BBC America, Wednesdays 10/9 Central
Aug 07, 2013
There are a lot of reasons Broadchurch shouldn't be so enjoyable. Its premise is as dated as television itself—a mysterious murder in a quiet village where anyone can be the suspect—and it takes one of the U.K.'s most well-known and beloved international TV stars, David Tennant (Doctor Who), and makes him as drab and unlikeable as he could be. Tennant stars alongside Olivia Colman as a duo of investigators solving the murder of Danny, a teenage boy found alongside the beach in the quiet resort town of Broadchurch. The list of suspects includes Danny's father (Andrew Buchan), his reclusive newspaper route supervisor (David Bradley), and the local priest (Arthur Darvill, also from Doctor Who). Hardly innovative.
Yet, despite the blasé ingredients, Broadchurch is a remarkably impressive and moving series. It surpasses its genre by framing it with delicate ingenuity and careful dramatic suspense. The image of a young victim found next to a body of water is bound to inspire comparisons to Twin Peaks, but the similarities pretty much end there. Where Twin Peaks featured an enthusiastically zen Kyle McLachlan as its chief crime solver, Tennant plays a brooding and haunted detective without as much as a hint of likeability or sympathy. It might not delve into horror tropes as much as Twin Peaks, either, and Broadchurch is considerably more serious in tone. The story is weaved throughout with Terrence Malick-esque close-ups and beautiful scenery juxtaposed against soft-focused, expressionless angst. The effect is immersive and realistic, and builds tension while giving the audience an objective yet minimalist look at the setting and characters of Broadchurch.
Most viewers will probably tune in to see Tennant in a dark and unfamiliar role, but as great as he is in the role, the real standout performance comes from Olivia Colman. As Ellie Miller, the policewoman passed over for promotion in favor of Tennant's Alec Hardy, she is the emotional counterweight to Tennant. Ellie is close to Danny's family and openly weeps while doing her duty as investigator. Her capacity for optimism while portraying a character torn between the broken-hearted and cynical serves a much-needed purpose: highlighting kindness among a town plagued with distrust and grief. In a series like Broadchurch, a character like that can do a lot to not simply adhere to genre standards, but uniquely redefine them. (www.bbcamerica.com/broadchurch)
Author rating: 8.5/10
Average reader rating: 8/10