The first episode also introduced Norton’s soon-to-be-replacement, with Tom Brittney making his first appearance as Will Davenport.
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And it was quite the entrance for newcomer Will, seeing himself locked up in a cell just days after arriving.
However, fans loved the mysterious newcomer, praising Brittney on Twitter for his entrance into the well-established and well-loved detective drama.
“I love that Grantchester has lost none of its charm,” said one viewer. “I also love how they’re slowly integrating the new Vicar as well. I just absolutely love this show.”
Another added, “Loving the new vicar star to be, though we will miss Sidney.”
A third wrote, “Well, the new guy has already been locked up in the cells in his first episode. I think he beats Sidney for getting in trouble.”
In a dramatic opening episode, Sidney and Detective Geordie Keating (Robson Green) tackled racism and abuse after a black American preacher visited the village with his family as part of a tour, which saw his son shot dead.
— BernieF (@Berniebobs75) January 11, 2019
Okay I’m already loving this sort of banter between Sidney and Will #Grantchester
— Millie (@MillieSansoye) January 11, 2019
#Grantchester Hope the new vicar is a bit more sensible than Sidney. Repeat after me Will: "I will not go off on my own to confront a killer and get my arse kicked."
— Tracy Davidson (@tracydavidson27) January 11, 2019
Sidney’s rapidly approaching exit was also hinted at, with the vicar quickly striking up a close bond with the preacher’s daughter Violet (Simona Brown).
Norton confirmed he was leaving the show last year, and promises his exit will be a highly emotional one for fans, after he believed Sidney’s emotional storyline with Amanda (Morven Christie) had reached its natural conclusion.
“It was a combination of things [why I chose to leave],” Norton explained. “The Amanda storyline tying up the way it did with her and Sidney breaking up and him choosing the church in the third series felt like a natural conclusion to Sidney’s story.
“Then when the possibility of a fourth series came along, the decision was whether or not to start a whole new journey for Sidney.”
“It felt like it would be better to hand over the baton to someone else and give Grantchester a fresh injection of energy,” he continued.
“It’s been a privilege to play such a wonderful character, but I feel like there are other vicars, other conflicted souls to explore. So it’s time to introduce Tom Brittney as Reverend Will Davenport.”
He added that he told producers that he would have liked to have Sidney to have quite the sticky end as he departed the series.
“I had a couple of light-hearted conversations with some of the producers offering my dramatic, absurd, farfetched versions of his exit,” he said. “I wanted Sidney to be the victim of a gruesome murder and then the new vicar would have to investigate the crime.”
We’ll find out how Sidney really leaves the village later on in the series.
Grantchester continues Fridays at 9pm on ITV