As we enter week three of Gracepoint, it’s time to start the round robin of murder suspects in the case of poor Danny Solano. Since all investigations start with home, first up on the chopping block is Michael Peña as Mark, Danny’s own dad. He certainly looks suspicious, with his fingerprints at the crime scene and his refusal to admit his whereabouts the night of the murder.
Detective Carver’s right: If your kid was killed, you would tell anything you could to the cops, even if you happened to be sleeping with the cute English innkeeper. Mark’s desperate attempt to keep this info under wraps essentially damns him and his dalliance. When Mark finally leaves the police station, even Ellie admits that he still may be guilty of more than he’s telling.
But isn’t that true of all of us? Hidden inner guilt remains the unspoken theme of Gracepoint. This week we finally find out what Carver’s problem is, other than his neck beard (which is hugely troublesome): In a similar case, he let the murderer get away due to his shoddy police work. Not sure why that gives him license to yell at all the “friggin’ smiling faces” of Gracepoint, but it’s nice to have some context at least. Maybe I’m missing something, and I’m no forensic specialist, but the evidence guy did bring the detective the slip of paper from Danny’s sweatshirt as soon as they found it. Not sure why that leads to yet another Carver rampage: “What is wrong with you people?!?”
So Carver’s back story is helpful: Besides the sense of suspense it builds, it also opens the door wide enough for everyone in Gracepoint to be guilty of something. Look at all that equipment in Vince’s truck! Look how fast Jacki Weaver slams her trailer screen door! And why are Mark’s prints in the Harbor Ridge house if she says she never hired him to be there?
Almost universally, we all feel guilty of something. Even guileless Ellie feels guilty for working so hard on this case that she’s neglecting her own family as she tries to find Danny’s killer. But mothers remain fairly blameless in Gracepoint, as the other half of the episode focuses on Danny’s other parent, Beth. She unfortunately is plagued at every turn, by Policeman Pete, by her well-meaning mother, by symbols like an abandoned soccer ball and goal, and most disturbingly, by the psychic mediary who says he has a message for her from Danny. Yes, it sounds crazy, and yes, the guy is probably a crackpot, but he did have a reliable message for Carver last week, and no mother could refuse the possibility of a word from her lost son. The psychic’s statement indicates what we would have to suspect in this small town: Danny knew his killer pretty well.
And this, of course, is the most menacing, frightening part of Gracepoint: The murderer is among us. One of the characters we’ve likely already met is hiding the darkest of sides. The show deftly unravels enough mysteries each week to keep us interested (Mark was with Gemma that night!) and then adds a dollop of drama to hook us (Beth sees them kissing in the moonlight!). In this congested psychological minefield, the stakes are high, as even the crazy trailer park lady realizes that all children are now in danger.
Speaking of the children, Jack Irvine continues to turn out my favorite performance each week as Tom. He has such a wise-beyond-his-years expression, at an age when he should be laughing and playing and talking about baseball and skateboards, instead he’s plagued by his friend’s death and being interviewed by the police. As we saw in episode one, Tom also has a secret, and at this point I would not be surprised if his turned out to be the most devastating of all. But at this point, it’s still anyone’s game in Gracepoint.
Which makes the character of Beth (I’m going to go out on a huge speculative limb here and permanently mark her as innocent), an excellent conduit for the audience to experience the grief related to Danny’s death, as no one would feel his loss as acutely as his own mother (except perhaps his father, but he’s losing audience sympathy quickly). I loved her acute despair to Pete in the garage about all the time she wasted packing lunches and yelling about clothes on the floor. She seems almost resigned to seeing Mark and Gemma, as if their tryst confirms what she’s known on some level since Danny’s death: She can’t really trust anyone. She pulls her daughter Chloe into her rapidly shrinking circle, but let’s face it, even Chloe is suspect, as she knew about her dad and Gemma. Beth is so alone, in fact, that she appears to be contemplating her own dalliance with the only person left she can turn to: the town priest. Because when Danny’s parents reunite, any sort of spark is nonexistent: Mark doesn’t even get a hug after being at the police station all day, and the two barely resemble the happy couple in their wedding photo. And then Beth poses the unspeakable question to her husband: Just asking him if he killed their son is an irreparable act, and shows how little (if any) trust she has in him. Other than Danny, Beth is our greatest Gracepoint victim.
The outsiders don’t really get Gracepoint: Carver considers the whole place a penance, and Renee tries to offer Owen a way out without even considering the possibility that he may not want to leave. Part of the show’s effectiveness is the incongruity of what appears to be a very nice seaside town as the source of evil. Beth walks along the cliffs and tries to take a respite on a bench, but she still can’t get away from everyone knowing her as the grieving mother. The camera angles—overhead, or behind the bench conversation—make even the viewer feel like a snoopy interloper into this tiny town. This viewpoint reminds us that Gracepoint is so small that we’ve undoubtedly already seen Danny’s killer: but who is it? And what else are all these Gracepointers trying to hide? And if seemingly normal people in a small town like this one court so much deception, what does this imply about the rest of us?
- David Tennant’s neckbeard to me is like Toni Collette’s Hostages wig to Sonia Saraiya.
- Sneaky things Gracepoint people do in the bathroom: check out their secret pregnancies, try to get an alibi going.
- What’s up with Owen and his overdraft? The show rather ham-fistedly highlights Owen beating up a 1998 cash machine to indicate that he’s broke, so would be more likely to sell out his relatives for a big-city byline about a subject more interesting than library renovations.
- I loved the heartbreaking shot of those small shoes as evidence…transitioning to the scariest piece of paper ever!