BBC America’s latest import finally makes its way across the pond. Former Doctor Who actor David Tennant (gosh he must hate being described that way) is a troubled detective charged with identifying a child murderer in the small town of Broadchurch, UK, where – naturally – everyone has a secret.
Let’s bitch it out…
Broadchurch debuted in the UK back in March, though watching it brought me all the way back to 2011 when I first watched The Killing. There are a lot of similarities between the two: combative lead detectives investigating the murder of child, with substantial time dedicated to the grieving family and the secrets of the other residents/characters. If you were to simply view the show with this checklist mentality, Broadchurch doesn’t exactly feel fresh: it’s packed with crime story tropes that we’ve seen on plenty of other shows.
And yet instead of feeling tired, Broadchurch feels fresh. It doesn’t hurt that it is exceedingly well executed. As Den Of Geek suggests, there’s a confidence to the proceedings, so even when the show treads on familiar territory, it does so with such assurance that you’re willing to overlook and even forgive it.
The confidence is embodied first and foremost in the steadfast direction and script. This first episode is a simple introduction to the people that we’ll spend the next eight weeks with. It’s simple because there are a lot of them, and we need to know how they all fit in. Broadchurch is as much about the murder as it is about the town itself.
It’s an economy of scale, though the direction makes up with this. For me, the most memorable image of this first episode is the extended long take as Mark Latimer (Andrew Buchan) makes through town, stopping to interact with nearly everyone in the main cast en route. It feels simple because the characters and the street feel lived in, but in terms of expediency this long take not only brings us into the world of Broadchurch, it helps us to invest. It’s a winner.
The acting is top-notch, as expected. I like the interplay between Tennant’s gruff Alec Hardy and Olivia Colman’s overly-emotional Elise Miller (Side Note: she’s a very empathetic crier. She cries, I cry). While the experienced-cop-who-does-things-his-own-way is soooo played out, Tennant is nicely understated and captures a certain world-weariness that works here. I’m not sure I care too much about the suggestion that he has a dark past, but I’m sure we’ll discover much more about that in the weeks to come. Hopefully as with many other elements on this show, it will be an inversion of our expectations.
Buchan and Jodie Whittaker are also excellent as the grieving parents. Chloe Latimer (Charlotte Beaumont) has the potential to be a traditionally annoying teenage character, though I’ll reserve judgment until a few episodes have passed. Beyond that it’s a veritable who’s who of British television and film, though in this first episode there’s barely more than a hint of how these individuals will come into play. Instead, this first episode is focused primarily on Danny Latimer (Oskar McNamara) and those immediately affected by his death. We’ll have to wait until next week to see how this affects the larger community.
- Clearly Olly (Jonathan Bailey), the wannabe big city news reporter, is the dumbest character on the show. The moment he gets excited that Karen White (Vicky McClure) is in town, he should have known that she’s there to steal his story (and the credit)
- The winner of the weirdest/most Twin Peaks-like character is Susan Wright (Pauline Quirke), the strange woman who walks her dog and seems downright antisocial. Of all of the people we’re introduced to, she’s the one who most clearly seems “off”. Keep your eyes on her moving forward
- I don’t think there’s anything going on with Jack Marshall (David Bradley), the man that Danny delivered papers for, but everytime I see him, all I can think of is the terrible characters he plays in Harry Potter and, more recently, Game Of Thrones. Hissssss
- Beth Latimer’s slow-motion run through grilocked traffic to the beach is compelling and emotional, but it’s a little unbelievable that she runs all the way there and manages to sneak past the police tape. I understand that parents have a bond with their children and she’s already alarmed at Danny’s absence at school, but this feels needlessly melodramatic
- So we’re all in agreement that Mark’s answer to Beth’s inquiry where he was the previous night is total BS, right? At such an early stage, we’re clearly meant to suspect everyone, but I reckon that his absence will be explained by something dumb like he was at a strip club with the guys or he’s been having an affair
- The episode ends with Miller’s son, Tom (Adam Wilson) deleting texts from Danny’s phone, as well as the contents of his hard drive. What was Danny doing that only Tom would know. And why won’t he tell his mother?
- Finally, I love me some David Tennant, but there is no way a DI would look so scruffy. I mean, his professional demeanour obviously also needs work, but the facial hair has got to go!
Your turn: What is Tom hiding? Do you think Susan is a weirdo? Is Olly the dumbest reporter you’ve ever seen? Which famed thespian were you delighted to see among the cast? What’s worse – Hardy’s scruff or Miller’s fanny-pack-esque purse? And finally, who killed Danny? Speculate away below
*Please Note: Since this series has already aired in the UK, please refrain from posting spoilers or commenting on future episodes.
Broadchurch airs Wednesdays at 10 pm EST on BBC America