‘Gracepoint’ 1.05 or Too Sunny To Be Scary

gracepoint 105Thursday night’s episode of Gracepoint was brought to you by the letter S. S stands for sunshine. (Read on.)

This week I’d like to deviate from the usual recap and analysis. Instead I want to discuss my “feelings” towards Gracepoint as a series up until now. Particularly, in regards to some of its misgivings.

THE RANT

Gracepoint is good — but why isn’t it great?  I’ve been thinking long and hard about this because I enjoy the show, it’s just that something feels off about it. Not a creepy “off”, quite the opposite in fact, it’s just off. The episodes seem to be moving faster. The investigations aren’t dragging on forever. The actors are doing a fine job. The writing isn’t at all bad (although, there’s not enough at stake if we never find out who killed Danny but that’s for another day). But… I rarely feel emotionally connected to the world they are in.  So whats up?

Here’s what I’ve come up with: it’s all to bright and sunny.  Literally. Like, they need to tone down the sunshine.  I keep going back to the first season of The Killing and why that was such a better show right off the bat. The most significant reason I can come up with is tone. There are so many factors which can contribute to the tone of a show. Certainly writing is huge, but when the themes are murder and a grieving family, it is crucial that the setting match that sentiment.  Gloomy, dark, wet Seattle, its warehouse lofts and buildings certainly did the trick on The Killing. But what about sunny Gracepoint? It’s a somewhat different show, of course,  about an idyllic town turned upside down by a gruesome event, and the darker side of its inhabitants coming to the surface. And yet the town remains just as idyllic in tone.  The homes, the shops, the streets, the church, are warm and inviting. Well-lit even in the darkest of times. The shots are wide, often outdoors, it’s almost comforting, and I think it’s a mistake.   If Gracepoint was going for irony, the show missed the mark.

I’ll give a different example of a series with a setting strikingly similar to Gracepoint, and that’s Showtime’s The Affair. The Affair is a new series about two married people having an affair in Montauk, New York. Just like Gracepoint the tight-night community of the beautiful seaside town which relies of tourism for its livelihood, serves as backdrop for some darker and seedier goings-on, including a murder investigation. Unlike Gracepoint, those behind The Affair have used the rich history, economy, and geography of Montauk to draw parallels with its darker themes.  Several scenes take place at night, in hidden corners, tight spaces, and public buildings with very personal histories: town hall, the library, the cemetery.  Even in the light of day there is a sense of danger and trepidation, and we’re talking about a series where the main conflict is an affair, not a murder (so far). Another show that does it fabulously is The Leftovers, yet another lovely town brought to its knees by the darkness hiding under the surface.

I am not trying to bash Gracepoint for being itself, especially when so many are already comparing it to the BBC original on which it is based, Broadchurch.  I simply must point out that there certain missed opportunities which, as a serious telephile, I recognize, and which are not typically discussed in reviews.  Set design, lighting design, and a director’s choice of shots control so much of the tone of a show; things that even solid writing and performances cannot save.

End rant.

WHAT WE KNOW

  • The burning boat at the end of last week’s episode was indeed Mark’s boat.
  • Hairs on the boat were a match for Danny’s.
  • Father Paul has insomnia, or at least claims to
  • Father Paul likes to teach Sunday school himself after church instead of letting others do it during church.
  • Father Paul has no alibi for the night of Danny’s disappearance.
  • Ellie now knows that Beth knows about Mark and Gemma.
  • Owen doesn’t have much of a dating life.
  • Kathy and Gemma know that Trailer Park Susan is lying about her real name: Ruth Ehrlich.
  • Trailer Park Susan wants a job at the Inn and knows Det. Carver is staying there.
  • Trailer Park Susan “Knows men that would rape [Kathy]”.
  • The police tents are still up on the beach and the townspeople aren’t happy about it
  • Jack has been in jail for statutory rape. He also use to live out in the woods where a similar murder to Danny’s occurred 15 years ago, when he lived there.
  • Mark owes Vince money, and they have a conversation pending regarding that and more.
  • Raymond, the Ghost Whisperer, has been convicted of extortion and has filed bankruptcy a few times. He is seriously pissed off that the police found out about this and that Beth no longer believes him.
  • Carver is not married but he does have a daughter and she is 17.
  • Carver has a sense of humor
  • Gemma knows that Carver is sick.
  • Jack, Raymond, and Paul on top of Carver’s list to investigate.
  • Mark definitely is a physically violent person.
  • Mark knows that Beth knows about Gemma and him.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

  • How did the boat get in the middle of the water? Someone towed it or had a second boat.
  • Who did Jack have sex with? Does he like boys?
  • What did Carver do that alienated him from his family? Is it related to his past case?
  • Why Renee chose not to let Owen in on his story with the Solanos.
  • Is the murder out
  • Did Danny really leave his cell phone in a kayak at the dock? If so, why was he there the night before?
  • Why did Jack have so many pictures of him and Danny?

I am confused about a few things this week, such as the police’s reluctance to interview the backpacker. Also, what ever happened to Tommy finding the backpacker’s address online? What about all the messages he deleted from his phone and computer when he found out that Danny died? Things are moving along quickly but they are also easily discarded, where other bigger suspicions are left open for far too long. Each suspicion is not connected to any other bigger picture. There is no thread to follow, simply several dead ends which the series has not even hinted at connecting in a way to engage the viewers.

We are at the halfway mark for this miniseries, and something big needs to happen. Something big and scary.

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