We can know someone for years and years, but we could find out one thing that could change our view of them forever: Maybe we never knew that one of our parents was married before. Maybe our kindly next-door neighbor has a criminal record. What kind of effects do these single revelations have compared to all the other interactions that came before them? In this week’s Gracepoint episode, our villagers wrestle with ethical dilemmas in the unstable midst of knowing someone for a long time but possibly not really knowing them at all.
Cub reporter Owen has the chance to jump to the big leagues: the San Francisco Globe from the Gracepoint Journal. In doing so, he will be ratting out and betraying his old Wildlife mentor, Jack Reinhold with a scandalous exposé. Renee, who is becoming more mercenary by the second, taunts, “Another byline in the Globe, some more cash, you don’t want that?” Owen’s initial and commendable reaction—“No. Not like this.”—based on the years he spent with Jack in the Wildlife group, propels him to step aside from this kind of railroading. But Owen also has his junkie mother to deal with, who now doesn’t have any furniture. Does he put someone else before his own family? Does he try to help out his mother when she will undoubtedly let him down again? Still, even when handed Dean’s list of boys that would go on the record about inappropriate behavior from Jack (and why is Chloe so anxious to paint Jack as a pedophile anyway?), Owen suggests that they go to the police, not the press. Taking evidence straight to the police! Ha ha, Gracepoint, that’s so crazy.
The press and the police—Owen and Renee versus EIlie and Carver—represent the two arenas in which a guilty party can be called out. The police are much more cautious, but outside of libel and slander laws, the press doesn’t need to be as careful. We probably saw more paper newspapers in this episode than anyone’s seen on TV in awhile, but Renee’s scandalous headlines are the same on the front page or on a screen: It’s impossible for Jack to come back from a headline like “Hugs For The Boys” or his public pronouncement as someone who’s had sex with a minor. He’s so desperate he even turns to the police for help.
Kudos to Nick Nolte for making the most of what began as a cartoonish role: argh, the crusty old sea captain. Over the past few weeks, Jack has denied any involvement in Danny’s death so fervently, he could have easily swayed into the “protesting too much” category. It’s a testament to Nolte’s long acting history that he comes off as absolutely sincere, even with his prior conviction, even with his past. His tragic family story, including the loss of his son, is heartbreaking. Michael Peña’s Gracepoint performances are characterized by restraint, but never more so when he faces down the man that he’s heard all sorts of terrible stories about. Jack discloses his past, revealing himself to be a kind of future alternate version of Mark: teenaged bride, lost son, engulfed by grief. Mark calls off the idiot neighborhood bulldogs, but he knows that Jack will not be forgiven for this past transgression, and will no longer be safe in Gracepoint.
Last week touched on some of the downsides of living in a town like Gracepoint: This week, they all come to the forefront. When a small, isolated town turns on you, there’s nowhere to run; you can’t just slink off to another neighborhood. For 73-year-old Jack, he can’t take Mark’s advice to go somewhere else: This is his home. Unfortunately, it is a home that has cast him out, ignoring the years he devoted to mentoring their children, and desecrating his beloved memories of his lost wife and child. At the end, Jack feels like the only choice he has left is to join them. His death scene on the beach where he’s spent so many years is surprisingly moving (although it would have been nice if his piano playing would have been left to stand on its own sad self instead of underlined by our unrelenting moody soundtrack).
Gracepoint is like a tiny microcosm, filled with mirror images and repeating histories, overlapping stories. Would you want to stay in its security, like Ellie, or escape it, like Beth tried to? Mark is not only repeating some elements of Jack’s life: They’re both guilty of something that could ruin years-long relationships. In Beth’s eyes, Mark’s infidelity with Gemma threatens to undo his many years of their marriage; in the eyes of the town, Jack’s stint in prison effectively negates all the good he’s done for Gracepoint. Teen lovers Chloe and Dean could repeat the past of Mark and Beth. The duo of Gemma and Paul hang out in the hotel bar and pine for the duo of Mark and Beth. Is Tom, chatting with creepy Susan, destined to become another version of Danny?
Even both Ellie and Carver are embroiled in a similar situation this week: the really, really painful pickup attempt. Both were horrible, but I think Carver’s was worse with the beyond-cringeworthy: “Would you like to relax in bed with me here tonight?” He could at least have asked her if she wanted to have a drink first. Hugo’s pass at Ellie opens the gate for the most enjoyable interaction between Ellie and Carver yet as he teases her about possibly going out with a CSI guy. I’m not saying they have actual chemistry, but it’s hopeful.
I admit it: I’m the jerky kind of mystery reader who peeks at the last page of a whodunnit, so I’m glad things are amping up in Gracepoint. We find out whose boat was burning (Owen really can’t catch a break this week); editor Kathy finally tells Ellie about creepy Susan; the reveal of the high-tar cigarette butts at the death scene is followed by a shot of Susan, puffing away. Carver and I seem to have similar suspicions about Paul the priest: When he’s told, “Tread lightly. You wouldn’t want to pick a fight with the church,” Carver replies, “Well, we better hope it’s not him then” in my favorite line of the episode. I also enjoy the cracks about the priest being such a publicity hound. Even Beth just shakes her head and walks away from him when he talks about the possibility of getting a lot of attention at Danny’s memorial.
Gracepoint is always well-done, but there’s barely a misstep this emotional week, from the sublime shots of our characters in half-darkness as they watch Tom’s skateboard reenactment of Danny’s route, to a deserved slo-mo at the end as Ellie kneels at Jack’s body, devastated. Now that we’re almost to the point (reportedly) where Gracepoint will break apart from its source material, I’m looking forward to seeing where that leads.
- Scariest person on Gracepoint this week: I don’t think she’s a suspect at all, but Owen’s junkie mother is terrifying in a soul-sucking money-pit zombie way, with her pillows on the floor and no refrigerator.
- Most annoying person on Gracepoint this week: Pitchfork-waving Vince.
- At this point I can’t even picture what Danny’s parents smiling would look like, except for that wedding photo. I like how it’s positioned between them during their showdown about Mark’s infidelity.
- “Don’t come after me, Paul!” God, Paul!
- “She said what?”