‘Grantchester’ Episode 2: Will & Geordie Encounter Blackmail and a Baby Brouhaha (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Grantchester Season 6, Episode 2.]
No more fun (and murder) in the sun. Having returned from vacation, Rev. Will Davenport (Tom Brittney) is back to dealing with church business in what has to be the deadliest little village in all of England.
The second episode of Grantchester’s sixth season has a decent mystery involving adoption: the stigma attached to it in 1958 and the notion of who makes a better parent. But the more intriguing storyline involves gay curate Leonard (Al Weaver) facing being outed by Bryan (Michael Abubakar), the photographer he met at the holiday camp the gang visited in the season premiere.
The main plot kicks off when a christening is interrupted. A young working-class man named Davy (Eddie-Joe Robinson) bursts into the church and announces he’s the father of Billy, the baby boy about to be baptized as James Sebastian Asper. He says the couple who claim to be his parents stole him, and Will postpones the proceedings.
Marcus and Penny Asper (Miles Jupp and Polly Frame), a solicitor and his wife, explain they adopted the baby through an agency run by Joan Beaumont (Christina Cole). Will and Detective Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green) pay her a visit, and Will immediately dislikes her. He sees Joan as coercing poor women into giving up their babies to wealthier couples when he overhears her talking to young expectant mother Nicola (Rebecca Stone).
“I have the means to actually help her beyond a prayer,” Joan retorts. And it’s one of the last things she says because, that evening, Nicola finds her dead. It appears there was a struggle and she hit her head.
Will and Geordie look for Davy and meet Molly (Madison Clare), the birth mother who put James/Billy up for adoption without telling Davy. She already has two children (not with Davy), and couldn’t afford to care for a third. Davy is eager to help but can’t find enough work. He denies killing Joan, however, and Molly gives him an alibi.
At Joan’s office, Will and Geordie spy a vase of pink carnations that wasn’t there before, and as they go through Joan’s files, Will finds a birth certificate with no name and notices that all the “A” cases are missing. That prompts a visit to the Aspers, who are struggling with parenthood. Penny can’t get the baby to stop crying and Marcus isn’t much help. They deny killing Joan, but Geordie spies the “A” binder in Marcus’ briefcase and brings him to the station.
Under interrogation, Marcus admits he went to the agency, but swears he didn’t see Joan. He took the files because they contained things he wanted to keep secret.
Among them: the fact that his wife had doubts about the adoption. She enjoyed working, and even down at the station, she still can’t get that baby to stop crying! But she agreed to the adoption because her husband wanted an heir, and Joan was very persuasive.
The tension ramps up when baby James/Billy goes missing from the Aspers’ home. They’re certain Davy took him, and sure enough, Will finds them at the church and convinces Davy to go to the police station. There, both sets of parents reach a compromise. Molly and Davy will keep their baby and Penny, who’s been involved in charitable work, will help them find a path forward financially. It seems it takes the whole village of Grantchester to raise a child.
And it takes a vicar to figure out what happened to Joan. The pink carnations clue Will in. They’re a symbol of a mother’s love, supposedly originating from the Virgin Mary’s tears over Jesus’ death. Will notices that the birth certificate with no name and Nicola’s registration contain the same date of birth, 19 years ago.
Will and Geordie find Nicola — minus her fake pregnancy belly. She admits she’s Joan’s biological daughter, and although she had a good upbringing, she still wanted to meet the birth mother who put her up for adoption. Joan never responded to Nicola’s letters, so she pretended she was pregnant. “I wanted to hold her and maybe have her hold me,” she weeps.
When she told Joan who she was, the older woman got emotional and accused Nicola of lying. In a flashback, we see what happened: The women struggled, and Joan fell backwards, hit her head and died. Nicola had brought the flowers and put them in the vase to show she was sorry.
It’s not unusual to have sympathy for the guilty party on Grantchester. I thought we might even see a more conciliatory side to Bryan, the self-loathing closet homosexual from Merries who snapped photos of Leonard with boyfriend Daniel (Oliver Dimsdale) after Leonard rebuffed Bryan’s advances. But we got quite the opposite!
He sends Leonard an anonymous letter quoting Leviticus 18:22 (“You shall not lie with a man as with a woman”) and demanding payment of 50 pounds, in exchange for keeping his secret. Will knows instantly who’s behind it and says they should go to Geordie. But homosexuality wasn’t decriminalized in Britain until 1967, so Leonard refuses to involve law enforcement.
Since he doesn’t have the money, Leonard pleads with Bryan not to expose him. “If you do this, I’ll lose my job, my home, I’d like to say my family, but my father wants nothing to do with me anyway. Maybe you understand how that feels.”
Unmoved and bitter, Bryan says he’ll think about it if Leonard admits what he is: “You’re a lying little pansy who leads men on before jumping into bed the minute someone else comes along.”
Yikes! Thankfully, Will shows up with the money, but Bryan is far from appeased. “You’ve got it all, haven’t you?” he says to Leonard. “Friends. Lovers. Should’ve known you lot would close ranks.”
Despite Bryan’s contempt, Leonard confesses to Will that he understands how the young man feels. But Leonard’s problems aren’t over. The episode ends with Bryan and Archdeacon Atubo (Gary Beadle) at the police station to see Geordie. There’s little doubt what’s in the envelope Bryan’s holding.
- I can’t help wondering about Bryan’s struggles as not only a gay man but also a biracial person in 1958. Where would he feel he belonged? Not to minimize the terrible things he’s doing to Leonard, but I’d like to know his backstory.
- Did any Suits fans recognize Christina Cole, who played Joan, from her role as Gabriel Macht’s therapist/love interest Paula Agard on the legal drama?
Grantchester, Sundays, 9/8c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)