Since Tom Brittney directs this episode, I sort of expected him not to be in it very much. And he’s not; instead, it’s an Al Weaver plays detective episode, which is more delightful than the last time he had such an episode (he was in prison investigating). This time the case is weighty—someone is murdering unhoused men—but Weaver at least gets to be enthusiastic in the investigatory pursuit for a while.
Plus, he’s teamed up with Robson Green, which is fun.
Because otherwise, Green’s just getting drunk and sad about his marital problems. Brittney’s also drunk and sad about his relationship problems. Neither of their respective partners show up in the episode (it’s a minimal cast)—though Brittney’s smaller arc is all about bonding with potential love interest Charlotte Ritchie. Ritchie’s Green’s niece (his wife’s niece) and is in town to help out with his kids. However, in this episode, she’s around because son Isaac Highams carves his initials in the church pews, and Tessa Peake-Jones loses her shit about it.
Of course, Peake-Jones is particularly touchy because she just got a cancer diagnosis (in 1960), and the only person she’s told about it is Weaver.
The A-plot’s the mystery, the B-plot’s Weaver and Peake-Jones, the C-plot’s Brittney, Highams, and Ritchie.
There’s some great stuff in the B-plot. There are crowd-pleasing moments—like Peake-Jones telling off a hoity-toity waiter—but it’s a rough, excellent arc for Peake-Jones and Weaver, who’ve always had “Grantchester”’s most sincere relationship, with lots of ups and downs. The episode also examines how Weaver’s coping with losing the church from his life after last season, something his café owner-arc has obscured this season.
The mystery has Green and Weaver investigating at a local university, where Green gets into it over universities as “places for debate” with professor Rowena King. She proudly drove a student to mental collapse. It’s a very current issue for the show (especially “Grantchester,” which is usually historical), and they do a fine job with it.
There’s also a young instructor at the university, Tom Glenister, who figures in. He and the main suspect used to do outreach to a nearby unhoused community. Some of that arc—mainly how the good samaritans in town can’t run soup kitchens because homeowners complain about property values—is still too relevant.
Green’s got a mini-arc with initial suspect Steven Blake, who Green knows from somewhere but lost track of him, and now Blake’s lost everything. It’s nice to see Green get to character develop without Brittney (and his representative religiosity) around.
Though this episode does finally have Brittney back giving services in the church. Although the episode starts with Weaver explaining it’s wedding season, which probably gives Brittney the sads (since his girlfriend is engaged to someone else), it doesn’t end up being important. When they finally do get back to church, it’s for something else entirely, and it’s a great “Grantchester” service sequence. Very limited—it’s Brittney and three other cast members, not the town—but excellent.
It’s a good, way too relevant mystery, the Peake-Jones, and Weaver arc is outstanding and beautifully acted, and Brittney and Ritchie are charming together. Are they too lovely together? We’ll see. It helps Ritchie’s also really funny.
This very quiet, very limited episode is the best of the season so far.