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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 | September 26, 2013 |

By Joanna Robinson | TV | September 26, 2013 |

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, Demin 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.