Among popular American programming, the series that Gracepoint (and its British precursor, Broadchurch) has been closely linked to is AMC’s The Killing. In its premiere season, that dreary mystery also focused on a tattered relationship between two detectives as they investigated a youth’s death, while also shining a light on a grieving family trying its best to remain strong during a hopeless time. However, The Killing’s first season is most prominently remembered for the fan divisiveness that greeted its finale. One expects a similar wrath and disappointment heading toward creator Chris Chibnall for Gracepoint, albeit from two different crowds.
The first group that could (and should) complain is the viewers who watched Broadchurch and were promised that this American translation would feature a different ending. While there are some changes, many of the concluding notes from its predecessor are here – enough to make one who watched both iterations feel like they have wasted the past ten Thursdays. Meanwhile, those who rebelled at the cliffhanger ending that greeted the final moments of The Killing should be in similar ire here. Gracepoint, which has very little chance of renewal for another season given the muted ratings this fall, does not end on a satisfying note. Based on the final two minutes, one could be fooled to tune in again next week to see how the season wraps up.
While the final episode of Broadchurch was devastating, here it all feels derivative. (Also, with a shortened running time more suitable for network TV, a lot of scenes felt rushed.) Like in the British version, Carver brings Tom and Joe in to question the young boy about his suspicious behavior and the whereabouts of that computer. Joe ends the interview early, catching Carver’s motives to put some of the blame on Tom.
In the next scene, just as it was portrayed in the predecessor, Carver gets a signal from Danny’s cell phone and follows it. As rain falls on the backyard, Joe emerges from the garage behind his home, is taken into police headquarters for questioning and admits that he was the one who killed Danny Solano. How did he become entangled in this grisly crime? Well, Danny had become close with Joe after Mark struck him for quitting soccer, and Joe saw his relationship with his friend’s son with more lust than the 12-year-old did. Due to some mixed signals during a meeting at the hut, Danny stormed out of the home. Trying to evade Joe, Danny’s head struck a hard object and he collapsed to his death.
Even for those who never tuned into Broadchurch, the reveal of Joe’s involvement in Danny’s murder was rather obvious. During the heated interview between Ellie and Susan Wright last week, the detective could not fathom how the suspect did not know of the criminality going on in her own house. “How could you not know?” Ellie asked, incredulous. When she returned home to two enigmas at the end of “Episode Nine,” it should not have taken much for regular mystery watchers to recognize the parallels between Ellie and Susan’s stories.
Unlike the British series, the revelation of Joe’s complicity in Danny’s death is not handled with the same emotional resonance. Much of this is due to how Ellie was more foregrounded and fascinating when Olivia Colman portrayed her. Although Anna Gunn’s character was a major focus of early episodes, Carver has owned the more interesting story arc this season and had more to do in the past few episodes.
The detective never got quite the same compassion as she received during the initial series. When Ellie charges at her husband in the interrogation room just moments after learning that he was the culprit, it is reminiscent of a moment from Broadchurch’s finale. However, Gunn plays the moment with too much aggression and not enough disbelief, making her slaps and kicks the actions of an angry woman rather than a shattered one. Colman was the anchor of Broadchurch and to see her spiteful nature in that scene gave greater nuance to the character. In comparison, Gunn’s hardness for the past several weeks kept viewers from investing too much into her plight.