Grantchester Season 2 Review

  • Title:  Grantchester
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2
  • Cast:  Robson Green, James Norton, Morven Christie, Tessa Peake-Jones
  • Network:  ITV
  • DVD Format:  Widescreen, Color, DVD, R1, NTSC

Grantchester is an English cozy-style mystery set in the small village of Grantchester, near Cambridge. Canon Sidney Chambers and Inspector Geordie Keating are unlikely friends and partners who work together to solve crimes and care for the people of their village, each in their own way. Season 2 opens with Geordie and his wife, Kathy, determined to help Sidney find a wife, to wit they take him on several disastrous double dates. Sidney, as a priest in the Church of England (Anglican) tradition, can marry, though it isn’t required. Sidney meets a young woman, Margaret, who works for the police, and the two start dating. However, Sidney realizes he’s still in love with Amanda.

Meanwhile, Amanda is now married to Guy, a landed aristocrat. She spends all her days in a huge mansion where she doesn’t even have housework to do, as the house is full of servants. Amanda is bored out of her mind, not satisfied with her marriage, and thinks she’s still attracted to Sidney. Sidney, for his part, knows he’s in love with her, and regrets never telling her his feelings before she married and became untouchable. By the end of the season, Amanda is pregnant as well.

The opening mystery has Sidney briefly accused of statutory rape against a 15-year-old girl. However, the only “proof” is what the girl’s father claims he read in his daughter’s diary. The diary, and the girl herself are mysteriously missing. The girl is found dead in the studio of a sleazy photographer that she was posing for to get money. The photographer is cleared of her death, however, because he’s gay and by this time it’s become obvious that the girl was also pregnant. They discover she had a male friend, Gary Bell, who knew about the pregnancy. He’s eventually accused of causing her death. He claims it was an accident, but he’s found guilty anyway and sentenced to hang. And Gary is, although technically 18, also has developmental disabilities.

This case and the fall out from it runs through the rest of the season. Geordie sees the crime of capital punishment as “justice”. Sidney sees it as a crime. Geordie thinks Gary intended to kill the girl because her death was so violent. Sidney believes Gary that it was an accident. Geordie even thinks Gary might be the father since the two were friends. Sidney believes it was someone else and that the girl went to Gary for help. And on it goes.

The next case is the only one I actually remember from Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night, there’s a mysterious death at Cambridge, and even though it’s technically outside the jurisdiction of the police and of course, Sidney, he and Geordie get involved anyway. They uncover a nest of both British and Russian spies, and ultimately have to hide the exact circumstances of the young man’s death from his foreign wife for national security reasons.

Back in Grantchester, Geordie and Sidney both testify in Gary Bell’s case, but on opposite sides. Gary is found guilty and sentenced to hang. Sidney continues to visit him at the prison, and Geordie gets increasingly frustrated with the situation. Margaret pursues Sidney, but even though he’s attracted, he’s deeply in love with Amanda. She keeps returning to Grantchester, but the two cannot be together.

Leonard meets and becomes friends with another man. This friend keeps trying to make their relationship romantic, but Leonard’s deep commitment to the Church, natural shyness, and even sense of duty to English law prevent him from accepting even a kiss. Eventually, Leonard catches his friend with another man and leaves, but is broken up about it.

By the end of the season, Mrs. McGuire is starting to date a new man – though it took her awhile to accept the idea that it was OK.

Dickens, Sidney’s black lab, is adorable and very present throughout the season.

Gary Bell is hung for his crimes, leading to a confrontation between Sidney and Geordie, but then another 15-year-old girl goes missing. And Sam, a defrocked Anglican priest was a boarder at her mother’s house. The dead girl from earlier in the season had also been close friends with Sam. The Arch Deacon offers Leonard the parish post in Grantchester if he helps oust Sidney as an embarrassment to the Church. Leonard is appalled at the suggestion. But Sidney, Leonard, and Geordie investigate – separately. Leonard discovers the Arch Deacon paid for Sam’s room and board. The Arch Deacon also new of several accusations against Sam for inappropriate actions with young girls. Leonard takes this information to the Bishop. Geordie and Sidney find the young girl, alive, and Margaret gets her talking. They find Sam, but the girl’s parents had found him first. The wife attacks Sam with a garden trowel, severely injuring him. Her husband hides him in a cellar beneath their barn. However, Geordie finds Sam while he’s still alive.

Even though Sidney is appalled by the violence of the situation, he finds he also can’t forgive Sam on a personal basis. The chase brings Geordie and Sidney back together as friends. The two repair their friendship and even hug. Geordie, who had also had some problems in his marriage, makes up with Kathy, his wife, as well.

Having read the first two Grantchester books by James Runcie, one thing I was confused about in the second season of the show was the total absence of Sidney’s German girlfriend. In the books, he’s clearly in love with her, the two write letters to each other, and Sidney eventually goes to Germany to visit her. He ends-up sneaking her out of East Berlin as the Berlin Wall goes up, and brings her back to Grantchester. And in the books, Amanda’s marriage is a fait accompli and very little is said about her. So I was confused that the television series has a completely different plot for Sidney’s love life. Also, really, there’s only three or so actual mysteries in the second season, and the rest of the six episodes revolves around thorny ethical issues that the characters end up being on opposite sides of. In part this gives the show a dramatic theme for the season. But in part, I found it to be a bit forced. Still, Grantchester is an excellent series. It’s shot beautifully. The characters are complex and well-rounded, not flat. I recommend it. There is a third season available, but I haven’t purchased it yet. The Grantchester Mysteries series of books now include six volumes and I’ve read two.

Read my Grantchester Season 1 Review.

Read my review of Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death.

Read my review of Sidney Chambers and The Perils of the Night.

Advertisements

Grantchester Series 1 Review

  • Title:  Grantchester
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2
  • Cast:  Robson Green, James Norton, Morven Christie, Tessa Peake-Jones, Pheline Roggen, Al Weaver
  • Network:  ITV
  • DVD Format:  Widescreen, Color, DVD, R1, NTSC

Grantchester is an English cozy mystery for the screen, based on a recent set of mysteries by James Runcie. I’ve read the first two Sidney Chamber mystery novels and thoroughly enjoyed them – reviews can be found on my GoodReads page. The Sidney Chambers novels are written as related short stories which is perfect to adapt to television. I have the next two in the series but haven’t read them yet.

Canon Sidney Chambers (James Norton) is an Anglican priest who becomes an accidental detective. Sidney isn’t old or stuffy, however. As a result of his experiences fighting in Word War II, he’s suffering from PTSD – specifically nightmares. He drinks, possibly too much, listens to jazz (much to the chagrin of his housekeeper, Mrs. MaGuire), and chases women. As an Anglican priest, he can marry, though he isn’t required to marry.

In the first story, Sidney takes the funeral of a man who “committed suicide”, which everyone else had refused to do according to the man’s wife. The man’s mistress comes to Sidney, and tells him that the man was actually murdered. Sidney takes her anonymous information to the police, in the form of Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green), which starts a beautiful friendship between the two.

Soon the priest and the cop are solving crimes together. People tell Sidney things they won’t tell the police, both because he’s a vicar and because of Sidney’s innate compassion for everyone. But solving crimes also takes it toil on Sidney – as the man who is supposed to see the best in everyone is forced to see the worse. Sidney also is often able to make connections that lead him to solve cases.

Sidney and Geordie make a great pair, and being so different, they can work together to sort through the thorny problems and cases in the small village of Grantchester, near Cambridge, England. Set in the early 1950s, Sidney is written as a modern man – so he rallies against the racism, classism, and prejudice of the times. Whether it’s the class distinctions that mean he can’t be with the woman he loves, Amanda. Or the prejudice that his housekeeper at first has against his next girlfriend, Hildegard, who happens to be German. Or the racism his sister faces for dating a Black jazz singer. Or even Geordie’s prejudice against homosexuals (including Geordie’s arresting gays for “gross indecency”). Often it is the foibles of people who are at the root of the crime, including murder.

The cast is rounded out by Leonard, a newly minted priest that Sidney takes under his wing; Mrs. McGuire, the gruff housekeeper at the Vicarage; Amanda Kendall, a rich socialite who has been Sidney’s friend for years; Hildegard, Sidney’s new girlfriend that he meets on his first case; and occasionally Sidney’s sister, Jennifer, and Geordie’s wife, Cathy.

Grantchester is a great show, beautifully filmed, with a talented cast. It has the tone that many great English cozies have of the perfect image, that is seething with prejudice, jealousy, hatred, assumption, and guilt underneath. And the cast brings the characters to life wonderfully. Again, just because the main character is a priest doesn’t make Grantchester stodgy, stuffy, preachy, and certainly not boring. If you get the chance to see it I’d definitely recommend it.