The second episode of Grantchester’s new season opens with Peter Davison at a village cricket match!
It seems entirely right, but alas this isn’t his dashing early 80s Doctor Who, nor his charming early 30s Tristan Farnon. He’s Geoff Towler, local solicitor, pillar of the community, chairman of the cricket club… but also a bully and a bigot. It’s a lovely guest-turn but, in TV terms at least, he’s too obviously unpleasant to be a murderer. Somebody is, though (of course). A mass poisoning at the cricket match leads to a lot of sickness (and the inevitable joke about “the runs” from Geordie). And one fatality.
“We’re not short on suspects,” claims Geordie at one point, without a trace of irony. The nature of the show, and its short run time, rarely allows for complex Christie-esque plotting; last week, in fact, didn’t have any suspects at all until the final reel. Where it works best is when it’s about the people more than the mystery.
Last year, with the killing of Neil Morrissey’s daughter, the drama was about the impact on the relatives, of both victim and killer, rather than about hacking through a tangled knot of subplots to unmask the culprit. So despite Geordie’s claim, there aren’t really that many options. We’ve already discounted nasty Mr Towler; it’s not his downtrodden daughter either, who is pregnant by and engaged to the victim. Which leaves us with Mrs Towler.
Faking presents from the local vet to her daughter, poisoning the wholly unsuitable fiance, and finally trying to kill her husband and pass it off as the guilt-ridden suicide of a murderer… Mrs Towler has been driven by the misguided fantasy of an idyllic life for her daughter as the wife of a country vet. A complete fantasy, prompting a total tragedy.
Elsewhere, the Archdeacon talks to Sidney about Amanda, citing the “let no man put asunder” bit. Deep down Sidney knows he’s right, and the issue comes to a head when he confronts Geordie over his affair with Margaret only for Geordie to accuse him back. “Thought, word and deed,” snaps Geordie, shattering Sidney’s flimsy defence that he and Amanda aren’t “doing anything.” (The only duff note of the episode is at the end, where Geordie and Margaret are most definitely doing something. I’m no prude, even if this is the 1950s, but we didn’t need that – they’re having sex, we get it!)
Meanwhile, in a tender little scene Leonard visits Amanda “on behalf of the Church of England” to tell her to stop seeing Sidney. “It must be awful, not being able to love who you want,” he says, part commiseration, part a commentary on his own situation. After last week’s note from the Archdeacon Leonard is courting local spinster Hilary Franklin. The match has already met with Mrs Maguire’s approval, so we might as well just start reading the banns now.
All in all, another busy week. Dallying clergymen, tainted beer, unfaithful coppers and poisoned tea. It’s just not cricket is it?
Aired at 9pm on Sunday 30 April 2017 on ITV.
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