Danny Solano is Dead

The death of 12-year-old Danny Solano begins the ten part murder mystery Gracepoint which aired on Fox this fall, and I enjoyed the ride.

Gracepoint is an American adaptation of a British crime drama called Broadchurch, and former Dr. Who actor David Tennant plays the lead detective in both versions!  That would be treat enough, but there is a whole lot more to like about this series.

Gracepoint is a ten-part series, which means that unlike the interminable dramas and adventures (it is no longer noteworthy for a TV series to hit a tenth season), Gracepoint has the vanishingly rare troika of basic story elements: a beginning, a middle, and an end.  If you want technical terms like introduction, technical climax, and dramatic climax, you can use them, but they mean the same thing.  The writers knew how the series would end before filming began.  This means that every detail is consistent, the false leads and bunny trails laid out in advance, and subplots could be paced perfectly to carry the tempo through to the final episode.

Mysteries are only a passing hobby for me, not my primary genre, but I enjoy them when they are well-written enough to catch my eye.  Gracepoint is full of dynamically flawed small-town personalities.  That is something markedly different from the current Hollywood cop-out that everyone is some version of Satan walking around in a meat suit.  Every major character has weaknesses, strengths, and positive moments.  The most villainous recurrent character has enough depth to alternate between mysterious, menacing, and even sympathetic depending on the moment.  There is precious little over-acting, but even simple characters carry their scenes well.  No one grasps for more screen presence or overplays their hand.

The coast of northern California provides a beautiful back-drop for small-town scenery.  The quiet setting contrasts nicely with the ongoing tension.  Gracepoint provides an immediate feel of deep roots and interconnected back stories.  If Agatha Christie set a story in Passamaquoddy, it might look something like this.

An intelligent, interesting, and mercifully finite mystery, I heartily recommend Gracepoint.

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