You know when you date someone for a while, and it’s great, and then something changes, and you suddenly know they’re not good for you anymore but it’s too late because you’re invested? And you hold out a secret hope that things will go back to the way they were, when it was good, but deep within your heart of hearts, you know that’s not going to happen? You keep at it anyway, going through the motions of being together, and they keep fucking up in some minor ways, but you still stay, because you’re only human after all, and then they deeply disappoint you, and it’s all the more a sad and pathetic disappointment precisely because you knew it was coming? And you’re angry and frustrated more so at yourself than them, because you knew — you always knew — and you wasted so much of your time and affection?
Or, like, you’re dating what you think is a really tall man, but it’s actually two short men under a trench coat, a Muppet Man, if you will.
Welcome to being a Gracepoint fan.
And since we’re done with this series now — don’t let that ending fool you … it’s over — it’s safe to say that, for those of you who haven’t seen Broadchurch, this was a pale imitation of the original in almost every way, including the ending (some small redemptive moments did occur; more on this in a moment). I know it, you know it, and now that things are well and truly over, let’s kick this bad boyfriend to the curb (or kerb, as it were).
As Emmett Carver serves his last day on the force, he brings in Tom and Joe Miller to talk about that darn computer. Carver’s video camera stalls during the interview, causing him to tape the remainder on his cell. (Is this legal, by the way? Carver probably wouldn’t care, but still.) The interview leaves a little room for interpretation, but Carver’s behavior doesn’t: He keeps pushing Ellie into interrogation with Vince and away from her family, which can only mean he knows something we don’t. Hints drop like lead: There are two email recipients, one Tom, in Danny’s email account; “someone else” hit Danny, perhaps his father, but it’s too odd a line to mean just that; and then … Danny’s smartphone finally kicks back on, leading Carver to it — in the hands of Joe Miller.
From here it’s a trip down memory lane familiar to any and all Broadchurch fans. Joe Miller had intentions toward Danny — none of them good — and he confesses to the killing in due course, promising to tell Carver everything.
And here I let out a deep sigh, because: (a) It was only 20 minutes in, so I knew something else was up; and (b) it wasn’t particularly shocking or surprising in the telling, as it had been in Broadchurch. Sure, when I saw it coming, I was prepared, but I sense the rest of America was, too.
Then of course, the denouement, which is sadly longer than the first part: Emmett tells Ellie what happened — calling her “Ellie” rather than “Miller” in the process, which is, of course, a big sign of how bad things have gotten. She reacts as expected to both Carver and her wayward husband, which is mostly screeching and kicking. (I still cannot handle Anna Gunn, I’m sorry. There’s just not enough there there.) The case solved, it’s then a matter of telling the Solanos, freeing other suspects, and spiriting Ellie and sons away to process things in a — shitty motel! Ta-da! Congrats, Ellie! Your life is ruined, and this bedspread is covered in a hideous flower pattern and and several strangers’ semen!
It’s here that Ellie’s detective senses kick in just enough to realize her son’s dirty shoes are size six — the size of the print found outside the hut the night of Danny’s death — and his subsequent confession to Danny’s killing (accidental, mind) puts her in the midst of a Sophie’s Choice of sorts. Lucky for her, her husband has already made the choice, so she pulls her family tighter, imploring Joe to keep everything between them (do they record those conversations in jail, by the way? I feel like they would).
Then Ellie goes a-wandering, and she and Beth Solano share a poignant moment on the street where she repeats Ellie’s line to Susan Wright/Ruth Ehrlich: “How could you not know?” And Mark and Joe Miller have a tense dad-to-dad, through-the-prison-door-window moment (they just let people in this town do whatever they want, don’t they?).
There’s a nice funereal mass given by Paul “still a creepy priest but not a killer” Coates, all about forgiveness and tenderness. We see the faces of those we variously accused and then tenderly forgave over the weeks, and we know, as Carver does, that the town will begin to heal.
Speaking of our friend Emmett, he almost immediately starts to piece together his post-Gracepoint life — he suddenly has the will to live and makes plans to get that heart surgery [insert helpful image of 3-D heart on his computer screen here]. He also calls his daughter, and it’s only when she calls him back — while the townsfolk gather, post-funeral, to really say good-bye to Danny with a bonfire on the beach — that he rewatches that interview with the Millers and realizes who the true killer is.
We’re left wondering if Ellie will choose public or private justice as the credits roll. How did you feel just then? I felt an initial surge of intrigue toward the ending, but it quickly dissipated, replaced by oh-so-many questions: about Tom Miller’s disappearance the weeks before and what he was really up to, about that supposedly redemptive newspaper article for which Carver bared his soul, about those goddamn emails — wouldn’t they have hacked Danny’s email account long ago? About so much else besides.
And finally, I felt let down by the inexplicable need for the show to tie everything up in a nice bow at the end, particularly for Carver. This is — sorry — a uniquely American network-television trope, the need for our heroes to be completely redeemed, and for all of our emotional needs to be met (even if the plot is left gaping like a whale’s blowhole). Networks need to start trusting their audiences enough to allow for jagged-edged heroes like Walter White or Tony Soprano — or Alec Hardy, Carver’s Broadchurch doppelgänger — or else we’re going to keep fleeing their shores for Netflix and HBO, and fast. Get a clue, guys! Take a risk!
Final thoughts: As Matt Zoller Seitz said weeks ago, there was and is no reason to remake this show in this way. When it was first announced, those who knew Broadchurch were dubious about the seeming similarities in plot, dialogue, character, and tone. The presence of David Tennant in the mirror to his Broadchurch role only added to it. They had a beautiful opportunity to take this very British story and rewrite and retweak it for the U.S. market, but instead they chose to remake it nearly to the letter. The problem with this is that what they chose to change was weak by comparison to the original material — which added up to a taut, cinematic, cold-blooded thriller with some lovely dark-comedic traces that left some things unsaid and unsolved in an organic, real way instead of a facile, plotty way.
In the end, the series pulled in respectable numbers, particularly for a single-serving series on a fairly hot night of dramatic television. Twitter shows a fanbase deeply divided, much like your recapper here, between wanting to like it and knowing it doesn’t measure up to the original. Those who do love the series are, by and large, not yet fans of Broadchurch.
To them, I shall say this: Go seek out Broadchurch during your holidays. There are eight episodes to Gracepoint’s ten. You get the special privilege that I, and many others, can never have: chasing delight with delight, rather than having delight follow vague disappointment. Taken altogether, Broadchurch was a cold breeze whipping along the English Coast, startling yet specific. Its movements were suspenseful yet restrained, like good drama should be. By comparison, Gracepoint was a rock tumbling down a California cliff into the sea, ugly and ungraceful, and amounting to not much at all.