REVIEW - Gracepoint Episode 2 - Learning Not To Trust

The steadily-paced establishing premiere episode of Gracepoint served to introduce the plot and characters. Now, episode 2 of the ten-part murder mystery has picked up a pace adding new twists and clues to the investigation that has sent a little town in California into turmoil. 

With enquiries now in full swing and evidence starting to come in thick and fast, some of the residents of the small Californian town are coming under the police spotlight. The relationship between the two leading detectives, Emmett Carver (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn), is no less fraught. But Ellie is no doormat and, still smarting from the disappointment of her lost promotion, she will not be taking any of Carver’s abruptness lying down. She appropriates the word ‘Sir’, using it as a weapon the same way that he uses the word ‘No’. Their opposed views of the town of Gracepoint are the biggest point of contention. Carver is trying to convince Ellie that it is time to take off the blinkers and accept that the killer is living among them. "You have to learn not to trust," he barks at her over their desk-based late night supper which she provided (and he still found fault with). "I can't be outside," she responds. Her horror at the idea of seeing her friends and neighbours as potential suspects is compounded by the list that the Solanos provide: "These people are your friends!" she gasps. However an encounter with a family friend in the playground brings it home. She isn't neighbour Ellie any more to them. She is Detective Miller, who should have all the answers and should be protecting their children from this monster. They have found it easy to see her in a different light and make new demands of her. Now Ellie must find it in herself to do the same to them.

Carver, for his own part, is still finding it hard to adjust to the slower, community-focused pace of life in Gracepoint, where Gemma’s drugs offence is given a verbal reprimand and a Whalefest takes precedence over a major investigation. But some of his own secrets are starting to emerge. A dizzy spell at the coffee table raises the question of a health issue that he does not want to share with his colleagues. Then there's the issue of Rosemont again, clarifed by journalist Renee Clemons (Jessica Lucas), who tracked Carver's performance on that case. Three missing children, she states, and then Carver ends up here, working on another case centring on a child. It's not clear whether she is questioning his abilities or implying something more sinister. A tantalising glimpse of a photo of a girl in Carver's wallet also remains an unanswered question, as does the mention of a pendant by the apparent 'psychic' Raymond Connelly (Adam Greydon Reid), which has him rattled. 

What sets Gracepoint apart from other crime dramas is its focus on the aftermath of the terrible event that has hit the community. Alongside the police procedural, is the real, heartfelt local reaction - a condolence book, the response of the church, the concerns about the tourist industry and concerns about children's safety. Central to this is the experience of the Solano family. Beth (a powerful and emotional performance by Virginia Kull) is lost and trapped and  acutely under scrutiny. Even escaping from the family home for some space paradoxically leaves her more trapped than ever, pinned down by sympathetic looks, acutely aware of the whispered comments. Mark (Michael Peña) seems to be acting more strangely, he is evasive and angry. In fact we see the first signs of what could be a significant temper, and his attack on Paul hints that there might have been past tensions between the two of them over Beth, as he warns the priest away from his wife. It’s probably significant that Beth chooses to spill her big secret to Paul rather than her husband. Was the Solanos’ marriage already in trouble before the tragedy? And with drugs and money turning up at the family home is one of them harbouring an altogether darker secret?

Meanwhile Gracepoint is now on the media map and the journalists have joined forces. Certainly Renee and Owen (Kevin Zegers) have at least, as local paper boss Cathy Eaton (Alisen Down) gives short shrift to the big city writer sniffing around in her town. Renee is determined to lean on local hack Owen and play on his emerging ambitions to hit the big time herself, but she also has something on Carver that she can’t let go. He’s certainly not happy to see her face in town.

More questions arise at every turn. The detectives are faced with the mysterious and evasive Susan Wright who, unbeknownst to them, has what might be Danny’s missing skateboard stashed in her closet, something that must surely place her at either the scene of the murder or the location of the body. Jack Reinhold mentions a sighting of Danny that nobody else can corroborate. Danny's journal reveals that he had some concerns of his own, and CCTV footage reveals that Mark was lying about his whereabouts. Then the CSI team turn up something startling at the Harvey Ridge Lookout hut, the hut that Susan Wright cleans and has keys for. It appears that the investigation now has its murder site, complete with the fingerprints of someone who still cannot adequately explain their whereabouts on the night of the murder. 

Gracepoint continues on ITV Encore on Wednesday 15th April at 10pm BST.