This is the week we’ve been waiting for, the week when Gracepoint makes its giant leap from the Broadchurch trajectory. And does it ever. On one hand, it’s a lot more interesting for Broadchurch veterans to watch this show when we’re not fairly certain about what’s going to happen; on the other, after six weeks, it’s almost unnerving. Lost children figure prominently, with Tom’s disappearance (thanks, Gracepoint, for putting my favorite character in danger), and Carver managing to lose the child that’s right in front of him.
Most of us parents have had the unfortunate experience of losing a child at least momentarily—even for a minute, even for a nanosecond. We once lost sight of my son for two whole minutes at a huge museum. Clichés you have read about your entire life but never actually experienced—like having your heart in your throat, or breaking out in a cold sweat—become reality. You call the child’s name with an impossible-to-hide tinge of terror in your voice that makes all sorts of total strangers turn around with alarm. Gracepoint does an excellent job of portraying this sinking helplessness as we watch Ellie search for her missing child: How does she remember to breathe in and out, to put one foot in front of the other, especially considering what happened to the last missing child in Gracepoint? Beth and Ellie’s hug was a nice moment of comfort in an unbearable situation.
But since we’ve already had a horrible missing-child Gracepoint episode (the pilot), it’s unclear what the showrunners are trying to pull off. Setting up a serial child kidnapper? Possibly Lars Pierson the backpacker? Even though he is beyond odd, I’m going to maintain that the Gracepoint murderer comes from the inside, otherwise the show’s entire premise of how we all hide our dark sides is pointless. But who could the Gracepoint culprit be?
Of course, the Solanos immediately rally to the charge to find Tom: It would be cathartic for them, helping to find this lost child when they weren’t able to do anything to help their own. Backpacker Lars is appropriately unsettling; Ellie’s turn at going off on him in the examination room is not, and seems more like a prospective showoff scene for Anna Gunn than anything. I prefer the no-holds-barred way she attacks the backpacker’s cabin as a crime scene, attempting to lock down a modicum of control in a situation where she has none.
This inherent sense of helplessness pervades this particular episode: Again, when this person (especially this small person) is supposed to be in a particular place, and is not, everywhere else that person could possibly be becomes a scene right out of a horror movie. The formerly benign world transforms into a labyrinth of terrors. But there’s only so much Ellie can do: She can yell at creepy Lars, but she can’t actually make him talk (Carver’s low-key approach actually turns out to be more effective). She can be angry at her husband (actually, I though she should be much angrier at her husband; he turned around for a frickin’ stuffed animal), but that isn’t going to help anything.
But still some people want to do what they can. We’ve seen a lot of the downsides of Gracepoint small-town life over the past few weeks, so here comes the upside: The town may hound you to your death, but its residents will also form a search party and comb the woods for your missing child. Paul the priest rightly lambasts the townspeople for their treatment of Jack, but have they really failed Danny Solano? What aren’t they doing that could possibly be done? (I think Paul just likes to lambast people: He probably wishes he also had a gavel up there on that pulpit.)
Is Tom’s disappearance meant to underline Danny’s, to remind us how awful losing a child can be? Is it to amp up the menace and tension of Gracepoint, to remind us that despite everyone walking around and re-entering their daily lives after Danny’s death, since the murderer is still out there, no one is really safe?
Carver’s dismissal of his daughter can be telegraphed miles away: Of course she’s going to walk in just when he’s at his shoutiest, most unappealing self, and he will ignore her due to the case of another child, will forget her as she waits for him, so she takes his snack money and leaves. There are all sorts of ways to lose a child: Carver’s is lost to him despite efforts on both sides. It’s unfortunate that Julianne happened to visit Carver on a day when he couldn’t make time for her (especially in light of his “pathetic” phone message last week), and her presence in his office underscores his life-threatening problem: In his job, in his particular beyond-stressful line of work, there isn’t room for anyone else, not even his own daughter. Unfortunately, this means that Carver is effectively sacrificing himself for his job (even the backpacker can tell how sick he is), because we all actually need people. With his illness, Carver would be more dependent than most, but still pushes away the one person who would be most likely to help him. Julianne’s appearance was a major positive addition to Gracepoint’s original Broadchurch framework, as David Tennant’s Carver definitely needed some humanizing. Although it plays out in an obvious manner, it adds a necessary paternal side to the worst cop in California. Even he gets that people need other people—in my favorite Ellie-Carver moment so far, he jumps in the car to go with her as she heads to Tom’s school—but, tragically, he is unable to fill that same need for himself.
So we finally leave Broadchurch behind for Gracepoint’s final four episodes. As I’ve said, Gracepoint is extremely well done, with the highest levels of production, a thought-provoking seaside setting, a solid cast, and only an occasionally overwrought soundtrack. It suffers primarily when compared the chemistry and moody atmosphere of its source material: These last few episodes are a chance for Gracepoint to stand on its own. It’s off to a decent start with this episode, as Tom’s disappearance becomes a terrifying reminder of what happened to Danny Solano.
- Banter continues to be a Gracepoint sore spot: I really don’t want to think about Paul the priest and “tongue-lashing” at all in the same sentence, and Ellie and Carver stumble along in their tortuous attempts at chemistry, as she consoles him over scathing newspaper headlines (probably written by that Renee) and sarcastically ponders how little she knew before he came into her life.
- How much of a bitch is Chloe? Saying she didn’t even like Jack, when she helped spearhead the press onslaught against him.
- Can we dare hope that Renee is gone for good?
- I couldn’t help but notice how horribly Tom’s bike helmet was attached; that chin strap wasn’t tightened at all. If he did fall off that bike, it wouldn’t have even stayed on his head.
- Most likely suspect in Gracepoint this week: Vince, with his locked-up workshop and weaponry and blood on his face and Susan taunting him with “I know what you did.” It’s a bit obvious (with three episodes to go) for him to actually turn out to be the culprit, but he appears awfully guilty this week.
- Most annoying person in Gracepoint this week: Paul the priest. Why must he continually hound Mark, even during a search party for a missing child? And has he ever met a TV camera he didn’t love?