This episode succeeds in ratcheting up Al Weaver’s arc to an almost intolerable point. The cliffhanger is less shocking than the last couple of episodes. Despite being abbreviated, it actually relieves some stress in its rush. Things go from bad to worse, as a boulder of fifties bigotry strikes almost everyone in the main cast. Including people outside the vicarage like Kacey Ainsworth, who finds herself again at an impasse with Robson Green on his apparent two-facedness with the “gross indecency” law. They’re basically couples friends with Weaver and Oliver Dimsdale now, after all. There’s some profound subtext in the dialogue about Green and Ainsworth’s marriage, mainly how he can negotiate being a police officer when he doesn’t believe in the laws. It’s a nice character development scene and informs Green’s frustration with Tom Brittney later on.
Because it’s going to be up to Brittney to either lie for Weaver or exonerate him through lying. Everyone else has been in for questioning, including Tessa Peake-Jones, who has her own arc about the investigation and comes out a lot more sympathetic than initially implied. Green’s dipshit cop sidekick, Bradley Hall, is really gung ho to prosecute Weaver—and out Dimsdale too if he can—and there’s only so much Green can do to steer the interviews out of Hall’s grasp. It’s going to be up to Brittney. The episode reminds the audience every five to ten minutes.
So then the murder plot—it feels almost strange to call it the A plot, though this one does take up more of the episode because the B plot figures into both it and the Weaver plot. The murder plot involves the local town council election; tragically widowed Rebecca Front against scheming bigot entrepreneur Will Hislop (who’s so villainous he should worry about getting typecast). Front’s husband was on the town council for years and then suddenly killed himself. Front’s trying to get his chair. Hislop and cousin Orlando Wells are out to take it back for the right kind of Briton.
There’s a bit about Front as an assertive woman in the fifties, but it ends up overshadowed thanks to her pal, Jonathan Aris. Aris is a novelist in town to help her in her mourning and maybe research a new book. His interests intersect with Brittney and Green’s, so he’s around a lot. Front’s around at the beginning of the episode, but then a lot less. There are more than a few scenes where she’s used as scenery, figuratively passed between characters to get a reaction. Richard Cookson’s got the script credit; there are some really thin stretches of the plot, particularly with the murder mystery. All of the attention goes to Weaver’s arc, which Brittney unwittingly drags into the political story.
Lots of good acting. Weaver, Peake-Jones, Brittney gets in a couple terrific scenes. Gary Beadle’s back as the bigot Archdeacon. Aris could be better. There’s just something insubstantial about his performance like he and Front don’t really click as good friends; plus, he always seems like he’s going to rip off his mustache for a Scooby-Doo reveal.
But who cares about the mystery arc when the character drama stuff is so much better. “Grantchester”’s relentless this season.