Grantchester

Grantchester (2014) s05e06

This episode serves as a possible pilot for sixth “Grantchester” and a second full season for new vicar Tom Brittney. Lots gets resolved, both in regards to recent events and season-long subplots. The show’s sparing in the schmaltz, instead going for knowing smiles and warm feelings, and it feels as good as a show about murders in a small British city in the fifties with characters who are becoming woker than most shows set in the modern day is ever going to feel.

Possibly because Brittney finally lets his guard down. The episode opens with him doing a degenerate drunk routine at his mom’s party. Mom Jemma Redgrave is marrying rich dipshit Dominic Mafham. Brittney disapproves, hence the drunkenness. So he spends the first third of the episode hungover, as he and Robson Green track a dead woman to a strange convent run by authoritarian Tracy Ann Oberman, who enrages and intrigues Brittney. He can’t understand how she does what she does in God’s name or some such thing. Sidney’s been gone so long I’d forgotten “Grantchester” used to regularly have crises of faith. Brittney’s been a rock this season, until last episode. So, broken, he involuntarily gravitates towards Oberman.

Oberman’s a good foil for Brittney. She’s unpredictable and rather cagey; her interrogation scene is almost a femme fatale thing, which is weird considering she’s just out of the habit.

Then there’s the Leonard (Al Weaver) plot. His dad—a perfectly fine but nothing special Sean Gilder—comes to visit and things don’t go well. There are unexpected revelations and dashed hopes and it’s all very depressing until it isn’t anymore because you don’t want to be depressed going out on the show this season. No spoilers but… it’s a very nice ending.

“Grantchester” has been fairly busy this season and this episode does a fine job wrapping up all the existing storylines. It’s a little uneven balancing subplots for Brittney, Green, Weaver, and Peake-Jones—even with Peake-Jones getting a lot less—with Green’s stuff all at the beginning of the season, but it works well enough. “Grantchester”’s successfully navigated the vicar change… now it just needs to get renewed.

Grantchester (2014) s05e05

It’s an exceedingly unpleasant hour of “Grantchester,” full of revelations and character developments, some to the point where it’s hard to imagine what next week’s episode is going to bring. Will (Tom Brittney) ends the episode in a rather dark place, which is to be expected given how things go in the episode, but dark enough everyone’s a little taken aback. As usual the episode ends in a sermon. Not a happy one.

The episode’s mostly downbeat, teasing possibly awful reveals—the best possible option is a gang of teen criminals—but there are positive moments in it. Al Weaver’s arc this season, becoming more and more comfortable in his own skin, results in some great marriage counseling scenes with Weaver, Tessa Peake-Jones, and Nick Brimble. Old man Brimble (who’s excellent this episode) gets to try to do the work of atonement due to his martial strife with Peake-Jones, which is nice to see. And the show presents it believably. There’s no sugar-coating in “Grantchester,” which is too bad after this episode.

Without spoiling too much, this episode brings a season-long subplot to the front burner—revealing it to be a single subplot too—and throws everyone into the bowling pot; mostly Brittney and Robson Green. They’re already on awkward ground with Brittney being more pally with boxing coach Ross Boatman lately than Green, to the point Brittney hasn’t told Green about his awkward marriage proposal to Lauren Carse (who’s reduced to a very small part this episode, though maybe not inappropriately given the subject matter).

A nice scene for Oliver Dimsdale and Weaver, cementing Weaver’s character development over the season, and some strong acting from Sandra Huggett as Boatman’s wife. Jim Caesar’s back again as the troubled youth who Boatman and Brittney want to help—and who Green’s indifferent about—including an introduction to his home life and mum Sarah Stanley. Tough stuff with Caesar, a lot of it left unsaid.

From the first five or so minutes, just with everything being so relatively low stress, it seems like something bad’s coming down the pike in “Grantchester” but its immediate arrival—and the force of the bad—is jarring. Outside Weaver’s estranged father maybe showing up for a visit next episode, the show’s going into the season finale without much foreshadowing and starting from a very bad place.

Grantchester (2014) s05e04

“Grantchester” is definitely not going to be one of those shows where they take out a lead character, drop in a replacement and it’s about the same. The show has been reminding Tom Brittney isn’t just a brunette version of departed ginger(?) James Norton, but it triples down throughout this episode. First, there’s so much with the class difference between blue blood Brittney and working stiff Robson Green. It’s foundational, with the showing opening on it—Green’s not just out of touch with the changing times, he’s now got the voice of the wealthy explaining behaviors to him, making excuses for them.

In some ways, it contributes to a big-ish blowout between Green and Brittney towards the end of the episode; Brittney’s become addicted to solving mysteries and Green’s worried he’s created a murder out of an accidental death. A truly unfortunate one involving LSD—which is just being developed—but apparently not a murder. Or maybe Brittney’s just distracted by his love life problems, which Green has a great time teasing him about.

Green also has a great time teasing Brittney’s love interest, Lauren Carse, about their burgeoning romance, not knowing it’s run into hiccups due to Brittney’s chastity. Brittney comes up with a solution this episode, so he thinks, but not one Carse is interested in because it’s all about Brittney’s religiosity. And there’s the other way he’s so different from departed James Norton—this episode goes hard on challenging Brittney’s religious beliefs.

Like when he tries to tell the scientist he’s living the capital T truth and the scientist—doing the LSD experiment for psychotherapy—just rolls his eyes at him; Brittney takes it as a challenge, the scientist means it as a dismissal. Juxtaposed with that religious challenge, Leonard (Al Weaver) and Mrs. C (Tessa Peake-Jones) have a lovely little subplot about Peake-Jones miserable having left her war profiteer husband and not wanting to lay it out for Weaver. Instead, she just tells him God doesn’t care if she’s happy, which gets Weaver hitting the good book for proof otherwise.

Then there’s Green’s whole home situation with mother-in-law Paula Wilcox, which blows up in unexpected ways to Green (though maybe not wife Kacey Ainsworth), which ends up giving Green some great character development, modern husband stuff to do.

The show gets in a lot of cultural commentary—between Carse and Ainsworth as working women, the treatment of Wilcox, the pre-anti-drug LSD, college students from the colonies—there’s a lot going on with the times and the characters. “Grantchester”’s pushing forward, embracing the fifties’s societal changes.

Bummer the show aired on Brexit day, as it seems entirely opposed to isolationist, patriarchal jingoism.

Oh. And they do a 16mm film strip but it’s really obviously video and it seems like they don’t employ anyone who knows how to fake the look. But “Grantchester” has definitely shown it doesn’t need Norton’s love stud of a vicar to succeed.

Grantchester (2014) s05e03

Lots ends up happening this issue, even as the episode starts with Tom Brittney getting returned mail from his estranged mother. In fact, there’s going to be something for everyone this episode—except Leonard (Al Weaver); Leonard is background.

Will (Brittney) doesn’t just have a murder case—a very Sherlock Holmes affair involving a murdered cinema projectionist and a Brown man (Hamza Jeetooa) in fifties England, the sins of Empire being revisited and such—he’s also started regular dating reporter Lauren Carse and there’s still more with troubled youth Jim Caesar. Robson Green’s mostly just on the case, though he figures into the Caesar stuff and has his own home situation brewing as mother-in-law Paula Wilcox starts causing problems Kacey Ainsworth (Mrs. Robson Green) can’t ignore. Nice stuff for Ainsworth and Wilcox with the subplot.

But the biggest subplot, which ties in to mystery man Jeetooa, is for Tessa Peake-Jones. What starts as an adorable story arc for Peake-Jones and, to a lesser extent, husband Nick Brimble, turns very, very serious and Peake-Jones does a phenomenal job with it. There’s some other excellent acting in the episode, with mystery storyline damsel Zoë Tapper going from stereotype (at least what “Grantchester” is willing to do as a historical stereotype) to a full-fledged character as the solution unveils.

The Sherlock Holmes comparisons don’t stop with the mere presence of Imperial subject Jeetooa, but also how the murder (you’ve got to wonder if writer Jake Riddell was being intentional or if it was all subconscious) gets discovered, and in some of the plot details… like rocks through the windows as clues. Just feels very Conan Doyle. Except, obviously, everything else about it.

Like Brittney and Carse’s romantic thread, which survives the hiccup of jealous copper Bradley Hall, but goes very discomforting, very serious places. Just when you think Brittney’s going to be the stable stud vicar.

And Ross Boatman might be getting more important; he runs the gym where Brittney boxes and where Caesar is supposed to be rehabilitating through positive social and athletic structure.

“Grantchester”’s getting some big developments without having to make its likable characters, you know, unlikable. Well, some of them but certainly not like it’s done in the past. It’s definitely got solid footing this season.

Grantchester (2014) s05e02

I consider myself fairly capable with British Isles accents; it’s always been undubbed Trainspotting or Full Monty for me; I figured out Ulysses on my own; I could watch “Monty Python” and understand them; but “Sinjin” actually being “St. John?” Whatever. I mean, I knew it had to be weird because “Sinjin” seemed too much like an Indian import but the only thing the British seem proud of taking from India is their foodstuffs.

Anyway, St. John is Dominic Mafham. He’s Tom Brittney’s mom’s new boyfriend and, shocker, he’s a total dick because it’s 1955 or whatever and she’s just trying to get along since Brittney won’t quit the Church for her. Jemma Redgrave plays the mom.

The mystery this episode is an intentional hit and run. Brittney and Al Weaver are walking by when they see it, which leads Brittney and Robson Green to an unknown street in Grantchester (because before Google Maps, you could have unknown streets in the town where you’re a copper, I guess). The unknown street thing is short but does give Tessa Peake-Jones a nice opportunity to figure into the main plot. Otherwise she’s just around to be an obstacle for Weaver to hang out with boyfriend Oliver Dimsdale. Though there’s also the new TV in the vicarage (so Weaver and Dimsdale can chill, which is adorable) and Peake-Jones has a lot of thoughts on it. Her “idiot’s lantern” rant is excellent.

There’s a house on the unknown street with two older brothers who figure into the case. It’s an okay enough mystery, involving fraud, infidelity, and PTSD. The PTSD bit gives Green a couple excellent scenes. He’s busy with his home stuff—he brought in mother-in-law Paula Wilcox to tend to the house since wife Kacey Ainsworth got a union position at work.

“Grantchester” has settled pretty nicely since losing its protagonist last season. Though at some point someone needs to acknowledge Brittney isn’t very good at questioning suspects yet. The show’s also taking it slow with Brittney’s new love interest, Lauren Carse, which is fine; if James Norton’s Sidney were still around with Carse as a love interest, they’d probably have had at least one pregnancy scare by now.

Grantchester (2014) s05e01

It’s nice to have “Grantchester” back, especially since Robson Green doesn’t appear to have a complete jackass arc for this season. Though it’s arguably too soon to tell and he does bring in his mother-in-law (Paula Wilcox, I think) without consulting wife Kacey Ainsworth to help out around the house since they’re both so busy with work now. Green thinks he’s being helpful, sort of bringing in free labor instead of helping himself. Because it’s the mid-fifties and Green’s having some trouble adjusting to the new paradigms. All of them. But mostly lovably so.

But Ainsworth doesn’t show up until well into the episode—and their kids get nothing so far—with the episode otherwise more focused on Al Weaver’s subplot about getting back from a week in Marrakesh; he and boyfriend Oliver Dimsdale got to be out (well, more out) and now Weaver’s not just shoved back into the local closet, he can’t even tell housekeeper Tessa Peake-Jones where he’s really been. “Granchester”’s got this unpleasant reality situation where it’s not like Peake-Jones or Green are going to be able to get woke. Arguably it’s hard to believe dreamboat vicar Tom Brittney can be as woke (though he’s less woke than previous dreamboat vicar James Norton) in the mid-1950s and not be, you know, a practicing atheist all things considered. It’s a rough arc for Weaver but well-executed.

Brittney’s subplot involves rich, newly widowed mom Jemma Redgrave and her adjustments. It’s fine. Not too much heavy lifting for Brittney, though the show does seem to be setting up local reporter Lauren Carse as his love interest.

The mystery involves a progressive, proto-feminist women’s college run by Siobhan Redmond and one of her students turning up dead after a big dance. I can’t remember if the universities (one for the boys, one for the girls) have ever been in Grantchester before or maybe they’re just nearby….

It’s an okay mystery. They get to the solution a little too conveniently but “Grantchester”’s not about the the solutions, it’s about the characters and they’re in good shape. The show’s got a very nice balance between the cast and the mystery this episode. Some rather good direction from Gordon Anderson throughout too.

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