There is no better opening for Fox’s Gracepoint than the long tracking shot at the beginning where Mark Solano (Michael Peña) walks through Gracepoint (a coastal, California town), chatting with neighbors, and running into almost every major character in the story ahead. The most harrowing aspect of it, though, is that this friendly, small-town façade is about the be shattered. What Mark doesn’t know is what has happened to his son Danny. Hit the jump for why no one can be trusted.
Obviously, I’m going to have to start with a note about Gracepoint‘s precursor, Broadchurch, an eight-episode U.K. series that ran last year abroad, and then on BBC America. For those unaware,Gracepoint is not just an adaptation of Broadchurch, but a nearly shot-for-shot remake, featuring the same showrunner (Chris Chibnall) and the same lead actor (David Tennant, though with a different character name). The murder, and many of the characters, are all identical to the original, although there has been some mention by Tennant and others involved with the production that the murderer may be different from the original series (which would be a very good idea, not only because that ending wasn’t great, but also to entice Broadchurch-faithful viewers to watch Gracepoint).
Broadchurch was an exceptionally engrossing series that was gorgeously filmed and perfectly cast, and while there are definitely some things about Gracepoint that feel lost in translation, so far, “Episode One” has proved that Fox has the right idea about the story it wants to tell, and how it wants to tell it. Sure, things are sleeker, brighter, more attractive and not as natural as the original, but by no means is Gracepoint a bad show. For some, it just may feel redundant.
Now, that is pretty much the end to my comparisons of the two series (though they will probably return in my recap of the finale). Until then, I’ll be taking Gracepoint week to week as it is presented, not how it looks in comparison to Broadchurch, especially because I am hoping that as it gets away from being little more than a carbon copy of the original, it will come more into its own, on its own terms.
And here are those terms: Danny Solano, 12 years old, was found dead on a Gracepoint beach. The facts of the case came out quickly and clearly: he didn’t jump, and he wasn’t pushed; he was killed elsewhere, and placed carefully on the beach. He was killed by a single, very hard blow to head, in a position that suggested he was looking his assailant in the face when it happened. He went missing in the night, but he wasn’t abducted — a video feed shows he snuck out and was skateboarding down the street.
The case is being worked by Detective Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn), a local woman whose son Tom (Jack Irvine) was best friends with Danny. Ellie’s deep connections to the town and to the murder give Gracepoint a very grounded, personal feeling. It’s a small town. “Things like this just don’t happen,” several characters repeat in shock.
Working as Ellie’s boss-of-sorts is Detective Emmett Carver (Tennant), who is new to town, and fresh off some kind of scandal at his last posting. Tennant is just as gruff as he was on Broadchurch, but his American accent takes some getting used to (even though it is rightfully subdued). Carver’s relationship with Ellie is hostile from the start, because he took the position that she had been offered before her vacation. Further, he doesn’t seem to have any compassion for those intimately involved in the case, or what such a murder means for a small, tight-knit community.
As for the suspects in that community, everyone has something to hide. Mark doesn’t show any emotion until he sees his son’s body, and his true whereabouts the night of the murder are unknown. As soon as Ellie breaks the news to Tom about Danny’s death, he doesn’t grieve, but instead deletes all of the messages on his phone to Danny, and also wipes his computer. A gruff local wildlife conservationist who has a team of local kids help him out with his efforts, Jack Reinhold (Nick Nolte) is immediately under suspicion because of his bachelorhood and time spent with children. A montage of other faces we didn’t get to know in “Episode One” also closed out the hour — how will all of them connect to this web?
“Episode One” was an affecting start to Gracepoint‘s run (which will be an expanded ten episodes, which is still a very restricted number on broadcast). While Broadchurch fans may feel an overwhelming desire to point out things that series did better, or at least differently, hold fast. There might be more than meets the eye.
Episode Rating: B+
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I would give “Episode One” a higher rating, but something about it just felt off or rushed to me. Also, I still need to shake off my attachment to Broadchurch, admittedly.
— I couldn’t find much on her, but I really like the casting of Virginia Kull as Beth, Danny’s mother. She feels like one of the more natural characters.
— More town connections: local journalist Owen is Ellie’s nephew, complicating things for her. Speaking of journalists, how awful was the chick from the San Francisco Globe who snatched up the monkey Chloe left in memorium?
— “Wrong gender, wrong age,” the cold reality of Danny’s “marketability” as a news story.
— Nick Nolte is getting to be like Bob Dylan; less and less intelligible as he ages.
— “I am relying on you to catch them” – Beth to Ellie.