DVD Review: GRANTCHESTER, Season 4 (PBS)

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by Dale Reynolds on September 15, 2019

in CD-DVD,Film

A CHANGE OF FAITH

Well, apparently there will be a Season 5 of Grantchester, a safe but superbly made series about a local parish priest in the fictionalized version of a real rural community in the southeast of England, just south of Cambridge. This season, number 4, is set in 1956, continuing its gentle ride of a progressive Church of England clergyman, Sydney Chambers (James Norton), who works with a more hide-bound, older police detective, Geordie Keating (Robson Green), in solving crimes in the quiet area.

When it was decided to produce a fourth season of the hit show, Norton made the decision to quit half-way through the six episodes. With more opportunities beckoning — there are even rumors he could be the next James Bond — Norton decided it was time to move on from Grantchester. “It felt like it would be better to hand over the baton to someone else and give Grantchester a fresh injection of energy,” Norton had said. He was replaced by a slightly younger actor to play the rector, who is named Will Davenport: Tom Brittney, blandly handsome, as tall as Sydney, more athletic, and just as gentle.

But Norton had already proven his artistic work, brilliantly playing a psychotic serial killer in Happy Valley for a dozen episodes. This contrast with the friendly and intelligent cleric exhibits his superb acting, and undoubtedly he’ll go on to larger venues. Coupled with the same standard of acting demonstrated by Green’s work in other successful series (Touching Evil, Being Human, Wire in the Blood) allows these two men to demonstrate the kind of kindred souls who can egg one another to be their best. (Not that this series, as delightful as it is, doesn’t demand excessive outbursts to prove their value.)

Grantchester is the kind of tender and moderate television that doesn’t emphasize swearing or sex or even violence, not unlike Father Brown, another mild church/police cooperation hit series, which doesn’t ask much forbearance of its viewership.

But here in series four, Sydney is having a crisis of faith and duty, forcing his supporters to bring in some higher authority to set him right (in the eyes of the Church, not us). So the storylines include an African-American contingency that is raising funds for the American civil rights fight. The leader and father-figure, Reverend Todd (Patterson Joseph), his soon-to-be martyred son and his beautiful daughter, Violet (Simona Brown), all contribute to why our Sydney leaves Great Britain (and the series).

The supporting cast are up to snuff, with middle-aged housekeeper, Mrs. Maguire (Tessa Peake-Jones), wanting to quit when she learns of the other cleric’s homosexual relationship with an avowed atheist. Al Weaver plays his Leonard as fearful and self-hating, but with his partner, Daniel Marlowe (Oliver Dimsdale), caring and protective. And, despite the period’s disgraceful homophobia, and the loving interracial relationship seeming to scandalize the community, the writing, directing and period look of the series is very striking.

Brittney doesn’t exhibit much personality; hopefully he’ll grow into his character, letting us see how men-of-faith can be human as well.

Grantchester (Season 4)
PBS/ITV Masterpiece Mystery!
2 discs, 4 episodes | 360 minutes | no rating
released July 30, 2019
available on Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming at PBS and Amazon

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