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'Grantchester' Recap: Season 8 Episode 1

Daniel Hautzinger
Will Davenport wearing sunglasses and a leather jacket and bandanna on his motorcycle
Will takes part in a charity bike race but is soon investigating the death of one of its participants. Photo: Kudos and Masterpiece

Grantchester airs Sundays at 8:00 pm and is available to stream. Recap the previous and following episodes and other seasons
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Bonnie is proving to be an excellent vicar’s wife, even though she doesn’t believe in God. She knows all the little details about parishioners’ lives that Will needs to remember, although she’s ready to give up weekly Bible study with Mrs. C. She and her son Ernie have moved into the vicarage with Will, and she’s pregnant with Will’s child.

But not all is perfect. Bonnie wants Will to discipline Ernie more, so Will has been turning to every father he knows to ask for advice, including Geordie, the “father he never had.” Ernie has been acting out, hiding Will’s motorcycle keys and making a scene when Bonnie finds him out.

That tantrum occurs the day after a charity motorcycle race. Will takes part, along with Carl Taylor, Jimmy Weller, Tommy Wilson, and a mystery rider with a lightning bolt on the helmet who appears just before the race starts. Ron Weller, the owner of a local garage, has brought a promoter from his racetrack days to scout out any talent. But first Ron has to break up an argument between Jimmy and Carl on one side and Tommy on the other. They’re part of rival biker teams.

When the race starts, Carl’s bike stalls. Will crashes out of second place during the second lap, scaring Ernie, although Will is fine. Carl eventually gets his bike to start and manages to make up lost ground, coming in second after Jimmy. Carl receives adulation from Ron and the promoter, but seems upset with the mystery lightning bolt rider.

The next day, Carl’s dead body is found at the racetrack, surrounded by beer bottles and his abandoned bike. The sketchbook he carried around shows a drawing of the racetrack on its last page, with a drop of blood. His head has been bashed in.

Will breaks the news to Ron and Jimmy, a father and son pair who were like family to the orphaned Carl. They explain that they had a party at the garage after the race, and Carl was the last one to leave. Ron believes Tommy is responsible for Carl’s death, given that he was part of a rival group of bikers and they recently had a little dust-up. Perhaps Tommy was angry that he lost to Carl in the race.

Tommy is rude and arrogant under questioning by Geordie and Will, but eventually admits that he has an alibi at odds with his bad-boy presentation: he was playing board games with his landlady.

Geordie fumes about the lack of manners in the younger generation, blaming it on bad parenting. It’s that kind of old-fashioned attitude that has led his boss, Elliot, to encourage Geordie to take early retirement and make way for younger officers and new methods. Geordie is angered by the conversation, and eventually tells Elliot that he still has more to give to his job. Elliot responds that retirement wasn’t a suggestion.

Will examines Carl’s bike to see if there are any clues and finds it in great shape—except for its spark plug. There are traces of graphite on it, which would short it out. Since Ron checked all the bikes before the race, someone must have sabotaged Carl’s bike just before they took off. Carl realized and wiped off enough of the graphite for the spark plug to work.

Perhaps the lightning rider with whom Carl seemed upset was responsible for the sabotage. To identify the rider, Will visits Ron’s garage again, and notices a leaderboard stashed away noting time records and bikes. “Lightning” is one of the riders listed. Comparing the riders and bikes from the leaderboard to a photo from the garage, Will figures out with the help of Miss Scott that Lightning’s bike is registered to a Howard Kidman.

When Will and Geordie go to Kidman’s home, Lightning pulls up on a motorcycle and tries to flee as Geordie and Will approach. The rider takes off their helmet and reveals not Howard but Stephanie Kidman. She’s friends with Carl and Jimmy, and registered the bike under her father’s name, since women riding motorcycles is frowned upon.

They’re also not allowed to race, but Jimmy had approached the racetrack promoter on Stephanie’s behalf after the race. Carl, on the other hand, agreed with Ron that women shouldn’t race. He was going to tell Ron that Stephanie had raced—that’s why he was upset with her. But Will realizes that Stephanie didn’t kill Carl. Rather, she fancied him. She learned sign language for him (he’s deaf), and simply wanted him to believe in her.

Will is then called away from the police station to help Leonard at the new halfway home Leonard has set up. There are four people living there now, although Leonard has had some complaints from the neighbors. But he called Will because one of the residents, a former alcoholic, has returned to drink and become aggressive. Will gets him to go inside, but then the man smashes his bottle and tries to attack Will, who responds by punching him hard enough to fell him. Leonard insists that this is the kind of person he is trying to help, despite Daniel’s worry.

When Will returns to the vicarage, Mrs. C is there with an old pram for Bonnie. (She has already shared a list of possible baby names.) She notices Will’s bruised hand and asks if he’s been fighting. Ernie watches the exchange.

That night, Will wakes to find Ernie throwing his leather jacket away. Ernie explains that he’s afraid Will might die like Carl, given his accident at the racetrack and his bruised hand. Will apologizes and promises to be more cautious for Ernie. He’ll take a “long holiday” from the motorcycle. He also bans Ernie from comics for a month for his behavior, to Bonnie’s appreciation.

Geordie has realized that the sketch of the racetrack is the only landscape in Carl’s book—and that it was done with a different type of pencil, one that also could have been used to sabotage Carl’s spark plug with graphite. Someone else drew it to make the police think Carl was at the racetrack when he was killed.

Will now suspects Ron, who might have wanted his son to win the race. But under questioning Ron reveals that he thought Carl was a better rider than Jimmy. He loved Carl like a son.

Will and Geordie realize that Jimmy lived under disappointment from his father, who heaped praise on Carl instead. Jimmy explains that he wanted to win the race in front of the promoter and his father and so sabotaged Carl, but Carl still got all the attention after the race. Carl realized Jimmy was responsible for the sabotage and confronted Jimmy after the party. Jimmy killed him so that Ron wouldn’t find out about the sabotage, and brought Carl’s body to the racetrack.

Will is worried that his mistakes will affect his children, just like Ron’s did. Bonnie assures him that he’s not his dad, and then brings up quitting the Bible study group—but Will, wallowing in self-pity, doesn’t want to talk about it.

The phone rings. Bonnie’s mom has had a stroke.

Even though she’s seven months pregnant, Bonnie goes to help her parents out for a week. Will is upset with her for leaving, and they argue as she gets into a cab. After she departs, he goes out on his motorcycle despite his promise to Ernie. Speeding down a country road, he hits a man crossing the lane. The man is dead.