Grantchester (2014) s07e05

“Grantchester” is rarely as subtle when focused on character development than in this episode. Credited to Richard Cookson, the script weaves leads Robson Green and Tom Brittney’s romantic woes underneath the mystery A-plot, which isn’t a surprise. The surprise is just what the episode will do with the result; the episode goes from being a relatively traditional outing to Brittney’s most significant episode of the season in terms of character development.

Since there’s been no mention of his family—specifically his inappropriately amorous step-sister—this season at all, and with this episode resolving Green and Kacey Ainsworth’s two seasons-long troubled marriage arc, it feels like “Grantchester” has settled all business from before this season.

After an amusing introduction to the eventual murder scene, the episode begins with Green and Brittney getting together a picnic for Green and his kids. Charlotte Ritchie brings the kids over, and she and Brittney have a little talk about their encounter last episode. He’s after friendship, she’s after romance, they’re going to go with the former.

Only then his latest ex-girlfriend, the very engaged Ellora Torchia, appears and tells him she’s left fiancé Michael D. Xavier (who’s also Green’s new boss). Does Brittney want to run away with her?

Before Brittney can process this new information—Torchia and Xavier have been missing from “Grantchester” the last couple episodes, with Green usually just missing Xavier at the office—there is, of course, a murder. And the suspects are Brittney’s pals from the old folks’ home, Bruce Alexander and Anna Calder-Marshall. They’ve done a runner, making them the (very unlikely) prime suspects.

The episode juxtaposes Alexander and Calder-Marshall’s almost entirely offscreen adventuring with Green and Ainsworth, and Brittney and Torchia. There are some comparisons so obvious even the characters remark on them, but it’s usually understated. Green and Brittney have a friendship arc—Torchia’s return makes things awkward for Green at work—but they’ve also got a class one separate from any romantic partner quibbles. Green and Ainsworth’s plot will have some of those class issues running under it as well; it’s an incredibly well-thought-out plot.

No wonder there’s no time for Tessa Peake-Jones and Al Weaver. Weaver doesn’t even appear in the episode, and Peake-Jones only gets a couple short scenes, including a fantastic one opposite Green. They rarely get enough time together, so it’s very nice when they do. There’s a quick check-in on her ongoing season plot, which at least comments on Brittney’s character development arc (if not directly affecting it). Weaver’s presumably just off at the cafe. “Grantchester” seems to have forgotten how to do six-episode seasons after getting eight last time. They’re out of room here.

This season started with Brittney maybe prematurely acting like a “real Grantchester vicar” (meaning jazz, booze, and man-slutting), and it turns out he might not actually know how to lead that life. But thanks to the major changes to the characters’ situations in the last season or three, his inadequacies might run even deeper.

There’s one episode to go, and the show’s operating with a mostly clean slate now, so it’ll be fascinating to see where they go. Especially since they’ll be setting up the prospective eighth season.

Some outstanding acting this episode from Green, Ainsworth, and Ritchie. Great guest spots from Alexander and Calder-Marshall. And Torchia and Xavier, who presumably won’t be in town much longer, both have their best episode here.

It’s such a good episode the omissions don’t matter. Well, as long as they don’t bungle the finale, I suppose. But they’re going into it far stronger than I’d have expected.