TV Review: Grantchester Season 2, Ep. 2



Rev. Chambers and Inspector Keating investigate the death of a professor who fell off a building, but are warned off the case as they begin to unravel a government plot.


Though I found the first episode of the season  a little lackluster, I determined to carry on with this series in hopes that I would begin to like the characters more and thus feel more invested in their stories.  However, though I found the mystery in this episode more intriguing than the last, I also continued to feel as though I really ought to watch season one if I am ever to care about these characters.

The mystery revolves around the mysterious death of a professor.  Did he fall off a building or was he pushed?  And how are the Soviets involved?  I like intrigue in my stories so enjoyed this, even though the Red Scare bit seemed a little forced, as if it was added just for historical flavor.  However, I still felt distant from the characters, including the dead professor’s wife and best friend.  Normally I’d be sobbing along with the grieving friends and family, but this show somehow manages to keep me detached.

Meanwhile, Sidney’s personal plotline continues to revolve around his search for romance.  Except that even though there’s this secretary who’s into him, he’s still obviously smitten with an old flame, who is now married.  But repeatedly showing up at his vicarage or meeting him for coffee while her husband is away.  That’s…awkward.  Especially since Sidney, of all people, should not be dancing with adultery.  And everyone knows what’s happening.  They keep warning him to stay away, but he remains oblivious.

The professional seductress/glamorous cigarette-smoking and martini-drinking type of girl never really resonates with me, though, (maybe I just don’t relate?) so I don’t feel invested in these romances, either.  Sidney’s a vicar and this type of girl seems wrong for him.  He mentions that he doesn’t want to date a “nun,” meaning, I guess, a conservative or quiet girl, but can he really support the type of rich and glamorous girl he’s into?  Would the parish approve of a vicar’s wife who drinks and smokes?  Does he realize that his situation in life might require him to rethink his priorities?  I know he doesn’t really act like a typical vicar, going around solving crimes and apparently blabbing about all the confessions people make to him, but his personal growth might mean he has to accept that a vicar’s wife might need certain qualities.

Finally, I do not think the show achieves the blending of mystery and…depth? it seems to be aiming for.  Sidney’s sleuthing is generally juxtaposed with him giving a sermon that I suppose is meant to relate to his crime.  But his sermons are so vague and personal, like someone writing a Facebook post about something that happened to them but without saying what really happened, while trying to sound deep and maybe hoping you’ll ask for more information.  It doesn’t work.  It doesn’t give Sidney more depth or show his growth.  It’s just awkward.

Still, I’m in need of a historical drama while I wait for new episodes of Call the Midwife to come out, so I think I’ll keep watching Grantchester to see where it goes.  Hopefully I’ll begin to care about the characters eventually.

8 thoughts on “TV Review: Grantchester Season 2, Ep. 2

  1. stephencwinter says:

    I read the first of James Runcie’s Grantchester books while on holiday last summer and enjoyed it. I felt that I could see how Sidney might have stumbled into the world of detecting crime and why there might have been a degree of uncertainty in his private life. I am an Anglican clergy myself and have been for over 25 years and I know that there is a degree of tension between the public role of representing the life of faith and the simple reality that you want to be happy in life just like anyone else. I happen to believe that this can be a very creative tension but it is never entirely resolved. The best priests bring a compassion to their work with others simply because they have had to struggle themselves. I have not read the book that this series of Grantchester is probably based on but when I watched an episode it did not feel real in the way that Tom Hollander’s Rev did, for example. I can only hope that he is in the heart of an inner struggle to find his true self. That can be a very messy affair and usually is at certain times. I don’t think it is likely to be resolved with any of the women with whom he is currently involved.


    • Krysta says:

      I do sense from what I have seen that Sidney has an interesting background story. I could be wrong, but my guess is that he had a bit of a wild youth, then gave up his wealth to enter the Church and thus lost his girl, who married rich like she was supposed to. I think this could be a really interesting basis for a series since it does highlight Sidney’s humanity–he may be a vicar, but he has feelings and doubts and a desire for romance, too.

      I wish,however, that the show did a better job of exploring this aspect. It seems right now like his real job is to solve crimes (and I don’t really find this far-fetched, I suppose, since I enjoy reading Fr. Brown mysteries) and then sometimes on the side he just happens to run a little church thing. In the first episode of the season, a fellow vicar chastised him for breaking the seal of confession to solve these crimes, and told him that his parishioners don’t trust him enough to talk to him anymore. That could have been an interesting tension for the show to explore, but instead the show sort of acknowledged it in a subsequent, poorly-written scene where Sidney declares he “believes in the church” and then moved on. It seems like it wants to keep his crime-solving life and his parish-leading life separate, but I don’t know that Sidney can keep them separate; he’s one person, not two.

      I like shows like Call the Midwife where the separate threads comment on each other. The show tries to do this by having Sidney preach about the cases he’s working on, in a really tangential way, but it doesn’t feel real. Even I, watching him solve this crimes, barely know what he’s trying to say because it’s like he’s trying to sort out his own emotions out loud in the vaguest way possible instead of actually talking to and guiding his parishioners. I think if I were actually in his parish I would be very confused.

      Maybe the books do a better job of showing how Sidney is trying to work out the balance between his lives and to discern what it is he needs to do in his new role as a vicar. But, from watching the show, I kind of have trouble believing Sidney even is a vicar, or wants to be.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. stephencwinter says:

    When James Runcie wrote his Grantchester mysteries he gave Sidney a similar back story to that of his own father, Robert, who was Archbishop of Canterbury during the 1980s. Robert was a tank commander during the Second World War, winning the Military Cross for bravery in action, and his call to ordination was a result of the experience of war. He was Archbishop when I trained for ordination myself and I was always impressed by his humanity even though, in my youthful arrogance, I used to think he was over anxious.
    The 1950s were the last decade in English history where the old class structure held sway. The war had messed it up a lot and people became a part of the establishment because they had been officers in the armed forces. The clergy of the Church of England were among them. It was always a tension among the clergy that they were expected to be a part of the establishment but did not have the money to do it. Sidney would have been at Oxford or Cambridge and so would have mixed with the most fashionable set and with his charm and good looks he could hardly have gone unnoticed. This mixed with his faith would also have made him interesting. But he has no money and the life of a clergy wife was never easy. Imagine having to run the perfect household with the perfect children and be the perfect wife! And to do that under the critical gaze of the entire parish whether they went to church or not. Things are easier now but many look back to the mid 1950s as a golden age.
    I don’t think that the makers of Grantchester have captured that atmosphere and I agree with you when you say that the makers of Call the Midwife did. My wife is a GP and I asked her if she would like some nuns working with her in the area of Birmingham where she now works. Her answer was entirely in the affirmative!


    • Krysta says:

      That actually sounds like a really interesting background for Sidney, and explains why he didn’t marry the girl he’s apparently into. (I can’t even remember her name, unfortunately.) I wish the show would explore this more. If you’re going to have a vicar solving mysteries, I want it to matter, not feel like he could just as easily have been a carpenter or a fisherman solving mysteries. Right now I can barely tell he has a faith. It feels like the show just depicts him going through the motions of leading the youth group and preaching, but isn’t really sure what an actual man of faith might look like or feel like.

      And it could definitely explore the class structure more! I think some of these issues may have been hinted at in the second episode when Sidney returns to Cambridge, but maybe they just went over my head because I’m not too familiar with the history. The professors were definitely amused by Sidney being a vicar and seemed a little snotty, but I hadn’t seen the first season so I wasn’t sure how much of their reaction to Sidney was about him personally rather than about his faith or class.

      I love the nuns of Call the Midwife! They’re characters who actually seem invested in their faith and to want to live it, even when they struggle to accept some aspects of it. When the show addressed the laws against homosexual individuals, I thought the range of reactions to it was very realistic, from the perhaps somewhat confused but trusting “Well…we do what the Bible says” to the outrage to the reluctance to talk about the topic at all. And in the current season when they were struggling with not eating sweets for Lent, I was dying of laughter: “But Holy Thursday isn’t really Lent, so we should eat these eclairs!” That’s some solid reasoning, there. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Rissi says:

    I’m not watching S2 (yet – waiting on the DVD) so I skimmed your review (sorry you’re having a hard time with it), but I 100% adore this show. I watched S1 and thought it was amazing. Same with “Call the Midwife.” Basically, my blanket reaction to these shows would be something like this: Hooray for amazing British series!🙂


    • Krysta says:

      I didn’t like the first season on Call the Midwife, but I kept with it and now it’s one of my favorite shows. So I am willing to stick with Grantchester for awhile to see what happens! Because it is true that British drama is the best. 😀


  4. noellynn70 says:

    Loved Season 1, am struggling with Season 2. It comes across darker, with Sidney a more brooding kind of character, and lots of cigarettes, drinking and some sex thrown in (none of which I bargained for). Last season’s shows were fun with the detective work combined with a vicar and all the characters aside thrown in with a lovely setting. I didn’t watch last Sundays’ show after being disappointed in the first two of the season, and episode 2 ending with Sidney making it with a girl while his ex-happens along.


    • Krysta says:

      I was confused by that ending! I kind of assumed a vicar would have to kiss a woman a little more chastely. But it sort of becomes relevant in episode four when the girl he’s with is expecting more. I guess they never talked about their boundaries and expectations, so when he didn’t stop her, she figured they would just keep going farther. He didn’t seem to make that connection, though, just told her he couldn’t because he was a vicar. How about you both made a mistake in not addressing this earlier? And I don’t think it’s a surprise that she was after a physical relationship. She keeps making “jokes” about it. They’re not jokes, Sidney. They’re not jokes…. Maybe the point is that, yes, Sidney is terrible when it comes to relationships. In episode three, he even sort of flirts with this woman who’s obviously trying to seduce him. I don’t understand. Is that his method for solving crime? Or was he really seduced there for awhile? I am disappointed in him either way.


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