How Grantchester Defies the Cozy Mystery Label

Usually in cozy dramas, the religious figures are older and celibate, already married, or widowed. Will is in his late 20s and this changes the genre dynamics considerably. Will he find some semblance of emotional stability or even another shot at love with a single woman?

Geordie, Leonard and the Changing Times

Another common cozy mystery trope is the amateur detective investigating cases because the local police are incompetent or short-staffed. Grantchester’s Geordie is an old-fashioned Inspector who relies on instinct and is wary of new methods. His relationship with Will is more of a father-son dynamic as Will uses his natural empathy and role as a spiritual confessor to get information from witnesses and suspects. Geordie’s precinct is well staffed and he’s well aware of its individual weaknesses and strengths. This season, the biggest handicap is the arrival of a new boss who is insisting on modernizing policing and playing by the rule book. Will interviewing potential suspects or collecting witness statements is definitely against protocol. Geordie has to find ways to keep Will in the loop while avoiding suspicion that he’s relying on Will’s investigative skills. 

Will and Geordie’s circle of friends also highlight issues cozy dramas rarely address, or if they do, only in a breezy fashion. Last season, Will’s curate Leonard was forced to resign from the church after being blackmailed into coming out as a gay man and was sentenced to six months in jail. Downton Abbey and other dramas had queer characters face the fear of prosecution for sodomy but never depicted the reality of it.

In Season 7, Leonard is on the road to reinventing his career path while also finding a way to channel some of his former work as a curate. Mrs. Chapman (Tessa Peake-Jones) and her husband Jack (Nick Brimble) loaned Leonard money to open up his own cafe. The Cherry Orchard is not only a spot for beat poetry of questionable quality, it’s also the place to discuss case updates away from prying eyes. The cafe additionally represents a distraction from Mrs. C’s own personal life crisis which will unfold in later episodes this season.

Geordie is also currently facing his own family crisis as his wife Cathy (Kacey Ainsworth) kicked him out of their family home for breaking trust, past infidelity, and disrespect. Cathy has asked Bonnie (Charlotte Ritchie) to help her with childcare as she tries to hold onto her job at the department store. Will’s love life crisis, plus the rest of these character plots, are drawing attention to the fact the show timeline is rapidly approaching the radical societal changes of the 1960s.

Complex Morality and Brutal Themes

Past season cases have similarly dealt with a variety of serious social issues besides Leonard’s plight: pedophilia/grooming, domestic violence, racial discrimination/immigrant assimilation, and more. Season 5’s major case arc was shutting down a boxing coach who used his proximity to teenage boys for sexual abuse. Will did not realize at first he was enabling the abuse by a false sense of security. This storyline clearly came out of all of the historical investigations of institutionalized sex abuse. 

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