When Broadchurch debuted in 2013, it elevated the crime procedural to a new high point, leaving franchises like Law and Order and CSI in the dust. Fantastic performances, rich, brooding cinematography, and big issues like grief and broken trust, all set against the striking backdrop of a seaside British town, made for an engrossing mystery and exploration of how the death of an 11-year-old boy affected so many lives.
The second series (“series” is the British version of a season) didn’t live up to the quality of the first, and so it didn’t occur to me to keep an eye out for a third. When I got wind of the third series, my husband and I decided to give it another chance, and we’re glad we did.
This new set of 8 episodes continues to be beautifully shot, with great writing and acting. The more familiar David Tennant is outstanding as detective Alec Hardy, but he never outshines Olivia Colman, who plays his partner, Ellie Miller. The pair, whose characters each have painful histories, have great chemistry and play off each other’s intelligence and wit.
The crime at the center this time around is a rape of a middle-aged woman. As in the two previous series, nothing is black and white. The community is made up of people who have done a lot of dubious things, and many of them are in broken relationships. No one here is living an exemplary life; most are just trying to get by, hoping for something better.
As the show deals with the effects of sexual assault, it also probes the current state of sexuality. Pornography, unfaithful spouses, casual sex, sexting, cyberbullying, and the objectification of women are all part and parcel of a broken society and what might have led to the crime. The detectives find themselves with a long list of possible suspects.
Broadchurch does not shy from the seamy side of life. There are many mature themes, disturbing scenes and situations, and strong language as well. Yet the main characters are searching for justice, trying to make things right in spite of the sometimes bleak nature of humanity. Sometimes they find the same brokenness inside their own hearts.
While the show’s spiritual bent is basically humanist, there are flickers of something more that is unusual in television in general, but especially in crime procedurals. Broadchurch cries out against the sin that engulfs us, for some light in the darkness. The town vicar is an important character, someone who people come to in times of need. He voices his frustration that people don’t want more from him and the church—that they come when they are troubled but seek nothing further than some counseling when he has so much more to offer them.
The hunt for the perpetrator is wrapped up rather too quickly and shockingly in the last episode, but, for me, that didn’t diminish the overall strength of the series. Viewers new to the show will want to watch the two previous series before watching this one or it will likely not make much sense. This final installment of the show was absorbing, well-crafted, and among the best of crime dramas. It is currently available for streaming on Netflix and Amazon. (ITV)