Ah, the bucolic small town. Upside: You live in a close-knit community, where everyone knows each other! Downside: You live in a close-knit community, where everyone knows each other!
Our seaside Gracepoint feels more claustrophobic than ever this week, as everyone is watching everyone else, spying on each other, digging up horrible chapters from the distant past. Thank God creepy trailer park lady Susan has a name now, but it’s a false one, as she’s living under an alias. Wildlife club leader Jack Reinhold has a long-ago criminal conviction of statutory rape. Once again, Gracepoint reminds, everyone is hiding something.
Shuffling these various characters together—Owen the reporter and Jack, Susan and Kathy the newspaper editor, Renee the snoopy big-city writer and Beth—adds some sorely needed spark to Gracepoint. We get that Carver and Miller are never going to have any sort of chemistry (tonight’s missed opportunity: chiding him for not commenting that she looks young, or something? Oof.), but fortunately, there are other interesting combos to be had as everyone searches for information that could lead to Danny’s killer.
The group Sunday lunch—one of the advantages of knowing your neighbors— offers even more of a pressure-cooker by throwing characters like Vince, Chloe, and Ellie together all in the same house. Despite the backyard soccer game and some red wine, this attempt at normalcy only highlights even more the loss the Solano family has suffered: one less person playing in the backyard, for example. Virginia Kull chokes me up for the first time with her hug from Tom: Of course, hugs from her son would be one of the most acute things that she’d miss. Later, when they all sit down to venison stew, not only does everyone look suspicious, but there’s a gaping figurative hole at the table: the loss of Danny. Beth is spot-on when she says the pain increases every day, when it becomes all too apparent that you will never see this person again. So the meal just highlights who’s missing, especially for Beth (with a lovely reaction shot as she becomes grief-stricken mid-conversation), and also for Tom, now the only middle-school kid at the table. It makes sense that Beth would follow up this futile attempt to return to regular life by confronting Mark about his dalliance with Gemma (moments before the press conference: ha!): Too much has happened for things to ever go back to the way they were.
Another social meal this episode offers such a needed moment of levity, it’s almost cheer-worthy: Carver’s dinner at the Millers. I feel like we’ve been waiting for Carver to crack a smile for these entire five weeks, so when he finally does, as Ellie’s husband Joe reveals to Carver that she can’t stand him, it’s a blessed relief. Of course, that’s almost immediately followed by his trip to the hospital (Gracepoint laughter always comes with a price!). But I liked how Carver’s initial rant about how he doesn’t even want to call anyone by their own name—to “create some sort of false intimacy”—is followed by his pointed plea to “Gemma” from his hospital bed not to tell anyone how sick he is. Even Carver needs people. He needs his teenage daughter to call him back (even though the possibility appears remote). If Gemma hadn’t checked on him after the complaint from his downstairs neighbor, he’d still be passed out on the floor of his hotel room. His health issues make him one of the most vulnerable Gracepointers, and one of the most in need of outside attention.
Not in need of outside attention: Susan Wright. Sometimes Gracepoint logistics get on my nerves: If you discovered that the person who applied for a job at your inn is not who she says she is, would you point that out to the investigator who is staying in your hotel, or would you go to the newspaper editor? To that end, if you changed your name, why would you use your easily checked old social security number on a job application form? And if you did find that a person is living under an alias, ostensibly for shady reasons, would you, again, contact the police detectives in your town, or would you accost this possibly dangerous person in public on the sidewalk? We haven’t seen much of Kathy yet, but she is one of my favorite Gracepoint residents, with a wry, dry sense of humor, albeit some dumb investigative choices. She surely doesn’t deserve a crazy woman to lurch into her office late at night and announce, “I know men who would rape you,” a line for the WTF archives. Stylistically, I have problems not just with that awful sentence, but with the scene, as then the camera cuts immediately away from Susan, and the next time we see her she is strolling past Carver on the street. What happened after that nasty bit of dialogue? Was it a “Get the hell out of my office,” or “Okay, then, see you around”? An odd editing choice for a series that usually hits all the right marks in the technical department: Even the overwrought score is toning down some, although this episode had at least one slo-mo too many.
Instead of drawing Gracepoint residents together, Paul’s sermon just chastises them in a whiny fashion, cautioning them that the tendency to look at their fellow villagers with suspicion will result in neighbor turning against neighbor. But the murderer is still out there, and even without the psychic’s crazy stories, crime statistics tell us that Danny was most likely murdered by someone he knew. So why shouldn’t the small Gracepoint population be suspicious, especially among this guilty lot? The murderer could have been sitting right there in that church.
- Relationship I have the least interest in in all of Gracepoint: Owen and Renee. My god, if I could, I would fast-forward past them.
- Likely suspect of the week: We’re at the halfway point now of this ten-episode series, so it’s a safe bet that they’re not going to reveal the murderer this far in, Jack’s prior record notwithstanding. In a purely speculative manner (remember, I am as unspoiled as all of you), this week I am turning my suspicious mind toward the local priest without an alibi, Paul Coates. He talks a big game about bringing “comfort and joy,” but how is doing that by basically yelling at his congregation? Why is he so anxious to tell everyone to stop casting suspicions? Why can’t he sleep? So there you have it, this week: priest. Next week, probably somebody else.
- Things you discover when you Google “Nick Nolte”: He was People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” in 1992.
- Certain things shouldn’t be slo-mo’ed: Drinking red wine, beating up your car.