This week’s installment falls under the classification of “necessary but not as exciting post-combustion” episode. It’s generally found about mid-season for most procedurals, and here’s no exception. After last week’s incredible, Nick Nolte–focused story line, this one’s left dealing with the after-effects of accusation and revelation. Another name for it might be “Truth and Consequences, California.”
As such, it’s an episode that’s fairly plotty and not so focused on specific characters or their inherent potential for guilt (save for, perhaps, Vince … we’ll get to that in a moment). It’s the turning point in this ten-episode arc, a signal that we’re now leaning towards a conclusion. What that conclusion might be is anyone’s guess at this point, which is both exciting and a little scary. Broadchurch at mid-season hit many similar plot points (see my below-the-fold rundown of those, as always), but if we have a different killer in this case, as promised, then this episode didn’t necessarily help us get any closer to discovering who that may be. Or did it?
We start with the eerie image of a boy on a skateboard headed down Main Street, which turns out to be a reenactment of the night of Danny’s death, employed here to time out his ride from the center of town to the hut on the cliff where he was killed. Tom Miller subs in for Danny in this case, which, understandably, freaks out his mother. Townspeople, including Jack Reinhold and the Solanos, watch.
Later we find out that Danny’s phone, which Jack “found” on the floor of a kayak, has been soaked and is unreadable, frustrating Carver. Back at the Solanos, a tense Beth and Mark finally talk about the affair, and Beth finally tells Mark she’s pregnant. “You have to keep it,” Mark implores, a little too forcefully. “I don’t have to do anything,” Beth counters. She’s right, of course, but she’ll find no solace in her friend Paul, the priest — who would never endorse abortion anyway, but who also sees the potential for healing in welcoming a new baby to the family. So does Chloe Solano, who was listening to her parents fight. Beth’s got a lot of reckoning to do with this baby situation, as if she doesn’t have enough going on already.
Meanwhile, Owen and Renee write a balanced Jack Reinhold piece, but the San Francisco Globe twists it, digging the knife further into Reinhold’s life and stirring a lynch mob — with Vince at the helm — to visit him. Thanks to Ellie’s husband, Mark is alerted to the mob before it tears Jack apart, and it’s then that Mark learns the truth, already imparted to Emmett earlier, that Jack and his “accuser” were in love. And while their ages were vastly different (16 and 38), once Jack emerged from jail, they legally married and had a son — one who tragically died. It’s again, heartbreaking stuff from Nolte — he’s really killing me in this — and it gives Mark pause. “You have to get out of here, Jack,” he warns. It’s a prescient warning, of course.
On that lynch mob: Through this episode, we see a streak of Vince’s anger, and we’re not sure exactly from whence it comes. This puts him in the position of “suspect of the week,” but nothing is done with it just yet. This is positioning him, perhaps, for the next episode. What’s he hiding? What’s his connection to Creepy Lady With Dog?
Back to Owen, who finally disentangles himself from Renee and her unscrupulous journalism despite his need for cash to help both himself and his wayward mother. (Side note: Refreshing and depressing both to see that Owen’s making a paltry $200 per story. This is pretty much what investigative writing pays now, kids. Take heed.) His mother, for her part, says she has some information on the case and will give it to Ellie — if Ellie promises to bankroll her again. Ellie, too, disentangles. For now.
And what of our friend Emmett Carver? Well, he gets more and more anxious to solve the case, as evidence continues to arrive: The stolen boat belonged to Owen’s father (Ellie’s brother in law), who’s been gone for several months (or has he?), and there are cigarette butts on the beach, which were smoked by someone standing near Danny’s body. All this puts him in a relatively positive frame of mind — for him — and, after speaking to Gemma in his room, he awkwardly asks her to spend the night. She says no, of course, and he curls back into his shell again.
There were a few tendrils here that piqued my interest: CSI Hugo asks Ellie out, despite knowing she’s married (why? It does lead to a fun scene with Ellie and Emmett, but …); the Creepy Lady With Dog is humming in the background, and hovering over the cliff where Jack Reinhold dies; and Paul seems oddly calm, even when Beth says, “I need my anger, it’s all I’ve got right now.” We’ll see where these chips fall in weeks to come.
Of course, the pivotal moment of this episode is Jack’s suicide, a touching and well-earned sequence from Nolte, whose hulking, intense presence will be missed in the remaining episodes. The choice to alternate his scenes and those of Mark and Beth looking at photos of baby Danny was a devastating one. A beautiful and very sad conclusion to his story. (My God, that piano bit!) How his demise will shape events is another interesting factor to consider.
And since we’re past the midway point, I’m going to ask: What do we think, viewers? Whodunnit?
The People vs. Gracepoint vs. Broadchurch (Warning: Potential spoilers ahead, or at least spoiler-y questions/observations)
- Fun fact: In the U.K., crime-scene reenactments are used regularly, not just to help with timing (as here), but to help draw out potential suspects, for healing (read: vigil) purposes, and for the press. The reenactment in Broadchurch is an ordinary component of their investigation, in other words, while here, they have to justify the same scene as helping them “time out” Danny’s skateboard ride. Both are pretty chilling scenes. Neat!
- Danny’s phone being soaked here seems to be very problematic, perhaps even a dead end. Can they not petition his phone records, anyway? Is that a U.K.-only thing, too? I watch a lot of U.K. procedurals, admittedly, but do they not do this on SVU and the like? Help me out here.
- This Beth is a little scarier than Broadchurch’s “English Rose” Beth, and it’s kind of awesome. When she storms the inn and threatens Gemma, it’s genuinely scary. The glasses shattering! So intense! I loved it.
- Chloe’s boyfriend and the accusations about Jack are also genuinely scary. In Broadchurch, he was a rather lovely young man, but this development made me really nervous, and made me think about his involvement differently. But what would it say if literally the only person of color outside the family — the “ethnic,” as he himself put it in an earlier episode — in the series were responsible? Uh-oh.
- Potentially contentious comment: I found the full progression of Jack’s suicide in Gracepoint to be more satisfying here than in Broadchurch. Here it was written as inevitable, and speaks more to themes — it was not just a plot point in and of itself, but also a point of instruction as to what happens to the wrongly accused. In Broadchurch, it was more about plot than anything else. Feel free to argue with me about this!
- Whale! There was a whale! I was starting to worry about the whales, guys.
- General thought: Does it not seem like they don’t eliminate anyone in this show? I felt like Broadchurch did more official elimination of suspects than we’re getting here. Everyone still sort of seems in play: Mark, Jack, the Hiker. Or am I just reading this weirdly? Discuss.