broadchurch-full-series-review

There are major spoilers for season one of the show. Duh.

Broadchurch came to me from word of mouth, and because it was on Netflix and I was looking for something new. I’m not a big fan of crime procedurals, but I was seduced into watching this by David Tennant and also because I was assured it was more of an emotional small-town type of show than a typical police drama. And that was absolutely correct. The show is much more about small town politics and the crisis of having something horrifically violent happen in a town when those things don’t ever occur. I grew up in a very small town in Maine, and while it wasn’t a small community like Broadchurch, it is one of those “how could something like that happen here” mentalities. The superb acting, the tight script, and the emotional depth is what drew me in. Not necessarily the mystery, and I’ll get to that in a bit. I learned that in the show, they were extremely tight lipped on the scripts and the killer. No one knew basically until the actual script went around, and a lot of people were kept in the dark even as a part of the cast. They preferred getting perfect first takes on every scene because they felt it was more genuine to see everyone’s first reaction to things. I think that sort of precise and tense approach really showed. But let’s get to it.

Broadchurch is a crime drama set in a small town where an eleven-year-old boy named Danny Latimer is murdered. His body is found on a beach underneath a cliff. Main character Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) is a local detective, and she’s furious when Alec Hardy (David Tennant) is promoted into Detective Inspector position she wanted. He’s new to town and has a dark past, which is revealed slowly through the investigation. It’s actually good that he’s there considering that Ellie is extremely close to the Latimer family and would probably not have been the best lead detective on this investigation. The community is shaken deeply by the sudden death, both because Danny was well loved, and because it’s the type of small town where dark things very rarely happen. Danny’s parents Beth (Jodie Whittaker) and Mark (Andrew Buchan) are beside themselves, both grieving deeply and reacting poorly to the news. Mark for some time is considered a suspect, but he’s merely covering up for an affair he was having. At one point or another every member of the Broadchurch community is implied to maybe be the killer, and it was important to the show that no one really suspect who it was. Danny’s sister had a criminal-like boyfriend, did he find out about them and threaten to tell? Was there something nefarious about the Reverend Paul (Arthur Darvill)? What about the bizarre and off-putting caravan living Susan Wright (Pauline Quirke) who hid Danny’s skateboard? The town unravels with secrets and accusations as the police try to figure out the truth, and the press try to dig in too. Alec’s past bungling of another murdered child makes everyone uncertain of his skill here, but he will do anything to get peace for Danny.

Past this picture there are serious spoilers for the show, so stop now if you haven’t seen it! It comes highly recommended from me, it’s an amazing crime drama, but you don’t want to go into it spoiled.

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I figured out pretty early on who the murderer was. I think maybe it was episode four, because it became fairly clear to me that Ellie was the character who represented the town. For the town to be broken, for the show to really be devastated, she needed to be destroyed. I asked myself who the worst possible option could be, and for who, and so picking out her husband Joe (Matthew Gravelle) was extremely easy. Not to mention they went out of their way to show suspicions for every character on the show EXCEPT for Joe. Each episode was making people look shady, and he was the only one who was kept mostly out of the way, so it seemed like an easy conclusion to make. That didn’t make it any less painful to watch. I was hoping that it would be for a reason that wasn’t pedophilia, mostly due to cliche reasons, and also because it squicks me out. But I can’t really picture what other reason it would have been for. It’s interesting that the actor went out of his way to try and study up, not just on pedophilia, but actually pre-pedophilia. The behaviors of someone who isn’t acting on pedophilia, but has the urges. Joe didn’t necessarily do anything to Danny; we weren’t shown that he was exactly, and maybe that’s because they didn’t want to show us, or because it didn’t happen. It’s left a bit of a question mark. But he certainly murdered Danny because he was going to tell on him. The actual murder scene was terrifying. That poor little kid. It’s interesting to me that Joe turns himself in, or at least he stops hiding. It’s not often that a character feels enough remorse that they give up. I think it adds a level of depth to his character. He’s a horrifying person, but not what I expected when I first put it together. Ellie’s devastation was visceral. This destroys her life and her son’s. This isn’t something they’ll be able to get over. Especially not since we’ve already seen how the small town tears people apart for suspicion alone.

I knew there was a season two coming, so I suspected it was going to be Mark’s trial, but I wasn’t sure from there where it was going. Because the show was so excellent at showing step by step the process of finding a body, the investigation, the aftermath, etc., I figured there was plenty of great material left for them to mine. It’ll just be incredibly difficult to watch, since the Millers and Latimers will never be the same again. This show was fascinating. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes this type of genre. I think I was more sold on the interpersonal relationships and the town dynamics than the actual crime. It didn’t necessarily matter who was the killer; the town was turning on itself, they were being chipped away bit by bit, and that was interesting to watch all on its own. There were a lot of cliches going on, but it sort of worked because of the small town drama aspect. Cheating husband, hidden pedophile, oddly suspicious religious figure, criminal boyfriend of a teenage girl, friction between two officers who think they know better than the other, the media turning a story into a feeding frenzy. These are basic concepts, but the show reflects on them more than simply letting it stand and taking the easy route out. The relationship between Ellie and Alec is fantastic. There were good reasons for them not getting along in the start, but it’s easy to map out their friendship and when it started to turn, and how it got to the end. Alec’s apparent coldness in a lot of ways was warmed up and softened thanks to her. And he had to break her heart.

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Ellie Miller may be one of my favorite characters in a crime drama. There’s just something so relatable and likable about her. She seems like an average woman, a decent woman, and that’s what she is. She’s the only character who really is purely good, and I think that’s why she didn’t see Joe coming. We’ve seen that she’s blind to the darkness in other people, and she was very much Broadchurch here: how could this happen to me/us! She’s basically the puppy of this show, and the writers/creators are kicking her as hard as possible in the finale. I suspect that’s not going to change any time soon. Her loss of innocence is painful to watch, but also, let’s face it, it’s great television. The audience is with Ellie, so her heartbreak is ours. What’s next? We’ll have to see. The acting is so good in this show. It allows the actors to be both genuine but quiet too. There’s a lot of quiet scenes where they don’t have a lot of dialogue or have to do a lot of action. They can sit there, pensive, wondering, and it fits with the mood. The child actors should be commended, they were great. Every pieces of the puzzle was perfect here. The acting, the directing, the writing, the mood, the set pieces, the location. I might have to rewatch it now, I’m sure I missed so many little things as we went.

Watch Broadchurch. Seasons one and two are on Netflix. You will not be disappointed. It’s been confirmed for season three. Ahhhhh!

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Comments
  1. […] wrote about Broadchurch season one before, and it seriously is one of the best crime dramas I’ve seen on television. What […]

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