Gracepoint – Episode 1

Gracepoint (Photo: Fox)

The first episode of Gracepoint, the American adaptation of Broadchurch, is good but needs to improve in a few areas.

Our EIC has summed up my introductory thoughts about Gracepoint so just read what he has to say about it here.

The series seemed to have a slightly shaky start. A general rule for a new television series is to give a series a couple of episodes to find its footing before passing judgment. That being said, when a series is set up to have a limited number of episodes, it needs to come out of the gate strong. Its pilot must be strong and hook the audience with the first episode. Gracepoint came close to doing this, but didn’t fully succeed. Here’s why:

What worked

First off, David Tennant. I’ll proudly admit to being a Whovian1, but my love for Doctor Who does not cloud my judgment of its actors. Tennant is a strong actor, and it shows in Gracepoint. The way he disappears into his role is impressive: he drops his native British accent and speaks with such a convincing American accent that I squinted at the TV a few times just to make sure it really was Tennant2.

His accent is only part of his great performance. Many actors fall prey to portraying any person in law enforcement as someone who is calm one moment and then cranking it up to 11 at the drop of a hat. Tennant gives a realistic and balanced performance. He gives his character a balance of emotions3. Hopefully, the remaining episodes give Tennant room to flesh out his character.

What didn’t work

The women. The mother of the murdered boy looks as though she’s 7 or 8 years older than her daughter. She would have seemed very young as just the mother of the murdered boy, but when her older daughter is added into the equation, it draws the audience out of the world of Gracepoint.   Rather than focusing on the wonderful performance from Virginia Kull as the murdered boy’s mother, one is tempted to start wondering how such a young looking woman could have a child who so close to her age.

Another female character who is shortchanged by the series is Anna Gunn’s Detective Ellie Miller. Miller was up for a promotion that ended up going to Tennant’s Detective Carver. Rather than bringing up her qualifications, Miller immediately protests that her boss promised that job to her because they needed more women in power on the force. Also, a significant amount of time is devoted to defining Miller by her family and her inability to successfully interact with them4.  The pacing of this episode could have been much tighter and more interesting if so much attention had not been focused on defining Miller by her family.

The negative portrayal of women in television is nothing new, but it does seem to be getting worse in the last few years. Many series 5 either reduce complex female characters to oversimplified gender roles and/or define a female character by her relation to a man/her family. It seems as though Gracepoint is set to fall into this trap.

Final thoughts

Overall, the series seems to have potential to be a good series. If the show will quicken its pace, not draw out the plot to extend its run6, and will allow its female characters to be complex in their own rights, then it will have the potential to be a very engrossing, complex, and entertaining series.

  1. You should be one too. Netflix the series, catch up on the current series airing on BBC America, then read Ben’s articles here  
  2. when speaking in a foreign accent, many actors will still keep the cadence of their native accent, which makes it obvious that they are not speaking as they normally would. Tennant did not do this once.  
  3. apathetic toward being asked to address his partner by her first name, furious when the identity of the murdered boy is leaked, and professionally reserved without coming across like an a-hole when informing the parents that their son was found dead  
  4. She’s unable to stop her nephew from leaking the identity of the murdered boy; she doesn’t notice that her son is hiding information about his best friend/the murdered boy; she isn’t around her baby as much as she wants to be or “should” be  
  5. Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Legends, The Leftovers, The Killing, and many more  
  6. like The Killing did  

A Brief Word From Our Sponsors:

About Becca Marshall 36 Articles

Becca has been writing about film and television since convincing her junior high English teacher that comparing and contrasting the film and stage versions of Romero and Juliet was a good idea for a term research paper. After getting her BA in English and film studies, she doubled down on liberal arts and got an MA in television, radio, and film from Syracuse University. Becca is incredibly proud to be an Aggie and entertains her non-Texan friends with Southern colloquialisms. Her hobbies include watching Golden Girls and her interests include all things zombies – she’s simple, not basic. Email: becca@whatelseison.tv