Set in a fictional seaside town in Dorset, Broadchurch is a gripping and stylish new eight-part crime series that is undeniably influenced by the popular Scandinavian drama The Killing.
The opening scene is a disquieting montage of a family home at night. Their street is dark and silent; they sleep soundly, but as we are invited into a bedroom (labelled ‘Danny’s Room’) no one sleeps there – the silence becomes unnatural. A clock ticks beneath the soundtrack like a metronome adding to the feeling of discomfort. Cut to an image of a small child with a bloody finger standing on the edge of a cliff. The ticking stops and only the sounds of the waves can be heard.
Broadchurch’s atmospheric opening in which we see the victim in peril is strikingly similar to the opening of The Killing: a girl, in bloody and torn clothes is chased through the woods at night. The Killing retains much of the dark, murky scenery that is present in the series opening and places parental grief at the heart of the narrative. Broadchurch also makes parental grief an integral part of the narrative, but chooses to unfold the action in the daylight in a sunny, picturesque coastal town. The town is extremely closely knit; everybody knows everybody and as the episode unfolds that bubbling mind-brew of suspicion begins to take shape.
A brilliantly composed single take introduces a series of characters that will later figure within the narrative. Amongst them is DS Ellie Miller (an excellent Olivia Colman). She’s recently returned from a 3-week leave expecting a promotion, but her happy mood is soon dampened as her boss informs her that she has given the position to a man. Cue an emotional complaint to a friend from the luxury of a toilet cubicle. Ellie wears her emotions on her sleeve and is not afraid to express them, but this causes problems with her new partner (and successor) DI Alex Hardy (David Tennant). ‘Shut it off’ he says to Ellie as she begins getting hysterical at discovering the body of Daniel, her friend’s son. This is Ellie’s first murder case, but not Hardy’s. Hardy was in charge of the Sandbrook murders before coming to Broadchurch, which from the gossip appears to have gone rather sour. Like Ellie, he is certainly not ready for a murder case and this is communicated through his expression and the whispering he does to himself as he walks across the beach towards the body of the young boy. Hardy and Miller make for an interesting match that will no doubt result in a number of clashes each week regarding their personalities and professional methods.
Broadchurch also has it’s own ambitious reporter, Olly Stevens (Jonathan Bailey). He’s no Katrine Fønsmark and will risk speculating about a murder on Twitter without a care for the family. Olly places his Aunt, DS Ellie Miller, in a sticky situation when he calls to ask for details of the murder. When news gets out about the boy’s name, Hardy scolds Ellie – it’s not like they were best buddies anyway – and he is forced to issue a press release.
Elsewhere, lurking by the side of a caravan smoking a fag is a mute Pauline Quirk. Suspicion is heavily cast on her because she’s always hanging around, but if I’ve learnt anything about crime dramas, there is always a twist and just because somebody looks suspicious it doesn’t mean they are. Only time will tell!
This is an extremely well acted series. Olivia Colman puts in a very strong performance and has a chance to display the rich and varied acting range that she is capable of. Her face is wrought with such anguish at almost every minute, and it’s painful to watch as she crosses the beach towards the boy’s body. It’s not only uncomfortable for Ellie to see, but the viewers too. Jodie Whittaker also gives a strong performance as grieving mother, Beth Latimer.
It wouldn’t be right if a scene of someone eating a ’99 didn’t pop up and David Tennant is the man for the job. His depiction of Hardy as an unshaven, private man is exceptionally good. Closed off from the witty banter of his Doctor Who days, Tennant’s Hardy will make for the most interesting character development.
According to the forensics, the angle of Daniel’s body is wrong. He didn’t fall, no fibres were found so someone made it look like an accident, but who?
Daniel’s best friend Tom (aka Ellie’s son) deletes a bunch of messages from Danny on his mobile phone and a file from his computer. Undoubtedly this will be exposed in later episodes, but what is the little blighter hiding? His mother’s not going to be very happy when she finds out.
Episode One of Broadchurch is available on ITV Player
Episode Two airs on Monday 11th March