read it in full here), Evans says goodbye to the role for good, and explains why Joan and Fred’s endings struck exactly the right bittersweet note.
When the script for Endeavour’s finale arrived, Shaun Evans tells PBS Masterpiece, he thought “That’s it. That’s exactly what it should be.” Now that ‘Exeunt’ has aired in the US after premiering on ITV in the UK in March 2023, it’s safe to say that the majority of fans agreed with him. Series nine ended with Miss Thursday married to Jim Strange, Fred forced to disappear with Winn and Sam, and Endeavour alone and well on his way to becoming the cynical bachelor made famous by John Thaw in Inspector Morse. Though everybody survived, it wasn’t what you’d call a happy ending.
And that’s perfect, Evans tells Masterpiece. “I feel like it would make all of our work as storytellers over the past couple of years less, had we left them in a harmonious place.”
“There are many things that I feel proud and pleased with, but I feel really proud and pleased that we left it there, in a way that strikes a chord, rather than pretending that, “Oh, and then he gets the girl and then he gets promoted and drives off into the sunset.” But actually, no, he doesn’t get those things, but continues.”
Stories that are left in a melancholy place, rather than a place of certainty and happiness, says Evans, are the ones that mean the most to him. Not that he’s a heartless person who wouldn’t have wished for Endeavour and Joan to be happy together, he clarifies. But he does question whether that would have really have been a happy ending?
“Do I wish that he would’ve ended up with Joan? Would that have even brought him happiness? I mean—at least this is my interpretation of it—I don’t think that even that would’ve brought him happiness. It may have brought him happiness in the short term, but then what? And I think there’s something kind of perfect about the glimmer of hope, Oh, had it worked out, that could have been a wonderful thing. But actually, would it have been a wonderful thing? I don’t know. Do you know what I mean? Because if it would’ve, why didn’t he do it?”
Endeavour’s other painful goodbye in the finale was to Joan’s father Fred Thursday. Fred’s story came full circle from the drama’s very first episode, with the return of corrupt police officer Arthur Lott. Fred went to criminal lengths to protect his son Sam, and was forced into hiding as a result. At least Fred was granted a reprieve from the death sentence many fans had anticipated was coming his way. “What’s worse,” Evans asks, complicating our sense of Fred having made a lucky escape, “to die or be banished? I wonder.”
Asked by PBS Masterpiece about what’s next for his own character in the years between Endeavour and Inspector Morse, Evans gives another less-than reassuring answer.
“[W]ho’s not to say that those years won’t be incredibly sad and won’t be incredibly desperate and depressing for him?”
“[W]e know he does continue, but what shape does the next few years take? And I imagine they’d be pretty depressing. So I don’t think he is okay. But I also think life’s messy, innit? Life is that way. Sometimes you have moments of real joy and happiness, and then others of not. And I think that’s where we live. And in a way, I think that’s why I feel proud.”
Evans’ pride and gratitude is everywhere throughout the interview – pride in the storytelling, in the cast and production team, in creator Russell Lewis, and in the way the drama has found its way into fans’ lives. All of that made the complex ending, as young Endeavour drove away and crossed paths with Inspector Morse, the exact right choice for him, he says – not bittersweet, just sweet.
Endeavour is available to stream on PBS Masterpiece in the US and on BritBox and ITVX in the UK.