BROADCHURCH Season 1 (8-episode TV series)
Review by Dennis D McDonald
This police procedural take place in a small picturesque seaside town in Dorset, England. One morning the strangled body of an 11-year-old boy is discovered on the beach below a precipitous cliff. Parents of the murdered boy are close friends of the town's assistant police detective. She has just learned she lost the head detective position to a “man with a past" brought in from another town.
News of the murder quickly terrorizes the town. Is the murderer one of their own? Can local and national media resist the temptation to sensationalize the tragedy? Can the disappointed police inspector swallow her pride and work with the new chief inspector despite the baggage he brings from his prior job? Worst of all, are other children at risk as the plodding police investigation proceeds?
At first it is tempting to view this series is another one of those imported British “murder of the week” mystery series where a seemingly idyllic small English town experiences one murder after the other.
Broadchurch thankfully is beyond that. Season One's 8-episode long form means that the mystery can't possibly be solved by the end of one episode. Not only do we have multiple suspects to guess about, we also have gradually unfolding back stories that emerge to toss suspicion and surprises around.
One can tell as the series progresses that plotting has been meticulous as the many threads are interwoven to keep us guessing. The multiple episodes also help us get to know the main characters as the marriage of the dead boy’s parents flounders and as a prickly but respectful relationship between the two detectives evolves.
What also elevates Broadchurch are the performances and acting. Some very difficult and tragic circumstances are dealt with maturely, matter-of-factly, and frankly. Life for everyone must go on despite a murder investigation that cuts a raw and painful swath through a close knit community that we gradually learn has long been harboring some deep, dark, and painful secrets. The assembled cast is excelent.
Should you watch Broadchurch? That’s difficult to say. There are several sequences involving children in suspenseful danger that many parents (including this one) may find unsettling. But overall the positives far outweigh the negatives.
A word of warning: halfway through Episode One we turned on English subtitles. The English spoken in Broadchurch is heavily accented. This made it difficult for our Ohio- and Michigan-trained ears to completely understand without help.
Review copyright 2018 by Dennis D McDonald