We’ve established that secrets are a ubiquitous factor in our lives. But we also like to assume that those closest to us will share their skeletons. Discovering the true malevolent nature of people you thought you knew is an unimaginably scary thought. The fourth episode of Gracepoint preys on this innate fear along and communicates it through the show’s voyeuristic lens.
Carver (David Tennant) starts the episode by rattling off a series of questions that may never get answered, a pattern that reflects Gracepoint‘s angle on crime fiction. Even when previously introduced mysteries are solved, they inevitably open the door to yet more clues. For example, although we learn the meaning behind the number found in Danny’s jacket, that only leads to a new problem: the owner of the number is missing.
The cinematography in Gracepoint is at its height, moving away from the ocean to views of the town’s impressive scenery. After the Gracepoint title card appears, it fades in over an establishing shot of Beth (Virginia Kull) running down an open road flanked by rolling hills and a magnificent tree. Director of photography John Grillo outdoes himself in this episode as he more emphatically celebrates the beauty of life and death.
Grillo and director James Strong juxtapose scenes of kids playing soccer with Carver and Miller’s grim investigation. The dueling complexity of how to deal with mortality, especially when someone so young is taken from a community, is an omnipresent theme. This issue resonates the strongest with Beth Solano. Her one and only son was murdered. How is she supposed to cope with her loss? How can she go on with life?
The system shocks never stop for Beth. While reeling from the discovery of her husband’s affair, she turns to the only other person she thinks she can trust: her daughter, Chloe (Madalyn Horcher). Even then, Beth finds more devastation and betrayal as she comes to understand that Chloe isn’t all she seems. Everyone in Beth’s life seems to have changed since the murder. This prompts her shrinking world to collapse entirely.
Beth is the most outwardly empathetic character on the show. We feel her pain and her heartbreak each episode. Carver taps into our empathy, as well, but on a subconscious level. Carver is an outsider to Gracepoint, much like the audience. In order to emphasize his perspective, Strong uses camerawork reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, Rear Window. This style gives the director the ability to make us acutely aware of moments from episodes three and four that are not meant for our eyes.
The camera steals moments and confidential information from the characters. What normally comes across as Dramatic Irony turns uncomfortable, just as it does in Hitchcock’s classic. For instance, information about Danny is shown to the audience that even the police don’t know about. In this way, we become the voyeurs. And like Carver or the out-of-town reporter, Renee (Jessica Lucas), whose unwelcome snooping into the death of Danny Solano warrants a suspicious eye from the town, we are unwelcome.
Though the crew behind the camera is at the top of their game, some of the performances fall flat this time around. After three strong episodes, Miller (Anna Gunn) has lost her spark. The toll of this murder has cast a morose cloud over her and Carver. All witty banter or smart quips seen in Broadchurch are lost in the serious tone of its remake.
In the U.K. version, Hardy (Tennant) and Miller’s (Olivia Colman in Broadchurch) relationship has more back-and-forth, while in the U.S. version, Carver and Miller are constantly at odds. The only time these relationships resembled each other was in last week’s episode. The difference between the Carver/Miller rapport last week and this week may represent a much-needed split from Gracepoint‘s U.K. origins, but I can’t say that it’s a positive change to the formula.
Miller and Carver’s dislike for one another should be resolved by now; seeing them butt heads each episode is tiresome. The two are stiff in Gracepoint. The tone of the show holds Tennant and Gunn back, both of whom are phenomenal actors with impressive titles under their belt.
Gunn in particular just doesn’t seem to know what to do with Miller anymore. Not all of it lies on the actresses’ shoulders, however. When she delivers her line, “You should see the look on your face,” it makes no sense in the context of the scene; despite her claim, Carver’s face doesn’t change at all in response to what’s going on. Whether this Tennant’s failing as an actor or Strong’s as a director remains unclear.
I understand that the showrunners would like to distance Gracepoint from Broadchurch. But I also believe there are more effective methods to do this than through poor writing that creates two unlikable central characters. Not creating a shot-for-shot remake is the more obvious answer, of course, but it seems they missed that memo.
I pray this episode was only a fluke, and that next week will bring new inspiration to the Carver/Miller dynamic.