If you like your crime shows bleak, British and full of David Tennant snapping grumpily at people, then you need to start watching Broadchurch.
The ITV drama — which was insanely popular in Britain when the first season was broadcast back in 2013 — has just gotten stuck into its third season. At the time of writing, we’re three episodes in.
Every time a new season of Broadchurch starts, I become achingly obsessed with it. The characters are great, the acting is flawless, and there’s always a messy central mystery that keeps you guessing until the very last minute.
If you’re already watching it, great. If you’ve yet to give it a try or you’ve never even heard of it, let me try and convince you why it’s worth a go.
What’s it actually about?
As you’ve probably gathered from that Season 1 trailer, it’s not exactly a laugh a minute. But it is addictive viewing.
The first season revolved around the murder of an 11-year-old boy in a small, seaside town in Britain, and the resulting investigation. The second season was half courtroom drama, half new mystery. The third is about a rape.
I don’t want to say too much more in terms of plot, because I don’t want to give anything away — but it’s safe to say that there isn’t any one central character (pretty much the whole town is woven into the story), and many of the same people crop up again and again.
In that sense, Broadchurch almost has distant echoes of David Lynch or Stephen King: the drama is as much about the core mystery as it is about exposing the dark underbelly of a small, seemingly idyllic town.
Why should you watch it?
Broadchurch is one of those rare shows that manages to take an excellent story and execute it almost flawlessly.
The first season in particular is perfect television: it’s well shot, the characters are real and interesting, and the story marches towards its grim conclusion with a mounting tension that makes it very difficult to stop watching (I still remember the torturous, week-long wait between episodes back when I was watching Season 1 on TV).
In my opinion at least, Season 2 is a bit of a mis-step. It’s still very watchable and tense, but the court-room action coupled with the resurfacing an old mystery becomes slightly cluttered. Season 3, however, feels like a return to form. There’s a new mystery, a selection of new characters, and so far the same old mounting tension that made the first season so damn addictive.
David Tennant and Olivia Colman
Forget Sherlock and Watson, Poirot and Hastings, or Doctor Who and whoever his current sidekick is — it’s all about Detectives Alec Hardy and Ellie Miller.
Seriously though, they’re great. Tennant and Colman are both ridiculously good actors, and their on-screen relationship develops brilliantly over the course of the show.
Tennant nails Hardy’s grumpy, anti-sociable irascibility, and Colman flawlessly covers pretty much every human emotion under the sun (her character has a pretty harrowing time of it, especially in the first two seasons). They bounce off each other well, too, and their squabbly dynamic adds an occasional, much-needed touch of humour to the show’s otherwise near-constant bleakness.
In a show with so much drama and emotion, a cast of strong actors is crucial. Luckily, everyone in Broadchurch is great. There are no weak links, and some of the actors — particularly the bereaved father Mark Latimer (Andrew Buchan) and Colman, who I genuinely think is one of the best actors in the world — put in such good performances that they stay with you long after the credits have rolled.
Season 3 introduces a bunch of new characters into the mix. It’s still early days — three episodes in and some of the characters have had little more than a shady introduction — but so far, things are looking good.
If you’ve never seen any of it, now is the perfect time to begin some serious binge-watching. There are only eight episodes per series, after all, so if you start right this very minute you should be ready in time for episode 4 on Monday.
If you’re in the UK, Broadchurch Season 3 is currently available to stream on ITV Hub. Seasons 1-2 are available to stream on NOW TV. Season 3 of Broadchurch is currently showing on BBC America, and Season 1-2 are available to stream on Netflix.