For fans of Broadchurch, Gracepoint will be familiar. For new viewers just tuning into the story now, they’ll see a show brimming with a wealth of talented actors, an interesting premise, but some hollow emotions, backdropped by an effortlessly lovely setting.
When a young boy is found dead in a small, community-driven town, an extensive police investigation gets underway, causing a stir amongst the locals. It’s soon determined that it was a homicide, which causes a media frenzy. This uproots the boy’s family, causing their grief as well as the town’s as a whole, a town that has never had to deal with any crime of such a magnitude, and one that could possibly expose secrets they’ve tried to bury.
Ellie (Anna Gunn) expects a promotion when she returns to the police station after a brief vacation, but is shocked to learn that someone else has been brought in to take her position: Emmett Carver (David Tennant reprising his role). Carver and Ellie must soon reconcile their awkward first meeting in order to set off in solving the case of the boy’s death.
They must deal with the grieving parents: Mark (Michael Peña) is popular in town, a friendly face that is crushed by the news, and his wife Beth (Virginia Kull) is inconsolable. Peña so far is the best thing about the remake, one of the few actors on the show who seems to be making the role his own. His grief is palpable in moments where he witnesses how his home has been turned into a possible crime scene, where all of his son’s items could lead to a clue. It’s heartbreaking to watch him as he sees his son’s lifeless body and realizes the sobering and world-destroying truth of what has happened.
For all intents and purposes, Gracepoint does nothing to differentiate itself from its source material in the premiere episode other than changing the faces of those who are reciting the lines. Sure, the show is now set in a small, quaint, seaside town in California versus the coastal village in England, and Nick Nolte’s Jack has a different profession then David Bradley’s in the original, but fundamentally, for the time being, the show is a mirror image of Broadchurch.
Due to this, it’s hard not to compare the two shows and to become more critical of the new one because of it. In my mind, there was no purpose to the show. The writers and creators are the same, the directors are the same, and you can feel it. The main difference in the Gracepoint pilot is that the first half hour rushes by, hitting all of the plot points leading up to Danny’s death, with some of the moments following so quickly that they seem nearly inconsequential.
Broadchurch also had a not-so-secret weapon in Olivia Colman, the heart of the series, who delivered an astonishing performance as Ellie. She also brought tenderness to the role – an unpracticed sweetness. Anna Gunn is a terrific actress, as demonstrated often on Breaking Bad, however she doesn’t bring the same likeability factor to this role, at least for now. She’s reciting the same dialogue as Colman and is even adopting some of her mannerisms, but ultimately there’s something missing.
This is something that can be said for the episode as a whole. Everything is done in half measures: the storylines aren’t given enough time to truly hit their emotional marks, and despite the dark material of the show and the tragic events that take place, we aren’t particularly compelled to feel anything for the characters that goes beyond the basic instincts of human compassion.
Hopefully, most viewers are coming into the show anew, having not seen the original British series. Even without comparison, the show isn’t in the clear, but it certainly makes it easier to digest. The writing is okay, despite asking us to feel for these characters rather quickly, expecting that the events will instill sympathy on their own without creating character moments to make us care for them. The directing manages to set the mood for the setting, which is peaceful yet touristy, before throwing the worlds of these characters into chaos.
From what I’ve read, the creators have changed where the story goes, which should shake up the storyline sooner rather than later and hopefully all of the issues that I have now will be gone by next week. The big thing with making remakes of popular shows (and even not so popular shows), is that the new version needs to bring something different to the table, something worth watching and something that the original didn’t manage to do. So far, the emotions they’re evoking don’t quite reach the ones so effortlessly evoked by Broadchurch, and that immediately sets off a warning flag due to so much of the premise being based on the human emotion it stirs up.
There are some remarkably talented people on board, and we know that the creative team led by writer Chris Chibnall is capable – we just need to see if they can escape the confines of the blueprints of the series and create something fresh and captivating.
What did everyone else think? Intrigued by the premise? Curious to see what really happened? Just watching to see Anna Gunn? Let us know what you think.