Gracepoint: “Episode 2” Season 1 Episode 2 Review

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Little details help to intensify the mystery, while Anna Gunn continues to dazzle.

Quick note: I used a good amount of my review last week to compare Gracepoint to its predecessor Broadchurch. I still don’t understand why the show’s creators spent millions of dollars making a near shot-for-shot recreation of their other show. That being said, “Episode 2” did a few things to differentiate itself from Broadchurch, giving me hope that this series will be moving into more original territory in the the weeks to come. Going forward, I don’t think I’m going to spend too much time discussing how the two shows relate to each other. It wouldn’t make for interesting reading, and it’s a moot point for anyone who’s a new viewer.

One of the most effective plot devices in “Episode 2” was the use of small details to make a big impression. It’s easy for a mystery series to pull out major twists and turns—such as this episode’s ending sequence—but it’s much more impactful when the writers can make a lot out of very little.

A quick glance at a yellow skateboard in the closet of Jacki Weaver’s trailer park lady now makes her a suspicious character. A roll of cash found in Danny’s room now leads us to believe that he had more than a few secrets. A little bag of cocaine not only makes Chloe and her boyfriend look bad, but also implicates the sympathetic innkeeper Gemma (Sarah-Jane Potts). These mini-reveals help to further define the close-knit nature of Gracepoint, making the town feel more claustrophobic than friendly.

Equally as compelling is the way the show is dealing with the Solano family’s grief. It feels very authentic, and is another element of the show that makes good use out of simplicity. In one heartbreaking scene, Beth takes a trip to the grocery store, only to be painfully reminded of her loss. The entire sequence is wordless, but with a haunting score and the mournful looks she gets from strangers, we feel her mounting anxiety. Things reach a breaking point when she walks past her son’s favorite cereal, causing her to lose it when she gets to the parking lot. That’s when we find out she’s pregnant.

It’s one of two big revelations in episode, the other arriving at the end in an exciting scene that darts back-and-forth between Emmett and Ellie during their respective detective work. Emmett is interrogating Mark after finding video surveillance that discredits his alibi, and Ellie is at the beach house near the scene of the crime.

Mark’s dodging of the questioning doesn’t exactly make sense. In fact, the entire episode saw him transition from a grief-stricken father to a rage-fueled, incredibly suspicious man. It’s no wonder Beth hasn’t told him about her baby yet. Michael Peña doesn’t exactly make a smooth transition between the two personalities, making him seem more off-kilter than Nick Nolte’s scratchy-voiced kayak salesman. Despite this, it still feels odd that he would continue to lie to the police, and be genuinely shocked that they’re investigating his involvement in Danny’s murder. Anyone who’s ever watched a cop drama already knows that they always question the family first. Do they not get Law & Order in Gracepoint?

This mishandling doesn’t overshadow the episode’s ending, however. As Mark continues to awkwardly ramble in front of Emmett, Ellie phones to tell him they found Danny’s blood at the beach house and a set of fingerprints all over the sink. Surprise! They’re Mark’s. With eight episodes to go, I’m sure this will end up being another red herring, but it’s still an eventful way to end things. Gracepoint might be excelling at utilizing its smaller details, but it also know when it’s time for a big finish.

Before Ellie makes this discovery, though, she spends more and more time getting to know Emmett as they work the case. This is where Gunn really shines, playing off David Tennant’s gruffness with a nurturing ease. The role is such a departure from Gunn’s weary Skylar on Breaking Bad, proving just how versatile of an actress she is. Ellie is caring, motherly, and totally optimistic. Even in a professional setting, there’s a warmness coming off of her. Sure, Emmett is right to scold her for letting Gemma off the hook so easily, but it’s hard not to side with someone who’s so positive. There are far too many crime dramas with hardboiled, seen-it-all detectives at their center, and it’s refreshing to see someone who’s a bit of a fish out of water. Also, after this episode, “assoholic” might be my new favorite word.

During one of their meetings, a a phone repair man named Raymond comes into their office. He claims that he can hear voices—Emmett’s line about him being a “reluctant psychic” is perfect—and that Danny has contacted him to tell him he was on a boat the night he was killed. Emmett writes him off immediately, but is seriously irked by an offhand comment he makes about a pendant. Broadchurch had this clairvoyant character in it as well, and it’s interesting that Gracepoint has decided to introduce him right away instead of keeping him a mystery for several episodes. Ray feels a bit odd in a show that seems to otherwise be striving for realism. I don’t really think he added anything to Broadchurch and I’m hoping he ends up being used differently here. Only time will tell.

Overall, “Episode 2” proved to be far more engrossing than the pilot. There’s still a few character kinks that the show needs to work out, but it’s certainly on the right track. Even if you’ve already seen Broadchurch, I think this remake is worth-watching simply for Gunn’s performance. If you’re a newcomer, all I’ll say is, you have no idea what’s coming. There were parts of this episode where I felt the same way, which really made me excited. Grade: B+


By Mike Papirmeister

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