Welcome to Gracepoint, a town that may look familiar to some of you. It certainly did to me, being a fan of the British series on which this new Fox one is based. Like Broadchurch, Gracepoint is a coastal town where a young boy is found dead on a beach. In both Broadchurch and Gracepoint there’s a new, mysterious detective in town to lead this investigation and he looks an awful lot like a Time Lord.
Now, all jesting aside, Broadchurch and Gracepoint have a lot of similarities that have been widely pointed out now by critics. Chris Chibnall has relocated his murder mystery to California with its lead, David Tennant, and much of its plot (for now) intact. Not intact? David Tennant’s growly Scottish brogue, but his American accent is nothing to worry about.
EW‘s own critic, Jeff Jensen, didn’t watch Broadchurch and wrote, “after five episodes of Gracepoint, I wonder: What’s the big deal?” Being a fan of Broadchurch, I come at Gracepoint with a mixture of hesitation and excitement. While the first episode did seem a bit redundant, the endings of the shows are reportedly different, meaning I’m essentially in the same place as first time viewers when it comes to the actual mystery. Still, I’ll avoid asserting my knowledge of Broadchurch, and therefore potentially revealing spoilers.
So let’s get started.
Gracepoint opens with a survey of the eponymous town at night. Cut to a child’s empty bedroom, a hand dripping blood, and a boy on a cliff, tears in his eyes. The audience quickly learns that this boy is Danny Solano. In the morning his family—his grandmother cooking pancakes; his sister trying to get out of school—goes about their business happily, they assume Danny has simply forgotten his lunch and headed to the town’s wildlife club. By the time his mother, Beth, gets to his field day and he’s not there, something is most definitely wrong. Stuck in traffic, Beth gets out to ask someone what’s going on, and as soon as she’s told of a body at the beach her face turns. Beth’s grief was one of the more arresting parts of Broadchurch and continues to be so here, in the American version played here by Virginia Kull.
That’s where the central detectives Ellie Miller (played by Breaking Bad‘s Anna Gunn, who is also an expert a portraying shock and distress) and Emmett Carver (Tennant) come in. Ellie has just returned to work after vacation, and in her absence the chief has given the new guy in town, Emmett, the promotion she believed she was going to get. Ellie is angry—as she has every right to be—and Emmett doesn’t make anything easier for her with his gruff nature. When she arrives on the beach, distraught upon recognizing Danny, her son’s friend, he does not take well to her overt displays of emotion and tells her to “shut it down.”
But this tension between Ellie and Emmett is what the show hinges on. She represents the intimacy of a town where everyone assumes they know one another; he represents the outsider suspicious of everything.
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