Warning: contains spoilers for Endeavour series nine episode three ‘Exeunt’.
Shaun Evans “didn’t want to leave anyone in any doubt” as to exactly how his character felt about Joan Thursday in the Endeavour finale. Speaking on the Masterpiece Studio podcast with host Jace Lacob, Evans explains, “It’s all well and good having sidelong glances in the mirror at someone, but it was important to me to leave the audience knowing this is where his heart is.”
After the finale’s brief but unforgettable daydream scene, Endeavour’s audience were left in zero doubt about where Morse’s heart was – unmendably broken, devoted to Joan Thursday but having left it too late to ever tell her.
Too late at least, in the show’s reality. In Endeavour’s mind, he imagined what it would be like to tell Joan the truth – that he’s loved her ever since she first opened the door to the Thursdays’ semi-detached to greet her dad’s new bagman. Viewers were let into that privileged, imagined moment when we saw Endeavour arrive late to Joan and Jim’s wedding reception, confess his love to Joan and share a passionate kiss with her, before time instantly rewound to the point where it was still unsaid, and would remain so forever.
Speaking on the Masterpiece Studio podcast, Evans calls himself as “a big champion” of the daydream scene. He thinks it was really important “not to leave this whole story leaving these things unsaid.” For the character, for himself as an actor, and for the audience who’d been with the show for so many years and longed for that moment, he thought it was important “to deliver it, and then also to take it away.”
“Sometimes we can err on the side of taste making us think ‘oh, less is more and we don’t need to show too much’ but for me personally, I didn’t want to leave anyone in any doubt as to exactly how he felt about this person.”
All the better to hurt us when the moment was revealed to be purely in the character’s mind, a transition Evans describes, with a laugh, as “brutal”. Brutal it may have been to watch, but filming the scene was surprising easy, Evans tells the podcast. “In as much as I think every fibre of his being had been longing for this moment since they first laid eyes on each other and so it felt in a way, a very natural and a very easy thing.”
It is a beautiful moment in the finale, both of storytelling and of fan service. Endeavour arrives at the wedding hours late, when the reception is in full swing. He’s neglected his best man duties to Jim in favour of confronting corrupt police officer Arthur Lott at Blenheim Vale, and restoring his former mentor and Joan’s father Fred Thursday’s life savings.
Joan, now married, greets him with a wry look. “Don’t tell me, work.” As he approaches her to apologise for being late, the music shifts from a chirpy dance number to the heartfelt romance of Elvis Presley singing ‘The Wonder of You’. As Morse begins to call Joan “Miss Thursday” she interrupts him to say, “Do you know I don’t think you’ve ever called me by my name.”
“Have I not?” asks Morse. “Well that’s probably for the best.”
“How’s that?” says Joan.
“Because if I had, said it once out loud, then I think I might never have been able to stop,” says Morse. “Truth is, I love you. I’ve loved you from the first moment you opened that door. Should have told you. Should have said something, I should have said something. And now it’s too late.”
“No, it’s not,” says imaginary Joan and they kiss.
The ‘real’ version was much more bittersweet as Morse plays out the fantasy in silence, still never calling Joan by her name but this time addressing her as “Mrs Strange”. They hug, he closes his eyes tight never wanting the moment to end, and Jim Strange jokily separates them, telling Endeavour “steady on, matey, that’s a married woman you’ve got there!” As if Morse could ever forget.
Endeavour series nine is available to watch on ITVX in the UK and PBS Masterpiece in the US. Listen to the Masterpiece Studio finale podcast episode in full here.