Plot: Sidney (James Norton) is still trying to be a good man of the cloth, tending to his flock while balancing his own personal issues and vices. But his days assisting Detective Inspector Geordie (Robson Green) have taken a toll on both his psyche and his outlook of life, which is no surprise, given the grim circumstances involved. The darkness he saw first hand through the cases, not to mention his own complicated morals, forced him to look hard at his faith and humanity. Of course, crime never slows down and soon, he is pulled back into service, at the side of his friend Geordie. If the cases the two worked before had an impact on Sidney, he will face more moments of crisis than ever, as this round promises an even darker path. As he presses on, he must continue to keep his own demons in line, even as he hunts down those within others.
Entertainment Value: The first season of Grantchester introduced us to one of the more unique detectives around in Sidney, a priest with inner conflict. The odd couple dynamic was obvious when he was paired with Geordie, but the concept felt fresh as it thrust some hard issues into Sidney’s path. The show spun some religion into the narrative, but not in a preachy way, just letting it color Sidney’s perspective. In this second season, things feel different almost right from the start, as the show shifts gears and drops a lot of Sidney’s depth. The writing still keeps him as an interesting character, but his inner turmoil is downplayed and that’s kind of a disappointment. He had a unique outlook on the cases and his work took a toll, which in turn, fleshed out the character even more. I am not sure if the removal of the moral focus was to shift religion into a smaller role, but it does hurt the show in some ways. The core element of the show was the cases and it remains so here, but the diminished depth within the characters does dull the shine just a touch.
This second season has six episodes, each with a separate case and some continuing arcs that center on our leads. This batch of cases is much darker than the first season, so buckle up for a descent into the mind of madness. The topics include sexual assault, domestic violence, suicide, murder, and even sexual abuse of children, so this is some powerful, potent stuff. These issues are examined well in each case, so the show doesn’t gloss over the tragic consequences involved. I can’t help but think about how interesting it would be to see Sidney digest these experiences and how they would impact his faith, but we’re not shown much of that in these episodes. One case does involve the church in a direct way, so that is the main instance of his faith and religion coming to the forefront in this season. The performances are still strong, with Norton and Green both turning in more than solid work. But a lot of the friendship that helped the first season has been scaled back, so they’re not given as much to do. The exchanges that we still get are fun to watch, but you have to think the removal of so much of the relationship will hurt the show in the long run. I still think this second season is worth a look and has some great cases, but it is a shift in approach, without question.