'Grantchester' Closes Out Season 5 With a Poignant & Satisfying Finale (RECAP)
It’s been a tumultuous 1957 for Grantchester’s Rev. Will Davenport (Tom Brittney). Throughout Season 5 of PBS’s British mystery series, the biggest mystery Will has had to solve has been himself. As a representative of God, the Anglican vicar of the titular English village demands self-perfection, and rages when he falls short.
Still, it’s one thing to feel ashamed because you’re struggling to maintain your self-imposed celibacy in the face of temptation from reporter Ellie Harding (Lauren Carse); realizing you’ve been duped by a trusted mentor for at-risk youths, who had actually been molesting the boys trusted to his care, brought on a whole new level of guilt for Will to wrestle with, and tough emotion for Brittney to play, in last week’s episode. That carries over into this week’s poignant and satisfying season finale, written by series creator Daisy Coulam.
Brittney has more than risen to the occasion in his first full season since taking over for original star James Norton. But Will isn’t doing very well. He shows up exceedingly drunk at his mother’s engagement party. “This is not who you are, William,” Amelia (Jemma Redgrave) tells her son after she catches him swilling champagne from the bottle.
Too hungover to do the service the next morning, Will is nevertheless lured outside by the police. Geordie (Robson Green) needs help with a murder investigation when the body of a woman who was stabbed is found on Jesus Green, having been lain out like Christ on the crucifix. The deceased is Nora Martin, whose husband and son assumed she’d died when they reported her missing five years ago.
But she was actually living in a convent! When Geordie and Will pay a visit to St. Beatrice, they encounter an order that at first seems like a cult of Stepford nuns, led by a Sister Grace (Tracy-Ann Oberman). Sister Grace doesn’t show much emotion upon hearing that the woman she knew as Sister Eleanora has been killed, and certainly doesn’t take kindly to Will or Geordie.
A search through police files of missing women turns up others whom they saw at St. Beatrice, including Sister Michael (Andrea Valls), whose real name is Lavinia. Her parents reported her missing and they know Sister Grace as a nun who was ex-communicated. Wondering if the nun could be holding the women against their will, Will and Geordie show up in the middle of the night and arrest Sister Grace, only to discover that Nora had a young daughter.
In a dimly lit interrogation room, Geordie and Will question Grace, who looks more like a film noir dame than a nun as she smokes seductively. She admits to having had an affair with a Catholic priest, who lets her run the order without interference in exchange for keeping his secret, but she denies keeping her charges imprisoned.
And sure enough, Will soon realizes he misjudged Grace when he sees a bruised and beaten Lavinia at the police station. Turns out she ran away from home to escape abuse and found sanctuary at St. Beatrice. That’s also why the other women were there. Nora left to get away from her controlling husband, leaving behind a son (Harry Gilby). The boy saw her when Nora left the convent to register her daughter for school and it turns out that he killed her, distraught that she’d abandoned him.
Will rides his motorcycle over to the convent to apologize to Grace, which leads to the vicar unpacking his pain to someone who understands his yearning for perfection. “The clothes you wear, how you live — it’s a constant reminder that you’re different, that you should be pure, special,” the older woman tells Will. “It’s wrong to think like that and it's profoundly arrogant.”
But Will’s worries are less about arrogance than fear. “I’m scared if I fall, then I won’t stop,” he says. Grace comforts him by pointing out that she didn’t keep falling, then soothing touches lead to passionate kisses and a shot of them waking up in bed the next morning, which happens to be Will’s birthday. So much for celibacy!
Leonard (Al Weaver) has a more treacherous but also revelatory journey. Even though the curate invited his dad to come for a visit, he doesn’t expect things to go well. And they don’t. The senior Mr. Finch, Russell (Sean Gilder), is a real ray of sunshine who opts for sitting in a pub over watching his son give a sermon.
When they do talk, conversation is awkward. Russell is overcome with emotion over the death of his friend Gideon, a man with whom he spent a lot of time. Leonard’s boyfriend Daniel (Oliver Dimsdale) suspects father and son may be more alike than either would care of admit: “What if he was scared you were like him?” But that offers Leonard little solace. He confronts Russell the next day, remembering that his father called him a sissy and that he betrayed Leonard’s mother.
Weaver is wonderful as Leonard’s shifts from traumatized child to self-assured adult when his father threatens to spill the beans about his son’s sexual orientation. “Tell them your son is in love and for the first time in his life he’s not afraid!” Leonard retorts. “He’s happy. Something I doubt you’ve ever been.” The tearful scene that follows, between Leonard and Mrs. Chapman (Tessa Peake-Jones), is a lovely reminder that family need not mean blood relatives.
Meanwhile, Will’s patches things up with his mother (did his roll in the hay with an older woman help resolve some maternal issues?) and reunites with Matthew (Jim Caesar), telling him he’ll bankroll him to run the boxing gym. Is that a good idea, sending the young man back in the place where he was abused? Perhaps we’ll find out in the recently announced Season 6.
As Will turns another year older, the gang gathers at the vicarage to celebrate. Geordie is glad to see that Will’s feeling better. And he knows why: Will’s had sex. The fact that Grace isn’t a nun anymore doesn’t matter to him. “You slept with your boss’ missus!” he crows with delight. And for the first time all season, Grantchester doesn’t end with a sermon. Instead of preaching, Will enjoys a drink with Geordie, then goes inside to join his party.
Grantchester, Season 6, TBD, PBS