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.
Lyall’s Burmese widow thinks the story doesn’t add up. He was happy—they were happy. They had a child. They found “nirvana.” Her expressions of grief, in Burmese, at the crime scene agitate Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green) to such an extent that he whacks her across the mouth. (Geordie has some unresolved issues with Burma, apparently.) Nevertheless, he concurs that a 46-year-old family man like Valentine Lyall was too old for hijinks like climbing the chapel towers.
So even though Geordie’s boss, Chief Inspector Benson (David Troughton), tells him that he has a guy who fell from the roof with no one pressing him for a better explanation, and to “just write it up and move on,” Geordie’s like a dog with a bone about the whole thing. (But not a cute dog, like Dickens the puppy.)
Sidney, who can’t let go of anything ever, nips at Geordie’s heels as they dash through Cambridge pursuing what Sidney insists on calling “the case.” (Like he’s the missing member of the gang from Scooby-Doo.)
“What is your role here anyway? Has the clergy extended its remit, or are you just sticking your nose where you shouldn’t again?” asks the master of Corpus Christi College, whose alumni includes one Sidney Chambers. The master remembers and dislikes the hunky vicar from Sidney’s student days—dislikes him with good reason, it turns out.
His question is a fine one, since, reviewing “the case” objectively, there’s no earthly reason why Sidney should be involved in any of this. There’s no reason why Sidney should be in the room when a Russian literature professor and his student visit Geordie to provide evidence. And heaven knows there’s no reason why Sidney should wind up interrogating them.
As always, the Grantchester dynamic beggars belief.
And speaking of dynamic…
Margaret Ward (Seline Hizli), she of the cinch belt, is the sassy new secretary in Geordie’s office. She’s a smarty, who endures the requisite amount of sexual harassment from the lads and has a soft spot for Sidney. She could make mincemeat of the tiresome Amanda (Morven Christie)—and I so wish she would.
Amanda’s back, you see, making it excruciatingly clear that she’s unhappy in her marriage. (Raise your hand if you’re surprised. Right. Didn’t think so.) It’s so obvious, even Sidney might have twigged that something’s amiss with Mrs. Hopkins née Kendall. Grumpy housekeeper Mrs. Maguire (Tessa Peake-Jones) can’t be bothered to hide her contempt for Amanda. Neither can I.
There’s some carryover from Episode 1. Gary Bell is still in jail awaiting trial for murder, and his mother is being cut dead, figuratively, by nearly everyone in town. Since none of that is resolved in this episode, I expect it will continue to carry over to future episodes…which continue next week.
Leslie Gilbert Elman is the author of Weird But True: 200 Astounding, Outrageous, and Totally Off the Wall Facts. Follow her on Twitter @leslieelman.
Read all of Leslie Gilbert Elman’s posts for Criminal Element.