'Gracepoint', a Remake of 'Broadchurch', Is Both the Same and Different

A precarious balance between precision and messiness structures Gracepoint in its storytelling and in its position as a US network series.


Airtime: Thursdays, 9pm ET
Cast: David Tennant, Anna Gunn, Michael Peña, Virginia Kull, Nick Nolte, Jacki Weaver, Madalyn Horcher
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: Fox
Creator: Chris Chibnall
Air date: 2014-10-02

Viewers of Broadchurch may think they have little reason to watch Gracepoint, the American remake. Premiering 2 October and running ten episodes, Fox's series looks much like the British version until the fourth episode, when it begins to branch off into its own direction. Just so, Gracepoint's makers insist their series will differ from the original.

Such protestations probably don't matter for Fox’s target audience, most of whom haven't seen Broadchurch or even heard of it. That said, all viewers will appreciate that Gracepoint is different from other US television murder mysteries, especially those airing on networks. Its long-form story, limited-episodes format is more like the series on FX and HBO. In this, Fox is making a bold move.

The series begins with the discovery of the body of 12-year-old Danny Solano (Nikolas Filipovic), on the beach in the titular town at the base of a cliff. While police initially determine the boy has committed suicide, the medical examiner quickly dismisses that idea. Danny was killed elsewhere and his body was placed on the beach.

Gracepoint is a small town, which means local detective Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn) will be investigating her friends and neighbors. Ellie isn’t in great shape to do this, considering that Danny was her son’s best friend. She’s also just returned from a two-week vacation to discover the head detective job she’d been promised was given away to Emmett Carver (David Tennant), a hotshot from out of town.

The Solano family is devastated by the news, and Gracepoint's early episodes spend some time exploring their reactions. If the show doesn't appear to wallow in their grief (as did, say, the first season of The Killing, which Gracepoint resembles superficially), its murder investigation does reveal secrets hidden by the family and other townspeople in Danny’s orbit. The child had $500 hidden under his bed, his 15-year-old sister Chloe (Madalyn Horcher) has a small amount of cocaine in her room, and their father Mark (Michael Peña) doesn’t have a solid alibi for the night of Danny’s death.

The tensions arising from such riddles form a frame for the often-contentious relationship between Ellie and Carver. She believes her knowledge of the locals and her reluctance to suspect any of them right off the bat gives her an advantage when sussing out is acting strangely. Carver concedes that much, but also thinks Ellie's emotional investments prevent her from following the facts and leads as doggedly as she should.

This makes them a somewhat familiar pairing: Carver has a gruff personality and performs it publicly, wanting others to see him as cold and calculating. The more nurturing-seeming Ellie sees through this act, and regularly calls him out for it.

This relationship is shaped, of course, by the actors, each known to US viewers for other roles. Ellie is unlike Gunn’s role as Skyler White on Breaking Bad, and Tennant is best known in the US for his stint as Dr. Who. That he also played a Detective Hardy on Broadchurch, not exactly the same person as Carver, but in a similar position. For viewers of both shows, this makes for something a game, as they might spot differences and anticipate similarities. While his American accent isn’t especially precise, it serves as an intermittent reminder of this doubling.

A precarious balance between precision and messiness structures Gracepoint, in its storytelling and in its position as a US network series. The networks have been tentatively wading into cable-style configurations for the past couple of years: we’ve seen shorter seasons that run straight through with no reruns, and a couple of limited-run shows during the summer. We might hope that Fox's decision to run a limited series during the conventional season will lead to more and other changes in US television's ancient rules of programming.

That ambition seems supported by Gracepoint's specifics. A compelling mystery, it maintains a measured pace, inviting viewers' patience. Carver and Ellie’s investigation is thorough, offering viewers plenty of opportunities to participate, to spot clues, consider options, and notice details that don’t quite add up. It poses challenges for viewers, and for that, we can commend it.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.