Gracepoint, “Episode 9” (1.9) – TV Review

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Gracepoint 9

December 4, 2014, 9:00 p.m. (EST), Fox

As we near the end of the season, Gracepoint continues to be such a bland, lifeless remake of Broadchuch that its differences stick out like sore thumbs, pointing in the direction of the ending we have been assured will be different. I can’t say I’ve enjoyed this season of television all that much, and yet, I’ve found some pleasures in it here and there, enough so that I haven’t gone mad from boredom seeing the same scenes played out with less panache. This week, pleasure’s name is Jacki Weaver.

Weaver is, like Pauline Quirke before her, a big gun brought in to do the work of a scalpel as Susan Wright, and she’s absolutely incredibly when it comes time to do the slicing. Susan’s story is every bit as gut-wrenching even this time around, and Weaver brings such immense pain, regret, bitterness and wounded hope to the performance it is absolutely stunning to behold. She does such fantastic work here, the character, and her stalking of Vince, almost needn’t have had any set up. I would have bought all of the emotion and all of the history she brings to the performance even if these characters were strangers.

Which brings me to an important point I’ve made in the past: the mystery of who killed Danny has never been nearly as interesting as what either series did around that investigation. Broadchurch became a story about how a town processes collective grief, and about how the past haunts us all, and shapes our insecurities. Gracepoint has eschewed that sense of pervasive melancholy, and instead focused on the mystery at its center, to the detriment of nearly everything around it. The problem with this decision is that the mystery was a MacGuffin in Broadchurch a way to dig into this town and its various pained denizens, but never what the show was really dealing with at its core. That means the actual whodunit was thin gruel throughout, the base of the show in some sense, but just as much irrelevant to its particular charms. By focusing on the mystery, but not changing it to add any depth or resonance, Gracepoint has given itself a hollow center and seems incapable of recognizing the void.

That’s a problem because, while when I reached the finale of Broadchurch learning the identity of the killer was just one small detail in a sea of things I cared about, Gracepoint has elevated the stakes incredibly high, and has very little to show for it. I spent most of “Episode Nine” wondering about Vince as a red herring, and even as a killer. At one point, he asks “Wby would I do that? Why would I kill my friend’s kid?” The answer, of course, is that he wouldn’t do that. But then, would anyone on this show? Broadchurch’s “twist” worked because I had forgotten to care much who the killer was, and because the show had laid just enough out there for the pieces to snap into place. Perhaps I will eat my words in the wake of a brilliant revelation next week, but at this point, it seems like Gracepoint is building towards a non-event of a revelation, and with nothing to offer in its finale except an answer to a question it has never truly made me care about.

Broadchurch built a world and weaved a monster into it. Gracepoint has painted a child’s sketch of said monster, with “monster?” written under it in crayon. The earlier show parceled out clues enough that the revelation in its finale made sense. I can’t think of a single person that makes sense as the killer on Gracepoint who isn’t blindingly obvious. Hopefully, next week makes me a fool, with a revelation so brilliant, and so reliant on all that’s come before, that I can accept this show as worthwhile for just the mystery it focused on. At this point though, I’m assuming the revelation will be like the series that makes it: derivative, predictable, boring, and without much to say about anything beyond its basic plot.

The Roundup

  • “I was looking at that body, wondering if my girl looked that peaceful after he killed her. I hope she did.”
  • “I’m done.”
6.7 OKAY

Gracepoint has given itself a hollow center and seems incapable of recognizing the void

  • OKAY 6.7
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About Author

Jordan Ferguson is a lifelong pop culture fan, and would probably never leave his couch if he could get away with it. When he isn’t wasting time “practicing law" in Los Angeles, he writes about film, television, and music. In addition to serving as TV Editor and Senior Staff Film Critic for Next Projection, Jordan is a contributor to various outlets, including his own personal site, Review To Be Named (where he still writes sometimes, promise). Check out more of his work at Reviewtobenamed.com, follow him on twitter @bobchanning, or just yell really loudly on the street. Don’t worry, he’ll hear.