For a show that shares a name with the town it’s ostensibly about, Gracepoint has spent little time actually depicting Gracepoint. The ongoing investigation and bickering of Detectives Miller and Carver has taken the front seat, frustratingly driving the plot into dead end after dead end. “Episode Six” takes a little break from the investigation and while it’s still a dead end, at least it’s a slightly more scenic one.
“Episode Six” spends the least amount of time yet with Detectives Miller and Carver yet. The investigation has stalled with little to no new information coming in. Miller and Carver are forced to resort to enlisting Tom to recreate Danny’s fateful nighttime skateboard hooligan binge to establish a timeline. After that, Ellie learns of Susan threatening Kathy and that the boat that was burned belonged to Owen. That’s about it for new leads. At one point Ellie is even forced to entertain the notion for the first time that maybe they won’t find Danny’s killer. But the scarcity of evidence creates a narrative vacuum that the supporting players must fill.
If Gracepoint were a better show, “Episode Six” would likely be its best episode. It’s the episode that every ensemble-based show needs that colors in the details of the supporting characters and their lives. Sadly, it takes what could have been an interesting hour-long meditation of paranoia in small-town America and turns it into yet another screaming match among people who have little to fear tearing one another apart for illogical reasons*.
*Come to think of it, that may be the best meditation on small-town America possible.
Let’s talk about paranoia for a moment. I’ve mentioned before how baffling Gracepoint-ians distrust for authority is, but this is the episode that brings it into sharpest focus. After being outed as a sex offender last week, Jack is under scrutiny by the town. Still the stubborn old coot is so hesitant to reveal the true nature of his crime, even though it perfectly exonerates him. He finally reveals to Miller and Carver that he fell in love with a piano student of his and began a relationship with her just a month prior to her reaching the age of consent. Then he married her.
When Ellie understandably asks “why didn’t you tell us this earlier?” Jack responds with “Because it wasn’t your business.” That’s false. It’s so, so false. It’s false on a practical level: they are the police and this is an investigation and this is very much their business. It’s false on a character level: if Jack really cared about this town and Danny as much as he says, then he would have been much more forthcoming with this information. And it’s just false on a storytelling level. Jack’s episode-long refusal to share the truth is just another necessary narrative dead end. Another week of time-killing before we can find an actual killer.
That’s Gracepoint in a nutshell: paranoia not for the sake of character development or a grander point about the human condition, paranoia for cold, hard and dirty plot movement.
The town’s paranoia in regards to Jack is similarly disappointing. Everyone is understandably upset to learn from Owen and Renee’s exaggerated San Francisco Chronicle story that a sex offender is in their midst and teaching their children. Still the speed at which they gather together an angry mob is breathtaking. Most good drama is about change and character’s reaction to sudden change but the characters on Gracepoint just can’t seem to react to anything like people. They’re just open nerves swinging at anything that crosses their path or startles them.
Jack begins the 44-minute episode accused of a sex crime and ends it exonerated and dead by his own hand. That’s … abrupt. I can’t believe I’m advocating for more episodes of a show this bad but it seems that Gracepoint could use more time … or at least more time it won’t squander on people telling Beth Solano what to do with her womb or Tom petting Susan Wright’s dog.
“Episode Six” could have been a tragic, self-contained story about modern fears and our reactions to them. Instead it just further argues that Gracepoint is not a town anyone should plan to visit.