by DICK CHENEY
creator Chris Chibnall
It must be something about Anna Gunn’s face. It only changes itself when she wants to change it; she only seems affected by events when they are at their zenith. Every other aspect of life merely triggers a variety of shudders and aftershocks that makes watching her features akin to observing facial structure in a Vermeer.
This quality makes it irresistible, apparently, to cast Gunn as anything other than a woman unappreciated and misunderstood by the men in her life. In Fox’s now canceled Gracepoint, she grimaces and exhumes her feeling throughout her ten episode run as a detective named Ellie. Ellie is a competent blonde detective, and a mediocre blonde mother. (Jaime Pressly is currently the centerpiece of the only positive portrayal of a blonde person on television.)
Gunn’s Ellie does not get along with her husband very well, or her son, or her new boss Emmett Carver (David Tennant). At the end of the show she was revealed to be quite clueless about everything that was going on in her life, as close to the killer as she was.
Tennant himself looks like a constipated stool, and never shows any other side than that of a workaholic asshole moving forward like a rocket.
In order to ensure no one would find out who the killer was at the heart of Gracepoint‘s murder mystery, the show makes everyone almost equally culpable. While the idea of anybody being the culprit in the small town where this mystery unfolds seems exciting, in reality there is no way to satisfy the audience when their suspicions could as easily be applied to the boy’s father as Gunn’s Ellie herself.
Twin Peaks found out that there was really no point in ever revealing a murder. It turned out that Laura Palmer was killed by her own father, which was the biggest disappointment of my life until J.J. Abrams woke up cranky one day and decided to ruin Lost for shits and giggles.
Just like on the soon-to-be returning Peaks, it really does not matter who the killer is, only that there is some kind of propelling reason for everyone in the town of Gracepoint to be suspicious of their neighbors. The show’s phenomenal cast made the series worth watching even as there was undoubtedly something crucial missing from the proceedings.
That ‘something’ was a tangible physicality. Very rarely did the people in this town touch each other; it was even less likely that they would have sex or kill one another. In the finale the killer brushed his fingers over the lips of the deceased, who quickly shrugged off his/her advances – but nothing much was ever made of that. Gracepoint stopped substantially short of going all the way.
It would be xenophobic to say this apparent restraint comes from the show’s British origins, but the concept of an entire town with a bizarre, repressed group psychosis is not really very American. Here a hard drive is recovered with key information that points to the guilty party. In Murica we probably could have just checked the killer’s iMessages or waited for pertinent information to pop up in a podcast decades later. What is hidden under the surface either emerges quickly or stays buried forever.
But that actually wasn’t the only reason that Gracepoint never entertained American audiences. It was also quite humorless, which is the death knell for most television here. At their heart all the best American dramas were actually just dark comedies, punctuated with jokes at the end of a given scene. Gracepoint‘s idea of a joke was casting Nick Nolte as a fisherman and pretending a local newspaper was a viable economic enterprise.
There is something too bad about this. When the only kind of drama we enjoy is tongue-in-cheek, we cut ourselves off from a variety of somber pleasures. Actually I can’t think of anything that is both sad and not funny and still entertaining; maybe something by Tyler Perry?
Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.
“My Silver Lining (Stockholm Session)” – First Aid Kit (mp3)
“Stay Gold (Stockholm Session)” – First Aid Kit (mp3)