This season of “Grantchester” has been very much about helplessness and hopelessness. It’s even worse watching it from the present, knowing the U.K. didn’t “legalize” homosexuality until 1967 for consenting adults over age twenty-one. So the central conflict of this season cannot have a cheerful ending. But after this episode, a hopeful one seems possible.
After avoiding Al Weaver’s experiences in jail, this episode’s mostly about them. Even when it’s not about them—war pal Shaun Dooley proves a continued bad influence on Robson Green, including Green lying to wife Kacey Ainsworth about hanging out with him. She disapproves of the relationship, not Dooley. The jail plotline factors in. Green and Tom Brittney are investigating a case in jail, including inmates in solitary confinement, which pushes Green further into his bad memories of a Burmese prison camp.
Green working through his PTSD, specifically how he drinks to avoid working through it, has been one of the season’s other subplots. His alcoholism has again become a problem, one he won’t let anyone help with. Even with the hopeful, less helpless ending, it’s hard to imagine how they’re going to get Green to a good place in two episodes for the season finale. But “Grantchester”’s definitely doing a fine job with the character development arcs running underneath the weekly murder mysteries.
And after the last episode setting new curate Ahmed Elhaj up to be a shitty person, this episode turns him into the straight man for the jokes. Brittney’s trying to be nicer to him even though home doesn’t feel like home without Weaver. So there are some awkward, genial scenes for them. Then there’s also Emily Patrick—Brittney’s step-sister—crashing at the vicarage and doing whatever she can to make Elhaj feel awkward.
The Patrick subplot feels entirely shoehorned in and even then truncated like they cut some material from the subplot. At one point, Brittney’s saying she can’t move in. In the next, she’s already there.
The episode mystery’s particularly effective because it involves Weaver’s fellow inmates, most of whom are apparently just gay men being persecuted by the government, then tormented by guards and prison administrators. Hence why it all feels so hopeless.
There’s some excellent character development from Weaver, who’s superb. He doesn’t actually get a lot to do—the development’s presumably setup–but what he gets, he excels with. Excellent work from Green and Ainsworth too. The season’s plot threads are working out exquisitely. Save the Patrick subplot, but that one’s at least funny now and no longer cringe-inducing.
Daisy Coulam’s script and Jermain Julien’s direction are also outstanding. It’s a very strong episode.