Episode 7 of Gracepoint has just aired on ITV Encore. Please see our review below - but be aware that it contains spoilers if you haven't caught up yet.
It is inevitable that in any discussion of Gracepoint that comparison will sooner or later be made to Broadchurch, the original ITV series on which it is based. However, Episode 7 of the US remake saw the long-awaited major plot divergence which clearly confirms that Gracepoint is starting to stand up as a series in its own right.
The episode opens to find the town reeling from the shocking conclusion of the previous instalment. Jack Reinhold (Nick Nolte), a previously much loved and respected elder of the town was hounded to suicide by the people among whom he made his home after being wrongly accused of crimes against children. His vindication came too late and now the community are assembling to say their farewells to him. But just as the population believe this surely must be the last trauma they must face, another is just around the corner, and one that strikes into the very heart of the investigation.
Paul Coates (Kevin Rankin), never one to resist an opportunity to exploit a crisis as a platform for his own agenda, uses the funeral service to launch a barely veiled attack on Emmett Carver (David Tennant). He’s now been labelled The Worst Cop in California by the press, who need a new scapegoat to defer attention from their own hand in Jack’s death. Carver and colleague Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn) are not just there as mourners; they are there to observe too, and Ellie is deeply self-conscious that Carver’s methods are starting to rub off on her. Somewhat hypocritically, many key figures in the events leading up to the tragedy are also there: Vince (Stephen Louis Grush), who led the lynch mob, Dean (Kendrick Sampson) who accused the Wildlife Group leader of touching the boys, and Owen (Kevin Zegers) who wrote the damning article. Notable by her absence is Renee (Jessica Lucas), who fled town when the news broke, leaving Owen to take the flak. Carver and Coates clash, and Carver’s suspicions about the priest are further fuelled when he sees Coates with his hand on Ellie’s son Tom’s (Jack Irvine) knee. His attempt to discuss this with Tom is scuppered by a furious Joe (Josh Hamilton) who accuses him of making everyone unhappy and suspecting everyone. “Sometimes I’m right,” retorts Carver. But it will turn out that Carver’s covert interview attempt will be the least of Joe’s worries.
For the first time the investigation shifts away from Danny Solano and onto the fate of another child: Tom Miller, who has been acting strangely since Danny’s death. He’s deleted texts and computer files, rooted out the backpacker’s contact details and subjects mum Ellie to an outburst. His ranting “You don’t know anything about me anymore” mirrors Dean’s report of a similar statement by Danny. But worse is to come. In the morning Tom persuades Joe to let him go on alone for the last three blocks of the journey to school. He never arrives. Movingly, the whole town, recently divided by prejudice and suspicion, now pulls together to search for the missing boy. The hunt is led by Mark Solano (Michael Peña). He and Beth (Virginia Kull) alone know what the Millers must be going through, and now that they are ready to try to step back into normal life they feel strong enough to reach out to help others.
Ironically, just as one family experience the loss of their child, another parent in Gracepoint is reunited with theirs. Carver’s daughter Julianne (Chloe Babcook) makes an unexpected appearance at the police station to see him. It’s not the best timed visit for Carver. The press have turned on him, he’s learned that the whole town hates him, the police force are cutting resources for his investigation and there are calls for him to step down. Julianne turning up on the day of Tom’s disappearance doesn’t set the foundation for the longed-for reconciliation either. As he heads off to yet another interview, she accuses him of paying more attention to other peoples’ children than to her, and of taking risks with his health after she discovers his heart medication. Possibly she’s being naive: he’s a high profile detective in the middle of a murder investigation, and is hardly likely to drop everything to play happy families. She isn’t around for long, but her visit and abrupt departure shows a softer and more human side to Carver and reveals more of his vulnerabilities. This is just part of the shift in roles of Carver and Miller in this episode. He’s quite content to take a step back because there is no holding a frantic and riled Ellie. Now, she’s the one barking out orders, accusing everyone and blowing her top at suspects in the interrogation room. She has moved on significantly from the friendly, open-minded local cop from episode one.
Suspiciously, the disappearance of Tom is marked by two significant reappearances. First up, and now central to Carver’s investigation, is the returning backpacker Lars Pierson (Brendan Fletcher). The vague and twitchy Lars, with his repeated phrase ‘He’s a good looking boy’ and a stash of firearms in his cabin, is a difficult interviewee. He is mentally ill, possibly with PTSD and he struggles to remember events or even to construct a cohesive conversation, but there is absolutely one thing that he is crystal clear about, and that is his meeting with Danny on the clifftop. Whether he will turn out to be a disturbed drifter, or whether the creepy interactions are all an act remains to be seen. Meanwhile he stays in Carver’s custody. The other returnee is Raymond Connelly (Adam Greydon Reid), hotfooting it to Beth’s door with another psychic message, this time concerning Tom. Again, does he have genuine insight or is it all part of a more sinister game? Beth is sensible enough not to mention him to Ellie – and perhaps this is why Raymond thought he could slip in under the radar – but she does share the message with Joe.
Elsewhere, Vince and Susan are still exploring their mysterious connection. Susan has been bold enough to access Vince’s home and talk to his mother. She accuses him of being in trouble and knows, she says, what he has done. What indeed? When we first see Vince he has blood all over his face and hands and is locking something in to a freezer. From hunting, he says. He’s absent from the search for Tom though and instead goes to try to bribe and then threaten Susan to stay away. Remember too, that Susan invited Tom to help her walk the dog – was he hoping to take up her invitation?
The episode climaxes with a horrifying discovery for Ellie and Joe Miller, found by Paul Coates in the woods. And with Tom still missing it’s quite possible that, instead of the one-time killer of Broadchurch, the culprit in Gracepoint could turn out to be a serial offender. Or is there a copycat killer? Has Tom got himself wrapped up in something dangerous? Is it something to do with Rosemont? Whatever the outcome it’s good to see that the series is making good on the promise to be different and that feelings of déjà vu were happily absent this week. The final three episodes promise to be a tense ride.