Fans of ‘Grantchester’, of which there are many, will have noticed a distinct downturn in the mood of this tranquil village.
While the first series last year was all about picnic baskets, wobbly bicycle rides, champagne corks being popped and the odd murder being investigated in 1950s Cambridgeshire, this year has seen a palpable change in tone, with every main character thoroughly sad and contemplative.
While there have been other plotlines along the way, the central storyline throughout this series has been the trial of Gary Bell for murder, after he tried to help his friend commit a DIY abortion.
This case has highlighted the differences between James Norton’s vicar Sidney Chambers, and Robson Green’s weary detective Geordie. Both characters believe in redemption, but with the punishment of death penalty still hanging over murder convicts, the stakes are high, and Sidney’s need for mercy has clashed with Geordie’s need for justice.
This is no small matter for what looks, at first sight, like a genteel, mid-week period drama, but James Norton and Robson Green have both cranked up the intensity of their performances to bring us something quite thought-provoking, despite their bucolic surroundings. Throughout this series, there have been some dark nights of the soul for both characters, with their friendship tested and lots of whiskey drunk, often alone.
Similarly, Sidney’s enduring love for his old flame Amanda has brought us a sadder storyline than the glamour of her perfect makeup and beautiful outfits would suggest. Trapped in a loveless marriage, expecting a child with a man who treats her unkindly, Morven Christie’s performance has also brought out the frustrations of the period, when women could live in perfect houses, in perfect misery.
Add to this the fears of Sidney’s closeted curate Leonard, a man unable to enjoy his blossoming romance for fear of reprisals, and housekeeper Mrs Maguire’s hints at an enduring discontent, and there’s an awful lot of unrest to calm in the two episodes remaining. Suddenly, those happy picnics by the Cam seem a long time ago...
'Grantchester' Episode 5 is on ITV tonight at 9pm.