Gracepoint centres on the murder of a young boy, Danny Solano, and the resulting police investigation, which causes a huge impact on everybody in the town.
For those who don’t know, Gracepoint is based on critically acclaimed British show Broadchurch. It’s exactly the same premise and David Tennant stars in both. There will naturally be a lot of comparisons between the two especially since the British version was such a success. However I’ve never seen Broadchurch which means I’m reviewing Gracepoint as a completely separate entity. It may actually be less biased this way as I don’t have any opinions of the original affecting my judgement of Gracepoint.
Starting with the cast, they are a very talented bunch who give very strong performances throughout the pilot. David Tennant co-leads as Detective Emmett Carver, and whilst Tennant is a fan favourite, Carver may not be. Carver is probably the most unlikeable character out of all the pilots I’ve seen this fall. He comes across as cold, harsh and uncaring, and what’s worse is that we see no redeeming feature in him from the pilot. That’s not to say that Tennant is bad in the role, in fact he’s quite fantastic. It’s just that the character is so awful I worry that viewers will have a difficult time connecting with him. Of course we’ve seen that he has a mysterious background so perhaps that’s why his character is the way he is and maybe we’ll start to sympathise with his character as the season progresses. Hopefully the writers will work on improving his character.
The other detective on the case, Ellie, is played by Anna Gunn. A polar opposite to Carver, she is instantly likeable and it’s interesting to see her balance her grief with professionalism. Michael Pena, a man well known for his acting talents, gives a strong performance as Danny’s father Mark. Again there is this interesting balance of his own grief against trying to be strong for his family. However the standout performance of the pilot goes to Virginia Kull as Danny’s mother Beth. The pain and emotion in all her scenes felt so real, it was almost difficult to watch. Her performance was actually very moving and at certain points I felt so connected that I wanted to cry with her. Kull has done guest spots in a few television shows but has never had such a substantial role before. I have to applaud her casting as I think they’ve found a real talent.
The cast for this show is so large that it’s difficult to focus on each one every episode so we still don’t know much about the others from the pilot. The characters that intrigued me the most were Owen and Renee, played by Kevin Zegers and Jessica Lucas respectively. I hope we get to see more of them in upcoming episodes as I think they’ll prove to be very interesting characters.
The truth is I usually don’t enjoy shows like this. When I saw the promo I thought it would be exactly like The Killing and would thoroughly depress me. However I was pleasantly surprised. I got to the end of the episode and was disappointed that I couldn’t watch the next one. Not because I wanted more clues as to who the killer is, but because the show was of such high quality that I wanted more of that. I think the reason for that high quality is how well the characters are written, perhaps with the exception of Carver. Too often with shows like this, suspicion is cast on every character instantly and we don’t have time to really trust or like anyone. With Gracepoint it feels more gradual, we are actually being allowed to enjoy the characters and to wonder about their stories outside of the murder plot.
The other thing that makes the show work is the level of raw emotion. The beach scene where Danny’s mother sees her son’s body was magnificently executed. Beth’s screams followed with the silence then violin music was just perfect in capturing that moment. It was utterly heartbreaking and everything in the scene was done so well. For me, it was the highlight of the episode. But the emotion didn’t end there; it continued throughout the episode and it really shows how people react to things in completely different ways. I would suspect that for a show dealing with such serious subject matter the emotion will continue. I just hope that it continues to be executed in such a touching way.
Gracepoint started off with a brilliant first episode, filled with very poignant scenes and strong performances. It may have a hard time shaking off the comparisons with the British version but if it continues with the high quality displayed in the pilot, it will establish itself as a truly great show.