Grantchester, set in a picturesque village near Cambridge in the early 1950s, looks at first glance to be another easy-going British mystery series in the Midsomer Murders vein.
It’s based on a novel by James Runcie about an amiable, slightly eccentric Anglican priest who teams up with a Cambridge police detective to solve murders in the bucolic environs of rural England. James Norton is Sidney Chambers, the vicar of Granchester, who has a way with people and a mind for solving mysteries, and British TV veteran Robson Green is Geordie Keating, the detective who is initially wary when (in the first episode) Sidney insists that a recent suicide death may in fact be murder. The unlikely alliance turns to friendship and the two men end up investigating a number of crimes together, bonding over their shared experiences as war veterans and a shared love of fine whisky.
As the mysteries continue, however, the show starts to explore some of the shadows cast by the war—shell shock, racism, homophobia, suspicion of immigrants (especially Germans)—and some of the ugliness underneath the small town values. And the characters themselves develop over the course of the season: Sidney’s opinionated housekeeper (Tessa Peake-Jones) proves to be caring and loyal under her flinty exterior, and she recruits a junior vicar (Al Weaver), a young, inexperienced man, to help Sidney, and he grows enormously as his horizons are expanded and convictions are tested. Through it all, Sidney struggles when his first love (Morven Christie) accepts another man’s proposal of marriage, revealing the very human side of this religious leader. The six hour-long episodes originally played in the U.S. on Masterpiece Mystery and now join the growing line-up of British dramas on Amazon Instant Prime.
A second season is slated to run in 2016.