When You Are Alone, It Will Be There with You: Should You Watch "Broadchurch?"

By Cindy Davis | TV Reviews | June 12, 2013 | Comments ()


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How low do you want to go? Watching shows like "The Killing," "Rectify" and "Broadchurch," I can't help but ponder why we want to wallow in such darkness. It's not as if real life isn't full enough with murder, death and miscarried justice, yet crime dramas and procedurals are consistently at the top of both the audience (Nielsen) and critics' best of lists. Unlike surrealistic offshoots "American Horror Story" and "Hannibal," or the dark, character driven "Breaking Bad" and "Sons of Anarchy"--both of which are just enough steps away from reality to keep us at a distance--"Broadchurch" hits much closer to home. It's no spoiler to say, as dead parents/orphaned kids are to so many children's books, so are murdered children to these series: The Worst of the Worst Things That Can Happen. But unlike those books where losing one's parents are the key to kids learning how to be independent and strong, when a child dies, everyone falls apart. And how many times do we want to see that? "Broadchurch" is full of beauty and good actors, and there are moments that would make even the stoniest of hearts break into tiny little pieces, but it's somewhat formulaic and the mystery drags on a couple episodes longer than it should. The story opens with an eleven year old child standing at the edge of an oceanside cliff, blood dripping from a hand. The same boy is soon discovered dead on a beach, and a pair of cops--one local (Olivia Coleman) and one outsider (David Tennant)--work their way through town looking for his killer. Chris Chibnall's ("Camelot, Torchwood, Law & Order: UK") writing is smart and affecting, he imparts subtle clues to illustrate different sides to each character, giving the audience effective pause over any suspect. Unfortunately, and like "The Killing," misdirection and red herrings are plentiful--by the time you reach the final episode (unlike "The Killing," the perpetrator is actually revealed), you may be fed up. However, the last of the eight hours is indeed a great one, an emotional cleansing that could prove useful if you have a need to purge yourself of every last feeling; one of the actors in particular delivers a performance so excellent, my physical reaction nearly mirrored his or hers. You won't necessarily be exceptionally surprised by the reveal but you will be destroyed--then sit wondering why you put yourself through it. In the end, it's the same reason you went in; David Tennant and Olivia Coleman, surrounded by a bevy of acting talent.

David Tennant ("Doctor Who, The Politician's Husband, Spies of Warsaw") as Detective Inspector Alec Hardy

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Lead detective, brought in to head up the investigation immediately following a scandalous murder trial. Trying to hide a major health ailment and initially at odds with Ellie Miller (over whom he was chosen as lead). Tennant is scruffy and pained, panicked and perplexed, in other words, glorious to watch.


Olivia Coleman (Hot Fuzz, Hyde Park on Hudson, The Iron Lady) as Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller

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Detective Miller has lived in Broadchurch her whole life, is married with two children and knows the victim's family; her son was best friends with Danny Latimer. Coleman is simply brilliant as this mother, detective and friend, caught in the middle of her two worlds and trying to separate her feelings as she wades through her fellow residents in search of a murderer.


Jodie Whittaker (Attack the Block, One Day, "Marchlands") as Beth Latimer

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Danny and Chloe's mother, Mark's wife; she discovers her husband has a secret, and holds her own.


Andrew Buchan ("Garrow's Law, Cranford," Nowhere Boy) as Mark Latimer

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Danny and Chloe's father; he may have a problem with his alibi...and his wife's trust.


Matthew Gravelle ("The Bible, Baker Boys, Torchwood") as Joe Miller

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Ellie's husband and stay-at-home father to Tom and Fred, concerned about--yet protective of--his son's strange behavior.


Adam Wilson ("Mr. Selfridge") as Tom Miller

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Formerly Danny's best friend, and definitely hiding something.


Arthur Darvill ("Doctor Who, The White Queen, Little Dorrit") as Reverend Paul Coates

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Resident vicar and computer tutor to Danny and Tom, former alcoholic and considered a possible suspect by police.


David Bradley ("Game of Thrones, Prisoners Wives, Doctor Who," At World's End, Hot Fuzz, Harry Potter...) as Walder Frey Jack Marshall

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Newspaper shop owner where Danny worked, Jack Marshall harbors the worst kind of secret.


Joe Sims ("Casualty, Red & White," The Color of Magic) as Nige Carter

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Best friend of, and works with Mark Latimer. Has some sort of strange connection to Susan Wright.


Pauline Quirke ("Emmerdale, Missing, Skins, Cold Blood," David Copperfield, The Elephant Man) as Susan Wright

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Oddly behaved resident who may have seen something the night of Danny's murder, but remains quiet.


Will Mellor ("In with the Flynns, White Van Man," Hollyoaks) as Steve Connelley

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Handyman and telephone engineer who claims to have psychic abilities. Says victim Danny contacted and told him the boy was put in a boat.


Caroline Pickles ("Doctors, Land Girls," Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) as Maggie Radcliffe and Jonathan Bailey ("Groove High, Leonardo, Me and Mrs. Jones") as Olly Stevens

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Town journalists; Oily Stevens is also Ellie's nephew and all around asshole who uses his aunt to get information and further his career.


Oskar McNamara (Anna Karenina) as Danny Latimer

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Also starring Vicky McClure, Tracey Childs, Susan Brown, Simon Rouse, Tanya Franks, Simone McAullay and Jacob Anderson, "Broadchurch" aired in the UK March through April and is available on Blu-ray; BBC America will run the series starting August 7, 2013.


Cindy Davis, (Twitter)



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • Omar Little

    I "sneak peaked" it after reading about it. F'n Brilliant! I can see how some might say it should've been 6 episodes instead. However, I will say, it doesn't seem long, it's just simply, you probably could've cut down a couple episodes.

    Acting is F'n PHENOMENAL (sorry for the caps). It truely is. One of my favorite episodes was the Walter Frey one, seriously, no spoilers, but holy moley batman, was it amazing.

    I've already told everybody I know to watch it. You may not like it as much as I did, but at the very least, you'll enjoy it.

  • Steve Ward

    I think if I was watching one episode a week, I would have agreed that a six episode run would have worked. But I blitzed through the 8 episodes very quickly and was thoroughly engaged throughout. Definitely one of those shows I had to just keep watching.

    Also, I thought the performances were excellent. Yes, Coleman is the star, but Tennant delivers in a huge way on what could easily be a one-note character, but instead he plays it with the right amount of restraint and subtlety, never breaking out into a "please like me" dance, nor given "awww, look at that, he really does have a heart of gold underneath all that" scenes, ala House-type shows. Coleman has a lot to work with, so it's easy to be drawn to how brilliantly she tackles everything thrown at her, but it wouldn't be the same without Tennant anchoring and contextualising it.

    Oh, and since when are red herrings a bad thing? Has The Killing damaged us that severely? The red herrings in Broadchurch may be exactly that, but for memory they all lead somewhere. Maybe not to the killer, but to a reveal or event that impacts the town and/or case nonetheless. Broadchurch uses red herrings the way they are meant to be used, not just as a shiny distraction from what you're supposed to notice - the red herrings matter too.

    Lastly, I totally had the wrong character in my sights for the killer (until a few reveals started to point things in a certain direction). Anyone suspect it early on?

  • ceebee_eebee

    Agreed. I watched all the eps in 2 nights, I think. Or maybe even one night. I don't think 8 eps was pushing it at all and the fact that I've watched the whole thing twice and still wasn't bored for a moment is testament to that. But no. I didn't guess the killer for a second. It was a complete shock.

  • annie

    Totally agree that it could've been shorter, like a really detailed and complicated procedural episode, but oh, so good. I did love getting a chance to see how the murder affected this small town…

    …and Arthur Darvill as a priest. 11 years of Catholic school may have had an interesting effect on me.

  • DonnaSaurus

    Not having seen it, it sounds a bit to me like Twin Peaks. Those of you who have seen both, how does it compare? It seems more serious and less kooky, but still focused on unusual people in a small town with dark secrets to hide.

  • No, it's nothing like Twin Peaks--other than revolving around a murder.

  • St

    I tried. I really did. With all the hype around it. I was bored a little after first episode. But decided to give Broadchurch chance. And watched 2 episode. And then 3 episode and then had enough. It was boring, characters were not interesting and I just didn’t care about them. It was just too damn slow. 8 episodes is too much Whole story should have been told in 3 episodes.

    I mean brits gave In The Flesh (fantastic and interesting zombie-drama) only 3 episodes and then 8 to boring Broadchurch
    It kind of reminded me Killing. You know – slow paced show, one case, and they have to shoot 8 episodes, but there are no really interesting characters, so they show us their boring life and how they cope with death of a child, and to keep viewers interested – at the end they give some red herring. Only to reveal in next episode that it was fake lead…

    I found myself thinking that I just don’t care who committed murder. I don’t know. Maybe I just should watch last episode to see who the killer is.

  • Sirilicious

    Don't bother. This one is about the journey, not the endgame.

  • sweetfrancaise

    Watch it. Watch it for Coleman who is, honestly, one of the best working actresses today. Watch it for Tennant, in his best performance yet. Watch it for Walder Frey, who will break your heart and make you forget how terrible he can be.

    Don't watch it for the reveal, because I thought the solution was awful and it felt like the writers ran out of ideas.

  • just julie

    Colman and Whittikar were acting Goddesses in this.

  • ceebee_eebee

    I thought it was superb. Watched it twice. The performances were outstanding, the plot kept moving with very few slow points, and the payoff was satisfying in its way. One of the best UK dramas in a while.

  • Renton

    I always think Olivia does her best work in comedies. See Rev and Peep Show for examples. She's never one note - her characters have wonderful depth, and I'm sure it's not just great writing.

  • Ponytail

    I thought this (I know her mainly from her work with David Mitcell and Robert Webb) but then I saw her in Tyranosaur and I couldn't believe it was the same woman. She's fantastic.

  • jazzie

    I would say watch it. I wasn't a huge fan and it most definitely didn't have to be that long. In terms of performances, Coleman ran the show, she was fantastic. However, Tennant was somewhat disappointing, it was an OK performance but he kind of paled in comparison to her. Whittaker was also good as the grief stricken mother.

    This show just reminds me how much better and more diverse female roles are in Great Britain.

  • Sirilicious

    I say watch it. It could indeed have been done (better) in 6 hours instead of 8, but still worth your time. The parade of red herrings doesn't feel endless and having it resolved at the end is satysfying. It's also not satysfying at all, because it was still a senseless murder that destroys the lives of so many people and after all these episodes of seeing them go through this, knowing who did it only gives you shallow joy, for too short a time. In other words, good drama.

    Besides the 2 cops, i extra enjoyed Andrew Buchan. I liked him in The Fixer, go look for that if you want to see a good British spy/vengeance/buddy/thriller show.

    Walder Frey is excellent in it also.

  • Is it on par with Top of the Lake?

  • Sam Underwood

    Great damn show. My absolute favorite new show from this year thus far.

  • John W

    Can't wait.

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