- By Kim
- 20 September, 2013
- Comments Off
Have you been watching Broadchurch? If not, you really should get on that. It’s a great modern day whodunnit murder mystery set in a small seaside town in England. BBC America viewers have followed the story for 7 weeks, and the big reveal is scheduled for next week. You’ve still got a chance to catch up before finding out who the murderer is!
Judging from my prior taste in television here and here, you can probably guess that this is right up my alley. As an unabashed Anglophile, I’ll pretty much enjoy nearly any drama put forth by the BBC or ITV. This one has a simple premise: Two police detectives are summoned to a crime scene where an 11-year-old boy’s body has been found on the beach, at the bottom of a cliff. How did he get there? Did he commit suicide or was he pushed? Did he even fall? If he didn’t fall, who put him there? These are the questions we start with. And, like any good mystery, we have a large array of suspects that we slowly get to know: the citizens of Broadchurch. Who are they? Who killed Danny Latimer?
Now, the television market is currently glut with moody, complicated police dramas: Hannibal, Low Winter Sun, The Killing etc. So what makes Broadchurch different? Well, for starters, the whodunnit aspect is hardly the reason to watch the show. The real reason to watch are the townspeople. Similar to The Killing, viewers witness a small community coping with the murder of one of their own. We of course grieve with the Latimer family, but we also see points of view from the media, the police department, and townspeople with no connection to the case. I read in an interview that creator, Chris Chibnall (Doctor Who, Torchwood) had always wanted to create an ensemble drama set in a town similar to the one he grew up in. His personal attachment to the script and setting comes across in the viewing as all of the details and traditional mystery tropes are present. Having worked on Doctor Who, Chibnall is already experienced in weaving together both complex storylines and red herrings that are revealed with anticipation and dread in every episode.
Then there is David Tennant. He’s basically the reason why I and many others watched this show. He’s the marquee star of this series, meant to bring in fans like myself, and he doesn’t disappoint. His character, Detective Inspector Alec Hardy, is the newcomer to town. Coming off a botched case, he’s looking to redeem himself, all the while hating his new surroundings and current lot in life. Despite Tennant being the star, the heart of the show is his colleague, Olivia Colman, who plays the contrastingly warm Detective Sergent, Ellie Miller. While DI Hardy broods, squints and snarls at his officers in full Scottish accent, DS Miller provides the humanity and emotion to the investigation. She is personally connected to the case as she grew up in Broadchurch, and is a close family friend to the Latimer family. The show is rounded out by a talented ensemble with strong performances from Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan, Arthur Darvill, and David Bradley.
Perhaps what stands out the most is the ordinary-ness of people’s lives in the series. There is no extravagance, quippy banter or melodramatic statements. Nobody is a master martial arts expert, a super wealthy magnate or even a derelict aging entertainer. Not unlike The Wire, Broadchurch tells the small stories of regular people and how the aftermath of a murder affects a town. Neighbors turn on each other with suspicion and anger. Secrets are revealed, but aside from the killing, they are more or less everyday shortcomings. Even the over-arching storyline isn’t particularly original, but it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the show. On the contrary, this feels comfortable, familiar and just a little unsettling. Broadchurch captures the right mood for a mystery. The show is shot beautifully in the picturesque, real town of Clevedon and against the stunning cliffs in West Bay. The UK’s naturally chilly weather only adds to the show’s gloomy atmosphere. It all adds up to a damn satisfying mini-series. Curl up with a mug of tea and try to solve a mystery this weekend.
The Broadchurch finale airs on BBC America on 9/25. Catch up on previous episodes on Amazon, iTunes or your local cable on-demand service.
Images from BBC America