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Gracepoint: “Episode Nine”

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As we near the end of this murder mystery, here’s the huge problem with the Gracepoint/Broadchurch pairing. Despite a few (minor) plot twists, Gracepoint is pretty much a shot-for-shot remake of Broadchurch. So much so, that the few scenes that were not repeated from across the pond might as well have giant blinking neon lights attached to them. For example: Danny’s injury on the church camping trip. From the moment Mark called it a spider bite, even viewers who were dozing off undoubtedly sprung to attention. Since the Gracepoint creators have said they’re switching up the murderer, these new scenes therefore must have significance toward who the new murderer is. These scenes probably don’t stand out so much to the non-Broadchurch veteran, but to those who’ve seen the previous series, there’s no mistaking them.

This week we learn that Danny’s injury had a much more sinister past than a fight with an arachnid: He was slugged by everyone’s least favorite character anyway, Paul the Priest. The show is playing up Paul’s devotion to Beth so much that from a purely speculative viewpoint, I’m estimating that Danny was taunting the priest about his crush on his mother. Tom knows the priest is guiltier of more than he lets on, so why is he still destroying evidence like his computer? And if Paul’s guilty, why would he still turn that hard drive over to the police?

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One of the many, massive Gracepoint themes this week is redemption. Everyone wants to know why Carver is risking his life and this investigation to try to find Danny’s killer, when the answer could not be more obvious. Revealed this week, he took the fall for his adulterous ex-wife, who lost the pendant, the key piece of evidence in the Rosemont case. As snarly as he’s been, we know Carver’s still a decent cop, and person, who of course would be tortured for the rest of his life by letting a murderer go free. It makes sense that he would chase Danny’s killer at the expense of his own health, a life for a life. When Miller chides Carver for going back to work immediately after his heart attack, saying he’s going to kill himself, he replies, “If that’s what it takes.”

Also redeemed, for no apparent reason I can witness: Mark Solano, apparently. Beth still wants to work things out, despite his little Gemma dalliance. Most likely, after the death of a child, an indiscretion like that seems smaller in the overall landscape of things. Still, Beth is rightly terrified to bring a child into a world where not only can she not trust strangers, she can’t even trust her own husband. So her decision to have the baby is a redemption in itself, in a way. But just had to laugh over Beth’s emphatic sneering “I don’t carrrre about Paauuul.” Ha ha, Paul.

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Unredeemable: Susan Wright. Her story is just as awful as it was the first time around, and points to Gracepoint’s continuing theme of the monster living right beside you. Vince appears completely menacing however, with his ominous tattoo of Danny’s name, and Dean’s story about Vince hunting with Danny, to the surprise of his parents, could be noteworthy. And if it wasn’t Vince with the boat, or with the van and the tarp, as Ellie’s sister finally reports, who could it be? But Vince rails to Carver, when asked if he killed Danny, “Why would I do that? Why would I kill my friend’s kid?” The problem, of course, that there is no possible satisfactory answer for why anyone would perform an act that monstrous.

Think of all the murder mystery movies there are: most about two hours in length, and some whodunits are much more compelling than others. I don’t know if even Hitchcock himself would have taken on the 10-hour whodunit (let’s face it, he probably would have), but this kind of length brings up a much higher bar of suspense and speculation. Gracepoint remains at the top of its game technically every week: This episode I particularly liked the camera angle looking straight up at Father Paul from underneath (like looking upwards from a grave, perhaps), and the slow-mo when Tom went to confront the priest. I appreciate the overlapping themes like forgiveness and suspicion and confession and redemption. I just don’t know if it was worth such a long-term commitment. Six hours, perhaps? Four?

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At this point in Broadchurch, one major verbal slip had clued savvy viewers as to who the likely culprit was (English oddsmakers even laid bets on it). Maybe I’m missing something (entirely possible!) but I don’t know if Gracepoint is as deftly crafted to point to anyone in particular as the final episode looms ahead. Maybe our suspect list has shortened, but not that far. The whale makes a full appearance in the title sequence this week, suggesting that our culprit is in reach. But who?

Stray observations:

  • Hey Carver and Miller, I’ve got one word for you the next time you go after a culprit at a crime scene in the middle of the night: Backup.
  • Owen spends a lot of his time fighting with machinery.
  • What is Miller’s husband up to all day when he’s not painting the house? It’s taken me all this time to realize that he’s played by Josh Hamilton, former indie movie favorite from House Of Yes and Kicking And Screaming.
  • In Gracepoint, we must be grateful for even the tiniest occurrences of humor, as when Carver meets with the psychic, who says, “I was surprised that you called.” “I thought nothing was a surprise to you.”
  • Looking forward to next week’s conclusion so that we can all compare murderers. See you then.
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