blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

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.

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