It's been two years since mystery series Grantchester last aired on these shores, and quite a bit has happened between then and now. The six-episode Season 3 (plus Christmas Special premiere) was a hard one for everyone's favorite Vicar, Sidney Chambers (James Norton). After spending two seasons pining after Amanda Hopkins (Morven Christie), she's finally free of her husband Guy (Tom Austen) and well on her way to having her baby. His partner, DI Geordie Keating (Robson Green), approves of the match and Chambers' happiness. But things aren't as easy as all that. Amanda faces social pressures from all sides to return to her husband, rather than stay divorced. And Sidney still can't actually be with her, as her divorced status means he, as a man of the cloth, cannot marry her or call himself daddy to her child.
To stay with the church or stay with the girl? All season, that was the debate. The Archbishop made it clear that Chambers should choose the former, while at every turn, Sidney yearned to pick the latter. Entire episode's worth of cases occurred because of Chamber's desire to get away, including the adventure where Mrs. Maguire (Tessa Peake-Jones)'s supposedly-deceased husband turns up. (Don't worry, Ronnie's not long for the world, freeing her up to marry again by season's end.) In fact, marriage is all anyone talks about. Sidney and his desire to be able to, Geordie, and the miserable mess of blowing up his own over the junior clerk Margaret (Seline Hizli). Even Chamber's coworker Leonard Finch (Al Weaver) gets engaged at one point, though blessedly, that only lasted for an episode or two before fiance Hilary (Pheline Roggan) realized something was very wrong with their relationship.
And then, everyone found a happily ever after of their own choosing. Leonard found a lovely photographer named Daniel (Oliver Dimsdale) and got to have his first real kiss. Geordie realized at Mrs. Maguire's wedding that he's made a complete fool of himself and begs his wife Kathy (Kacey Ainsworth) to let him come home. And after Sidney decides he chooses Amanda and moves to a dingy flat in London, he realizes he's made the biggest mistake of his life. That's it for the relationship. Amanda disappears from the frame so hard, she doesn't even come to Maguire's wedding where she officially becomes Mrs. Chapman. Miraculously, the show was reset for Season 4.
And then, right as the series finished jumping through all these hoops to keep Norton as their leading
man vicar, the star got offered the lead role in an AMC series, and a part in Greta Gerwig's upcoming big-screen adaptation of Little Women. Oops.
To everyone's credit, rather than pop Sidney in a speeding car and running him off the road Downton Abbey-style, Grantchester instead chose to take a year off and see how things played out with his AMC series. (It failed.) Tempers cooled, and the producers realized it had made the best decision ever by not naming the show Sidney Chambers (like the books are), but the more generalized Grantchester. This way, if Norton did choose to roll out in search of more American leading roles, the producers could just hire another Hot Vicar, and call it a day.
In the end, that's just what they've done. Season 4 will begin with Norton's Chambers back where we left him, but he's not long for the job. Whether it's the return of Amanda that lures him away or another reason to walk from the church for good remains to be seen. But by the time the new season is over, Tom Brittney will have joined the cast and the rectory as Will Davenport. He'll also join the chase to find those who do bad things in Grantchester, before delivering sermons on them at the end of every week.
Grantchester Season 4 begins on Sunday, July 14, at 9 p.m. ET on most PBS stations. As always, check your local listings.