I've already talked about the shortcomings of Gracepoint, but that was a number of weeks ago, before the last three episodes. Now that the whole show has been broadcast, I'm a lot happier with how it turned out. If I remember correctly, episode 8 completed the whole "Ellie's son Tom is missing" arc, and that bit completely wasted 1.5 episodes. It basically added unnecessary pathos, and ended with the completely unfulfilling admission by Tom that he'd gotten himself lost when trying to reach the suspected killer, the mysterious hiker Pierson, to show him something to make him realize who he'd killed. It felt like filler, added because Fox had ordered ten episodes and they didn't know how to expand the story otherwise.
However, episode 9 brought the story back to the town, focusing on the relationship between Susan Wright and... I still don't remember his American name, so I'm going with his Broadchurch name, Nigel, and how the murder investigation was affecting them. It played out pretty much the same way as in Broadchurch (though it was nice that they didn't have that stupid scene where Nigel's tail follows him in a car [yes, a slow car with headlights on, following a pedestrian, isn't going to be noticed at all, right?] and loses him among some houses). By the end of the episode, I felt that the series had finally returned to what had made the original good.
And then episode 10. Don't read any further if you don't want spoilers.
I'm warning you.
Ok, you've been warned.
I wondered how they were going to tie up the story in 45 minutes, since the episode started at an earlier point than Broadchurch's episode 8 had - Carver hadn't yet gotten the results from the mining of Tom's computer yet. They basically made the church and bonfire scenes a lot shorter, to give more time to resolution of the case, which was much longer in Gracepoint. At first, Carver cracks the case - like in Broadchurch, Joe turns himself in, though Carver had already figured it out - and I was disappointed that it was the same killer. But this gets turned on its head. Ellie breaks the news to Tom, and realizes that Tom is still hiding something, and she convinces him to reveal what he knows. It turns out that he saw Joe and Danny fighting, and in defending Danny from Joe, accidentally brained him with a shovel. Joe takes the fall for it, and Ellie, now knowing the truth, lets him, protecting Tom and letting Joe be punished for having an almost-sexual relationship with Danny and ruining their lives. The town is finally allowed to mourn Danny, and Carver and Miller have their last scene together, then, after thinking it over a bit, Carver figures out the truth and calls Miller, but she refuses his call.
On watching it, I enjoyed it, and I think that the final episodes really redeem the series (too late, though, as it has already been cancelled; sadly, no second trip to Victoria to seek out DT for me). (It kind of reminds me of The Escape Artist - the first two episodes were average, but the final episode just blew me away.) However, it really doesn't compare to Broadchurch. First, there really just wasn't any chemistry between Mr. Tennant and Ms. Gunn. Or maybe the writer or director chose to have them not develop Carver's and Miller's relationship into the strange, uneasy, but deep friendship that Hardy and Miller had at the end. The two American detectives never really meshed, or respected each other, and sadly, it robbed the scene where Carver tells Miller that she's done good work on the case of all of its emotion and significance.
Second, the fact that Danny's death was accidental, even though the rest of Gracepoint doesn't know it, kind of robs the whole event of its horror and interest for me. In this show, Joe boils down to a paedophile who was about to make his move (even if he's just discovering it himself), which caused the boy to flee, and he dies while Joe is trying to keep everything under wraps. His actions after the death are in a sense heroic, because he's trying to protect his son (himself, too, but he's really protecting his son), and he turns himself in because he sees Carver getting too close to discovering Tom's secret. In Broadchurch, Joe is far more complex: he's in love with the boy but not sexually, and the boy dies due to Joe's outburst of anger and violence as he's about to lose him. His actions after the death are solely to protect himself and his secret, and he turns himself in because he cannot handle the guilt and the hiding.
And then there's just a few weird things that detract from the overall story. Now that we know who really killed Danny, why was Tom wandering through the forest? Perhaps he was fleeing, but why would he ride his bike into the forest? (It was found very deep in, not on the side of the road.) Late in the episode, Carver called his daughter and leaves a message, telling her that he's going to go through with the surgery for his heart and would like to see her. After his and Ellie's last scene, she calls back and tells him that she'd like to see him and that she's glad he's going to take care of himself. Nice, but the story really would have been more striking if he'd been left as a tragic character, the detective who sacrificed his health and family to solve a crime, only to find that the revelation brought even more tragedy to those he cared about. Perhaps it's ok to have one character have a happy ending, but honestly, the whole daughter relationship (and her anger that he was ignoring her because he was 1) doing his job and 2) trying to save a boy's life) was forced and uninteresting. Lastly, as I noted before, the church and bonfire scenes were much shorter in Gracepoint, which robbed the Solano family of their closure with the audience. The show should have come around to them and given them the spotlight, but there just wasn't time.
So there you have it. I think that if you haven't seen Broadchurch, or simply don't understand English and Scottish accents well enough to follow it, Gracepoint is a worthy substitute, though it's not nearly as well done and parts of the middle could be ignored. But if you want the real deal, it's Broadchurch all the way. I will say, though, there is one scene that is a must-see, if you're a DT fan. In episode 10, in the scene where Carver is telling Miller she did good work, his hair is just brilliantly ginger. The show is worth it just for that. ;)