'Broadchurch' TV Review: The Murder Of A Boy Sets Off A Gloriously Dark Investigation Of A Small Town
Broadchurch, a crime drama set in a small town in Dorset, England, is a slow study in the murder of an 11-year-old boy and the way it crumbles a community.
Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (played by the gloriously foxy David Tennant… and David Tennant’s facial hair) is the primary officer on the case when Danny Latimer’s body is discovered on the beach. Unlike Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Coleman), the other officer assigned to the investigation, Hardy is not a local; there are allusions in the first two episodes to something big in his past that he is attempting to escape by moving to a smaller town. His outsider’s perspective proves valuable as he methodically approaches the mystifying and gut-wrenching case while Miller is attempting to keep it together as an officer while still mourning with her community. It seems at times that Hardy’s approach is cold while he presses locals with questions that Miller seems to find offensive. There are a lot of “he’d NEVER do that!”s in the first two episodes- but as it progresses, I’m quite sure Miller will be surprised by how much she learns about the people around her.
The show is slow moving, but not without purpose. The first episode is purely for character development (which is something that makes me optimistic for the rest of the show): we meet Danny Latimer’s family (his mother, father, and sister), Ellie Miller’s family (her son, who was Danny’s friend, her toddler, and her husband), reporters for the local paper (one is especially brazen, which obviously makes him loathsome from the first episode), shopkeepers, co-workers. As you meet each person, you find yourself saying “I KNOW YOU KNOW SOMETHING-” a statement that says a lot about the show’s overall mood, as it is clear that the townspeople think that exact thing to themselves every time they see each other.
The second episode is where things get moving. Dark secrets about different characters surface (one of them being the pregnancy of Beth Latimer, Danny’s mom, and the dubious statement she makes to Reverend Coates: “it’s complicated.” No, I’m pretty sure that’s another way of saying “it’s illegitimate”). It becomes clear that Miller’s son knows something when he learns that Danny’s death has been classified as a murder and he immediately deletes several files off of his computer and messages off of his phone. Chloe Latimer turns out to be secretly dating a man substantially older than her who is also kind of a scumbag… and Alec Hardy doesn’t like fish and chips. Ellie Miller is baffled. “What kind of Scot are you?”
The character to watch, I think, is Reverend Paul Coates, played by Arthur Darvill (another Doctor Who alum). He is very clearly new to either his job or this community and is still trying to get to know the town. He clearly did not expect a child’s murder to be one of the first things he has to face as a public figure who’s meant to be steadfast, compassionate, and always available. I believe the actions expected of him as a reverend and how they contrast to the natural reactions people have to the news of a murder in a close-knit community will make for interesting television.
Broadchurch shows a lot of promise, even if it isn’t necessarily the most original. The cinematography is very reminiscent of David Lynch’s work (lots of depth of field changes and slow motion to emphasize moodiness, just in case the death of a boy wasn’t quite enough) and the premise has been done several times over (close-knit town? Check. Superficially functional families? Check. Dark secrets? CHECK) but hefty talent carries a meticulously written script that makes me eager to see where it goes. Will it turn out that a cocaine-fueled 11-year-old killed Danny Latimer (not out of the realm of possibility, which is what makes this show awesome)? Did his sketchy father do it? Did his sister’s even sketchier boyfriend do it? And more importantly, the lady with the dog: WHAT DO YOU KNOW? I can’t wait to find out more- and I can’t wait to see how everyone ties in.
Broadchurch aris Wednesdays at 10 P.M. on BBC America.