"Deducant te angeli..."
On the pilot episode of "Endeavour"
“The good ended happily and the bad unhappily. That's what fiction means.” - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

...but who are the good, and who are the bad? If fiction, by virtue of being fiction, does not owe allegiance to reality, then what really happened to them? And, if we are inside the story, does “really” even exist?


It is in limbo that we first see Endeavour. The town where he lives and works is a fictional place. He has no face, not yet. No self. No reality beyond awkwardly tentative, yet relentlessly neat, meticulous typing. That's how we'll see him operate in the future - clear, impeccably formed solutions that often, well... don't come to be in the most straightforward of ways. He is between window and lens, back to the camera, left side of the screen. In film language, spatial position of a character is often used to signal his/her temporal position. Why? Most people have a "timeline" that stretches from left to right in their mind's view; visual connotations are automatic. Endeavour is on the left, in the past: he, after all, is the past of the Morse we know; but he is clearly held in place by his own past tense, too. Between him and the left edge of screen are old posters and photographs, his story, - and also things used for cleaning oneself, an arsenal for washing the story away, arranged so neatly as to suggest neurosis. As the scene progresses, Morse moves further to the left, to the very edge, until there is nowhere to go. This suggests a point of departure into the future - the only direction to take if there is a story at all. What is the future?

The future is to the right, and it's Rosalind Calloway singing "Un bel dì" from Puccini's Madama Butterfly. As we will find out in a most extraordinarily crushing way, she was a great influence of the past, but a possible future? Unlikely, isn't it? Yet she is stubbornly there, present as voice and image both.

Another future - a clear mismatch, this one - comes knocking (literally, and very loudly), but Morse doesn't hear (literally - it has to interrupt the "program", i.e. Rosalind, to get through). With its offerings of drink and merriment, it's decisively sent away; Madama resumes after having been temporarily silenced. As if we could ever doubt the choice.

...and now let's follow the camera's eye. Our eye. Down it glides from the gray-blanket sky: back to earth, signaling end of absence, marking Morse's inner origins, possibly hinting at a fall from any past grace. Down along the tall building with "Get away from it all" advert on top, then backwards [through time] to reveal the nonexistent location - Carshall Newtown, and backwards through a window, to the inside of Morse's room. The whole world is an ever contracting spiral with Morse inside, on the tight end.

In this sequence, we are given small clues - some quietly humorous, some somber and very important, and we watch meanings form as picture and sound entwine:

Un bel dì, vedremo / One beautiful day, we will see
[In a minute.]
Levarsi un fil di fumo / A strand of smoke rising
Sull'estremo confin del mare / At the farthest reach of the sea
[Get away from it all - or insipidly stay in "estremo confin" of his shallow sea - he could, but instead we're going back down and backwards, exactly into it all again.]
E poi la nave appare / And then, a ship appears
[La nave. La nave! A ship. "Endeavour".]
E poi la nave e bianca. / And then, we see that the ship is white.
[So he is. Shirt white like a sail, blond head. There is also a white Jaguar outside the window, exactly - if not for inverted! colour - the kind that'll be his "nave" in the future that he is just now refusing... in typing.]
Entra nel porto / Enters the port
[The water pitcher on the desk is hopelessly empty. Our "porto" has no water.]
Romba il suo saluto / Rambles its salutation
[ON A TYPEWRITER. Don't cry. The "saluto", just like in Madama Butterfly, heralds not a joyous reunion, but declares an intent to flee. Our "tender resignation"...]
Vedi? É venuto! / Do you see? He is coming!
[The limbo stage is about to end.]
Between the record player and Morse, there is space filled with things that are him at that point, in one way or another. The empty water pitcher. A rusty alarm clock. Clean (well, one has to assume) socks. Several weeks' worth of crossword puzzles. Books. Books. The Little Oxford Dictionary of Current English (very likely 3rd edition, 1941). God, Morse. Never good enough, are you. A book open on a reproduction of the title-page of Edmund Spenser's unfinished Faerie Queene (the volume is either a commentary on the work itself or, just as likely, a bibliographical study). The title-page facsimile is for the second part of the Queene, published in London in 1596. The printer's device on the reproduction is that of Thomas Vautrollier; it's an anchor [anchor for our ship - contrary to his declarations, he won't leave, we know, we know] suspended from the clouds [from which he came down]. The motto in Latin, "Anchora Spei", translates to "Anchor of Hope". The book contains the fourth, the fifth and the sixth Books of Faerie Queene, titled "Friendship", "Justice" and "Courtesy", respectively. There is, too, a copy of In Good King Charles's Golden Days, a play by George Bernard Shaw, subtitled - nota bene - "A True History that Never Happened". Endeavour's is a first edition, 1939, in original dust jacket.


But back to "Un bel dì" and madam Butterfly's story; as the aria sets the stage for Endeavour's beginning, so the opera will go on to inform it, albeit indirectly. The reflection is there, but it follows a dream logic, and the more bitter kind: the narrative's main points do remain, but the string that holds them together is twisted and broken, and in the scatter it's difficult to see what's what... who's what.

Like Cio-Cio-san, Rosalind dies at her own hand, and love is, too, her ultimate reason. But while Butterfly's motives are pure, Rosalind's harbour unspeakable malice. Like Cio-Cio-san, Endeavour has had a life-transforming "marriage" with Rosalind's voice and image - and now she is his Pinkerton, unwilling to comprehend or accept the extent of Butterfly's love. Rosalind now has Stromming - her Kate; she does let Endeavour in, allows him to get close, but denies him even a kiss; he is left with a hand-written non-promise instead: "Un bel dì". Yet Endeavour is Pinkerton too: as Rosalind kills herself, one of the last straws must have been what she perceived as a catastrophic change in him - from trembling lover who accepted her rebuke - to ruthless conduit of justice. She's right: his pain is in being both. And she's wrong: there wasn't a change; least of all in his love. They're both butterflies, both olezzi di verbena to each other's cruel sailor.

Bravo. Bravissimo. Divina.

"Un be dì" does mockingly come: Morse solves the crime and gets his coveted kiss - a hellish inversion of one, to be sure, but still a kiss. And if he is ever to save a recording "from the waves", it will still be that of Rosalind's voice.


Let's move on - it's barely the sixth minute. At 7th, Endeavour's fate is turned round, and - needs must - fleeing "from it all" is not on the cards any longer. Morse is called to sail and be anchored ["on attachment"]; Oxford City police needs reinforcements. "'Ere, what's this I heard you tried to get yourself taken off the inquiry?" No answer. "Morse?" No answer. He might've tried indeed; but we must assume the real trial had begun and ended within himself: police is neither army nor prison, he could have walked away any minute. But no. No.

And off he goes in a Royal Blue intercity bus - leaving an imaginary place, knowingly heading to a very real one, where live his very real past and pain, where a very real schoolgirl would have needed saving if she weren't already dead. For her, it's only justice that remains to be done. For him, being born. Becoming.

It's damp outside, foggy. On the bus, Endeavour is perfectly insular if not totally absent, locked in a mute dialogue with himself (and it is a dialogue, just look). The windows weep, wet greenery outside sloshes against glass like waves. The ship has finally left the port all thought to be its final resting place.

When Morse's ailing heart gives out in The Remorseful Day, it's with Faure's Requiem that he goes, with "In Paradisum". As Morse's head is against the weeping glass and Oxford draws closer, "In Paradisum" returns. Heartbreakingly; but it's not just that. Why? Faure's is a very special Requiem; one of a kind, one may argue. Neither a sorrowful wail nor a bracing against the fear and pain of dying, it's... tender. It speaks of a difficult journey, but softly, with graceful acceptance and joy. Joy.

"It has been said that my Requiem does not express the fear of death, and someone has called it a lullaby of death. But it is thus that I see death: as a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience." (G. Faure)

Up to this second, Morse's birth has been uncertain; now we know: when old Morse died, what we heard was but a tender lullaby. "In paradisum" is the Requiem's finale - a sign that Endeavour's crossing from limbo to wakefulness is nearly at its end. His aspiration - endeavour - is "towards happiness above". This immediately speaks of impending change, and we know - already - that the detective stories, brilliant as they are, will be transport for what happens to him, within him. He is the endeavour. And we think we know where he's heading - we know the old Morse! - but we don't. What happens in "Endeavour" informs - and changes, inevitably - our idea of what old Morse was.

Endeavour is being born. And look at how it's shown: he is in tight confines of a bus, the only one looking out. His arrival is imminent, conversations with self no matter, defiance and scars no matter. He, again, is on the far left of the frame, still at his departing point. The bus - our royal blue angeli - is moving from right to left, into the past. Morse, too, moves across the screen - 06:46 to 07:00 - but in striking contrappunto: from left to right, to the future. Tellingly, the bus enters Oxford through the small opening under the Bridge of Sighs, and Morse's transition is reiterated: once he disembarks, he crosses the frame all the way from far left to far right again. And we finally have him. The little one. The absolute bloody beginner.


In paradisum deducant [te] angeli / Into paradise may the angels lead you
[Blue bus.]
In tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres / Upon your arrival, may the martyrs receive you
Et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem / And guide you to the sacred city of Jerusalem
[The first martyr - the slain schoolgirl - is bringing him in. There'll be many more of them in the holy city of Oxford; some Morse will save, to most he will bring justice post-mortem.]
Chorus angelorum te suscipiat / A choir of angels will receive you
[The noise, the commotion at Cowley police station.]
Et cum Lazaro quondam paupere / And with Lazarus, once a beggar
[Morse is himself a Lazarus in a way, once a beggar, once dead.]
Aeternam habeas requiem / May you have eternal rest
[So he came to the place of eternal rest? No. It's the initial transition that's over.]
In Requiem, the final destination is "civitatem sanctam Jerusalem", an aftermath of everything, a heavenly locus of all said and done. In "Endeavour", paradisum is Oxford. The shabby police station with its dark-green walls. Thursday's pipe. A table lamp backlighting E.'s summer-wheat eyelashes. And said and done it all was when Morse died; but just as our angels are not winged creatures but rather an iron bus, just as our martyrs are not all exactly righteous and "chorus angelorum" is really a loud din of a police nick, our "holy city" isn't quite heavenly either. It's the place of becoming, just like the earthly Jerusalem was. What happened there, will happen to E., too, before he becomes. In a lesser reflection, certainly; but there is but one story, one way to the self, and Endeavour takes us along - to watch and learn.
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All done, thank you.