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Showing posts tagged: Grantchester click to see more stuff tagged with Grantchester
Jul 31 2017 11:00am

Grantchester 3.06: Episode Review

We conclude this series of Grantchester with preparations for a wedding, although maybe not the wedding you were expecting. It’s Mrs. Maguire (Tessa Peake-Jones) preparing to walk down the aisle with her gentleman friend Jack Chapman (Nick Brimble). Now that her ne’er-do-well husband Ronnie is dead and out of the way, she’s free to wed—although you might wonder why she’d bother. Marriages don’t work out well in Grantchester.

Which brings us to the giant, honking elephant-in-the-room of a question hanging overhead from last week’s episode: What is Sidney (James Norton) going to do about Amanda (Morven Christie)?

She’d given him an ultimatum: choose her or the church. He’s mulling it over. (Sidney’s “dog collar” is chafing. Is that a sign?)

Happily, he’s not resorting to alcohol for comfort as he’s done in seasons past. So, that’s something. This is, however, a situation that’s impossible to resolve to everyone’s satisfaction, and it’s hard to know which route the writers will choose to pursue. In fact, it’s a mystery.

[What’s a mystery?]

Jul 24 2017 10:00am

Grantchester 3.05: Episode Review

Sidney’s in civvies. The hunky vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton) has gone AWOL from Grantchester and his duty to his parishioners, not to mention his budding love affair with Amanda (Morven Christie). He’s in the hinterlands, thumbing rides, heading north, bound for Lincolnshire but making a stop at someplace called Larkview Farm to see—of all people—the ne’er-do-well Ronnie Maguire (Charlie Higdon).

This leg of Sidney’s self-styled walkabout is a mission of mercy. 

As you’ll recall, Ronnie capped off his unexpected arrival in Grantchester by stealing Mrs. Maguire’s life savings and disappearing into the night. Sidney intends to recover what Ronnie stole. 

How does Sidney know where to find Ronnie? That’s unclear. (It’s rarely clear how or why Sidney knows what he knows.) Nevertheless, find Ronnie he does in a Romani community where Ronnie has been hiding out for a good ten years. 

Sidney arrives demanding money and expecting Ronnie to obey. Ronnie’s new friends and neighbors have other ideas.

[What doesn’t Sidney know?]

Jul 17 2017 10:00am

Grantchester 3.04: Episode Review

“Temptation is the source of all suffering,” Sidney Chambers (James Norton) tells his parishioners in his Sunday sermon.

Well, if that’s true, the hunky vicar must be suffering mightily. He’s never been a guy who could resist temptation. In fact, there she is, in the pews, rolling her eyes and smirking. Yes, it’s a little late for Sidney to be having a crisis of conscience about weak flesh and all. Amanda (Morven Christie) is now a fact of his life in Grantchester, for better or worse. Presumably, we’ll get to the richer or poorer later.

Grantchester is prone to veering off into extensive explorations of the characters’ assorted personal dilemmas, forgetting that it’s billed as a mystery. This episode is one of those instances. So, while we do have a dead body and an investigation to determine how it got that way, most of this hour will be spent on other things. 

[Like we said, for better or worse…]

Jul 10 2017 12:00pm

Grantchester 3.03: Episode Review

There’s not much in the sleepy village of Grantchester that’s likely to set one’s pulse racing. Hearing a spirited debate about whether to have bingo in the church hall? Watching hunky vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton) out for his morning run? That pretty much covers it, and both of these things happen before we’re five minutes into this episode.

No one could have predicted armed robbery at the post office, but that’s what happens next. 

Gentle Leonard Finch (Al Weaver) and his friend Hilary Franklin (Emily Bevan) just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time: the post office on the day pensions are paid out and the coffers are full. They didn’t know, of course. They merely went in to pick up a gift Hilary ordered for Leonard all the way from America.

The robber, on the other hand, knew very well what he’d find in the till. This is a premeditated crime if ever there was one. But when the gasmask-wearing hoodlum pistol-whips sweet Leonard Finch … well, that’s something we simply will not tolerate!

With each passing episode of Grantchester, we run lower and lower on good guys. Leave us Leonard at least.

[Take the money and run, already…]

Jul 3 2017 11:00am

Grantchester 3.02: Episode Review

Nothing says cozy English country village quite like a cricket match on a summer afternoon. Men in white flannels cavorting on the green pitch. Women arranging cakes and sandwiches at the buffet. An adorable pup scampering about.

That’s how we begin this episode of Grantchester. Sidney Chambers (James Norton) has traded his usual vicar’s black for cricket whites. Dickens the pup is up to mischief on the sidelines. Amanda (Morven Christie) and Mrs. Maguire (Tessa Peake-Jones) are looking fresh as the morning. Even the curate Leonard Finch (Al Weaver) is pitching in as the umpire. “He’s very assertive,” gushes Hilary Franklin (Emily Bevan), who took a shine to Leonard in the previous episode. (She might have set her cap for the wrong fellow, but we’ll see how that plays out.)

It all just perfect … too perfect to be real. Indeed, scratch the surface of this slice of English summer day, and you’ll find it’s not as idyllic as it appears.

[Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Rather not…]

Jun 26 2017 12:00pm

Grantchester 3.01: Episode Review

You might recall that the former archdeacon in Grantchester left under a cloud of “embarrassment” last season. That’s the politest way to describe what occurred. Suffice it to say no one misses him, and his departure means that, this season, Sidney Chambers (James Norton) has a new boss. 

Gabriel Atubo (Gary Beadle, whom you might recognize from EastEnders, The Interceptor, or possibly even Absolutely Fabulous) is the new archdeacon in town. It’s hard to know what’s on his agenda, but it’s a safe bet that he’ll present a new set of problems for Sidney. To start, he pointedly “hopes” he can count on Sidney to lead by example. That’s tough for Sidney when there’s jazz, whiskey, swing dancing, Amanda (Morven Christie), and all the temptations of secular life that make it inconvenient to be a vicar.

Even more discouraging, Atubo seems ready to make life uncomfortable for gentle, good-hearted curate Leonard Finch (Al Weaver), and that would be intolerable. As the list of characters behaving badly grows with each episode, Leonard remains the beacon of decency in Grantchester. What he needs is a shot of self-confidence, not a judgmental superior watching his every move. (Back off, Gabriel.)

Regarding “The Situation” that caused such consternation in the previous episode: she’s now a cuddly, baby girl named Grace, Amanda’s child with her estranged husband. And though Sidney and Amanda are edging toward playing Happy Families, circumstances make a full-fledged relationship impossible. 

“You can’t be a vicar and be with her,” says Mrs. Maguire (Tessa Peake-Jones). “You can’t marry a divorced woman and that’s the truth of it.”

[The truth hurts…]

Jun 19 2017 11:00am

Grantchester 3.00: Christmas Special Episode Review

Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy … Grantchester has returned. And this episode, which aired in the U.K. last December, opens with a rehearsal for a Christmas pageant. Thus, the aforementioned tidings.

In the past, I’ve been harsh with hunky vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton) and his pals, which has distressed fans of the series. So, in the spirit of the season—Season 3, if you’re counting—I will endeavor to review these episodes charitably. 

Everyone’s preparing for Christmas 1954. Sidney and the curate Leonard Finch (Al Weaver) struggle with the lights for the tree. Mrs. Maguire (Tessa Peake-Jones) is baking up a storm. Cathy Keating (Kacey Ainsworth) has her eye on a telly for the family, but Geordie (Robson Green) vetoes the idea. And isn’t Dickens the puppy a big, handsome boy now?

Yet casting a shadow over the holiday preparations is a certain elephant in the room, which everyone chooses to call “The Situation.” (You can hear the capital letters whenever it’s mentioned.)

[There is freedom only in a situation…]

May 22 2017 11:00am

Review: Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love by James Runcie

Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love by James Runcie is the 6th and final installment in the Grantchester Mystery series (available May 23, 2017).

Part-time sleuth and full-time priest, Sidney Chambers, is enjoying a beautiful May in 1971. Unfortunately, a peaceful walk gathering flowers with his young daughter, Anna, is ruined when the family discovers a dead body.

Although it was possible the man had died from natural causes, and there was probably a good enough reason for the plants he had been gathering, Sidney could not help but brood on the nature of fate, the chance of discovery and the possible sequence of events that had led up to that moment. He went to his study where he began to pray, seeking some kind of guidance, the beginning of understanding. Was it a sin to be so suspicious so frequently, or was he using the natural intuition that God had given him? Was his role as an accidental detective making him less loving and less effective as a priest?

[Read Angie Barry's review of Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love...]

May 2 2016 12:00pm

Grantchester 2.06: Episode Review

It’s the last episode of Series 2, and we’re still dealing with the fallout from Gary Bell killing Abigail Redmond in Episode 1.

Gary was executed for Abigail’s murder, and hunky vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton) hasn’t quite gotten over it. He’s drinking to excess, hanging on past last call at the pub, and dribbling communion wine down his chin in church. Heavens!

He also beat the dickens out of Geordie Keating (Robson Green), because that’s what you do when your best friend disagrees with you. At least that’s what you do when you’re Sidney Chambers.

For it is Sidney’s god-given talent to crap all over his nearest and dearest and never apologize for it. That includes everything from pummeling Geordie to drunkenly, sloppily groping a barmaid to neglecting to visit Gary Bell’s mother in her time of grief. And, for the parents of the murdered girl, he has no time or sympathy at all.

Sour Mrs. Maguire (Tessa Peake-Jones) visits Geordie and takes note of his battered face. Geordie tells her he wants an apology from Sidney—a reasonable person might figure he deserves one. Mrs. M is not, strictly speaking, a reasonable person.

“Your pride’s dented. Don’t pretend it’s anything else,” Mrs. Maguire replies in her own inimitable style of compassion. After all, Sidney is the one who deserves everyone’s attention and sympathy. “He’s lost. And we’re all lost without him,” she tells Geordie.

[What doth every sin deserve...]

Apr 25 2016 1:00pm

Grantchester 2.05: Episode Review

Amanda (Morven Christie) has thrown herself into Sidney’s campaign to have Gary Bell released from prison. She’s calling in favors from her rich, influential friends. She’s meeting Sidney in a tea shop and ordering his tea with not too much milk, just the way he likes it. She’s talking about hope.

Sidney (James Norton), looking all puppy-dog-in-the-rain, is smitten all over again.

In Episode 4, Amanda announced she’s pregnant. In this episode, nothing is mentioned about her pregnancy. At least she’s drinking tea and not martinis.

Gary Bell, as far as we know, did indeed kill the girl he’s been convicted of killing. Sidney visits him, bearing packets of cigarettes that Gary eagerly tears open to retrieve the trading cards inside them, ’cause Gary’s just a dopey kid really.

Sidney thinks Gary should have been acquitted because he didn’t mean to kill the girl. It just, you know, sort of happened when he held her down and poured turpentine down her throat. And anyway, she asked him to. Gah!

You can decide whether Sidney has the right idea.

[Blessed are the stupid...]

Apr 18 2016 12:30pm

Grantchester 2.04: Episode Review

Grantchester Season 2 Episode 4 Review

We’re back to the Gary Bell story from Episode 1, in which Gary is on trial for murder and Sidney plans to testify in Gary’s defense. “Tell the truth,” Sidney advises him. “Have faith, the jury will believe you.”

Is it a spoiler to remind ourselves that Sidney’s advice isn’t always  or should I say, isn’t ever  spot on?


We’ve seen enough Grantchester to know that Canon Sidney Chambers (James Norton) is no paragon of wisdom, judgment, or virtue. But he’s hunky and sometimes he takes his shirt off. Alas, in this episode he doesn’t take his shirt off. (Now that is a spoiler, and I apologize for it.)

The mystery portion of our program, which becomes less of a focus with each passing week, involves a parishioner named Reggie Lawson who believes he’s being haunted by his ex-wife’s ghost. Sidney encounters Reggie at her grave in the churchyard. Reggie asks Sidney to perform an exorcism at his home to lay her spirit to rest.

[Oy gevalt!]

Apr 11 2016 9:15am

Grantchester 2.03: Episode Review

Things between Sidney Chambers (James Norton) and Margaret Ward (Seline Hizli) have progressed to the point where they’re kissing in front of the parishioners. Has the Hunky Vicar taken a step in the right direction at last?

Mrs. Maguire the housekeeper doesn’t think so. She thinks Margaret is disrespectful.

“She calls me Sylvia!” says Mrs. M.

Well, you call the vicar Sidney, say I. What do you expect?

And anyway, we’re not here for a soap opera. At least I’m not. I’m here for a mystery. It begins as soon as Sidney enters his church to find a young man sitting in a pew weeping, his hands covered with blood.

Poor distraught Theo Graham confesses that he murdered his landlord, cutting him from here to there with a straight razor. Thus the blood. Only when Sidney goes to investigate (because Sidney investigates stuff), he finds the landlord very much alive.

[Good Lord, deliver us...]

Apr 4 2016 1:00pm

Grantchester 2.02: Episode Review

If your TV series is set anywhere in the vicinity of Cambridge in the 1950s, the story will eventually turn to Soviet spies. Real-life agents Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, who were recruited to Cambridge and fled to the Soviet Union in 1951, made that link indelible.

The real village of Grantchester is walking distance to Cambridge. Thus, this week on the TV series Grantchester, fictional hunky vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton) is up to his clerical collar in Soviet espionage.

It starts with a climbing accident and the death of an academic named Valentine Lyall. Only Lyall wasn’t scaling mountains, he was climbing one of the towers of King’s College Chapel at night—a thing Cambridge guys did (do?) for fun. And he fell. Or he jumped. Or something more complicated than that.

[Let’s go with the last one...]

Mar 29 2016 9:30am

Grantchester 2.01: Episode Review

The first words are “What the Dickens?” uttered by the curmudgeonly housekeeper Mrs. Maguire. Seconds later, Sidney Chambers (James Norton) strips down to swimming trunks, lest we’d forgotten he’s the Hunky Vicar. His BFF, Geordie Keating (Robson Green), also in trunks and less hunky only by comparison, gets all theosophical wondering why God chose to make Eve from a rib and not, say, a toe.

Then the two of them dive into a pond on a lovely summer’s day...and we dive into Series 2 of Grantchester on Masterpiece Mystery.

The idyllic picnic scene doesn’t last long, though. Before you can say Holy Communion, Sidney’s accused of breaking a few commandments with an underage parishioner whose father wants to tear him apart.

Apparently, being a vicar who inspires fervent devotion from all and sundry has its drawbacks.

[Have we mentioned the vicar’s hunky?]

Feb 23 2015 11:00am

Grantchester: Season Finale 1.06

One of you is going to make a wonderful priest. Leonard (Al Weaver) and Sidney (James Norton).

An invitation to Amanda’s wedding has arrived, triggering a fresh chorus of the blues for Sidney. He recollects their history together,  starting with a chance meeting four years earlier at the National Gallery, where Amanda works as an art restorer. “I’m never getting married,” she tells him, spiritedly, “I’m going to become wild and eccentric and full of opinion.” She promises to give Sidney veto power over anyone her father chooses to be her husband.

Fast forward to Sidney at the vicarage, Amanda’s wedding invitation in hand. So much for wildness, eccentricity, opinion, and veto power.

For Sidney, Amanda is the one that got away. Never mind if we don’t think that’s much of a loss. Never mind that Sidney has plenty of women ready and waiting to become Mrs. Canon Sidney Chambers. (“They fall at your feet,” Geordie says.)

Sidney is glum.

When Sidney is glum, Sidney drinks.

When Sidney drinks, he doesn’t know when to stop drinking.

When Sidney doesn’t know when to stop drinking, either he embarrasses himself or bad things happen to the people around him. Or both.

[Won’t you PLEASE have a cup of tea, Vicar...]

Feb 16 2015 1:30pm

Grantchester 1.05

A drink, a dance, a dead body. Sidney and Amanda (James Norton and Morven Christie).

Sidney and Geordie are off to the big city for a harmless night out, or at least as harmless as a night in a 1950s jazz club in London can be.

For a clergyman from Cambridgeshire, Canon Sidney Chambers (James Norton) spends shockingly few “harmless” nights. Crime seems to follow him around, and it goes without saying that crime is part of the job for Sidney’s best friend and drinking buddy, Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green). No surprise, then, that their night of jazz and whiskey is upended by murder.

More of a surprise, perhaps, is Amanda (Morven Christie) who walks into the club not long after Sidney and Geordie arrive. Very cozy, or very awkward depending on how you look at it. Despite the fact that Amanda is engaged to someone else and Sidney’s taken up with a new gal, Sidney remains smitten with Amanda and she plays him like a violin (or, since we’re being all hip and jazzy, a stand-up bass).

Much drinking and dancing ensue. You can fairly see the stars twinkling in their eyes. Nothing could make this night more exciting except...a murder.

[Let’s remember why we’re here...]

Feb 9 2015 11:30am

Grantchester 1.04

James Norton as Sidney Chambers in Grantchester Episode 4.

Our hero, Canon Sidney Chambers (James Norton) begins this episode by rescuing a woman from a burning building. He does this in his pajamas, thanks to Dickens, his faithful puppy sidekick, waking Sidney from a sound sleep by barking an alarm. All in a day’s work for Clergy-man.

Soon after, while Sidney delivers a sermon about being thankful for blessings large and small, who should saunter in but Hildegard Staunton (Pheline Roggan), the German widow from Episode 1. She’s wearing a fetching expression not quite appropriate for Sunday morning at church, and Sidney suddenly finds he has more to be thankful for.

Then it’s back to the scene of the fire, whose origin is a bit sketchy. The homeowners, Dominic and Marion Taylor, claim it was started by “ashes in the grate.” Sidney suspects there’s more to it than that, and Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green) concurs. How much more, they can’t begin to imagine. And, frankly, neither can we.

[Where there’s smoke, there’s a liar...]

Feb 2 2015 6:00pm

Grantchester 1.03

When your protagonist is a clergyman, you can expect he’ll be wading waist-deep into ethical dilemmas. This week’s episode of Grantchester on Masterpiece Mystery presents just such a case. Based on the story “First, Do No Harm” in Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie, it explores the age-old question of whether it’s ever appropriate to do the wrong thing for the right reason.

At its most benign, the question might apply to the little white lies we tell to protect someone’s feelings or to shield our own. But...

“If one does something wrong for the greater good, isn’t it a slippery slope? Where does one stop?” asks Leonard Finch (Al Weaver) the new curate at Grantchester.

“It’s a gray area, Leonard,” Sidney Chambers replies.

Canon Sidney Chambers (James Norton) wrestles with gray areas every day of his life. As a clergyman, he’s bound to uphold the commandments. Yet, as a soldier during World War II, he killed enemy soldiers. Killing is a pretty big violation of life’s ground rules. How then, do you reconcile killing for a very good reason? And who decides what that “very good reason” might be?

[Talk about your life or death decisions...]

Jan 26 2015 12:00pm

Grantchester 1.02

In Episode 2, Sidney goes to a dinner party with snobs and we begin to depart rather significantly from the stories on which Grantchester is based.

The inspiration for this episode is “A Question of Trust” from the collection called Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie. It wasn’t a murder mystery, but it is now. Sidney didn’t have the beginnings of a drinking problem, but he does now. Sidney’s sister Jennifer wasn’t a victim of mean girl bullying, but she is now.

Dramatic tension is ramping up all around. Emotional conflict is trumping some of the sweetness and subtlety of both the first episode and the original stories. I’m not convinced the shift is necessary, but no one asked me.

Plus, we don’t see nearly enough of Dickens the puppy. That’s something we all can agree needs to be rectified in future episodes.

[You gave me a puppy, now you’re taking him away?]