November 20, 2014, 9:00 p.m. (EST), Fox
After feinting in the direction of becoming its own thing last week, Gracepoint virtually immediately decided to become an undercooked Broadchurch remake again this week. “Episode Eight” reveals that all of the show’s promises of originality were lies; every idea it has that it didn’t steal from its predecessor is a stall tactic, a way to extend an eight-episode story into ten episodes. The episode gets us back to shot-for-shot remake territory, stealing several scenes from its predecessor and offering precious little new in the way of plotting or character development.
What it does add is a wonderful subplot about the Solano family struggling to learn how to live again and giving into their need to have some fun by going bowling. Sure, there’s that cringe-worthy moment where Beth whispers to Mark that Chloe is about to break Danny’s record, and the whole moment quivers with lopsided symbolism, but even that is a sour note in a subplot that feels like a symphony by Gracepoint standards. Virginia Kull continues to be Gracepoint’s chief, and perhaps only, asset, filling Beth Solano with a battered warmth and humanity that is the only thing close to an approximation of the feeling evoked by Broadhurch. Michael Pena is also very good, though he strains to fully embody Mark’s detachment and angst. During that sequence at the bowling alley, I wanted this show to re-center itself as one totally about the Solano family coping with and eventually overcoming grief. Alas, that’s nowhere near what we got.
Instead, we are served with a nonsensical plot that returns Tom to the fold, and either confirms that he is Danny’s killer or tries way too hard to convince us of that fact while pretending this episode wouldn’t be more aptly titled “Red Herring.” So Tom wandered off into the woods to…give Lars a crossword puzzle or maybe get his Mom back? Ok, then Gracepoint, glad we spent time on this. And when Paul saunters up like Freddy Krueger to find Tom smashing his laptop, it feels like a Schumacher Batman movie: two campy villains meeting each other because why the hell not? We’ve all got some time to kill. Except here, instead of Bat-nipples and motorcycle races down giant arms, we get…a missing dog and Carver collapsing for the umpteenth time. What isn’t stolen directly and shamelessly from Broadchurch is something worse: boring when it isn’t laughable, and sadly often both.
Ultimately, though, we end up where we need to be for things to play out in basically the same way. Gracepoint’s selling point to a skeptical audience was that it would diverge from Broadchurch in episode seven. What we failed to grasp is that, apparently, the show meant only in episode seven, because “Episode Eight” veers as hard as it can back onto a predetermined course. This isn’t a bad episode of television, if only for the bowling subplot and the brilliant speech about faith and suspicion Paul gives in the interrogation room (I was actually too drawn in to take notes on it, but it was gangbusters). In fact, its interesting that while the show is almost exactly the same as its forebear, it seems much more focused on faith and suspicion than on collective grief and regret. In that way, it feels somehow more American. Gracepoint may not do much outside of remaking a popular British series, but in that regard, if in no other, it has set itself apart thematically. Its not particularly adept at developing its newly chosen theme, but hey, at least its got that going for it. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll figure out something to do with it.
- “Did anyone ever tell you that you run a little hot and cold?” “No.” “No?” “I’ve heard the cold part.”
- “My life got stolen that day. I can’t get back from that.”
“Episode Eight” reveals that all of the show’s promises of originality were lie.