Gracepoint Review: “Episode 2” (Season 1, Episode 2)


Earlier this fall, in the wake of the release of This is Where I Leave You, I decided to revisit Jonathan Tropper’s hilarious novel, a recent favorite, before seeing the film version. I hoped that it would help me weigh how good the adaptation was; however, the sharp humor and the breadth of character development in Tropper’s original text was largely missing from the film. Had I not gone back to read the book, I may have been less harsh on the film. (A week later, I returned my Gone Girl copy to the library, knowing a re-read would make watching the film less fun.)

In a way, knowing what is going to happen in an adaptation from book to film can be an enormous disadvantage, as one waits for certain moments or lines of dialogue to appear. We should try to evaluate films as separate entities from the novel, although there is no real issue with comparing their differences. A similar point comes up when focusing on Gracepoint, a (so far) faithful adaptation of the British mystery Broadchurch. If you have just watched Broadchurch to prepare for Gracepoint, FOX’s drama is probably a long slog, as the latter is currently adhering to a timeline that is strictly following the schematic of the original series.

Regardless – and this is coming from the perspective of someone who watched Broadchurch last year – Gracepoint is still absorbing, well crafted and tremendously acted. Sure, it is a bit dull when you know where a certain plot point is going, but more than a year after tuning into Broadchurch, this current rendition still manages to work on its own account.

Slowly, Ellie and Carver are nudging the pieces of the puzzle together and we get some helpful hints (or red herrings) this week. Mysterious resident Susan Wright (Jacki Weaver, with a permanently furrowed face) holds the keys to an inn where Danny was often seen… and has a skateboard that looks just like the murdered boy’s in her cupboard. (We see it, but Carver doesn’t.) Meanwhile, Mark was found on the security footage near the inn (and his fingerprints are by the sink in that building) and he does not have a viable alibi for the night his son disappeared.

However, despite their progress with the investigation, they are not buddies just yet. Carver likes to work alone and efficiently, marching at a beat that Ellie and the rest of the force cannot keep pace with. In the episode, he criticizes Ellie for not being objective with people she knows well. “Stop reassuring people. Let them feel the pressure,” he tells her, after a rather pleasant interrogation. “You’re not here to train me,” she spits back, standing up for herself. Ellie believes that each person has a moral compass, while Carver thinks that compasses can easily break. In one of the episode’s most telling images, we view them talking in Carver’s office, with a few window panes of space separating where they sit.