Gracepoint Series Premiere Review: “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)
For many faithful television watchers, the eight-episode series Broadchurch – broadcast by ITV in Britain and BBC America in the United States – was one of the major television events of 2013. For a similar number, the ten-episode anthology Gracepoint, now on FOX, will be one of the biggest shows of 2014. However, likely to not be counted amongst Gracepoint’s ardent admirers are those who savored the original small-town mystery.
Now set on a coastal town in northern California, Gracepoint could unfortunately suffer from how closely it mirrors its British counterpoint. For someone who adored Broadchurch, this initial episode felt almost directly transplanted from the series that preceded it. Even the title font looks the same. It also does not help that both shows feature David Tennant as the prickly, tortured detective and the same creator, British scribe Chris Chibnall. As someone who was already held rapt by Chibnall’s mystery last year, Gracepoint may only serve as a reminder of how good Broadchurch was.
Gracepoint is a quaint town where everybody seems to know who everybody is. This is indicated by an early tracking shot where plumber Mark Solano (Michael Peña) casually walks to work and manages to cram in a greeting to everyone he see walking down the main street. Among those he says a ‘hello’ to is Detective Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn), returning from a sunny vacation and walking to the police station with a leap in her step. Ellie will find that joy cut short, when her sergeant informs her that during her absence, he promoted another detective to be the chief inspector. That man is Tennant’s Emmett Carver, who so far, seems as if he could have been cut and pasted directly from Broadchurch and had another actor dub over his Scottish brogue with a drier, less aggravated American accent.
Fortunately, now that the small town has two working detectives, it will come in handy that Gracepoint also happens to have the first murder crime scene in the town’s recorded history. The victim is 12-year-old Danny Solano. (Full disclosure: I initially wrote Latimer in the previous sentence, which was Danny’s surname on Broadchurch. Things are blending together too easily.) His body was discovered on Gracepoint’s beach, underneath a sharp, cliffy incline. However, a crime scene worker tells Ellie and Carver that it does not look like a suicide. Suddenly, everyone is a suspect.
Among the suspects are a usual bunch, especially for anyone who tuned in to ITV or BBC America last year. There is Danny’s father, Mark, who remains vague about his whereabouts on the night his son was murdered. There is also Jack Reinhold (Nick Nolte), the town’s aged wildlife recorder who holds a program for male students to record wildlife early in the morning. Danny was devoted to going out every morning; as a result, his parents felt no need to check on him before heading off to work. (This is a small departure from Broadchurch, where Jack was a newsstand owner.)