There are some significant changes in “Grantchester” at the start of this season; some are continuations of last season’s subplots, others are not. New curate Ahmed Elhaj is gone already, getting a brief mention from Tessa Peake-Jones somewhere in the first five minutes, then nothing. Actually, vicar Tom Brittney doesn’t do any Church of England work this episode, though he does come into his own as the Grantchester vicar. He’s done with flirtations with comely reporters and odd relationships with his stepsister; he’s moving into pure Sidney Chambers territory and picking up ladies at jazz clubs.
Ladies who turn out to be engaged.
It’s kind of amazing Robson Green doesn’t comment on the behavior. Maybe Peake-Jones will someday. It’s like they gave Brittney a James Norton script.
The episode starts with Green and Brittney hitting a new jazz club and Brittney dancing with mystery woman Ellora Torchia. Green goes to work instead, where overqualified secretary Melissa Johns mentions a commotion for Green to remember later on once the murder investigation kicks off. Green’s living in the vicarage with Brittney, still separated from his wife, Kacey Ainsworth.
The most entertaining character development is Al Weaver, the former curate who got outed and jailed last season; thanks to Nick Brimble (Peake-Jones’s well-enough-to-do husband), Weaver’s now got a cafe. And he’s a beat poet. After a season of Weaver suffering trauma after trauma, the episode opens with the promise of beat shenanigans and then delivers them later on, and it’s delightful.
Weaver’s subplot about the cafe opening has Peake-Jones helping him decorate; she’s not thrilled with his interior decorating, and the feeling’s mutual. It’s the nicest subplot, whereas Green and Brittney’s personal life subplots have no easy resolutions. Not an episode in any way.
Green wants to make grand gestures to win Ainsworth back, while Ainsworth just wants him to help out with the kids a little. Since their separation, it appears Brittney’s doing some heavy lifting on Green’s Saturdays with the brood, which he appreciates but doesn’t learn from. And then the inevitably complicated identity of Brittney’s mystery woman complicates things for both him and Green.
Plus, Green’s got a new boss, Michael D. Xavier, who’s convinced Green’s been holding back dipshit copper Bradley Hall and wants to give Hall more to do. Also, Xavier doesn’t want Brittney hanging around the station doing copper work.
The mystery this episode involves a dead drifter (Philip Buck) who turns up on the estate of two spinster sisters (Anna Wilson-Jones and Emma Cunniffe). Even though Brittney doesn’t do any work at the church, he uses Wilson-Jones and Cunniffe’s parishioner status to stay involved in the case.
Outside Green being a little too obtuse about his marital problems (maybe not for 1960 or whatever, but definitely given Green’s character development over the series), it’s a rock solid opener for the season. The mystery’s good—very British—the guest cast’s good (Wilson-Jones bonds nicely with Brittney, while Cunniffe and Green are green thumbs), and it’s really nice to not see Weaver traumatized every other scene, historically accurate or not.