Warning: This story contains details about this week's episode of Gracepoint.
Gracepoint, Fox's remake of last year's Brit hit Broadchurch, is in the home stretch (In fact, Episode 8 is where the original wrapped up the mystery.), and yet Detectives Miller and Carver (Anna Gunn and David Tennant) don't seem any closer to determining who killed poor Danny Solano.
One innocent suspect was already driven to suicide. The drifter is a dead end for now. Miller's son was found wounded in the woods but not at the hand of any serial killer. Turns out he thought he could find Lars and guilt him into admitting that he bludgeoned his ex-bestie, but he got lost and hurt on the way to his cabin. And most of the suspects, including Susan Wright or Dean, the sister's boyfriend, have yet to be cleared completely or charged.
It leaves us no choice but to continue suspecting everyone. So without further adieu, this week's Gracepoint suspect of the week is the coastal burg's man of the cloth, Paul Coates (Kevin Rankin). The preacher certainly has some peculiar habits that raise red flags. He has been front and center for the family, his constituents, and the media in the weeks following the discovery of the tween's murdered-and-moved body on the beach, and he harbors old feelings for Danny's mom, Beth (Virginia Kull), according to his dad, Mark (Michael Peña). But being opportunistic and lovelorn is not necessarily a telltale sign of guilt.
Name: Paul Coates
Relationship to victim: He was Danny's Sunday school teacher, and he has been friends with Beth since high school. In fact, she was his first kiss.
Alibi given: Claimed he was up late solo in the rectory, which has a straight view of the Solano house, trying to write a sermon. He admitted that he suffers from terrible insomnia and may have gone out for a wander and fresh air.
Why he might be guilty: As Carver said, "[He has] no alibi. Insomniac, close contact with kids through Sunday school, easy access to Danny." According to Mark, Danny hated going to church and swore off Sunday school camping trips after he was allegedly nipped by a spider on an overnight. Mark mentioned that it "swelled like somebody clocked him," so maybe it wasn't an insect bite at all.
It also turns out that he has struggled with an addiction to booze and painkillers after suffering a bad back, and he has a history of violence. At his last post in Spokane, he got into a bar fight with a congregant who didn't like his sermon. He's also been out on Owen's boat before — the one that was set ablaze a few episodes back and tested positive for Danny's blood, hair, and prints — and he knows where it is stored.
It was suspicious and a little too convenient that of all the people who joined the search party, he found not only the bicycle, but also Tom. Perhaps we're being a little paranoid, but he seemed to know exactly where he should be looking, and he also referred to Tom as Tommy, the nickname seemingly only used by his parents. The familiarity seemed suspect.
Danny's journal references a threatening "he," and the phone psychic told Beth that Danny didn't want her to look for his killer because she would be devastated to find out it was someone close to her. Paul certainly falls under that definition, as they were once a couple and she had confided in him about the pregnancy before even telling her husband. Mark seems to think that Paul is still in love with Beth, and he wouldn't be the first person who killed for love.
Why he might be innocent: Paul is awkward, sure, but he does not strike us as stupid, and killing the kid of the woman you pine for is a terrible strategy for getting her back. Danny's case also has no sexual abuse element, which is the more standard crime story when priests and children are involved.
Carver harps on Paul for "inserting himself into the family's grief" and for taking advantage of the murder to get in front of the cameras and fill his pews, but it is kind of in his job description to offer a safe haven for the tired, scared, grief-stricken masses who are having a hard time making sense of a murdered child in their normally quiet hometown.
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He also has reasonable explanations for his past. Lots of people accidentally become addicted to their prescribed meds. He went to rehab when he realized he had a problem and swears he has not taken anything in three years and 47 days. The bar fight, according to Paul, was an assault instigated by the other man. And as for having been on Owen's boat, why wouldn't he take up a friend's proposal to set sail in the summer?
He also offered his own best defense when he pointed out to the cops: "Why would I kill that boy? What possible reason can you dream up for me to murder a 12-year-old child? I didn't muscle in. The town turned to me. People who wouldn't normally think about religion asked me to speak. They needed me. There was a fear that you couldn't address. One you made worse because all you have is suspicion. You can accuse me, you can take DNA samples, you can ridicule who I was in the past, but you don't get to belittle my faith just because you are too shut down to comprehend it. People need hope right now, and they are certainly not getting it from you."
Gracepoint airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.