Before Olivia Coleman was off making Hollywood movies, winning Oscars and making Americans fall in love with her, she was just our favourite, lovable telly actor. And here she’s at her absolute best, partnered with David Tennant in this enthralling crime drama set amidst the dramatic scenery of Britain’s Jurassic coast in Dorset.
We’re in the sleepy, small seaside town of Broadchurch, the home of DS Ellie Miller (Coleman) who has been called to investigate the death of an 11-year-old local boy called Danny Latimer. Her cheery disposition is juxtaposed by Tennant’s character, the rough-round-the-edges DI Alec Hardy, who is clearly nursing some past trauma that he hasn’t yet processed. The imperfect duo, then, to help poor Danny’s family find some answers. That is, if they don’t get side-tracked by the many other secrets this small town is hiding – seriously, this lot have more skeletons in their closet than Morticia and Gomez.
So we end up suspicious of everyone – the priest, the local reporter, the purveyor at the local newsagent and the hippy telephone repairman. Obviously, we’ve seen this kind of show before. It’s not the first time we’ve met contrasting characters forced to work together, or found ourselves in a sea of suspicious subjects, but this one stands out among the rest as a truly gripping mystery. That’s because of the emphasis Broadchurch places on grief and loss, how it affects communities and can bring a town to its knees. We see guilt, pain, and mourning spread through the town, making it all the more engrossing following Hardy and Miller as they try to solve the mystery of Danny’s murder.
When the series aired that final episode of season one, the killer finally being relieved, it was the talk of the town, and by town we mean the whole country. It was one of those telly moments that people talked about for weeks afterwards – the sign of a brilliant and thrilling series.
And they should have left it there, if you want our opinion, because the two subsequent seasons could never live up to such a brilliant first. The story continues on through the trail of our killer in season two, then investigating a new crime in season three, but neither shine as bright as season one. So our advice is to sit and enjoy the glory of Broadchurch’s first season, and then maybe leave it there, and allow it to stay in your mind as an epic, standalone series full of emotional intelligence, and a gripping murder mystery.
Lucy Mangan of The Guardian binge-watched the first season after its release, calling it “a persistently quiet, understated, naturalistic murder mystery that, against all modern received wisdom, which largely holds that noise equals drama, still compelled.” Hank Stuever of The Washington Post agreed, calling it a “strikingly good, strikingly sad mystery drama.” However, after another two seasons, there now exists an article titled “When good TV goes bad: when Broadchurch denied its fans fresh blood,” penned by another Guardian writer, James Donaghy. He says: “Broadchurch series two stands as a potent reminder not to drag out a storyline beyond its usefulness. Keep feeding off your early hits and you’re walking your show off a cliff.”
First shown March 2013. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.