‘Grantchester’ Season/Series 1, Episode 3: Grey areas of life

“Don’t feel obliged to say yes,” Guy Hopkins asks Sidney Chambers. The man who is to marry Amanda, the woman that Sidney Chambers loves and who loves him, is blithely unaware of the awkwardness of the situation.

“It would be my honor,” Sidney (James Norton), of course, lies. Yet we later learn this is his standard answer as a vicar. One can’t always tell the truth, even as a man of God it seems and on Masterpiece Mystery!: “Grantchester” Episode 3 which premieres Sunday, 1 February 2015 (Check local listings), those little white lies and the grey areas of real life are the theme. The episode will be available VoD thereafter.

“Marriage,” Sidney continues,  “is not something to be taken lightly.” And the death of hope isn’t either. After being emotionally bludgeoned with Guy Hopkins’ “entitled ease,” Sidney spends the night listening to jazz and drinking hard liquor as he gazes at a photo of him and Amanda (Morven Christie). Surely he was thinking of what could have been, if he had asked her to runaway sooner, if he had been rich, if she had been like Lady Sybil Crawley in another era and another TV series.

Sidney awakens the next morning at the desk, attempting to hide the bottle from the all-seeing Mrs. Maguire (Tessa Peake-Jones).  “This cannot go on Mr. Chambers,” she sternly tells him. Sidney has forgotten that the new cleric, the shy but earnest Leonard was arriving today by bus. On his rickety bicycle, Sidney makes it to the bus stop just in time to meet Leonard.

You remember Leonard Finch from the last episode? He was announced as a homosexual by one of Amanda’s old friends, a frenemy of Sidney’s sister. The last episode shows us definite flaws in the character of the handsome and jovial Guy Hopkins and the relative innocence of Leonard who, as he aided Sidney and Geordie in their investigation, broke one of those Ten Commandments.

Sidney viewed life as a vicar as being quiet and reflective. Mrs. Maguire tells him, “You’re to keep your room tidy, and clean up after yourself,” and then she adds, “Don’t go getting yourself involved…crime, women, drinking, we’ve had enough of it.” Mrs. Maguire doesn’t know it is already too late and that already events have been set into motion to involve Sidney in another murder.

Sidney meets with a new pair of “hand holders.” The couple, Isabel Livingstone (Lucy Black) and Arthur Evans (Kieran O’Brien),  seem troubled. We can’t be sure that the bride is totally willing, but we learn that her mother isn’t thrilled about this match.

Sidney goes to meet the bedridden mother, Daisy Livingstone (Jean Marsh). She’s not a kind woman and is a bit prickly toward Sidney, complaining that, “It’s your job to meddle…this blind acceptance” is something Daisy doesn’t find put any stock in.

“It’s called faith.” Sidney tells her and he continues, “Your daughter’s in love.”

“They are not getting married,” she insists and adds, “Arthur Evans, he’s trying to do me in.”

When Daisy Livingstone (Jean Marsh) dies and she’s quickly cremated, Sidney is concerned, especially when he realizes that Daisy wanted to be buried under a specific oak tree and had left a written request with the church. Geordie and Sidney are too late to prevent the cremation and are disgusted with the initial death certification by the doctor.

At the local pub,  Sidney still meets with Geordie even though he has given up drinking, much to Geordie’s disgust.

Geordie tells him, “It’s a wife you need, not a dog.”  Unlike Geordie, some of us are of the opinion that dogs are better than humans, and Dickens, Sidney’s black lab is still a pup and very cute. We actually don’t see enough of him.

“A dog is all that I was offered, unfortunately,” Sidney replies. But there is someone–that German widow has written a letter to Sidney. Sidney thinks, “Too soon, Geordie, and, in a way, too late.”

“People always find excuses. Sometimes it’s better to get on with it,” Geordie advises. Geordie who, if you’ll remember, doesn’t believe in God, apparently does believe in love. Indirectly, Geordie gives guidance both to Sidney and Leonard, although he continues to have suspicions about Leonard’s sexuality.

While Daisy’s death was suspicious, her sister’s death is more so. Daisy hated her sister, Gladys Sheppard (Isla Blair), and yet left her everything, bypassing her own daughter, Isabel.

Suspicion falls upon Isabel and then Arthur, but Arthur skips town, stealing what little money and jewelry Isabel had and leaving Isabel embittered. Arthur is not a good man. Daisy was right but Arthur wants Sidney to let Isabel know that it wasn’t all an act as if that would be a comfort to a woman being dumped by a guy who meant to rob her as he had robbed to many others before.

“Tell me Mister Chambers,” Isabel asks, “what do you know of love?”

Yet one of the items stolen had a fingerprint on it and it doesn’t belong to Arthur. Because Sidney had been at both services for Daisy and her sister Gladys, he observed a mysterious man, a man who knew both women when they were young when they were called Snow White and Rose Red, when Daisy was a wild girl.

Mrs. Maguire knew them.Jack (Nick Brimble) comes to meet Sidney.

“I wasn’t looking for a family, not then,” Jack confesses.

“You were just a boy, Jack,” says Mrs. Maguire.

“I wanted to see the world,” Jack says.

More about Jack, I won’t tell you, but I will tell you about poor Leonard. He’s failed by Sidney who was too busy to go over Leonard’s first Sunday sermon. He tells Leonard it was pithy, but pitiful is more like it. Leonard doesn’t find serenity or time for quiet reflection. He confesses to Sidney, “I wasn’t prepared for the constant knocking…I wasn’t prepared for death.”

“It’s life we deal in Leonard: the good the bad all the grey areas in between,” Sidney tells him.

Those gray areas bother Leonard; he ready to bolt but we next see him reading “Crime and Punishment” at the pub. Geordie asks him about it and Leonard describes it as asking “can something which is not virtuous, ever be truly justified.”

That along with the knowledge that Gladys died from potassium chloride poisoning make Sidney have a revelation about that when people die certain world collide.

Here’s the spoiler, this is about mercy and not greed, avarice or jealousy. The murderer confesses, “I have never seen God at the bedside of someone in agonizing pain.”

That leaves Sidney to ask Geordie, “Do you believe there’s ever justification for killing?…What about war?”

“War’s different,” Geordie replies, but we know Sidney is still troubled by his memories of war–the killing and death. We suspect that Geordie is as well. Sidney decides that despite his feelings, he will conduct Amanda’s wedding.

In the end, Leonard sums up the moral of this episode saying “by a lie a man annilates his dignity.” Then he adds, “who amongst can say we haven’t lied with good reason?” We think about Amanda who is about to enter into a lie known as a socially acceptable marriage despite knowing examples of women before her who found nothing but emptiness in the large mansions and walked out. We think about Sidney who pretends to be delighted at a wedding that is crushing his very soul. We think of Leonard who is denying himself. We think of both Sidney and Leonard who had committed offenses–legal and moral, in the name of criminal investigations.

The last episode was about hope and love. This episode is about the grey areas of life and moving on despite heartache, something that Daisy and her daughter both knew, but does anyone really want to end life alone and prickly?

Masterpiece Mystery!: “Grantchester” Episode 3 which premieres Sunday, 1 February 2015 (Check local listings). After the initial broadcast, “Grantchester” episodes will be available VoD on the PBS website.

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