Despite having a frustratingly bland main plot, this episode of “Grantchester” also has some of the best material I can remember ever being on the show.
The episode picks up an indeterminate period from the previous; Al Weaver is awaiting his trial for “gross indecency” and spending his days—presumably unable to perform duties as curate—in his room getting drunk on vodka and listening to jazz. No one comments it’s like having James Norton back, but it’d have been amazing if someone did. I was actually waiting for it, but then it turns out Weaver’s a nasty drunk who’s mean to everyone, including Tessa Peake-Jones and Oliver Dimsdale. The episode will end up being about Weaver and Dimsdale and being a gay couple in fifties England, and it’s phenomenal stuff. It more than makes up for the clunky A-plot.
And while the A-plot is clunky—in the course of an investigation, Robson Green finds something out about Tom Brittney’s wealthy kid upbringing, and it seemingly breaks their friendship. The majority of the episode takes place one evening in the police station, where dipshit copper Bradley Hall hauls in some drunk U.S. airmen, and then there’s a mysterious death, and none of the airmen will give statements. Brittney’s only at the station because his step-sister, Emily Patrick, has been arrested for dine-and-dashing; they’d usually let a rich girl go, but she apparently knicked a valuable; only she won’t agree to a search, so she’s just hanging around Green’s office, verbally abusing the working class.
Including new office girl Melissa Johns, who’s been around since the second episode of the season and has been likable enough, but now she gets a bunch to do, and she’s excellent.
The rift between Brittney and Green doesn’t lead to any good acting together—it’s too sudden, too contrived, too forced into the restricted confines—but it does give Green, independently, some material. Brittney and Patrick, however, do get some good scenes together, with Patrick sort of establishing herself as a decent supporting “Grantchester” character by the end of the episode. Hopefully, she won’t be too regular. She’s rather unpleasant.
Another problem with the mystery plot, besides the sort of hackneyed story, is the acting. Ben Wiggins has a bunch to do as the American officer who bonds with fellow vet Green, only Wiggins isn’t any good. It’s vaguely rude to call him out for his Brit-playing-Yank abilities considering Corey Johnson, who is American, is also bad playing an American. But the other U.S. servicemen—particularly Victor Alli, who’s a Black man in a white man’s airforce stationed in a different white man’s country—are good. And they’re British actors. So whatever’s wrong with Wiggins, it’s not his inability to cross the pond in his performance. And with him being so milquetoast, the whole plot crumbles.
It doesn’t matter, of course, because everything at the station is just busywork between Weaver and Dimsdale scenes. The acting from Dimsdale is particularly phenomenal.
Louise Ironside’s got the script credit—British shows I think really do just credit the actual writer—and while her mystery isn’t great, her narrative construction and character drama are aces. And it’s not her fault they miscast.
The great stuff here is enough to make for a genuinely spectacular episode… even accounting for the gross missteps in casting and plotting.