We’ve all lost someone before. In a mall, a crowded street, a fair or even at the grocery store. You search frantically over the heads of people in the crowd, retrace your steps and finally breathe easy as you find your friend, partner or child. Even if the moment lasts for only a split second, the experience is traumatic.
That’s because some of these stories don’t have happy endings. Child kidnappings are unfortunately common. Children can be lost or taken in any situation. In the case of Gracepoint, it’s on a morning walk to school.
The citizens of Gracepoint cannot seem to catch a break. After Jack Reinhold (Nick Nolte) was driven to suicide as a result of bullying last week, Ellie Miller’s (Anna Gunn) son, Tom (Jack Irvine), vanishes the morning after Jack’s funeral. But although Tom’s alleged abduction packs an emotional punch, it’s not nearly as impactful as it should be.
Miller’s husband, Joe (Josh Hamilton), is supposed to walk Tom all the way to school in the morning and pick him up in the afternoon. Along the way, Tom’s younger brother drops his stuffed animal and cries out for it. Tom realizes that if he walks all the way back with his dad and brother to get the toy, he’ll be late to school.
He’s only three blocks away so Tom insists he can walk there himself. His dad reluctantly agrees. Somewhere in those three blocks, Tom disappears.
Gracepoint has finally taken a giant leap away from Broadchurch. Tom’s disappearance marks a divergent plot from its British sister series. The most important difference, however, is how Gracepoint handles Jack’s death and funeral.
The American version of this sequence is a disappointment. The episode opens with a scene we saw before just after Danny’s death: a quiet, solemn, seemingly abandoned town. The funeral service for Jack is respectable and most of the town turns out to pay their respects, but something about it feels cheap.
In contrast, an entire episode of Broadchurch is devoted to Jack’s death. It is a moment of introspection as the townspeople are forced to reflect on their role in his eventual suicide. Meanwhile, Gracepoint spends maybe ten minutes on the tragedy. It doesn’t feel right to skimp out on such an important event. The actions of Gracepoint’s population need to be addressed; glossing over them seems like a missed opportunity.
Jack was driven to suicide in part because the town decided he was responsible for Danny’s death without any hard evidence. Yet Rev. Paul Coates (Kevin Rankin) delivers a powerful eulogy at the funeral that essentially blames Carver (David Tennant) exclusively for Jack’s death. He argues that although he went to Carver about Jack’s safety, the police did nothing about it.
The town did not come to Jack’s aid when he deserved it which makes the outpour of support for the Millers bittersweet. The tragedies the community has suffered run deep. Gracepoint moves farther and farther away from a tight-knit community with each passing week, but Tom brings the people back together again.
The town bands together to search for him with the hope that he won’t meet with the same fate as Danny. But although the town’s camaraderie is heartwarming, it’s hard to see the public leap to Tom’s aid when they so callously discarded Jack’s innocence in earlier episodes.
We finally meet Carver’s daughter, Julianne (Chloe Babcook), in this episode. She helps demonstrate that children are not always lost because they are taken; sometimes they’re “lost” through neglect. Julianne reaches out to her dad in an effort to spend some time with him, but he’s busy with investigating Tom’s disappearance and questioning the mysterious backpacker about Danny’s death. His obsessive quest to redeem himself for disregarding his daughter stings as he struggles to let go of his commitments as a detective.
Carver makes it clear these cases are his main priority. His lack of attention for his daughter ultimately drives her to take a bus back to her mother’s while he’s out. The moment Carver realizes his daughter has left is sullen; he’s attempted to contact his daughter for weeks. The moment she reaches back, his actions push her away.
Meanwhile, as Miller and her husband try to grasp what happened to their son, they start to point fingers at each other. Miller claims Joe should have followed Tom all the way to school. He is openly haunted by the guilt of his actions. It’s only in later that he finally accepts he made a mistake and apologizes to Miller.
Whereas most couples that we see onscreen are torn apart by grief, the Millers come together in the wake of tragedy. They both know that fighting will not find their son. Unfortunately for them, they may not find their son alive. Gracepoint closes out its episode with yet another slow-motion moment (the show sure does love that effect) as the reverend and the Millers discover Tom’s mountain bike abandoned in the woods.