As someone who defended Gracepoint from the detractors who kept shouting that it could never step out from the shadow of its British predecessor, it is difficult to stay with my prior argument. During this penultimate hour, one that finally gets down to explaining the backstories of enigmatic characters, there is too much talking and too little atmosphere.
While Broadchurch was sparer and less obvious in the parallels between the storylines, here the comparisons are maddeningly apparent. Ellie is horrified to hear Susan Wright’s backstory, where her husband assaulted her eldest daughter and tried to do the same with her younger child. However, she cannot help but shake her head in outrage, wondering how a woman could not know the violations and violence occurring in her own home?
Of course, there is a lot going on with Tom Miller (who has become the prime suspect, as far as this viewer is concerned) and perhaps Joe, whose low profile over the past two weeks also hints toward some involvement in Danny’s murder. Susan also asserts that Vince is her son, one who was taken from her grasp in the wake of the violence in her household. Ellie cannot understand why Susan would turn someone from her own family in – a decision the detective may be forced to take next Thursday evening.
Another clear parallel involves Carver, who is still trying to keep his shameful past out of the spotlight. He gets restless as he tries to force secrets out of Vince, another major player this episode. Susan points to him as the man she saw carrying Danny’s body on the beach that fateful evening. Of course, Carver is a man who cannot wait for the truth to come out, doing his best to coax a confession in the last hours on the job before his medical history becomes public knowledge. (Carver is so desperate for a break in these final hours that he even goes looking for the medium he shrugged off weeks ago.)
The detective later agrees to share the gritty details of that debacle up in Rosemont: it turns out that his wife, who was having an affair at the time, lost the key piece of evidence to that case. He took responsibility for that ruined investigation, as a way to protect his daughter from the evidence of her parents’ falling out.
All of this exposition comes out thickly, in a variety of uninspired speeches told across a table to a curious party. The emotional impact of those speeches varies: one would expect a deeper pull, of fury or sadness, from Susan as she recounted the monsters in her past. (Jacki Weaver, a two-time Oscar nominee, could have shown us new layers of the character this week, but her expression was too similar to hours past.) Tennant fares better, resigning to a low volume and choosing his words carefully. His revelation is much more stunning because it feels like a big step for Carver to come clean.