Gracepoint, Ep. 1.08, “Episode Eight” characters heighten otherwise weak episode

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Gracepoint, Season 1, Episode 8, “Episode Eight”
Written by Anya Epstein and Dan Futterman
Directed by Mike Slovis
Airs Thursdays at 9pm (ET) on Fox

“You were so eager to insert yourself into that family’s grief”

While the jumping off point for Gracepoint has been the central mystery of who killed Danny Solano, much like its British predecessor Broadchurch has developed into a compelling, devastating look at the effects of loss on a family and an entire town. While most viewers would argue that Broadchurch did it better, the sharp plot turn in “Episode Seven” highlighted the fact that Gracepoint has developed a great mystery and compelling characters on its own.

The decision to put Ellie’s son Tom in danger is a bit odd. What exactly are the writers trying to do here? What are they trying to show us? While it is good to see the show break from the series’ source material, Tom’s disappearance may not have been the best way to do it. It felt like a forced move in “Episode Seven”, and while it gave Anna Gunn the chance to step out from behind David Tennant’s fine performance, putting another child in danger felt like the wrong move for the show to make. That’s even more apparent in “Episode Eight” when Tom reappears and chalks up his missing hours to him searching for clues in his best friend’s murder. The whole scenario seems frankly a little ridiculous and so out of step with a show that has been so firmly based in to this point, the realities of grief.

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Though “Episode Eight” is significantly weaker than previous instalments, there is a melancholy and deepening of the mystery that still manages to save the episode as a whole. The revelations about some of the characters also helps the episode along. Gracepoint is full of compelling characters but Paul, Tom, Chloe and Susan dominate the episode.

“Episode Eight” returns to a question that was raised early in the season. Why does Susan Wright (Jacki Weaver) have Danny’s skateboard? She’s always been a deeply creepy character, certainly she’s unhinged and dangerous but her connection to Danny has seemed a bit slim- until this episode. Why she has the skateboard is one question, but why she feels the need to   hand the skateboard over is another big question that needs to be answered.

In all of the episodes so far we have seen flashes of Chloe’s pain but “Episode Eight” offers more insight into her struggle. “I needed a break from being the dead kid’s sister”, she tells her parents when they find her after she cuts school. In “Episode Seven” we saw the Salono family trying to move forward. Their scenes together in “Episode Eight” show that they are still struggling and rightfully so but that they are making progress. These scenes are surprisingly light and touching.

“The town turned to me. They needed me,” Paul tells Carver after they have brought him for questioning. This moment, one of the best of the night, is telling more of Paul’s deep arrogance and general lack of trust. When he asks Carver not to “belittle his faith” the viewer can tell immediately that his anger has very little to do with Carver’s dislike of Paul or his lack of faith and more to do with his belief that he’s untouchable.

That being said it is a shock that with just two episodes left viewers are still guessing who the killer could possibly be. The show’s creators have said that Gracepoint will have a different outcome, and presumably a different killer, from Broadchurch. The fact that the writers have managed to keep viewers guessing (and the fact that this isn’t frustrating) shows how skilled they are.

“Episode Eight” is not a perfect episode but it does have some effective scenes, mostly involving the development of characters that have not always been given a lot of attention. With just two episodes left, this episode is one of Gracepoint’s few stumbles.

Tressa Eckermann

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