On the surface Broadchurch is operating in very familiar territory for British television. It’s a multi-part whodunnit serial of the sort that the UK has pumped out for decades.
They’re very good at it. The format doesn’t really work in the US where the network requirement for 13 to 24 episodes simply requires too much story.
Judged purely on that level Broadchurch is a success. The clues of what is going on are there when you go back back in your mind after the revelation and there are plenty of red-herrings and smaller mysteries to be solved along the way.
Yes our protagonist is yet another policeman who bucks the system and has a secret he’s hiding. But the relationship between David Tennant’s Detective Inspector Alec Hardy and Olivie Coleman’s Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller is a complex one.
It starts out prickly, made worse by Hardy’s remarkably poor people skills and slowly warms into an effective work relationship.
Hardy is broken you see. Physically and emotionally. He’s not a maverick. He’s just awkward and driven. But Ellie isn’t. She’s genuinely happily married. Comfortable. Part of the scenery of this town. These are not the staples of US procedurals.
Usually these whodunnits operate primarily on an intellectual level. The challenge of solving the crime. Here there is a strong attempt to go far beyond that.
Again and again we explore what happens to these people after the murder. How do they go on with their life? What affect does the investigation itself have on the community as secrets get unearthed that won’t be buried again?
And that’s where Broadchurch really excels and separates itself from other shows. After following these characters for 8 episodes, the finale was both gripping and heart wrenching. No big action sequences, no chases, just emotional drama.
And it keeps asking the viewer questions too. Yes we get a lynch mob scene. We see people rushing to judgement. But then we see them being wrong. And them in turn being judged. We see the effect that previous investigations have had on people. How the doubts and questions linger years afterwards.
As far as I’m concerned Broadchurch is a must see show. And Fox is all set to do a US remake So do yourself a favor and watch it now before they butcher it.