For the last few weeks, the creators of Gracepoint have made an effort to show how little the characters in this quaint California coastal town know about each other. There is constant suspicion, finger pointing and anxiety, especially surrounding the family who are coping with the death of their 12-year-old boy. However, the downside of not knowing much about the inner or secret lives of these characters, which are slowly coming to light week after week, is that we do not feel much sympathy for many of these folks.
Now at the halfway point of this 10-episode season, Gracepoint has not moved forward very much since Danny’s body was found on the beach. The investigation has stalled. While there have been several clues dropped in the previous five episodes from secondary characters – Tom deleting his hard drive, Vince’s suspicious behavior, the skateboard in Susan’s trailer closet – the police have not yet uncovered these key elements. So, without a propulsive moving plot and characters that are not that engaging, Gracepoint is struggling to keep this reviewer’s interest. Yes, I was a Broadchurch devotee when I watched that mini-series last year; however, with that show, we knew more about the periphery characters. When they eventually became directly entangled in the main mystery, we did not simply take Ellie and Carver’s side.
The differences between the two shows comes out most clearly this week in the Jack Reinhold subplot. In Broadchurch, David Bradley had already shown us a tenderness that made us enjoy his portrayal. When the detectives make allegations that turned Bradley’s character into a suspect, we wished that it weren’t so. Nick Nolte’s portrayal has been lackluster so far, mostly due to the little we know about his character. Except for a few expository scenes with the investigators in past episodes, we have little reason to like or have much feeling for Jack. Meanwhile, the gruff, gravel-voiced Nolte is not the actor one would pick to epitomize human compassion or reveal a wounded past. (Come on: Any grizzled old man in his seventies who enjoys reading David Foster Wallace books should be much more interesting than his depiction on the show so far.)
Meanwhile, Carver is going through some major mood swings this week. He seems to affirm with complete certainty that the hairs found in the burning boat belong to Danny Solano, even before the test results come back from the lab. He probes further into Jack Reinhold, concluding that the old man’s statutory rape charges from many years past leapfrogs him to the front of the case’s suspects. (While Tennant is holding the American accent pretty well, is anyone else finding his neck beard distracting?)
Gracepoint is currently suffering from the ensemble’s lack of personality. There are many characters that this mid-season episode focuses on, but is there much of a reason to care for many of them? What is there to Owen and Renee except for their friends with benefits situation and their differing competencies for investigative journalism? What is there to the scowling Susan Wright except for, as this episode makes clear, how she changed her identity several years before moving to town? What is there to Raymond, besides his alleged connections he can make with the dead and the number of times he aggravates the local population?