Gracepoint, Season 1, Episode 2, “Episode Two”
Written by Anya Epstein and Dan Futterman
Directed by James Strong
Airs Thursdays at 9pm (ET) on Fox
“You have to learn not to trust”
The first episode of Gracepoint introduced viewers to a small Oceanside town rocked by the death of a young boy, a family unable to cope, and the cops responsible for finding the killer. The audience was introduced to countless suspects like Jack (Nick Nolte), and priest Paul Coates (Kevin Rankin) and two equally damaged detectives, Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn) and Emmett Carver (David Tennant), in charge of finding the young boys killer.
“Episode Two” delves deeper into the emotional pain and uncertainty plaguing Gracepoint in the aftermath of Danny’s murder. It also raises interesting questions about a good number of the characters. Why does Susan Wright (Jacki Weaver) have Danny’s missing skateboard? Why did Danny have hundreds of dollars taped under his bed? Why does his sister have cocaine under her floorboards? Why exactly is Ellie’s son so concerned about talking to the police? And most importantly, why was Danny’s father, Mark (Michael Pena, so good here) close to the site where his son’s body was found?
Like the original, Gracepoint works best as an examination of what grief and uncertainty can do to people. Beth’s (Virginia Koll) parking lot breakdown and past relationship with Paul is a deeply affecting scene. “Episode Two” does many things right but it does a particularly excellent job at showcasing the family’s crushing loneliness and desperation. From their deathly silent house to Mark’s telling violent outburst directed at Paul to Chloe’s (Madalyn Horcher) connection with reporter Renee Clemmons (Jessica Lucas), it’s clear that each family member is attempting to make sense of their tragedy. One of the things that is most fascinating about Gracepoint is how these characters have been revealed. Nothing feels rushed or flawed; we are slowly learning more about each of these characters and all of them are being given time to be explored.
Strangely, it is Tennant’s Carver that is the emotional center of the show, which is ironic given how deliberately cold his character is. Everything Tennant does as Carver is honest and deeply felt. From his hidden past, which we catch a glimpse of, to his medical issue (what exactly is up with that syringe in the bathroom stall scene?) Carver is deeply cynical, but the viewer can tell immediately that he wasn’t always like this; something forced him into becoming that cold.
“It’s like you like it that way,” Ellie tells him after he asks rapid-fire questions that only he can answer for himself. “Do I?” he returns. Tennant and Gunn have an exceptional chemistry that is already reliable and exciting. Both are such wonderful actors it’s exciting to see them interact with one another. It helps that writers Anya Epstein and Dan Futterman give everyone involved excellent dialogue to work with. Check out the tense and frightening interrogation scene between Carver and Mark. The moment is not violent or over-the-top, it is simple and perfectly played by the two actors.
“Episode Two” does raise some concerns, at least for this reviewer. What makes the show great could also be a problem for it in the future. There are so many characters, so much of a focus on the mystery that it if not handled properly, the very delicate balance between the mystery and the dramatic character developments could break and the show could suffer. As of right now though, Gracepoint has many good things going for it: powerful acting, a beautiful yet eerie setting, an intensely emotional plot, intriguing characters, and the fact that it is a 10 episode limited run series. That is the perfect amount of time to tell the story.
“Episode Two” is very effective in moving the story forward and presenting us with more clues, not just about who may have killed Danny, but also who are central characters are. So far, the series continues to be interesting, sad, and expertly executed by the writers and actors involved.