December 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m. (EST), Fox
From the beginning, we were promised that Gracepoint would diverge. We were told the story would start in the same place, but that eventually, it would become its own thing, with its own unique resolution. For the most part, that promise has proven to be Gracepoint’s biggest red herring, a long con as boring and pointless as the show that utilized it. What we got, in the end, is not a shot for shot remake of Broadchurch, even though it often might as well have been. No, what we got is something lesser, made worse whenever it diverged. But let’s ignore the original series for the moment to look at the story Gracepoint has been telling this whole time, and whether it even makes sense without reference to the source material.
The biggest departure is the disappearance of Tom a few episodes back, which was revealed to be the boy’s efforts to track down the backpacker then suspected to be Danny’s killer. But why would Tom do this, if he already knew everything that happened? Why would Tom track down someone he knew was not involved at all? This is a beat the story never bothers to clarify, probably because it never put much effort into that subplot anyway. It was filler to stretch Gracepoint out an extra two episodes, and while it did that, it rendered the resulting series more muddled and confused.
Why, also, the whole story about Danny’s injury during the camping trip? If the show is painting Tom as some sort of child mastermind, able to use any and everything available to him to make sure he is not revealed as his best friend’s killer, it certainly did that poorly. The possibility of Paul as abusive was red herring, sure, but the source of that red herring only makes sense if it had any basis in fact. Since it didn’t, Tom’s plan seemed to just make it more likely Paul would come clean with everything he knows about Tom and what Tom is hiding. Which…ok?
Consider also the Susan and Vince plotline, the most blatant of this series’ “it makes sense if you watched Broadchurch” moments. Susan insists she saw Vince with the body that night, but she has no real reason to lie, and Vince and Joe look basically nothing alike. If Susan’s instability lead her to believe it was Vince, or if she was hoping in some deluded way accusing him would bring them together, that, again, is something never made remotely clear. On Broadchurch, Nigel (the Vince analogue) and Joe are both bald, and of roughly the same height and build. There, it makes sense that one would be mistaken for the other, which makes it a good red herring. Here, it just feels like the show did not have enough imagination to diverge from the source material, but also, not enough foresight to cast two people who look even remotely similar in those roles. Oh, also, the explanation we get for the multiple witnesses who see Vince the night of the murder? Dude was just hunting. At night. On a beach. Yeah, ok then.
What is changed is the identity of the killer, which complicates the morality of the finding and, in an arguable improvement over its predecessor (if you care about the police work part of it, which I never have). See, in Broadchurch, like in the first 45 minutes of this finale, Hardy/Carver doesn’t really catch anybody. The mystery is resolved when the killer just gets tired of hiding and comes to him, using the victim’s phone and then freely confessing. Here, though, Carver sees through that and discovers who the real killer is using some actual detective work. Sure, it is fairly simplistic detective work, of the sort he probably would have noticed in the interview if he was actually good at his job, but Gracepoint ends, abruptly, on Carver solving the mystery.
That ending actually made me laugh for the fact that it cuts out before this story actually goes anywhere unique or interesting. The weight of Ellie’s decision to cover up Tom’s involvement is carried entirelyby Anna Gunn, since the script never seems to care much about that. And the question of what Carver will do now that he knows he has the wrong man in prison is something the show directly refuses to engage with. Carver looks up. He sees a new direction this show could have gone in to have its own weight and meaning in its closing moments. And then, instead, we cut away. This show is over. Imagination and originality are just over the horizon, in a place Gracepoint never intended to reach.
- “We were happy here.”
- “I never touched Danny.” “But you were going to.”
- Thanks to all of you who stuck with me in this space as I got increasingly frustrated by this show. It could have been great. It’s a shame it decided to be this instead.
Imagination and originality are just over the horizon, in a place Gracepoint never intended to reach.