Late to the Party: Should I Be Watching BBC America's Broadchurch?
Aug 22 2013 12:42 pm CET

If you had asked me two weeks ago if you should be watching Broadchurch on BBC America, my response probably would have been along the lines of "It's soooooo good. Stop what you're doing and watch the pilot right now." However, the two episodes since have tapped into several clichés and tropes and seems to be veering away from the mystery that should be central to the story.

The mystery of Broadchurch involves the murder of Danny Latimer, a young boy from a quiet, seaside town in Scotland. This is the highest-profile crime to have occurred in the tight-knit community, as the son of DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Coleman)—one of the investigators in the case—was best friends with the victim. David Tennant plays Detective Inspector Alec Hardy, who was brought in to lead the investigation and usurp a promotion Miller thought she was due. As the investigation gets underway, we meet the Latimer family and other characters within the town—the shop clerk, the hotelier, etc. We soon learn that everyone has secrets that the murder seems to indirectly expose.

The drama and tensions introduced in the pilot are what drew me into the series. I'm intrigued by the idea of how a crime, particularly one as egregious as murder, affects an entire community. It is a delicate ecosystem, especially with a victim so young. The press is presented as a primary antagonist, as cub reporter Olly Stevens (Jonathan Bailey) violates his aunt Ellie's trust by tweeting out the identity of the victim before the police made that information public. How would the actions of secondary and tertiary characters impact the investigation?

Unfortunately, the second episode demonstrated a lack of trust that the drama created would be sufficient to carry the series, drawing on several soap opera tropes. Not only is Beth Latimer (Jodie Whittaker) a grieving mother, she learns she is pregnant. Mark Latimer (Andrew Buchan) is obviously having an affair with someone. An IT technician steps forward as having clairvoyant conversations with Danny, angering the investigators and this viewer. He legitimizes his claims by making a vague reference to Hardy's past, which further compounds the problem with this type of character. If the clairvoyant is wrong, he should have been dismissed outright and is present only for the sake of creating inorganic tension (which happens when he encounters Beth in the third episode). If the clairvoyant is right, it creates a deus ex machina scenario, which eliminates any satisfaction with how the mystery gets solved (if it gets solved). It's a no-win proposition for story purposes.

Though the third episode revealed more concrete information about other people's secrets and motives, I couldn't help but feel that Danny's case was getting pushed farther to the side. The investigation continued with more evidence collected, but the bulk of the episode dealt with the increasing tension between the Latimers inspired by, but not directly related, to Danny's death.

Should you be watching Broadchurch? I am going to say yes. The series is only eight episodes, and the strength of the first episode still has me positive on the series despite the diminishing returns of the two that follow. Also, I can see this as a series that functions better as a binge-watch rather than waiting week-to-week, so you may want to wait until next week and do a first-half marathon.

Mike McComb –

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