‘Broadchurch’ A Mystery For The Ages

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LOGOIf you missed “Broadchurch” last season, I have good news and better news. The good news is that the entire first season is available on Netflix, and the better news is that season two just concluded and is available On Demand. This fascinating British murder mystery is inarguably one of the finest series in the history of television, and it will keep you guessing from beginning to end. Thus, I must be very careful not to spoil any of the surprises in the ensuing discussion.

The series takes its title from the fictional town of Broadchurch located on the coast in Dorset of the United Kingdom. Because the place is so small, everyone knows everyone else, and there are very few secrets. But all that changes dramatically in the opening episode of Season 1 with discovery of 11-year-old Danny Latimer’s dead body lying on the beach beneath a massive cliff. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine Danny was murdered, and the event sends shockwaves throughout the previously quiet little town.

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The murder investigation gets off to a rocky start because of some conflict in the local police department. DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) is anticipating a promotion until the powers that be bring in outsider DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) to be the lead investigator instead of Ellie, who does nothing to hide her displeasure about the decision. The word is that Hardy had badly botched an investigation in another town and was sent to Broadchurch so that he can redeem himself. Additionally, he has some baggage that he wants to keep a secret. Thus, as Alec and Ellie begin to look into the crime, the tension between the two of them is palpable.

The victim was the son of Beth (Jodie Whittaker) and local plumber Mark Latimer (Andrew Buchan), who are friends with Ellie and her husband, Joe (Matthew Gravelle). Making things even more complicated is fact that the Millers’ son, Tom (Adam Wilson), was Danny’s best friend. As the investigation proceeds, almost everyone in the town becomes a suspect, and just when you think you have the murder solved, something else happens to shoot down your theory.

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In addition to a riveting murder case, what makes “Broadchurch” such an exceptional series is the consistently brilliant acting of an ensemble cast that makes the characters so realistic we become completely wrapped up in their lives. As the first season continues, we are privy to the skeletons locked in closets of Broadchurch’s citizens, and they are unpredictable to say the least.

Whittaker and Buchan are superb as the parents of the victim, and their anguish will rip your heart out. Shortly after Danny’s body is discovered, Beth shows up on the beach to see what all the commotion is about, and she spies Danny’s shoe underneath the coroner’s cover. Her subsequent reaction is one of the most emotionally charged scenes you will ever see.

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Among the additional characters you will encounter when you visit the town of Broadchurch are Susan Wright (Pauline Quirke), a mysterious woman living near the beach where Danny’s body was found, and Jack Marshall (David Bradley), an eccentric shop owner harboring a shocking secret. Then there’s the Rev. Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill), who seems to be the town’s voice of reason, but is he really above suspicion?

The rivalry between Alec and the embittered Ellie also plays a large part in the story. She fiercely resents his coming in to head the investigation, but he is a really interestng character, and in an online interview, Tennant offered some insight into DI Hardy.

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“He is a cop from a big city – presumably Glasgow – who for reasons that become evident as we go through the story, has been moved to a small out-of-the-way police force where hopefully he can go under the radar. Events transpire fairly early on in the story which means this isn’t the case, and very soon the national spotlight will be shone on him. He is not without some secrets and troubles, which is why he has ended up in this little Dorset town.

“Hardy is good at what he does, and he’s very motivated and driven to solve this crime, and we come to understand that is more than just a professional drive as the story unfolds. He is not the most sociable chap; he doesn’t have myriad social skills, so he is someone who expects things to be done a certain way and can’t quite understand why other people don’t always meet his exacting standards. He lacks people skills, and that’s his main problem.”

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He also spoke about the relationship between Alec and Ellie.

“He and Ellie are not particularly similar as people, and I think Hardy initially has a sort of big city disregard for small town police practices and imagines that they really don’t know what they are doing. He thinks he has to whip them into shape single-handedly as he continues to be exasperated with the way things are run in Broadchurch. They come from very different places, and circumstance has thrust them together and the way the plot develops by default they end up working much more closely than they imagined they would be able to at first.”

Colman and Tennant are fantastic together, and at the shocking close of the series’ first season, Danny’s killer is caught and confesses. And if you can predict who it is, you are a better detective than Sherlock Holmes ever dreamed of being.

Season 2 of “Broadchurch” opens just before the trial of Danny’s murderer is set to begin, and in typical fashion for the series, we are treated to a stunner right off the bat. As you well know, sometimes the second season of a series, doesn’t live up to its predecessor, but that definitely is not the case here. All of the principal actors have returned to reprise their respective roles, and some stellar new cast members have been added, including Charlotte Rampling and Marianne Jean-Babtiste as opposing barristers in the trial.

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Revealing any more about the second season would spoil way too much, so let’s just say that if you liked the first season, you will not in any way be disappointed in this one. In addition the superb acting and brilliant writing, the setting in and around Dorset remains stunning with the quaint village surrounded by majestic cliffs. And the taut courtroom scenes are superb.

The first season of “Broadchurch” rated an undeniable 10, and it should then come as no surprise that Season 2 earns an inarguably impressive 10 to the second power. Quite simply visual entertainment just does not get any better than this, and the word is that a third season is in the works. Bring it on!

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