Jun 8, 2022

Grantchester: A Hot, Hip 1950s Vicar with a Grumbling Detective Sidekick and a Gay Assistant

 Grantchester.  Why do British dramas always have three-syllable name titles, like Loudermilk (wait, that's American)?  This one, six seasons long, is set between 1953 and 1958, when a "young vicar"  solves murders in a "quiet English village," sort of like Miss Marple.  He's assisted by a police detective, maybe there will be a bit of buddy-bonding.  Plus, as The Mirror reports, there's a shirtless scene.  This vicar knows his way around a gym!  

Plus the Vicar's curate (like an assistant), Leonard, is gay!  And has a boyfriend, Daniel (who isn't just mentioned, he actually appears in 25 episodes).  The Vicar is fine with it -- yes, there were gay-positive clergy in the 1950s.  So I watched the first episode where the boyfriend appears -- Season 2, Episode 1.

Scene 1
: The family (whose, I don't know) picnicking along the river. Curate Leonard is reading a book (can't make out the title, but not much of gay interest available back then except The City and the Pillar).  Detective Geordie (Robson Green, left) and Vicar Sidney (James Norton, top photo) go swimming, along with a dog named Dickens. Whoa, here's the shirtless scene!  Everyone criticizes Vicar Sidney for not having a girlfriend.  "One day you'll be sad and alone."  "Alright, then, find me a woman."

Scene 2:  Singing "Onward, Christian Soldiers," they return to the vicarage. Uh-oh, Detective Phil is there to arrest Sidney for "sexual assault."  Did they have that crime in England in the 1950s?  Wouldn't it have been rape?

Scene 3: At the police station in London, Chief Inspector Burroughs interrogates Sidney: "Are you married?  Do you have a girlfriend?"   The complaint was made by the father of a teenage parishioner, Abigal Redmond.  According to her diary, Sidney took her to a hotel and forced her to have sex.  Plus Abigal and her diary have now gone missing.  Sidney says "She's lying!", so the Inspector releases him.  That's it? I thought they'd arrest him for murder.

Scene 4:  Vicar Sidney is depressed.  Flashback (I think) to when some teenagers were browsing in the church library.  Abigail complained that a Bible story book left out the naughty bits. She asked Sidney if he had ever had sex with a woman, which upset teenage Gary (Sam Frenchum).  He appears to be mentally challenged.

Detective Geordi reveals him that no one has seen the diary except the father.  Maybe he made the whole thing up!  

Scene 5:
Back at the vicarage, Vicar Sidney gets a visit from Sam (Andrew Knott, left), an old seminary friend sent by the Archdeacon (that is, the Big Boss) to check on the scandal.  I don't know why this is important.

Sidney bursts into the youth group and yells "Where is Abigail?  Is this one of her jokes?"   "She went to the Daniel Marlowe Studio to pick up some photographs." Daniel is the future boyfriend, so he can't be the murderer.

Scene 6:  Night.  The photography studio is deserted, so Geordi and Sidney break in.  A bit extreme, innit?  In the dark room, lots of developing glamour photos of Abby.  A lot of booze scattered around.  And a bottle of turpentine, for some reason (maybe you need it for photography). And her dead body!  She's been strangled!  

While the police take photographs, Sidney flashes back to Abby asking him: "How bad do you have to be before God won't forgive you? And what if you can't forgive yourself?"  When Dad showed up, she cried "Please don't make me go home!"  Aha, an abusive father.  No doubt sexual abuse. This is very modern.  Sexual abuse by a parent was not mentioned in the criminological literature until the 1960s.  The official word was that it never happened.  

Scene 7: Back to the vicarage.  The parents are there, still thinking that Sidney is responsible for Abigail's disappearance.  He rushes inside while Geordie gives them the news. 

Whoops, the Archdeacon is there, too, to assure Sidney that he'll be "presumed innocent." He assigns Sam from Scene 5 to be his watchdog.  

Sidney decides to let Watchdog Sam do the funeral, and Curate Leonard (Al Weaver, left) do the counseling of Abigail's friends. 

Scene 8:   Abigail's Dad also accused Gary (the teenager from Scene 4) of sexual assault, so Detective Geordie and Sidney interview him.  One night he drove her home from youth group.  Dad saw them, and called the police to have him arrested for assault!  But they were just friends.  Geordie doesn't believe that a boy and a girl can be just friends, but Sidney does.

Scene 9: Next they interview Abigail's Mom.  She didn't even know that Abigail kept a diary.  "Maybe it never existed." Dad comes in and yells at Vicar Sidney for "all the things you made her do."  "By the way," Detective Geordie asks, "Why did Abigail keep a chair lodged against her bedroom door, so no one could come in?" 

Scene 10:  Curate Leonard trying to hold a counseling session for Abigail's friends.  He doesn't relate to the kids very well.  Gary asks if he's a pansy.  "It doesn't  matter," Tommy (Alfie Field) exclaims. "We're all going to hell." He specifies "Abigail's in hell," for which Gary punches him in the nose.

When Vicar Sidney intervenes, Tommy explains: "It's my fault she's dead."  He came across her in a "dirty picture book," and knew that Daniel Marlowe took the photos.  So he confronted Daniel, told him that she was just 15, and he "blew his top."  And by the way, Abigail was pregnant.

Scene 11:
The police finally track down Daniel (Oliver Dimsdale) and arrest him.  He asks "A bribe won't be enough this time?", but then they tell him it's for murder!  You'd have to know that in earlier generations, when being gay was illegal, the police often took a bribe in exchange for not arresting you.

I'm out of space, so I'll stop the scene-by-scene there.  But in case you are wondering, the diary is real; the turpentine is an important clue; Daniel Marlowe didn't know that Abigail was 15, and he had nothing to do with her death (or her pregnancy, of course).  There are different people responsible for each.  I guessed one but not the other.

Coming Out: Detective Geordie finds out that Daniel is divorced and has no "ladyfriend," and there was the thing about the bribe.   He concludes that Daniel is a "pansy.": "Once you look, they're everywhere, crawling out of the bloody woodwork." Curate Leonard is listening, but pretends to be reading his book.

Meeting Leonard:  In the penultimate scene, Daniel (cleared of the charge) shows up early at the church, when no one is there but Leonard: "I have a lot to atone for.  I want to be a better man."  Leonard invites him to pray.  The end.  24 episodes to go; I imagine their relationship will blossom.  


  1. Love this show- the two actors playing the vicars are handsome sexy and get to be shirtless

  2. Who is the blond in the last photo?


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