The third episode of Grantchester Season 6 opens in the interrogation room, as Geordie and Larry grill a suspect in their latest case. But this is no ordinary case or suspect: It's Leonard, who has been brought in on Bryan's accusations. Worse, Geordie is grilling him on an evening he himself witnessed about a "crime" he knows full well Leonard is guilty of, dating Daniel Marlowe.
Leonard: You are a wonderful idiot sometimes.
It's uncomfortable all around, made even more so by Larry. The series gives the thankless role of embodying actual police tactics of the era, intimidation, and threats of physical violence against those from the LGBTQ+ community. That this is how the series opens makes it clear that, once again, this week's murder mystery is secondary to the real drama of the Grantchester parish, the Archdeacon's threats to remove Will from his position, and Mrs. C's righteous disappointment.
The hardest part about this storyline is that Geordie and the Archdeacon are technically correct, even if the law is morally wrong. The law says what Leonard did is illegal, and the church is not above the law. Will using his position to hush up Bryan is genuinely wrong, both legally and morally; he should be fired for his actions, especially if he continues. Interestingly, the Archdeacon references Will's vow of chastity as part of why he was assigned here, hoping it would rub off on Leonard, something the series had not pointed out previously.
Also, can we sit with the idea that Will will pay a blackmailer and pretend he embezzled from the church to his family to con them out of £50, but he draws the line at lying to the police for Leonard to save his friend from going to jail? (Can we note he does this when Geordie himself is saying Will needs to do this?!) Much like last week, we have another moment of Will's privilege blind naivete, assuming he can demand a perfect solution and get it. It makes Will genuinely hard to like sometimes.
But there is also a murder this week, though one that Geordie initially ruled a suicide. Parish chairman Derek McArthur, who drowned himself a few weeks back, has triggered a contentious special election. Reeny McArthur (Rebecca Front) is running for the seat left open by her progressive husband, with best-selling mystery author and family friend Robert Waterhouse (Jonathan Aris) campaigning with her. Her opponent is Maurice St. Martin (Will Hislop), a business-minded Tory whose brother Phillip (Orlando Wells) openly pulls her fliers from doors.
Reeny's first clue that her husband hadn't taken his own life comes when she learns he was in the middle of buying a holiday let for them to retire to just before he died. That sets her to ask Will to look into it. Will brings in Geordie, who determines the suicide note is a fake. It's a single stripe of paper cut from a larger document. It turns out to come from a letter sent to one Eric Pritchard, who has been bitterly complaining about council business for months. Unsurprisingly, Pritchard doesn't exist, having been invented for the express purpose of getting Derek to write something that the murderer could take out of context.
Reeny and Derek met as part of Operation Mincemeat, and Waterhouse also worked on it, making all three good at concocting clever death scenarios. Reeny has a motive too. Derek was abusive due to untreated PTSD post-WWII, and as Geordie notes, an abused wife killing her husband is the Occam's razor solution. But the evidence points to the St. Martins when Reeny gets a letter from a private detective Derek hired to watch Phillip's not-so-legal dealings. Phillip insists he butted heads with Derek a lot, but his revenge was getting Maurice to run. And Maurice has good reason not to have done it either; he was selling the retirement property to Derek.
But unlike last week, this week's mystery turns out to have a direct connection to our main story. While Geordie, the Archdeacon, and even Leonard recognize that Will won't change public opinion overnight, Kathy has other ideas. She encourages Will to push Reeny to come out in favor of legalizing homosexuality. That backfires at the final election debate when Maurice reveals the details of Will's covering up Leonard's case. The scene devolves into a fistfight between Will and the Tory candidate.
Hello, Reeny is trying to win an election. She's already got a hill to climb with inherent misogyny; she cannot take up this fight. Will's anger issues may have just reared their head, and he wants to pin the murder on Maurice. But one look at the "private detective's observation post" on the St. Martin property, and he has to admit Geordie's right: It's fake. Fake Correspondance, fake anonymous private detective, all this a set up out of a novel. And not a Dick Barton one either, but a Robert Waterhouse one.
Waterhouse admits he's been in love with Reeny since the war, and Derek's abuse broke his heart. He's been plotting this for ages, believing himself the white knight riding in to free her. Reeny's not wrong when she learns of this on election day: "How dare he make it his job to save me?" But her statement could have been Leonard's, too, as he overhears Mrs. C beg Will to lie because she can't lose her boy.
Leonard will not let Will make that choice; it's not his job to save Leonard, to white knight for him any more than it was Robert's job to save Reeny. By the time Will gets to the station, Leonard is already there, arrested, having confessed.