Near the end of “Episode Three,” Gracepoint offers a mission statement for what could potentially be a good show… then immediately negates it
Beth Solano has yet again broken out of her home, which is now nothing more than a domestic prison poisoned with happy memories to get some alone time.*
*I really hope to see a supercut of Beth shutting down her poor, well-meaning mother.
She flees to the beach and sits on a park bench where Raymond Connelly, would-be medium joins her. He tells her he has a message for her from Danny. Beth reacts with immediate horror. It’s not just that Ray is a stranger and likely very crazy, it’s that there is no escape from the hell she is living in. Not in her house – decorated with police caution tape, not at the supermarket – with pitiful stares and not even on this previously innocuous park bench.
It’s a painful moment for one of the show’s few human(ish) characters but in true Gracepoint fashion, it is undercut minutes later. Beth tracks down Raymond again to ask him what Danny said. Not because she wants to know, but because the plot needs her to. Viewers (of which there aren’t many) are due for another breadcrumb.
What does Raymond even tell her? Who cares – it’s just another piece in one of television’s most increasingly needless puzzles.
In fact, everyone in Gracepoint is a puzzle piece and not a person. Emmett Carver and Ellie Miller don’t even need names anymore. He is just Really Angry Boss and she is Really Naïve Woman. It’s a grand tapestry of clichéd nothingness. “Episode Three” begins to offer a closer look at why Carver is “The Way He Is ™” but it just makes him even more laughable. Health problems, previously failures, intense dedication to the job, yada yada yada, Carver is just an ass. A tedious, unrealistic hateful ass. His behavior is so inexcusable for any profession that the attempts to offer explanations for his noir griminess are hurting more than helping.
But thanks to the ineptitude of Ellie, Carver for an episode has his most annoying character trait yet: being right. Mark still won’t let the detectives know where he was the night his son was murdered. Carver understandably wants to push this but Ellie is hesitant to cause a scene for a grieving family. Both Carver and Miller’s reaction to this baffling hiccup in the case does nothing but denigrate both of them even more as characters. Carver is stubbornly right for the wrong reasons and Miller is wrong for the right reasons. Mark, meanwhile, is wrong for the wrong reasons.
Midway through the episode, Mark’s refusals to answer questions become a self-parody. The case mounts further and further against him: Danny’s blood in his boat, footprints at the murder scene, testimony that he beat Danny. At a certain point, the situation is so severe that nothing short of Mark being a Man in Black who knows the secrets of the universe and will cause Armageddon by telling anyone where he was on Tuesday night would justify him not divulging his whereabouts.
Alas, it’s an affair. Of course it is. This is a simple one-time affair with the nice British lady who runs the Inn because on television affairs trump dead kids in terms of drama. Still despite a mountain of evidence and only one compromised person’s word of mouth testimony, Mark is let go to douche another day because this is only “Episode Three” and he can’t be the killer. And Carver is off to explore another bit of evidence found in Danny’s clothes, which he is inexplicably enraged at the very competent forensic scientists for finding.*
*One of my favorite “WTFGracepoint” aspects of this show is how incredible the forensic scientists are at their jobs. This is a small town with a murder rate of effectively 0 but the police department has forensic scientists who are able to figure out that a body at the bottom of a cliff is a murder within three minutes of finding it.
There’s a theory in psychology that mental illnesses can lay dormant for years before being unearthed by a “triggering event.” If it turns out that Gracepoint is telling a very long, very hidden allegory about a whole town being triggered into insanity by the death of a child, then maybe this all will have been worth it for the boldness alone. But it’s not that. It’s just a bad show.