Going into the Broadchurch season 1 finale, there were still a lot of loose ends that need tying. What’s going on with Olly and Karen? DI Hardy and…anyone? What’s the deal between DS Miller and her sister? Will Danny ever be a fully-formed character instead of just the dead kid? Will we learn about Paul Coates’s shady past as an alcoholic and the incident in which he assaulted a child?

At the start of episode 6, the second to last episode of the season, the show jumps forward a month and a half and the Latimers return to the real world- Chloe goes back to school and Mark goes back to work. Even though at times it would have been helpful to see how they were as a family before Danny was killed, the fact that you don’t know them at all up to that point makes it so that when the Latimers return to their routine, it is just as jarring and alien for viewers as it is for them. Mark sees simple things like family portraits in other people’s houses and is reminded that his family is barely intact and Chloe keeps getting gawked at. Seeing Chloe’s misery, Mark takes the family on a trip to the arcade by the sea. The family plays, laughs, and has fun, all in slow-motion to make it abundantly clear to the viewing audience that this is a special moment to be taken VERY SERIOUSLY. Though it’s nice to see the family bonding over something other than death, between the slow-motion and the way it’s cut into a montage, it just seems forced and uncomfortable.

The two episodes leading up to the finale are filled with intense, beautifully crafted moments that parallel the psyche of the characters involved- a medical emergency in a crucial moment that exposes DI Hardy’s condition also parallels the case crumbling slowly out of his control; DS Miller’s son, Tom, turning up with a vital piece of evidence illustrates how the investigation is so fragile that the whole thing may hinge on one person having a moment of charitable leanings.

In the first 15 minutes of the finale, Joe Miller is revealed as Danny’s killer. (Right after the end of the finale I re-watched the entire season looking for clues pointing to Joe’s guilt. There’s a slight hint of foreshadowing in episode 7. Otherwise, the clues are not there. Don’t look for them. Just don’t.)

The rest of the hour is dedicated to the fallout. This is a welcome departure from other dramas that are quite popular such as HBO’s True Blood or even Showtime’s Homeland, where any kind of resolution seems to come second to creating a shocking cliff-hanger ending.

The end of Broadchurch is delicate, heartfelt, shocking, and terribly sad. Even at the close of the season (and what could even be the last appearance of Olivia Coleman and David Tennant on the show), new character traits emerge. Hardy’s swell of pity and shockingly amazing bedside manner when delivering the news of the killer’s identity is a new and welcome change from his normal gruff, socially perplexed demeanor. And the Latimers finally get the closure they need: a moving funeral scene where the family lights a fire in Danny’s memory, and in solidarity, unexpected funeral pyres appear, generously dotting the neighboring cliffs around Broadchurch. There are meltdowns, tempers flaring, protectiveness, loyalty, and loathing, all packed into one exhausting episode.

Overall, while the finale was very, very good, the season’s countless loose ends are largely left open-ended. It is a bit unsettling. Though the episode ends with a closing title stating dramatically, “Broadchurch will return,” the nature of the finale leaves the viewer wondering exactly how that’s possible. The people of Broadchurch are interesting, but not so interesting you can base an entire show on them without some kind of cataclysmic event. Another murder catalyzing another “who done it” plot would be too easy and too forced, so the trajectory of the show’s second season is somewhat of a mystery.

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