“That sort of thing doesn’t happen around here.”
On its surface, Broadchurch is a story about the death of a young boy and the investigation that surrounds it, but accepting that as the entire story is akin to believing that the sun revolves around the Earth. Broadchurch is about more than that. Like Baltimore in The Wire or Eureka in, well, Eureka, Broadchurch might as well have a listing in the credits. What Broadchurch is really about is how the death of this boy changes the dynamic of the quiet, coastal town inspired by the towns of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.
Broadchurch begins with a shot of a boy standing at the top of a cliff, looking down at the beach below in the middle of the night — unfortunately, things don’t go all that well for the boy. But, let’s not skip ahead.
Before we find out about the death of this young man, we’re introduced to a family going about their daily business and, in another group of scenes, Detective Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) returns from her three week leave to have the promotion she was promised handed to a man from out of town while she was gone. Unsurprisingly, the man who took her job turns out to be the main character of the show, Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant), whose first scene involves investigating a potential crime scene on the top of a cliff overlooking a beach.
All of the stories start to weave together at this point, as we see the first truly heartbreaking scene of Broadchurch‘s pilot; the boy’s mother, Beth Latimer (Jodie Whittaker), realizes that her boy Danny might not just be missing when she finds out that a body has been found on the beach. The dead boy (who obviously didn’t just fall off the cliff due to the way his body was found, yet the police don’t seem to notice) is confirmed to be Danny in another terribly sad scene where Detective Miller — whose son, Tom, was best friends with Danny — identifies the body on the beach.
We then jump over to a scene with an aspiring news reporter Oliver Stevens (Jonathan Bailey), a young man who works at the local Broadchurch Echo and has had little luck finding a story to kick start his career as a journalist — until his boss suggests he get some fresh air and check out what happened at the beach.
Back at the crime scene, Hardy and Miller are informed that the boy couldn’t have jumped to his death — he was most likely placed in his current position (obviously) after being killed. This bit of information kicks off the rest of the series as the two detectives scour the town for Danny’s killer — the pilot continues to sew the seeds of secrets to be uncovered by Hardy and Miller throughout the series (even some about Hardy himself), promising an eventful eight-episode drama. Too much happened in Broadchurch‘s pilot for me to write an entire play-by-play, and to do so would spoil some of the fun, so I will stop here.
Some other characters that deserve mention as they will have expanded roles after the pilot are: David Bradley as Jack Marshall, the man who gave Danny his paper route; Arthur Darvill as Reverend Paul Coates, who does not do much but looking troubled in the pilot and Vicky McClure as Karen White, a journalist for the Daily Herald who reported on Hardy’s Sandbrook case.
Even though creator Chris Chibnall wrote Broadchurch with the intention to be a one-off series, it is no surprise that Broadchurch has been picked up for a second season. What also shouldn’t be surprising is that it has been picked up for an American adaptation, as well. I don’t think that this is at all necessary, but I suppose that is the way that American television works these days. The good news is that Chibnall is writing the pilot, at least. Regardless of how that show turns out, the original Broadchurch is a fantastic narrative. While, on its surface, Broadchurch might be a rather generic police procedural with David Tennant flair, you’re actually watching the small town buckle under the weight of a child’s murder.
- Rating: “A fantastic narrative.”
- Comment: Broadchurch would have made an excellent book, due to its relationship-focused approach and ensemble cast. While Chibnall didn’t go that route, he did manage to make one of the more promising crime dramas to come out this year.
- You might like Broadchurch if you like: interpersonal relationship-focused drama, police procedurals, The Wire, Doctor Who (especially if you like David Tennant or Arthur Darvill).
Broadchurch has just started airing its first season in the US, though it has already finished airing in the UK. You can catch the US broadcast of Broadchurch on Wednesdays at 10 PM PST on BBC America.