This episode toggles between being a thankless bridging episode and a reminder late fifties England wasn’t just a hotbed of homophobia–there’s also a bunch of rampant, violent misogyny. Plus, old people are bigots. Plus, religious zealots are different kinds of bigots, even if they’re Black. Religion… an intersection of garbage. Though religious nonsense does often sound pretty when spoken aloud, which is what the episode ends up leveraging in the finale. But it’s mostly just a bridging episode.
Three significant issues get development.
First, “Grantchester” manages to find Tom Brittney a sexual liaison so tawdry and ill-advised, it’d make former vicar Sidney Chambers blush even though Sidney was a man-slut. It’s actually such an obvious big swing it’s shocking Robson Green didn’t respond to Brittney’s revelation with a, “wow, not even Sidney would’ve done that.” It’s a weird personality and character development bit for Brittney (seriously, they got rid of intrepid girl reporter Lauren Carse for this romance?). Though some of the illicit behavior is well-acted. Not enough but some.
Second, guest star Shaun Dooley is back to help Green realize being a shitty old white guy isn’t cool, actually. They don’t deal with any of the overarching copper versus crooked lawyer stuff, but they do introduce Dooley to Green’s wife, Kacey Ainsworth, and their oldest daughter, Skye Lucia Degruttola. Ainsworth and Degruttola love having someone around to tell them about Green’s war days because he’s still suffering too much from his untreated because it’d be unmanly PTSD. Whereas Dooley’s a sociopath and is okay talking about it. Poetic too. It’s kind of a good arc for Green, kind of not. He and Dooley don’t have any chemistry as pals, so even though the episode rushes Brittney and Green patching things up (they’re fighting about Brittney being a spoiled rich kid again), it’s welcome. Especially since Green’s pissed Ainsworth likes Dooley and is shitty to her.
Finally, the episode introduces Ahmed Elhaj as the new curate. He’s second-generation Black British, parents from Nigeria. He’s got to suffer Brittney being rude because Brittney didn’t want to hire anyone, and Elhaj was assigned. And then there’s Tessa Peake-Jones being racist. Elhaj’s super-sympathetic until we find out he’s a shifty bigot out to correct wayward, ungodly Brittney and company. The hard cliffhanger is the reveal of his villainy.
I haven’t even talked about the mystery plot, which is basically just fifties dudes being rapey, murdery, or otherwise just shitty. It’s indistinctly unpleasant and overly busy. Green also lets a murder accomplice get away, and it doesn’t even matter in the grand scheme, not with all those little schemes going on.
It’s not a terrible episode, just an inauspicious first outing from writer Tolula Dada.
The season was on a continued upswing, but this episode loses the plot. Or maybe “Grantchester” just isn’t “Grantchester” without Al Weaver.