A review for Episode 10 of the FOX TV crime drama Gracepoint follows. Please be aware that the article contains spoilers and the identity of Danny Solano's killer.
The gripping murder mystery Gracepoint built to its climax last night. With the clock ticking, Detective Emmett Carver (David Tennant) had only a few hours left to wrap up the case and track down the killer of twelve-year old Danny Solano (Nikolas Filipovic). But he still needed to absolve himself of the failures of Rosemont by doing the right thing for Danny. Over the last nine weeks, a parade of suspects came under Carver and colleague Ellie Miller’s (Anna Gunn) focus: from the town priest, to the English hotelier, to the venerable old nature group leader to members of the victim’s family themselves. But nothing could prepare the small town of Gracepoint for the horrible shock that would shake them all to the core.
It’s difficult to talk about Gracepoint without referring to the original series Broadchurch. Criticisms about Gracepoint have been that it was too close to the original for too long, the plot variations were too few and fairly pointless and that the performances were somewhat lacking in chemistry or emotional responses, or even too obvious, and no mention of David Tennant was complete without reference to his accent. On the other hand, the remake did allow for more character development and background and more suspects. But it was the final twists that concluded episode 10 that set it apart from Gracepoint’s predecessor. At last it felt like something original.
The apparent reveal came quite early in the episode. Having retrieved the files from Tom Miller’s (Jack Irvine) smashed laptop, Carver confronts the boy about his relationship with Danny in the presence of Tom’s father Joe (Josh Hamilton). Carver clearly has his suspicions already at that point and uses the interview to draw out his real target. Even as he meets Ellie on the beach, even as he receives notification that the missing smartphone is switched on, even as he starts the trace, he must know then where that trail is going to lead him. He can’t share his suspicions with Ellie, but she barely picks up on his uncharacteristic praise of her as he sends her back to interrogate Vince while he continues alone to conclude his case.
The significance of Ellie’s disbelief that Susan did not know what was going on within her own family becomes clear as Carver finally stands face to face with the man holding the smartphone. Joe Miller is ready to confess all. It’s an uncomfortable tale, as Joe’s inappropriate infatuation with his son’s best friend led to a tragic accident. Joe wants to be caught and wants to bring things to an end. He is duly charged with Danny’s murder and Carver has the agonising task of breaking the news to Ellie. It’s a heartbreaking scene as the crusty, unemotional Carver reveals that he is capable of deep empathy and Miller, who has weathered everything from career disappointment to bereavement, to the possible abduction of her son, finally collapses. David Tennant underplays just to the right extent to allow the growing tide of horror and revulsion to grow in Ellie, as it will soon do across the town itself. Ellie cries, vomits with the trauma, she rages and eventually attacks Joe himself. But she has a bigger shock in store.
Later, in the hotel room in which Ellie and the boys are installed to keep them out of danger, there comes the darker, more terrible twist. Joe didn’t kill Danny at all. It was Tom. An accident it may have been but Ellie has some deep soul-searching to do as she realises the implications for her family, her friends and for her town. This is Ellie, who was so convinced that nobody in Gracepoint could have done such a thing, and that every mom knew just what their kid was up to. Ellie who was a friend to the Solanos, and trusted by Beth. Their boys grew up together. It was bad enough that Danny had his secrets. But surely not Tom too? So Ellie is forced to make a terrible decision. In Ellie’s foreshadowing conversation with Susan Wright (Jacki Weaver), she told her suspect, “I’m a mom too and I’m sure that whatever my child did I’d want to protect him”. In turn, Susan professed to Ellie that she had acted to keep her own son Vince safe from accusation. At the time Ellie was utterly bemused by what she was hearing, but sitting on a hotel bathroom floor with the terrified boy she suddenly understands. She could salvage some of her family. She could give Tom a second chance, and at the same time make Joe pay for his misdemeanours. She has already shown her willingness to fight for her son. Her ferocity towards Lars Pierson startled even Emmett Carver.
For the Solanos, learning who the apparent killer is, it’s like yet another body blow. The volatile Mark (Michael Peña) has to go and confront Joe. Beth (Virginia Kull) has it out with Ellie with one single, stinging phrase: “How could you not know”. However, they do find the closure that they needed in Danny’s funeral and in the beacon lighting that follows. There’s even a sign that Mark is softening in his attitude to Paul Coates (Kevin Rankin). They’re not exactly best friends but Mark is at least grateful to him.
From Carver’s point of view, at first it’s all wrapped up nicely. He’s even managed to squeeze in a reconciliation with his daughter. He has, for now, lain to rest the ever present spirits of the Rosemont investigation. Unfortunately, this by-the-book detective just cannot stop detecting and it doesn’t take much musing over the evidence that he has to reach the conclusion that something is amiss. As we say goodbye to Gracepoint, Carver has a new target – but he’ll have to get past his former colleague to get to him. And perhaps that is one let down of this series, that of all of the characters who deserved closure, Carver is the one that has not achieved it. His reason for being in the town has failed. The Gracepoint killer is still out there.