FA­MOUS LAST WORDS

In­spec­tor Morse (2000)

Crime Scene - - CON­TENTS - By AN­DRE PAINE

Morse’s tragic TV sign-off.

Killing off ma­jor char­ac­ters has al­most be­come part of the for­mula, but it used to be a rar­ity. When Chief In­spec­tor Morse died of car­diac fail­ure in Novem­ber 2000, it was like the loss of a favourite un­cle. The death of Morse was an oc­ca­sion for na­tional mourn­ing, although there had been a dry run with Colin Dex­ter’s 1999 novel The Re­morse­ful Day. Around 13.5 mil­lion view­ers watched John Thaw’s mov­ing por­trayal of the soli­tary, po­etry-quot­ing cop­per com­ing to terms with mor­tal­ity.

De­spite the ele­giac edge to The Re­morse­ful Day, it still has the plea­sure of fa­mil­iar­ity for Morse fans. As well as cross­words and opera, Morse fa­mously has a fond­ness for real ale. Drink­ing helps Morse to think, as he re­minds DS Lewis, who – not for the first time – ques­tions the se­nior officer’s tally of al­co­hol units. But with his health fail­ing Morse knows his days are al­ready num­bered, and so do we when he starts quot­ing po­etry by A.E. Hous­man and tries to foist Wag­ner onto Lewis one more time. “It’s about im­por­tant things – life and death, re­gret,” says the older man as he con­tem­plates a pur­pose­less and lonely re­tire­ment.

“Cheer up, sir, it’s a lovely evening,” says Lewis as they sit to­gether watch­ing the sun­set. Their fa­ther-son dy­namic is at the heart of the series, and the poignancy of Morse’s fi­nal days essen­tially comes down to the shared be­lief that each man owes the other a debt of grat­i­tude.

When Morse suf­fers his col­lapse on the lawn of Ex­eter Col­lege, he looks ter­ri­ble; the agony etched on his face is in con­trast to the serene set­ting of the front quad. He lingers on a lit­tle longer in hos­pi­tal – and even man­ages to solve the case in the midst of a heart at­tack. The de­tec­tive is touch­ingly grumpy with Lewis, who’s in­structed not to fuss with his pil­low. Morse seems to be let­ting go and when his heart fi­nally gives out, he ut­ters a fi­nal mes­sage for Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Strange to pass on: “Thank Lewis for me”.

If you don’t shed a tear at the death of Morse, Kevin Whately’s per­for­mance as Lewis in mourn­ing should do the trick. Hav­ing left Morse to ar­rest their sus­pect at a Lon­don air­port, a shat­tered Lewis receives the call and con­firms the news over the roar of an aero­plane: “In­spec­tor Morse is dead.”

For the fi­nal scene, he at­tends the body of his boss in the morgue, draws back the sheet and touches his lips to Morse’s fore­head. “Good­bye, sir,” says Lewis, man­ag­ing to ex­press the depth of their chalk-and-cheese re­la­tion­ship in a kiss and a cou­ple of words.

“If you don’t shed a tear at the death of Morse, Lewis in mourn­ing should do the trick.”

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