Gracepoint Season 1 Review: Lightning Never Strikes in the Same Place Twice

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The biggest red herring in this small-town murder mystery turned out to be the idea that it would be different than its British predecessor.I’d like to make one thing very clear: I have absolutely nothing against the adaptation of a foreign TV show. Some stories are so good, they deserve to be told again in new and inventive ways. House of Cards, HomelandThe Office, and even the classic All in the Family each originated in the from overseas, but they each quickly became something all their own.

That’s why I was so excited for Gracepoint. Not only was it a chance for a larger audience to see the hauntingly brilliant Broadchurch, but it provided the opportunity for a fresh take on a well-worn concept. The fact that original series creator Chris Chibnall was heading over for the US version seemed like icing on the cake. Now this new show would have the original’s heart and soul intact.

But why spend millions of dollars to shoot the exact same thing?

I think the most frustrating thing about Gracepoint is that it actually showed a lot of potential. Anna Gunn’s Ellie Miller was significantly different Olivia Coleman’s, and minor characters—such as Paul and Vince—were given interesting new layers. Episodes 4, 5, and 6 did great work to distance Gracepoint from its source material. After all, the most important thing a mystery can do is to, well, generate a sense of mystery.

Then there was Episode 7, which offered the biggest departure from Broadchurch in Tom’s disappearance. Here, I finally got the sense that this show was playing the long game. Unfortunately, it ended up being just another detour on the road to a very, very similar conclusion.

Ah yes, the ending. I won’t rehash everything I said in my review of the finale here, but I will say that I found the switching of the killer from Paul to Tom to be inherently lazy. One of the most interesting things about Tom in Broadchurch was that he was initially so suspicious, but turned out to be clueless about the killer living in the same house. Here, Tom exhibits the same kind of uncertainty, but it’s for reasons that are perfectly obvious. There’s no grey area. He acted shady because he did it.

I suppose I should stop and think of Gracepoint through its own lens. Without Broadchurch, how does it stand on its own? Well, it’s gorgeously shot, well acted—besides the constantly deadpan Michael Peña—and provides a touching and authentic look at both a family in grief and a town’s strenuous reaction to trauma. There really is a lot to like about Gracepoint as a show by itself.

And yet, I can’t shake this sinking feeling that that would be going way too easy on it. America already has a plethora of crime dramas, and plenty of them surpass Gracepoint by miles. This show might have been executed perfectly well, but what new elements does it bring to the table? If Chibnall was basically planning on copy-pasting his original story into this slightly altered format, then why should I judge it purely by its own merits? It’s not just familiar territory, it’s practically a clone.

Today news broke that Gracepoint will not be returning for a second season. I can’t say I’m too upset about it, especially considering Broadchurch is already gearing up for its own second outing. The show had a lot of promise, but came up short when it decided to be a replica. What, exactly, would be the point of having two of the same show on the air at the same time? Grade: C-

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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