Monday, December 22, 2014

Murder Ball

I took one for the team and watched Fox's American incarnation of the British murder mystery series, Gracepoint.

Look eeento my eeeeyyesss.

As I said before, I have not seen the British original, Broadchurch, so I am basing my overall thoughts on solely my viewing of Gracepoint. I read that the show has not been renewed for a second season (why would there be a need for a second season?), but I just wanted to state my thoughts and final impressions.


So I come to you now fully informed.

The series finale aired December 11, and while it was fun guessing who the culprit may have been, the final reveal was rather...underwhelming. The overall ending of Gracepoint is like Broadchurch, but they did add a twist to the end that differed from the Broadchurch ending.

If you haven't seen either Broadchurch or Gracepoint, I suggest you stop reading this now. 

It didn't really take a genius to figure out that Det. Ellie Miller's family was involved in the death of Danny Solano in some way. The writers kept dropping CONSTANT hints that Ellie's son knew something, and they dropped CONSTANT hints that since she was working all the time, she had no idea what was actually going on at home. (A win for feminism!) 

However, they heightened the creeper factor in a way that I didn't think needed to be heightened. Finding out that her husband Joe (Josh Hamilton, of American Horror Story) was a pedophile and wanted to get into Danny's 12-year-old knickers definitely upped the ewww quotient, but in this day and age of Law & Order SVU, a pedophile dad is pretty tame for prime time TV. Even cliche. They'd been dropping a lot of hints during the run of the show that Someone in Gracepoint was a sexual predator, so the fact that it was revealed to be Ellie's husband just made me kind of shrug. They advertised this as the "ultimate twist" but it wasn't really the biggest twist I could have imagined, honestly. So, I think they lost a bit of points in the creativity department.

  I'm not a creepy perv. I only play one on TV. 

I mean, everyone in this town HAD A SECRET or SOMETHING TO HIDE and the fact that we learned, yet again, that someone in Gracepoint was HIDING SOMETHING, just made me kinda go, "Ok, yeah. We get it. Everyone in this town is messed up and weird. Who cares who killed Danny Solano because honestly? These people are screwed."

Original filmed ending of Broadchurch.

I think it would actually have been a lot more tragic if Danny and Tom Miller had been out messing around and being boys, and Tom had accidentally killed Danny, and went to his father about it, and his father helped cover it up. Or if Tom had accidentally killed Danny, then spent the rest of the night freaking out and dragging his body down to the beach, then hastily trying to make it look like he fell. But yeah, point being. It was completely obvious, from the first episode showing Tom deleting text messages, to him trying to break apart his hard drive, that Tom was involved in Danny's death somehow. Also, his completely nonplussed reaction to Ellie telling Tom that Danny had died was a big clue. Having to wait nine more episodes to have my suspicion confirmed that he killed him on accident didn't really bother me so much as I think that they should have tried to make it a little less obvious from the get-go.

We've gathered some evidence and it seems to point to you being a terrible mother.

Another change they made was in the character of Paul Coates. In Broadchurch, Coates is harmless and adorable and RORY and is into the local hotelier lady. In Gracepoint, he is just downright creepy. So creepy, in fact, he was many of the fans' prime suspect for a while. Gracepoint Paul Coats is in love with Beth Solano, and is creepy and pervy and generally the cause of many an irk. I'm not sure why they made this change for the American version. As if that town didn't already have enough creepers.  I preferred the Rory version, because he wasn't weird, and he also developed a relationship bonding with the slutty hotel lady. I guess they had to try to do something with the Coates character because he was supposed to be a priest but, um, guys? There are Episcopalian ministers in the States, too. Just sayin'. He didn't have to be Catholic. I'm just throwing that out there.

DT: You a priest this time?
AD: Yeah. You?
DT: I'm a foul-tempered, lonely, bitter, jaded inspector trying to save these people from themselves.
AD: Way to play against type.

Overall, Gracepoint was not a point-for-point copy of Broadchurch beyond the first episode. Watching Broadchurch over this last weekend showed that while Gracepoint hit all of the main plot points and for certain scenes, the dialogue was verbatim, but other episodes and scenes things went off in an entirely different direction. The last scene of Gracepoint showed a Detective Carver (Tennant) calling Ellie, who was in a hotel with Tom, and had figured out through her super sleuthing skills that he had killed Danny, and Ellie ignored his call. So, they left the door open for a second season, but Fox chose to renew the series. That was definitely altered from the original. 

So...This blows.

That leads us to the manner of death. While on Broadchurch, Joe Miller strangled Danny Latimer in an act of desperation, and Broadchurch Joe was sad and pathetic and clearly mentally disturbed, Gracepoint Joe was totally predatory and a bit freaky. On Broadchurch, Tom Miller is a bit of a red herring, but on Gracepoint, Ellie figures out that Joe is covering for Tom. Gracepoint Tom follows Gracepoint Joe and as Danny is running away, Tom confronts his father and seems to be trying to protect Danny, and accidentally hits him in the back of the head with an oar. Then Joe tells Tom to go home, and proceeds to try to cover up the murder. 

One other change they made was in the character of the lady journalist, Renee Clemons (Jessica Lucas).  I dislike her character in Gracepoint, and I don't care for her on Broadchurch, either. She is the epitome of a bad journalist, making accusations about Jack without getting the (easily available) public records and back stories about his conviction. Just a crappy, crappy journalist, but a pretty good indictment of the laziness and sensationalism that our media can become prey to. They kind of redeemed her character on Broadchurch, but on Gracepoint her arc ended at Horrible Human Being. 

I'm going to work for cable news. You yokels aren't getting in my way.

My overall take is that Gracepoint, while being a very close copy of Broadchurch, is not an exact carbon copy of the British murder mystery. It was good, but not great, but it did create a bit of an addictive factor. However, there was something special about Broadchurch that I don't think the American version was quite able to capture.  One minor detail that I observed about the British version is that they definitely showed the change in seasons. I think setting this in NoCal (*coughcoughBritishColumbiacoughcough*) was a poor choice. It's scenically quite similar to the cliffs of Wessex, but it looked like it was cold and rainy ALL THE DAMN TIME. So, I didn't get the same sense of a passage of time between Danny being found dead and Joe's confessions. On Broadchurch, Danny died in summer, and Joe was caught in late fall. Again, a minor detail, but it made a lot of difference in terms of gauging how long this case was dragging on.

What time of the year is it? Dreary O'clock.

Gracepoint is still pretty engrossing, and it is stylish, sophisticated, and moody. It is definitely worth a watch if you like murder mysteries and horrible people. 

However, I do feel the American make-up team did a better job of making David Tennant look like shit. 

There was also this.


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