Gracepoint Review: “Episode Five” (Season 1, Episode 5)

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Unsurprisingly, “Episode Five” works best when trying to delve more deeply into the lives of characters that could use more insight. Tennant shakes off his crusty detective routine and gives a nuanced performance when leaving a message on his teenage daughter’s answering machine. (He just wishes she could let him know how she is.) Kevin Rankin remains a valued member of the Gracepoint cast, giving just the right amount of intensity and woe to offset what could have been a stock religious figure.

With that in mind, director James Strong can really hold off with the overbearing music. This week, an electric guitar clanged over moments with Paul, which didn’t match the tone of the scenes. The mournful music hovering over all potential suspects to create doubt has become incessantly overwrought.

The best work on Gracepoint continues to come from Virginia Kull, who seems like the most alert actor on the show, despite her character’s overwhelming grief and how often her eyes look glazed over. The scene when Beth takes Tom into her arms for a hug, a comfort she probably misses receiving from Danny and a feeling of warmth that has been entirely absent from her life, was deeply moving. It is these quieter, solace-filled moments – without the intrusion of the melodramatic score or overused slow-motion – that offer the drama’s most satisfying moments.

When Gracepoint falters, it is in those moments when the behavior of the townspeople fits a television series more than real life. This episode did not see only one, but two moments where a character shoved another on the Solano yard. (A nonplussed Carver takes his anger out on Raymond early on, while Mark pushes one reporter off of his lawn at the end, smashing his camera in the process.) Meanwhile, Susan’s chilly arrival in the Gracepoint Journal office, atop her off-kilter threat to Kathy – “I know men who’d rape you” – seemed to come from a different show.

Despite some touching moments from this episode, several of the townspeople still mean little to the viewer. As a show filled with mystery tropes, about the mechanics of a small town interacting with the aftermath of a brutal crime, Gracepoint fails to be as enriching as one would expect. As indicated by the awkward family lunch at the Solanos this week, one wisely shown with the audio cut, this community is still torn apart. If only we cared more for bringing all of these disparate parts together.