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.
It became clear in last week’s episode that Sidney was desperately in need of career counseling. For whatever reason he chose to enter the clergy, it’s not working out for him. He says as much to the archdeacon (his superior), suggesting that he might be better suited for academia. (I think not.) Instead, the archdeacon advises, “Hold your nerve, hold a steady course.” Excellent advice for an officer in the Royal Navy. How helpful it is for a man of the cloth, I can’t say.
Leonard the curate, ever the genuine voice of reason and compassion in Grantchester, tries to help, but Sidney pushes him away. Likewise Hildegard, who patiently accepts Sidney standing her up for a date and remains warm for his form. Mrs. Maguire, the housekeeper, who was skeptical about Sidney at the start, has—without explanation—become his staunchest protector.
Then there’s Inspector Geordie Keating, Sidney’s chief sounding board. He’s on the receiving end of another round of Sidney’s whining and clearly losing patience, when someone bursts into Geordie’s office to say that a uniformed police officer has been shot.
Sidney and Geordie race to the scene of the crime. Moments later, they’re on the trail of the killer, poking around a factory, when…
…something awful occurs.
Sidney is about to learn that playing cops and robbers has consequences. (“Learn” being a relative term; Sidney has not shown himself to be an eager learner.)
What follows is a breathless 45 minutes or so involving an unnecessarily cryptic clue, traumatized veterans, spousal abuse, and shady real estate development deals. And that’s not even taking into account Sidney instigating or participating in one unethical or illegal act after another until he finally stumbles upon the murderer.
We learn the whole story behind what’s causing his nightmares. We see him make a complete fool of himself in front of Amanda’s family and friends. We witness the next step in his relationship with Hildegard.
Best of all, we hear him called an “arrogant little sod” by Chief Inspector Benson (played by David Troughton, whom you might recognize as a major baddie from the series New Tricks).
When Grantchester began, I never thought I’d say this, but now I agree with the chief inspector. If we’re to go forward—and we are; Grantchester has been renewed for a second series and scriptwriter Daisy Coulam has started working on new episodes—Sidney needs to take stock of himself in a sincere and constructive manner to decide what he wants to be. Right now, he is pretty arrogant and unlikable.
Similarly, the series itself needs to decide what it wants to be. It’s not the Midsomer-style village mystery series it seemed at the start. Yet it’s not realistic enough to be believed as a procedural or a historical. (I’d use Foyle’s War as a benchmark.) Unfortunately, Grantchester also has departed irretrievably from the tone, spirit, and character arcs of James Runcie’s books.
Episode 6 is entirely original, conceived by Coulam, whose main gig since 2007 has been writing for the soap opera EastEnders. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love, love, LOVE EastEnders, and have since it came to the U.S. in 1988. Still, I wonder whether the soap sensibility is what’s called for when dramatizing traditional, historical mysteries. When an interviewer asked Coulam how much she relied on the advice of the consultants available to the series, she said, “We tried not to be too hemmed in by the research. Sometimes, if it’s a good story, then you should do it.”
Message received. Best not to be a stickler for detail and accuracy. Accept that something about Amanda makes her appealing, that Sidney has some facility for serving his parishioners, and that Geordie and the Cambridgeshire police aren’t as ineffective as they might appear (and that finding a list of a factory’s employees while you’re in the offices of the factory really is tough to do). Then wait to find out what they get up to in Series 2 next year.
Leslie Gilbert Elmanis 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.