Over the last fortnight, fans of whodunit dramas have been spoiled for choice with the BBC screening Mayday (poor) over 5 nights & then Shetland (better) over 2 nights a week later. If that wasn’t enough on the same Monday as Mayday’s second episode, ITV launched the widely publicized Broadchurch – a multi-layered murder mystery that’s (if its twitter following is anything to go by) currently capturing the nations attention.
The titular location is a small, fictional seaside town in Dorset that is rocked by the murder of 11 year-old Danny Latimer. The comparisons made between Broadchurch and The Killing are apt and not just because of the subject matter; tightly written with various red-herrings, Broadchurch’s narrative consistently holds you to the edge of your seat. It’s also pitch-perfectly acted, with both the main protagonists derserving special mentions.
As DI Alec Hardy, David Tennant is a revelation. As far back as I remember Tennant has always played the charismatic gentry character, so it’s an interesting change of pace to see him play such a polar opposite and the actor nails it effortlessly. DI Hardy has a prickly personality and in the wrong hand would be thoroughly unlikeable, but Tennant give him a heart. His relationship with Olivia Coleman’s DC Ellie Miller is where this is becoming more apparent as the series progresses; having usurped Miller’s promotion, Hardy is slowly showing her how to become a better detective and for audiences it helps cement emotional trust in the character.
Moreover, the slight ting of workplace bullying in Hardy’s treatment of Miller and Miller’s determination to give as good as she gets (“with respect, sir, walk away from me now, or I will piss in a cup and throw it at you” could be TV quote of the year) creates a natural and original feel to the police partner dynamic. Coleman is one of Britain’s finest talents and she’s in her element here; Miller is the character we empathize with and her personal relationship with the family of the victim led to heartbreakingly poignant scenes during the opening episode.
Next to the leads, the show is adorned with fantastic supporting players including Pauline Quirke & David Bradley, who both do great jobs at acting suspiciously. But the bulk of the praise must go to Jodie Whittaker’s grieving mother. It’s rare for a British whodunit to spend so much time focusing on the emotional anxieties of those close to the victim, but this is Broadchurch’s ace card; it shows grief for what it is, unending and Whittaker’s subtle but powerful performance is the emotional core bringing tears to your eyes on a weekly basis.
Holding together this terrific ensemble is Chris Chibnall’s excellent writing. Describing it as his labor of love, the passion that has gone in to Broadchurch is plain to see on the screen; the mystery is engrossing and the emotions feel real.
The question remains: who did kill Danny Latimer? Well my list of suspects is extensive; but if it turns about to be Pauline Quirke, I’ll boycott ITV for the foreseeable future. What’s so impressive about Broadchurch is its approach, as equally concerned about the build-up as it is about the conclusion. Why should you be watching Broadchurch? Because it’s the finest televised whodunit this side of Copenhagen!