To alleviate your worry: My intention with this blog post is to encourage you to watch ‘Broadchurch,’ so I will avoid spoilers at all costs. THIS IS A SPOILER FREE ZONE. Have no fear. There’s nothing I hate more than a devastating spoiler when you’re not looking for it. Yeah, I’m talking to you Facebook Mini-Feed! So, moving on–
Monday night was the first time in a very long time in which I was more or less* caught up on all the TV I needed** to watch.***
**: Needed should really be “wanted,” but it’s become a need to watch everything and I am both blessed and cursed by that desire.
***: Sort of a lie, as I decided to skip ‘Castle’ for the night. I’ll eventually get to it.
‘Broadchurch’ has been on my must watch radar even before it received more traction in the US, due to its poorly made remake ‘Gracepoint’ on FOX. Laundry and room cleaning seemed like the perfect set of activities to complement popping on this BBC series, currently streaming on Netflix. Yeah, so much for laundry and cleaning. I barely got up from my bed from start to finish. Eight, 45 minute, episodes later, I was done with one of the more complete, engaging, exciting, and thought provoking small town murder investigation pieces I’ve seen in an extremely long time.
Created and written by Chris Chiball, best known for ‘Dr. Who’ and its spin-off ‘Torchwood’, ‘Broadchurch’ focuses on the murder investigation of 11-year old Danny Latimer (Oskar McNamara), discovered face down on the beach in the small hamlet of Broadchurch. It chronicles Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) return to work after some time off and subsequent discovery that the Detective Inspector promotion she was promised is no longer vacant. The job has been filled by Alec Hardy (David Tennant), a disheveled, no nonsense, semi-introvert and the two must learn to work together in order to solve the most important case they’ve ever handled.
Tennant and Coleman are excellent. While Tennant seems to oversell Hardy’s quirks early on in the series, he falls into the part nicely as the show carries on. Coleman is pitch perfect as a detective trying to find the balance between the ability to step outside of her village mindset, protect her family, and fully invest in the case. While Hardy and Miller are the driving force of the show, other standouts include the series’ heart and soul–Danny’s parents Beth (Jodie Whittaker) and Mark (Andrew Buchan). The two capture the anger, turmoil, teamwork, hatred, apathy, and sympathy of two people under the most terrible of circumstances. David Bradley, as Jack Marshall, is also excellent.
Each major character gets his or her due as pure citizen, shady suspect, or sounding board for others. Unlike a majority of genre shows that deal with the of subject of small town murder solving, ‘Broadchurch’, never abandons a character just because their alibi checks out. Being crossed off of Hardy and Miller’s suspect list doesn’t mean you’re written out in this world. Each person is a part of this town and the circumstances affect everybody, regardless if they’re being hounded by the detectives. These Broadchurchians breathe life into this town, bringing an empathy and judgement that is both featured and stealthily hidden in the fibers of every scene.
The music and cinematography creates desolate, hopeless, and a tense atmosphere. Striking images repeatedly fill the screen as motifs: waves crashing into the shore as the world keeps turning, overshadowed by the cliffs, a viewpoint for the end of the world. We are fed quick shots of Danny’s memorial to remind us that everything is about Danny. The show never loses sight of that, even in the face of so much fall out drama. It’s about a life being cut short and how this throws an entire town into tumult. Families crack, people fall apart, and others find the inner ability to unite. Broadchurch is a place where people with secrets come to start over. All of these story themes and images are interwoven before you even realize they all perfectly overlap.
The show spreads its exploration of the media’s place in an investigation and the power of religion, faith, and otherworldly epiphanies very thin, but they incorporated into the fabric of ‘Broadchurch’ nonetheless, deepening the layers of characters, plot, and theme. It’s not perfect, but gets its point across. Some details of the murder plot are still fuzzy to me, and a handful “red herrings” were a little bit over the top when everything else seemed so organic. Additionally, some of the characters started to abruptly play “potentially evil” after being introduced as normal, instead of relying on the perception of the audience based on the changed circumstances.
I’m sorry to have gotten on the ‘Broadchurch’ train so late because I enjoyed it so much. It’s pace and slow burn of character reveals kept what could have been an over the top, ungrounded thriller of a TV series, based in the themes and straightforward drama it promised and presented. The mystery and intrigue is well balanced with backstory and fully fledged, deeply flawed, human characters.
I understand that I am an anomaly and can sit in one spot, for hours on end, absorbing content like a sponge in a pool. That being said, this is still an extremely binge-able show. The flow, pace, investment in the characters, addiction to the mystery, and automatic episode queue all create a seamless marathon. (PS: The ending totally works and adds a entire new level of thought to all of the previous seven episodes .)
A second series, focusing on the aftermath of Danny’s murder, is currently airing on the BBC and will premiere on BBC America on March 4th. I would highly suggest a series one Netflix marathon, though I wouldn’t necessarily advocate for a single night viewing. The last thing I want you worrying about is the health of your eyes and soon to be fried brain–like me.
Keep on Watchin’!