May 3, 2018
Gracepoint RECAP: Like Broadchurch but with 50% less calories and flavor (S1:E1)
Gather ’round, children. I’m about to tell you a really bizarre story. Once upon a time in Great Britain, there was a magnificent TV drama called Broadchurch. It was a masterpiece. It had horrifying murder, intriguing clues and frustrating red herrings, chilling suspense, creepy neighbors, shocking secrets, heartrending emotional outbursts, and a surprise killer. It took Great Britain by storm, and people threw so many awards at it I’m surprised one didn’t hit Olivia Coleman in the head.
They brought it to the United States, stuck it on BBC America, and it was widely praised by the many, many hundreds of people who actually hunted it down and watched it. The few folks who didn’t like it said, “Well, damn, them people talk funny. Ah cain’t unnerstan’ a dang word them ferners say. ‘Specially that Scottish guy who sulks all the time. He mumbles.”
So what do the good folks behind Broadchurch do? They made it again, just for the ‘Mericans who cain’t unnerstand them limey accents. An exact American duplicate. Line-for-line, scene-for-scene, shot-for-shot. All they did was change the characters’ names. Well, some of them. Not all of them. And some got just their last names changed while others got their whole names changed, but some stayed the same. So now Beth and Mark Latimer are Beth and Mark Solano, while Oliver Stevens is now Owen Burke, but Susan Wright is still Susan Wright. Confused yet? There’s more. In Broadchurch we followed the police investigation led by Olivia Coleman’s Ellie Miller and David Tennett’s Alec Hardy. In Gracepoint we’re still following Ellie Miller but she’s now played by Anna Gunn, and David Tennett is still playing her partner by now he’s Emmitt Carver. In either version, Ellie is pissed off because her big promotion was taken away Tennant’s character(s?). At least Americans are no longer straining to understand Tennett’s thick Scottish accent and instead giggling at his strained American accent.
Those who watch the American version after seeing the British version have generally developed Purist’s Rage, characterized by the urge to throw bricks at their televisions and curse the names of every person connected to this second-rate remake. David Tennant, you may never work in this country again. Lynch mobs are gathering with torches.
Anyway, here it is: Broadchurch lite, sanitized for those too lazy to seek out the original or stupid to make heads or tails of any accent they can’t hear in their own backyard. It doesn’t really matter which one you watch. They are exactly the same. Just… for the love of God and your own sanity, don’t watch both.
Three a.m. Small seaside town. You know, the kind where everybody’s a wholesome, family-oriented, law-abiding teetotaler with bottles of Everclear, a stash of pot, and Hustler magazines hidden under the floorboards for when the neighbors aren’t looking and the kids go to bed. But this kid’s not in bed. Nope, Danny’s on top of a bluff, overlooking the sea, weeping and thinking, “Where the fuck are my parents, and why don’t I have a curfew?” Yeah, you don’t want to know where your parents are, kid. They don’t want to know where you are, either, and that’s just too damned bad.
Morning comes, his mom oversleeps, and his grandmother invades the house—not to tell her daughter off for ignoring her son, but to make pancakes, because apparently she doesn’t have a stove at home. Or something. Maybe she was checking up on Danny. God knows somebody needs to pay attention to that kid. His sister is faking illness and his dad’s late for work. Really together crew, this bunch of losers. Mom sees that Danny didn’t take his lunch with him. Cue threatening music.
Danny’s dad, Mark, weaves through town to introduce us to all the other local two-faced, dysfunctional hypocrites who will be providing red herrings and lame alibis in the coming weeks. He meets up to carpool with the guy who works for him at his plumbing company and learns there’s a traffic jam ahead. Threatening music gets louder.
Ellie Miller, a local cop, waltzes back into the station after a two-week vacation, all saccharine smiles and inane small talk, right up to the moment the police chief tells her they gave that big promotion she was expecting to some out-of-town guy. Is it because he’s a man and they can be expecting a lawsuit from Ellie soon? You would think, but really, it’s because the out-of-town guy has actually done police work before and Ellie, apparently, just sits around and gossips with the locals because not a single god-damn thing has ever happened in this town—until now. Ellie responds to this setback by hiding on the toilet, blubbering, and bitching to a friend on her cell phone. Yeah, Ellie, great professional composure there. Maybe that’s why you didn’t get the job.
That out-of-town cop? It’s David Tennant, incognito as Emmett Carver, staring at the sea without his TARDIS or his sonic screwdriver, probably wondering why the hell he gave up Doctor Who for this crap. Some local yokel is blathering because somebody cut his fence and trespassed on his land, but Carver’s just not all that interested. He’s an outsider! He’s done REAL cases! Badly! Really badly! He’s just too damned good for this piddling shit—or maybe not, because if he was any good they wouldn’t have sent him out to a town where a cut fence is the biggest news of the day. Well, he’s about to get what he wants, because there’s a disturbance at the beach. Be careful what you wish for.
It’s field day at the elementary school; local reporter Owen’s getting the scoop on who won the egg toss, and that’s the highlight of his journalistic career. Beth wanders around, trying to figure out where the hell her kid is, because he sure as hell didn’t compete in the egg toss. The teacher hasn’t seen him either, and he didn’t go to his morning wildlife club. NOW, finally, it actually occurs to her to phone Danny. No answer. And what’s with the traffic jam? They don’t have traffic jams at Gracepoint! There aren’t enough cars to fill a mall parking lot! This can only mean one thing… and Beth abandons her car (making the traffic jam even worse) because she has to be at the beach in time to make a complete spectacle of herself the instant her kid’s body is found.
Carver gets there first, scowling and mumbling, “Don’t do this to me.” Well, you asked for this. Ellie’s there next, panting and shrieking and showing off the first-rate police skills and professional objectivity that got her where she is in her career. Then Beth easily crosses the police line—because the cops on guard are too busy gawking at the first real crime in their lives to pay attention—sees Danny, and nearly decks three police officers as she screams in hysterics. As soon as Owen shows up from the Gracepoint Journal, it’s going to be a complete circus of amateurs making Emmett’s pathetic little life into a living hell. Welcome to Gracepoint, Carver. Sure you don’t want to leave this to Ellie and go solve the Great Fence Break-in instead? Why not? Oh, because Ellie couldn’t solve a crossword puzzle without bawling. Right. Scowl on, then. Watch out; your face will freeze like that.
On top of the bluffs, Carver coldly wonders if Danny could have jumped, and Ellie haughtily informs him that he’d never do that, no sir, because he’s not the kind of kid who would have jumped. Of course, he’s not supposed to be the kind of kid who’s out at three in the morning, either. When the CSI guy agrees it wasn’t a suicide, Ellie’s almost ready to be smug, but the alternative turns out to be worse; Danny’s fall was faked. Somebody did this on purpose. Is Danny the kind of kid who’d be murdered, Ellie?
Owen wants the scoop from Dear Aunt Ellie. Carver would like for Owen to crawl under a rock. Oh, look, there’s a creepy-looking old blonde lady, looking on with creepy intensity and doing nothing of note. Yet. Think she might be important later, Owen?
And now Carver and Ellie have to tell the family. Oddly enough, Carver’s under the distinct impression that Ellie might screw this up, because nobody in Gracepoint could possibly have done this, no, sir. Nobody she’s known for decades could possibly be guilty, except that, obviously, somebody is. She’s too close to the family—Danny was her son’s best friend—to investigate this properly. Frankly, I want to know why they are letting her on this case at all; I’d think objectivity might be kind of necessary in police work. Ellie wants to coddle the Solanos and bring them coffee. Carver wants to know what they’re hiding. But Carver! They wouldn’t ever hide anything from Ellie! Or each other! Who do you think you are, a detective? They aren’t that kind of people, you cold-hearted shit.
Yeah, nobody ever is. After Carver breaks the news to the broken-hearted family, he investigates Danny’s room, while Ellie shows Mark the body. Mark, who has been disturbingly calm up until now, tearfully apologizes to his son for… not protecting him. Or something else. We’ll see.
Back at police headquarters, Carver calls for information about the Solanos, and Ellie decides it’s time to trot out their life stories. But no, Carver doesn’t want to see the wedding pictures or watch the vacation video or hear about how Mark knocked Beth up when she was still in high school. That cold bastard. He doesn’t care about the PEOPLE, like Ellie does. He just wants to solve the crime. What kind of cop just wants the cold, hard, immediate facts about the case at hand? What kind of soulless monster do we have here? And just who does he think he is, demanding that they not gossip, speculate, or talk to the media? Does he think everybody around here has loose lips and an empty head?
Yes. With good reason. These people are unprofessional idiots.
Chief Morgan, the guy who hired Carver over Ellie in the first place, suggests that Carver let Ellie solve this case because it’s going to attract a lot of attention and Carver needs to lie low after that unpleasantness in Rosemont. Well, Morgan, why would you pull this guy out of the professional dumpster if you were going to bench him the first time something interesting actually happens? Why did you pull him out of the dumpster at all? Were the other options really THAT bad? What is Carver hiding? Besides his real accent?
Next up: Jack Reinhart (Nick Nolte).
This is the guy who records whales, or something like that, when he’s not renting kayaks. Once again, Carver’s not up for the small talk. Screw the wildlife preservation lecture. He wants to know why Reinhart didn’t call Danny’s house when he didn’t show up for the latest Sea World recruitment drive, and then, for no particular reason that will likely end up being important much later, he wants to know if Reinhart is married. Reinhart and Ellie would like to know why Carver’s got to be so damned rude while asking all these impertinent personal questions. These big city police officers, they just are so darned unfriendly! It’s as if he thought somebody around here might be guilty of something!
The medical examiner informs Carver and Ellie that Danny was killed by a blow to the head while facing his attacker. It is, indeed, a homicide. Chloe and her boyfriend leave Danny a tribute—his own teddy bear—on the beach, and of course Owen just happens to be passing by at the time, looking for a story more compelling than Gracepoint Elementary School Field Day results. How’s about another call to Dear Aunt Ellie? As long as that vulture Carver isn’t standing two steps in front of her trying to scowl everybody to death, surely she’ll screw up. And she does. Ellie, can you confirm that it’s Danny? OK, I’ll take your non-confirmation as a confirmation, because you are a god-awful liar and I can tell when you are hiding something. Thanks Ellie, you made my career! I hope I didn’t ruin yours! Bye! One small tweet for Owen Burke, one great big horrible nasty public relations disaster for Emmett Carver.
The story gets tweeted to an obnoxiously hungry and insubordinate reporter, Renee Clemons for the San Francisco Globe, and after that, the media gets ready to descend like vultures. Renee has heard of Carver before and knows the shame he’s hiding. Not that she’s going to tell us just yet—that would ruin ten weeks of yawn-inducing suspense since anybody who’s seen the British version already knows—but she’s just salivating to finish off the desiccated ruin of Carver’s life. Might it also screw up the investigation? Eh, who cares? Just as long as she gets the byline! This is a woman who isn’t above stealing Danny’s teddy bear if it helps her get her scoop.
Carver runs hollering through the police station like a man possessed because the entire world now knows that Danny Solano was the victim. Ellie makes a lot of lame excuses. Mistakes were made. Yeah, that’s why you didn’t get that promotion, Ellie. You can beat up the lockers later. No, you didn’t look like a lunatic in front of another cop while you were doing that. Why? He walks by her like he sees her throw tantrums regularly. Fuck the promotion. Why does this woman have a job at all?
We learn that the local inn is run by Gemma Fisher, who is more interested in how this police investigation might affect her business than she is in what happened to the victim. If somebody would like to explain to me how this character got to keep her British accent while the much more notoriously Scottish David Tennant had to drop his, I’d really love to hear it, because this is the kind of inconsistent horseshit that’s gonna get this show pulled in mid-run. Reporters aren’t the only vultures circling Gracepoint; the critics are looking pretty sinister, the ratings are looking pretty dismal, and this kind of thing is why.
Kathy from the podunk newspaper has dragged in Owen by his ear to grovel before Carver for screwing up his case. “Speak,” she orders, like a master training a dog. Yes, Owen, you are an idiot. You are also an opportunistic sleazebag who wants nothing more than to get out of Gracepoint. Bet the rent you aren’t really sorry and you will keep screwing this up for episodes to come. Five minutes after his pathetic mea culpa, he’s schmoozing with Renee and setting her up at the local inn because she just might add some excitement to his dreary little field-day-reporting life.
Ellie comes home for five minutes to perform the following, earth-shattering tasks:
- Show us that she’s got a deadbeat husband and two kids.
- Cry about what an awful bastard Carver is and how terrible it is that she has to do actual police work now.
- Tell her older son, Tom, that his best friend Danny was brutally murdered in the middle of the night. No, she just says that Danny died. The kid is surprisingly quiet at this horrible news, like he knows the other shoe just dropped. Five seconds after his mom leaves the room, Tom doesn’t cry, throw things, or crawl up in the bed. Nope. No mourning here. He coldly deletes every email and text message he ever got from Danny because in this quiet little town where everybody is so sweet and nice and nobody could possibly be guilty, even her own kid is hiding critical information from Ellie. And she’s not observant enough to have a single clue. Maybe there’s a reason Carver’s got a permanent scowl on his face.
Beth Solano finally gets around to asking where the hell her husband was at three in the morning. He was on a job? Who calls out the plumber at three in the morning? Are plumbers first responders now? No, of course not. He’s lying through his ass, and his excuse is so weak his younger son could see through it. Beth later begs Ellie to find out who committed the murder; she can’t trust Carver to do it because he’s not nice enough and he didn’t stick around for milk and cookies.
Ellie finally pulls it together enough to make a stab at some very basic police work; she checks the CCTV cameras and discovers that Danny sneaked out on his skateboard in the middle of the night. His cell phone is also missing. This very rudimentary accomplishment gets a “Nice” from Carver, and Ellie gets to pout because he didn’t throw a party when she started doing her job.
Carver holds a press conference to plead for clues and a better dialect coach. Meanwhile, in the ocean—whales! Hey, did somebody remember to question the whales? I bet they saw the whole thing.