Broadchurch begins like a picturesque nightmare: a man walking down the street to his own rhythm, greeting his neighbours; then a woman discovering the body of her 11-year-old son at the beach. The spot is absolutely gorgeous — steep, rugged cliffs overlook a sandy beach, blue waves crash and make that swishing, thudding sound. But as soon as a boy is found dead, the scenic rush fades away.
The breakthrough British series of 2013, Broadchurch is one of the finest detective television series to hit the screens in years. It tells the story of a fictional town called Broadchurch and its inhabitants without unnecessary, over-the-top violence (I’m looking at you, Criminal Minds). The untimely death of Danny Latimer has shaken the foundations of Broadchurch, where everyone knows everyone else.
The murder case dominates the entire series, consisting of eight episodes. Every episode lets you dig deeper into the heart of its characters and reveals the darkness that lies underneath and the unimaginable grief that follows the death of a loved one.
David Tennant plays Detective Inspector Alec Hardy, a transferred cop with a fair bit of experience but not the cleanest reputation. His brusque behaviour with colleagues is credible and entertaining. He suspects everyone, including the town chieftain, aka the priest, a newspaper editor and the boy’s father. Tennant is joined by an excellent ensemble cast with Jodie Whittaker starring as Danny Latimer’s mother, Beth, and Andrew Buchan taking on the role of the victim’s father.
Accompanying him is Detective Ellie Miller (Octavia Colman), who is disappointed when Alec takes over the case and she is forced to follow his lead. Ellie walks a tight line as professional and personal loyalties blur. Her intimate knowledge of the townspeople makes her an asset and a liability at the same time because she may have a conflict of interest. It doesn’t get any better when shocking details emerge and detective Miller is crushed for having overlooked them.
Broadchurch is a slow burner but it captures small town paranoia in exquisite fashion. It is gripping because it captures human emotions in all their complexities. Pain subsides but the sorrow within the show remains a major draw. The series is a subtle portrayal at a time when crime shows move from one victim to another in an endless rut. This show is haunting and heartbreaking but it’s also gracious and thoughtful, marked by excellent writing, direction and cinematography.
British series Sherlock and American shows like Person of Interest and Rizzoli & Isles may be forging new ground but most television shows tend to grow redundant after a while. Bones, Criminal Minds, NCIS, and CSI spin-offs are just some examples.
In Broadchurch, the suspense quotient is exceedingly high because it really is striking how one is unable to predict the ending. Broadchurch is a good example of how crime shows should evolve.
Maheen Sabeeh is a freelance writer who tweets @maheensbh
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, June 29th, 2014.
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