The killer is finally revealed, but it only reinforces what’s wrong with this ill-conceived remake.
“How could you not know?”
And then we came to the end.
Early on I asked this question: If detective Miller is learning her job from detective Carver, and the two represent the town of Gracepoint and an outsider’s view, respectively, then will the town come to learn anything from the investigation?
Oh boy, did poor Ellie Miller learn something. After weeks instigating nearly everyone in town, the murderer turned out to be living under her own roof, sharing her bed every night. Her husband, Joe, was responsible for Danny Solano’s murder. It’s a nice twist on “Episode Nine” where Miller learned of Susan Miller’s dark past. Susan claimed she was oblivious to her husband’s physical and sexual abuse of her daughters, and a dumbfounded Miller asked how that could be so. How apropos a question, Ellie.
While she was busy putting the screws to Vince, Carver called Joe and Tom Miller into the station. It’s ostensibly to inquire about Tom’s missing computer, but Carver is really fact-checking his suspicions. After a brief interview where Carver reveals that he has not only Tom’s smashed computer, but the emails he tried to erase, too, Tom admits that he and Danny had been at odds for some time, fighting over Danny’s sudden interest in other things – and, seemingly, other people. Danny’s secret account only ever sent messages to two people: Tom and someone else. Carver obviously has his suspicions, but allows Tom and his father to leave once he confirms both of their shoe sizes. It isn’t long before Carver’s alerted that Danny’s cell phone has been turned on again. All he has to do is track the signal down to finally solve the murder. Keeping Ellie occupied, he follows the signal to a backyard shed where he finds Danny’s killer, exhausted and waiting to confess.
“I’ll tell you everything,” Tom Miller says to the detective.
Emmett Carver’s mantra has always been that you can’t trust anyone. The detective’s role is to investigate everyone and to mistrust everyone equally. He was never afraid to ask hard questions and piss people off, despite Miller’s insistence that Gracepoint was a town of good people. During their investigation Carver and Miller discovered a secret underbelly to their town: secret affairs, drugs, past murders, hidden criminal pasts, and more. Everyone has something they’re hiding, and often for good reason.
All the while Ellie fought back, arguing that there were people in the world that you can trust and pointing to her family as the example. Little did she know that both her husband and her son were hiding things. Her son was safeguarding the information that finally solved her months-long case, and her husband was secretly the murderer. Poor Ellie Miller. Maybe Carver was right – there’s nobody that you can really trust. Such a worldview would explain a lot of Emmett Carver’s cold behavior. It’s a bleak way to look at the world, but (at least in this fictional universe) it seems to be the right way. Gracepoint definitely seems to embrace that idea.
Gracepoint has been dropping clues that Joe Miller was involved for weeks – enough that I thought they tipped their hand pretty badly. The killer’s identity was never a mystery to me since I watched Broadchurch, the British series that Gracepoint is based on, but I wonder how many GP-only watchers managed to solve the case.
Here were some clues about Joe’s identity as the murderer:
- When Joe Miller and Carver are chatting during their dinner party, Carver asks if Ellie hates him. When Joe claims otherwise, Carver tells him that Joe is a terrible liar, and the two share a laugh. It’s a little wink that Joe is actually hiding everything from Carver. Turns out he’s a great liar.
- After Jack Reinhold’s suicide, Joe wants to take the family to church despite not attending regularly. Obviously, he was feeling guilty about something.
- That same guilt is what makes Joe the one person in Gracepoint who won’t sign the petition or join the lynch mob against Jack Reinhold. Joe knows Jack is innocent, and he feels for him.
- During Tom’s disappearance, Ellie is inconsolable and worried that what happened to Danny has now happened to Tom. Joe emphatically tells her that the two aren’t the same. “Ellie, this isn’t what happened to Tom,” he tells her. It sounds like consolation, but now we know that Joe had inside information.
- After Tom is found, he’s asked why he ran away. Tom says he just wanted to confront the person responsible for Tom’s murder with the crossword puzzle book and make them realize what they’ve done. The entire speech is made with Joe in the background, watching his son as Tom says he just wants to find whoever is responsible for the murder. I thought this was a huge deal at the time, and thought Gracepoint was asking people to figure it out.
- There’s a history of deceptive spouses on Gracepoint: Mark Solano was cheating on Beth. Susan Wright’s husband murdered their daughter and covered it up. Detective Carver’s wife was cheating on him, leading to a botched investigation.
- Miller’s aforementioned befuddlement as to how Susan Miller could be unaware of what was going on in her own house. Wink wink.
- Miller’s sudden realization last week that she had no idea just what Joe does with his time all day.
I’m sure there were more.
Unbeknownst to Ellie, Joe has been secretly meeting with Danny for months. They were hanging out together at the Millers’ house and “getting to know each other” after Danny quit the soccer team. Why didn’t Joe ever finish their home repair projects? He was busy with Danny. He also gave Danny the money meant for the home repairs so that Danny could pay his secret phone bill. Joe claims that the relationship was never sexual – the coroner’s report showed no evidence of a sexual element to his murder –but it’s still inappropriate. The two met a final time on the night that the Miller family returned from Mexico, and Danny tried to put an end to their relationship. In an ensuing scuffle, Danny hit his head on a rock and died.
The rest of the episode takes some quick glances at the town’s reaction. Joe’s arrest shocks the town, but also gives them a sense of closure. The Solano family is finally able to bury Danny. The now proven-innocent-but-still-weird priest Paul oversees the service. With Joe’s confession, Vince goes free.
Ellie Miller is never implicated in her husband’s crime. She was out cold on sleeping pills during the murder and never had any reason to suspect her husband, but the news leaves her shattered. People in town, notably Beth Solano, struggle to understand how she could be unaware of her husband’s behavior. Ellie is forced to flee to a motel outside of town, but her shocks aren’t over just yet.
Alerted by Tom’s adamant refusal to believe Joe’s guilt, she pieces a few extra clues together and realizes that Tom was also involved. He followed his father to the shack that night and struck Danny in the head during a scuffle, accidentally killing him. Joe is taking the full rap to protect his son.
The episode wraps as the town gathers to light beach pyres in Tom’s memory. The people of Gracepoint ease into an uncomfortable understanding, knowing a murderer is off their streets, but still left with all the skeletons in closets that the investigation unearthed. How will they fare? We’ll never know. Despite the last minute revelation that Carver – medically removed from the police force and reuniting with his daughter – knows Tom was involved in the killing, Gracepoint isn’t going to get a second season. This is the end.
Gracepoint was always a poorly conceived idea. The execution was even worse. Tom being involved in the murder is a purely American addition to the series, as on Broadchurch it was all Joe. And what did it add? After Gracepoint spent so much of its time following its predecessor to the letter, why did it throw in a nonsensical “twist” ending? Just so that producers could claim that the remake had a different ending? I guess so.
It’s actually a WORSE ending, too, ultimately destroying the emotions we should be feeling. Instead of feeling sorry for Ellie, the audience knows that she’s now an accomplice to the murder after the fact. She and her husband agree to protect Tom by letting Joe take the whole rap for the killing.
It’s a stupid addition to the storyline, and it really achieves nothing – just like Gracepoint, itself, in relation to Broadchurch. A dumb idea, poor execution, and some “scandalous” elements for American audiences.
Series Grade: C
Broadchurch hits Netflix in late December, and I strongly urge anyone who hasn’t seen it to check it out. You’ll find a leaner, sharper, better-acted series, and a real treat.