Let's Talk About That Gut-Wrenching 'Broadchurch' Finale And The Rise Of The Anti-Anti-Hero

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Let's Talk About That Gut-Wrenching 'Broadchurch' Finale And The Rise Of The Anti-Anti-Hero

By Joanna Robinson | TV Reviews | September 26, 2013 | Comments ()

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The most important thing to address about last night’s finale of Broadchurch is this. Olivia Coleman. What a freaking beast. Is it any wonder the British hucked every acting award they could find at her?


We stateside TV watchers had been hearing for months that Broadchurch was the best TV show to come out of the UK in years. And while I couldn’t possibly fault a single performance, I can’t help but feel like the series played out like an exquisite 8-part episode of Law & Order. But sandwiching several episodes that were merely good were that premiere and that finale. Both of which made me do the ugly choking crying thing. And I can pretty much lay that entirely at the feet of two performances. First and foremost Coleman. Amazing Coleman. Heartbreaking Coleman. But also Andrew Buchan as the young victim’s father Mark Latimer. I was so absorbed in the drama of the Latimers that I barely recognized Jodie Whittaker aka Beth Latimer from Attack The Block and Buchan from Billy Elliott. They disappeared in their roles as the epitome of exquisite grief.

But, yes, while I want to make sure Olivia Coleman’s portrayal of DS Ellie Miller gets all the credit is has coming, it was Buchan’s tears that broke me in a deeper place. And he’s not the only heartbroken fictional father this year to hit me where it hurts. In fact, I’d argue that going hand in hand with the rise of these steelier female leads (DS Miller of Broadchurch, Det. Sonya Cross of The Bridge, Det. Sarah Linden of The Killing, DS Stella Gibson of The Fall), we’ve seen room for male characters to provide emotional catharsis.

A few spoilers to follow. Three of the grimmer dramas this summer, The Bridge, Broadchurch and The Killing featured male characters that demonstrated both stereotypical macho tendencies and profound vulnerabilities in their roles as fathers. Mark Latimer, after all, was caught cheating on his wife early on. Peter Sarsgaard’s Ray Seward spent the entire third season of The Killing Hannibal Lecter-ing his way through his stint on Death Row. Sneering and manipulating, he was the epitome of intelligent brutish masculinity. But at the end of his sentence, he fell to bits because he was unable to see his son before meeting his maker.


Similarly, Demián Bichir’s phenomenal Marco Ruiz, a philanderer with an abundance of machismo, completely dissolved in last week’s episode. It was Sonya’s job to keep her wits about her as Ruiz’s broken heart took the wheel. Bichir, who has been doing a fantastic job all season, ripped my heart out with both his guttural screams and quiet farewell.


And what was it, again, that finally stopped Heisenberg in his tracks?

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I don’t know if anti-anti-hero is accurate. Wouldn’t that just be a hero? But there does seem to be more opportunities for men, for fathers, to be the exposed, bleeding hearts at the center of TV dramas. (See: Braverman, Adam.) Is that a conscious reaction to the glut of depraved heroes? A counterbalance to stronger females? I don’t know. But it’s certainly refreshing.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Wednesday

    They're not anti-anti-heroes. But the display of positive emotions is what changes them from monsters to deeply flawed men. Gray is always more compelling than black-and-white, at least to me.

    Didn't watch "The Killing" Season 3 (wouldn't take that risk after abysmal seasons 1 and 2) but I've seen the rest. I don't especially care for "The Bridge" although Bechir's performance is by far the best part of the show. "Broadchurch" threw in just enough gentle curveballs to keep it from being a straightforward procedural, although I guessed after Olivia Colman's character asked another mother, "How could you not know?" how the whole mystery would be resolved. The best of the lot, in my opinion, was "The Fall." The serial killer was the most complex, most interesting character of all of them, even though the viewers knew from the get-go who was committing the crimes.

  • Matt

    What are you doing posting Breaking Bad spoilers here?

  • mackmusic78

    First and foremost, Broadchurch was visually stunning. Every coastal scene was worth watching over and over. Secondly, I have never watched a mystery with so many creepy and suspicious characters that really were telling the truth. The lady who had the dog was chilling and the old man who every one thought was a molester was at the same time heartbreaking and scary. The detectives both were top notch. The finale was top shelf.

  • Ithappenstoeveryone

    There's no "e" in Colman

  • Ryan Ambrose

    Though I haven't seen either Broadchurch or The Killing (Season 3), the actor in the head picture of this article had one of the most fascinating, chilling, agonizing, skin-of-your-teeth and disturbing case portrayals of a serial killer killing peole randomly as if he were living in GTA, in a brilliant two-part episode of Luther on BBC.

    It was like an episode inspired by Haneke's "Funny Games", starring Idris Elba, hard to watch but impossible to step away.

    And they even managed to avoid retreading the pitfall of the "violent videogames and lonely nerd = mass murderer" cliché despite having a creep whose sole commitment was amassing points by killing a large number of innocents in creative ways, now that's some good writing.

    *I should rectify that immediately. "Rectify". See what I did there?

  • Hazel Dean

    You're thinking of Steven Robertson, who played the serial killer in that Luther episode. Andrew Buchan (in the header pic) was never in Luther.

  • Andrea

    He also was never in "Billy Eliott". The probably only things he was seen in the US were in "Cranford" as carpenter Jem Hearne and in an episode of Bones as an Oxford lecturer (Yes, he is that versatile).

  • Dita Svelte

    Broadchurch was gripping and beautiful, but I found the finale unconvincing. It seemed like Chris Chibnall started with the idea of who the killer would be, *precisely* for the response it would evoke in the audience, and then worked backwards to fit this into the narrative. I remained unconvinced, despite the power of the emotion on display (and Colman was undoubtedly excellent). I also found it a bit odd that the detectives didn't actually detect anything much of interest, and that the reveal would seemingly have taken place regardless. Beautifully directed by Euros Lyn, however, and Buchan was top-notch. His face was like a beautiful, damaged time-lapse video of a flower opening - it could go from closed-off machismo to sunny boyishness in one exquisite scene.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Unconvincing is an understatement. It's as though Chibnall set up the whole thing so the least likely person in the entire community was the killer. They spent the entire series showing what a beautiful and loving family they were and SURPRISE! Husband of the lead detective is a murderer and pedophile. I found it quite annoying.

    Season 3 of The Killing though... that was a wonderful thing. Completely heartbreaking, I had to pause the show to cry my eyes out several times.

  • mrsdalgliesh

    I'm with you all the way, Joanna. What was so touching about the Broadchurch finale was that the series spent significant time with various members of the community and especially with the victim's family -- so it wasn't just about the crime & investigation, but also about the impact of those things on each person. We had seen so many of the characters move through their grief and anger and we were with them as they learned the truth. Even small moments with the minister, the publisher, the writer, were full of meaning because of how the series set up those moments.

    I have enjoyed "The Bridge" for similar reasons. The time we have spent with various characters, even when their actions haven't had an impact on the primary plot, have given us such a sense of place and culture and attitude. That enriches what might otherwise be just another crazy serial killer story.

    I would argue that the third season of "The Killing" did this well, too.

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