Grace–John Simm returns for better third season of hit police procedural

If you only know John Simm from his role as The Master on Doctor Who, you’re missing out on his best role–as a cop.  After the stellar Life on Mars, Simm returned to the police force as another great detective solving crimes in the BritBox original series from IPT, Grace Simm is Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, and three seasons in he’s moved beyond being just a troubled cop sent down to desk duty for embarrassing the bureau by bringing in a psychic to help solve a crime.  Last year former Doctor Who star Arthur Darvill had a guest appearance on the series, but ultimately the show didn’t have the excitement of the first season.  Our pick for the best new TV series of 2022, Grace finally has settled into becoming a reliable way to spend ninety minutes this year, and boosted the show’s status to the realm of Shetland and Hinterland.  With a fourth season expected next year, get caught up on the season with this year’s three movie-length episodes.

This season adapts the next three novels in the Grace series of novels by Peter James: Dead Like YouDead Man’s Grip and Not Dead Yet.  The first seasons were Shetland without the scenery, but this year the views of Brighton are somehow more inviting, even with all the crimes the series is about.  DSI Grace has become less tortured by the loss of his wife years ago, and at a snail’s pace he’s moving closer to moving in with his new love interest, the No. 2 forensics specialist in town, Zöe Tapper’s Cleo Morey.  The writers let the audience know all season long that his wife is actually alive, but they dangle that plot thread and ultimately decide to deal with it down the road.  That’s just fine, because we’re really there for the “crime of the week” anyway.  Although the crimes get more and more gruesome, from a serial rapist to a killer who likes to chop up bodies and feed them to pigs.

The series co-stars Richie Campbell (The Frankenstein Chronicles, The Silence) as Grace’s former colleague and now his right arm, DS Glenn Branson.  The show is now in its comfort zone to the point that we can really get to know the characters and their relationships.  Viewers learn Branson’s wife cheated on him since last season and Grace lets him be his roommate.  It’s only slightly the Odd Couple because Branson isn’t tidy, and Grace isn’t the kind of guy who lets anything get to him, except a rival Grace has faced off with before, who takes over the department in the season’s first episode.  That’s Sam Hoare as ACC Cassian Pewe.  Pewe doesn’t fall into your normal category of what would be the police chief in the States.  Is he a good guy or a bad guy?  That’s the question viewers will ask with each episode.

Alexander Cobb is back as reporter Kevin Spinella.  Grace notices Spinella is getting to crime scenes quickly–a bit too quickly, and suspects someone on his squad is sharing confidential information with him.  This sets up a secret search for the mole for the three episodes.  Even Pewe makes a good candidate, but the best of Grace’s suspicions arises when he follows the usually reliable DS Norman Potting, played by Craig Parkinson.  Along with Laura Elphinstone’s DS Bella Moy and DC Nick Nicholl, played again by Brad Morrison, the team is as interesting and engaging as any in the past decade of gritty British mystery series.  Each episode will keep viewers guessing until the final minutes, with the second episode a particularly circuitous mystery.

Anyone who is a fan of Simm on Life on Mars is in for a treat here.  DSI Grace is indistinguishable from the Sam Tyler in the first episode of Life on Mars, except he’s older and smarter now, a bit hardened but still a sharp detective.  Fans have heard from time to time a second sequel series was being discussed (the first sequel being Ashes to Ashes), but it might be as fun to have one of the stars make a guest appearance on a future Grace episode.  We really need more of the Gene Genie.

We’re always on the lookout for the next great British/Irish/Scottish/UK police procedural or mystery.  Grace is closing in on our British Top 10 list, with series like Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Van der Valk, Zen, Guilt, Case Histories, Shetland, The Hour, Hinterland, and Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?   Grace is every bit of the high-quality of Professor T, Luther, Traces, Glitch, Mystery Road, Quirke, and the first season of Sherlock, and it is steps above series like The Bay, Unforgotten, Crime, The Pale Horse, Collateral, Roadkill, A Confession, Dublin Murders, The ABC Murders, The Salisbury Poisonings, The Silence, The Five, The Missing, Stay Close, Thirteen, or Broadchurch

With a fourth season already greenlit with filming beginning this year, it’s time to check out this great series.  Taking on bad cops, creeps, identity thieves, and the worst villains in England, John Simm is back in Grace, streaming its third season exclusively here on BritBox via Amazon in the U.S., and IPT in the UK.


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