Gracepoint: “Episode Four” Season 1 Episode 4 Review

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In the biggest divergence from Broadchurch yet, the mystery gains some interesting traction.

Okay, so even though I made a promise a few weeks ago to stop comparing Gracepoint to its predecessor, it’s been a bit of a dubious task. It’s hard to watch scenes that have been ripped right from the original and not hold the two up to each other. That being said, “Episode Four” took great pains to separate itself from Broadchurch, creating new narrative threads and ultimately leading the mystery in a new direction. Now, more than ever, I’m excited. I have no idea what’s going to happen next.

The phone number found in Danny’s jacket last week turned out to belong not to a townsperson, but to the strange drifter that Nick Nolte’s kayak salesman saw him with prior to his murder. Not much is known about this man, except that he’s equipped with hiking gear and seems to be wandering through the town. Little clues pop up throughout the episode—Beth saw him when he came into the tourist information center, apparently he filled out a prescription for antipsychotics—but there’s nothing that really explains his presence. In a town where everyone knows each other, a new face emerging could be the most terrifying threat yet.

Or could it? Perhaps the most frightening thing in Gracepoint is not a newcomer, but new information we discover about people we thought we knew. As the show repeatedly points out, it’s very easy to know little about the people who are closest to you. Another bombshell that this episode drops is the idea that Danny may not have been the idyllic child everyone thought him to be. As it turns out, Dean took him to buy the cocaine for Chloe. When they stopped at a gas station, Danny went inside and shoplifted a magazine.

The news is harrowing, especially to Mark and Beth, who find out after Emmett insists on showing them the gas station security footage. I talk a lot about how great Anna Gunn has been on this series—and indeed she continues to shine, especially in smaller moments like her car conversation with Emmett—but Virginia Kull really stole the show this week. Beth has already been dealing with so much since Danny’s death, and this new information comes as a severe blow. Kull perfectly nails her reaction to the video. At first complete outrage, then a quiet defeat. Her line about giving her whole life to people she barely even knew is haunting.

Aside the Solano family, the most interesting person in Gracepoint has turned out to be Ellie’s son Tom. He’s already carrying a cloud of suspicion with him after deleting his text messages and hard drive, but now his motives are becoming even more foggy. Why does Tom know Mark’s assistant Vince—who seems to have his own strange backstory with the Trailer Park Lady—and why is he snooping through his mother’s stuff? Tom ends up finding the number from Danny’s jacket, and traces it to an address. One of the interesting things that Dean says during his interrogation is that Danny was a loner. Clearly these boys had a fragmented friendship.

Some of the mysteries this week are milder, dealing with the Trailer Park Lady and an unknown woman that Emmett is hesitant to call. There’s also a budding romance between the two reporters, but it’s far less interesting then the central narrative at hand. Really, the best character who’s shuffled into the small-town drama aspect of the show is Gemma, who’s given sympathetic treatment despite her poor decisions. Perhaps her allure is due to Sarah-Jane Potts’ charming performance more than the character herself. Either way, Gemma seems to be a conduit for the audience to really feel the world of Gracepoint. Her conversation with Emmett at dinner is very telling. People may look happy on the outside, but there’s always something they’re hiding.

That seems to be the central theme of Gracepoint: not knowing what you thought you knew. It’s a solid foundation to build a mystery around, but the real glue that’s holding this all together is the exciting new turns the show has taken. Just like the Solano’s thought they knew Danny, I thought I knew where this series was headed. Now I don’t, and my interest has peaked tremendously. Grade: A-

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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