[This is a review of the Gracepoint series premiere. There will be SPOILERS.]
A story about a mysterious death set in a seemingly peaceful small town called Gracepoint, which happens to be filled to the brim with dark secrets, is nothing new when it comes to television crime dramas. But put this trope in the hands of a talented writer like Chris Chibnall (Doctor Who) and you've got something special that will keep viewers glued to their screens over the next several weeks.
If you're looking for a side-by-side comparison to the British version (Broadchurch) then you've come to the wrong place. Yes it existed, yes it was fantastic, and yes it also featured David Tennant (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) in the leading role as a socially awkward detective trying to solve a supposed murder of a young boy. Now that we have that out of the way, let's take a closer look at this superbly executed new series from Fox.
For a major network like Fox to take on an imported mini-series of this scale is no small task. If you're a fan of networks like FX (American Horror Story) and HBO (True Detective), then these events are nothing new, but for a broadcast company who for years has followed the twenty-plus episode a season model, this is a welcome step in the right direction. Shorter seasons are not always perfect, yet they do tend to be more focused with less filler.
Chibnall, in collaboration with Fox, made a wise decision when he brought Mr. Tennant (Detective Emmett Carver) back for an encore performance. For those of you outside the realm of Doctor Who, this gifted Scottish-born actor has probably flown under your radar, but he is one of the best character actors around. Hopefully, his exposure to American audiences on a large network such as Fox will catapult Tennant to new heights.
But if there's one weakness to Tennant's charisma on screen, it would have to be his attempt at an American accent. Chibnall could (and maybe should) have found a way for him to use his natural lovely Scottish voice.
Newly crowned Emmy-Award winner and Breaking Bad alum Anna Gunn gives perhaps the standout performance from the premiere. Sure, this is not her first rodeo, but this is a role very unlike her previous outings.
Gunn deftly plays Detective Ellie Miller, who simultaneously has to be a dedicated, professional officer of the law and a concerned mother whose son (Tom) just lost his best friend (Danny). While this story at its core is nothing more than your average "who-done-it," the stellar casting alongside Chibnall's script is what levitates Gracepoint above its competitors.
Fox decided not to go with individual names for each hour of television, which makes this murder mystery feel like you're watching a sixty-minute segment of a ten-hour movie. Again, Fox is breaking the mold, though not for the first time, trying to prove that a police series can be an event instead of a crime-of-the-week special. If this series ends up being a success, then Fox will most likely start developing more shows of this nature, which will then hopefully encourage the other big three to do the same. Only time will tell.
If you were a fan of Broadchurch then you should definitely give this highly anticipated series a chance. It will feel like familiar ground many times throughout the premiere, but Fox has said that "Gracepoint is an expansion of the original series, introducing new characters, identifying new suspects and treading new storylines." Expect the ending to be different, as well.
The question now is, what do you find unique about Gracepoint? Is the solving of young Danny Solano's murder captivating enough to keep you around for another nine hours? Stay tuned to see where this mystery takes us in the coming weeks.
Gracepoint continues next Thursday @9pm on Fox.