Warning: contains spoilers for Endeavour Series 1-8.
What happens to Fred? That question has preoccupied Endeavour fans ever since DI Fred Thursday first took young Constable Morse under his wing in the Inspector Morse prequel. Morse’s mentor and father figure is an invention of Endeavour creator Russell Lewis, and doesn’t appear in Colin Dexter’s novels or the original television series (unlike DS Jim Strange, who goes on to become Morse’s Chief Superintendent in the 1987 – 2000 drama). That explains in real terms why Fred’s never mentioned in the later series, but what might explain his absence in story terms?
The happiest possibility, of course, is that Fred finally gets to hang his Winchester over the fireplace, retires to the seaside with Win, lives to a ripe old age, and sends Morse a yearly Christmas card with news of the grandchildren. In this scenario, Fred’s life would be so content and fulfilled that Inspector Morse simply never thinks to mention him in later years, never reminisces about their old cases, or gives a passing thought to Fred’s daughter Joan, to whom he once proposed marriage.
Unlikely, isn’t it? Comforting though it might be for fans, Fred walking off into the sunset at the end of Endeavour’s ninth and final series would be an anti-climax. Fred’s exit deserves drama, and according to Shaun Evans, Series 9 ends with a melancholy but satisfying note. Roger Allam’s East-End old soldier deserves to go out with a bang, and the synopsis for Series 9’s first film ‘Prelude’ may contain a clue as to how that might happen.
Put simply, you don’t live a life like DCI Fred Thursday without making some enemies. And the first episode of Endeavour’s final series involves Morse and his mentor investigating the discovery of a corpse “that unearths some unsettling connections to cases the duo thought were left behind.” So which former cases, and which of Fred’s enemies, could return? The bent coppers, the gangland rivals, the back-from-the-dead international conman, or our old friends the Freemasons…
Commander Len Drury
In ‘Scherzo’, the second film of Series 8, Fred and Endeavour investigate an illegal pornography distribution network that leads Fred back to his old stomping ground. Three Oxford murders were connected to indecent films, so Fred sought out Ches Finch, his old London pal on ‘the Dirty Squad’ (Obscene Publications Branch). Finch pointed him in the direction of Commander Len Drury, a corrupt police officer who had been blackmailing a former prison chaplain to operate the blue film network in Oxford.
In a Soho sex shop, Fred didn’t hide his disgust at Drury’s corruption, calling him a “shitehawk” who used to be a good thief-taker. Drury issued Fred with a warning that his card was marked and not to come back. Fred replied, “What you do in your sewers? Your concern. You can be king of the shit heap for all it means to me, but you set foot on my ground again, you’ll all swing.”
If Series 9 does take Fred back to London, could Len Drury (surely inspired by real-life corrupt 1970s officer Ken Drury) or his cronies DI Nesbitt and DS Sneed return to make good on their threat? If Fred has to die, he deserves to die a hero. Falling by exposing police criminality would be heroic alright.
Series 1 episode ‘Home’ filled in some gaps on Thursday’s backstory. When East-End gangster Vic Kasper and his son Vince turned up in Oxford running a nightclub, the reason for Fred’s relocation was explained. As a younger officer in London, Fred had acted as mentor to a constable named Carter. When Carter was beaten to death by gangsters linked to Kasper, Fred was forced to flee London to protect Win and his young family (and being a stand-up gent, sent money to Carter’s widow until she remarried). In ‘Home’, Vince Kasper threatens Joan Thursday, causing Fred to pull a gun on him and his father at the nightclub, but luckily Morse saves the day with some proper coppering, and Vince is arrested for bribery.
Vic Kasper had fled London himself to get away from his own gangland enemies (the Fletcher brothers – presumably so named in a nod to the characters in 1971 film Get Carter in one of Endeavour creator Russell Lewis’ many pop culture Easter Eggs) but with his son put away, there’s still bad blood there.
We didn’t see the body. And as the crime drama rule goes, if you don’t see the body, you can’t count on them being dead.
In the Series 7 finale ‘Zenana’, Fred left his Christmas celebrations with Win to rush to Endeavour’s side in Venice and heal a fractious year between them. Fred arrived just in time to shoot Ludo Talenti, the international conman responsible for the death of Ch Supt Bright’s wife, among several others, as part of an insurance scam. Talenti had fired at Endeavour, but his wife and Morse’s lover Violetta jumped in front of the bullet and died in Morse’s arms. Before Ludo could fire again, Thursday shot him and his body rolled into a Venetian canal. If in the unlikely scenario that Ludo survived the gunshot and the water, that mad man could come back with a grudge.
DCI Ronnie Box
In Series 5 and 6, Ronnie Box was part of a cabal of corrupt officers profiting from a drugs ring that resulted in the murder of DC George Fancy. Box came good in the end, turning on his fellow corrupt officer Jago (who’d pulled the trigger on Fancy) and saving Fred and Endeavour’s lives in the process. Box was shot in the scuffle and the last we heard, was “fifty fifty” in hospital. Should Ronnie Box still be in a coma and awaken in time for Series 9, there’s plenty incriminating he could say about other officers who gave in to the temptation of corruption – including Fred Thursday. Perhaps the old cases revisited in Series 9 will see the return of familiar faces from the force, and threats to our man.
In Series 2 episode ‘Trove’, a notebook went missing on its way from a crime scene to the evidence room, and eventually turned up in the hands of an anonymous man wearing a freemason’s ring on his little finger. That was the same series in which Jim Strange – the officer at the crime scene from which the notebook was taken – embarked on his own masonic journey.
Ignoring Morse’s warning that a man cannot serve two masters, Strange had joined the Freemasons to give his career a leg-up. In Series 8, he was still very much active at his North Oxford lodge and took Joan Thursday there to a Ladies Night dinner and dance. That would set the stage nicely for the return of Morse’s perennial enemies in Endeavour Series 9, and if Fred goes up against the Brotherhood, perhaps that return could perhaps prove fatal?
However Fred and Endeavour will be forced to say goodbye, with the new series due to arrive this month, UK fans don’t have long to wait to find out.
Endeavour Series 9 starts on ITV at 8pm on Sunday February 26 in the UK, and on PBS Masterpiece in the US at a later date.