‘Grantchester’ Season/Series 1, Episode 4: Fathers, sons, gay men and reconciliation

“Funny how a man can be murdered and all anyone’s worried about is his private life,” Sidney Chambers comments during a murder investigation that finds Sidney and Geordie at odds and the two women in Sidney’s romantic life meeting. There are no fireworks between Amanda and Hildegarde but some between Sidney and Geordie in “Grantchester” Season/Series 1, Episode 4.

Fire is the motif for this episode. At first a forest fire. We see a man getting out of a tank. We’re back in World War II. Sidney is smoking a cigarette and chatting with another handsome young man. The other man complains, “I never know how to end.” The men are looking at the dead bodies of fallen German soldiers, hoping for watches, but finding only broken ones.

Yet we know that Sidney doesn’t have quite that problem. Sidney admits, “I never know how to start.” Shots ring out. Soldiers duck, but the other man stands, unable to react. More shots are fired and a dog barks.

Sidney awakens to his dog, Dickens, barking. He tells Dickens to be quiet but sees smoke billowing not that far away in the direction that Dickens is looking.

Leonard calls the fire department.

Running out in his pajamas, toward the fire, Sidney finds Dominic Taylor (Lee Williams) outside, but what about his wife?

Dominic grabs a man by his collar and asks him, Tobias Hall (Struan Rodger), “What have you done?” His wife Marian (Flora Montgomery) is in a room, seeming dazed and Sidney has practically carry her out after another person, Ben,  breaks a window with a chair.

Mrs. Maguire angrily calls Sidney, “You stupid man, stupid, stupid man.” You see with Sidney and Leonard running out and Mrs. Maguire following soon after, the villagers, “They’ve seen us in our night clothes; it’s most unseemly.” Times certainly have changed.

Dominic claims the fire started with “ashes in the grate” and Marian quickly agrees. Yet we know very clearly that this isn’t true.

“If you were to die, Sidney, how would the rest of us manage,” Amanda asks. “No more heroics, promise me,” she adds.

At church, Sidney tells his congregation, “Today is a day to be thankful for the big things…and for the small, for those  little kindnesses..a cup of tea, a kind embrace.” Kindness will not be generously offered in this episode, but during this sermon Hildegard Staunton (Pheline Roggan) walks in late with a flirtatiously tilted black hat.

Dominic attempts to tell Sidney something after his sermon, “I tried to be a good man all my life, an honest man…I’ve tried so hard to be, to be an example…I just want to be a good man.” Sidney doesn’t quite understand. “It was no accident Mr. Chambers.” There was more, but his wife breaks in, reminding Dominic that they are tired. Sidney tells him to come another time.

Hildegard has returned to sell her house. She meets both Amanda (Morven Christie) and Guy Hopkins (Tom Austen). Guy is clueless as always. Amanda is not. She can’t help but be a little jealous. If she doesn’t marry Sidney, one knows that she will live to regret it. Perhaps she could not live well in the modest confines of a vicar’s salary but she will only remember how fun and sensitive Sidney is.

Sidney doesn’t reveal that how he met Hildegard and says that she “plays the piano and I’m thinking about taking lessons.”

Amanda comments, “Next you’ll be telling me she likes jazz.”

When Sidney says she does, Amanda corrects him, “She lets you think she does.”

Mrs. Maguire doesn’t quite approve of Hildegard and this is clear enough with the clatter of the tea tray and a slamming of the door behind her.”Have you thought to ask what she did during the war? Was she goose stepping like the rest of them?”  She reminds him, “I was trying to take care of you with the whiskey and the jazz and jumping into fires…no more adventures not unless you’re properly dressed.” Hildegard is not only German, and remember Mrs. Maguire’s husband was lost in the war and she still wears a locket with his picture, she was the person who first got Sidney involved in murder mysteries.

Of course, Mrs. Maguire wont be able to stop murder mysteries from finding Sidney. Sidney goes to see Marian Taylor. While he’s there, Detective constable Atkins (Joe Claflin) reports to Marian that her husband has been murdered. Who is Atkins? Where is Geordie (Robson Green)?

Sidney cycles to visit Geordie and his wife Cathy (Kacey Ainsworth) who have other concerns. His baby, David, has caught the whooping cough. You’d think that Geordie would be concerned, but he’s not pleased with the news that Atkins is on the case because “He couldn’t lead a dying horse to water.” Although Geordie could stay at home, he’s rather become involved in the investigation, “I can’t just stay here and wait for him to die.”

Hall is the landlord at the Red Lion. He had a son, one that didn’t return from the war unlike Ben. “Dominic Taylor was a pompous bastard…jolly stuck up types always moaning about something, the noise, my customers.”

“Why accuse you of starting the fire?” Sidney asks Hall.

“Rich people always gotta blame somebody for their woes,” Hall contends, adding that Dominic told him, he wasn’t going to rest until he was able to close Hall’s establishment down.

Hall told Dominic, “If he did any such thing, he would live to regret it.”

Sidney takes Hildegard boating on the lake. She will have to sell her piano and she has debts to pay as a result of her late husband’s gambling. Hildegard tells Sidney “I”m angry that he kept a whole part of himself from me…the affairs, the lies. I didn’t know him at all it seems.” Sidney remembers something and goes to the place where Dominic died.

The problem is just where Dominic was found murdered–stabbed through the chest. If you’re unaware that certain public restrooms have been and perhaps still are places where men meet other men to hook up, then you’ll know now. For this time period, homosexuality was still considered an act of gross indecency and one could be arrested and charged. Dominic was found near a public lavatory where Sidney observes men loitering and waiting for other men and entering in pairs. Men, unlike women, don’t enter restrooms together for safety or to gossip.

“How is this helping?” Sidney asks when Atkins arrests a man who enters the restroom with a man. Geordie and Sidney accost Marian and Geordie bluntly asks about her husband meeting with men.

“She has a right to privacy, her husband’s privacy,” Sidney tells Geordie.

“At the expense of the truth,” Geordie asks.

How does this involve Ben Blackwood (Wayne Foskett), his father Vic (Wayne Foskette) and Lucy and a letter ? Seeing Ben arrested reminds Sidney of his friend, the friend he was dreaming about at the beginning of the episode. The young man stood as the shots rang out. He was shot as Sidney who had hit the ground watched.

Geordie and Sidney don’t agree on how to treat gay men even though the Anglican church was clear enough on this topic at the time. Sidney prefers to “judge not lest ye be judged.”

Yet for Geordie, gay men can’t be trusted because a gay man, “He’s a practiced liar; his kind have to be.”

You have to be thinking of Amanda when Sidney tells Ben, “We can’t help loving the people we do.”

Sidney comforts Geordie’s wife and confronts Geordie about his son. “You hate your life. You hate it so much you have to screw up everyone else’s,” a drunken Geordie tells Sidney.

Sidney asks Geordie to go home and leaves, telling him, “You’re a selfish bastard.”

The solution to this mystery is what Leonard says, “It always comes from love.”

There will be other questions about privacy. Ben will tell Sidney, “You advocate a man’s right to privacy, but isn’t that just hiding from the truth. Isn’t it lying?”

“I’ve never really thought of it that way,” Sidney confesses.

“Perhaps that’s because you’ve never had to hide your true feelings, Mr. Chambers,” Ben tells Sidney toward the end.

Sidney, Geordie and Cathy will once again become friends and Leonard will have possibilities.

Sidney later speaks of the healing and reconciling type of love and we can wonder if he will ever learn to play Bach.

You might end the episode wondering who Dylan Thomas is.

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) was a Welsh poet and writer who was popular during his lifetime and died in New York City at the age of 39. He was married to Caitlin Macnamara in 1937 and their marriage was far from happy. Thomas drank too much had affairs. He encouraged the image of a doomed poet. Suffering from gout and lung problems already after his second tour of the U.S., on the fourth and final tour of America, he fell ill and sank into a coma from which he never woke up.

The quote from his most famous poem “Do not go gentle into that good night” is used in this episode. Thomas wrote the poem, first published in 1951, for his dying father who passed away in 1952.

By the end of this episode, you’ll note some bitter irony about fathers when you read this poem and the inclusion of the word “gay” in its original meaning and the use of the action pray. Remember Geordie didn’t believe in God and told Sidney most bluntly in a previous episode.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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