May 5, 2014 in Reflections on Pop Culture

In the small, English seaside town of Broadchurch, where everybody knows everybody, an unimaginable tragedy has occurred: the body of eleven-year-old Danny Latimer is found on the beach at the base of the steep cliffs. It doesn’t take long for the forensic evidence to show that he did not jump, nor was this an accident. He was murdered and the inhabitants of the town begin to look at each other as possible suspects.

Broadchurch is more than a crime show, where evidence is discovered and suspects are interrogated. It is the story of a family and a community torn apart by loss, suspicion, and fear. Watching the community unravel when neighbor turns on neighbor and long-held secrets are revealed is mesmerizing.

The Detective Sergeant involved in the case is warm-hearted native Ellie Miller (love her!), herself the mother of an eleven-year-old boy named Tommy, Danny’s best friend. Tommy says he knows nothing, so why does he go to such great lengths to delete messages from Danny off of his phone and emails off of his computer?

Ellie was not pleased when she was passed over for the promotion to Detective Inspector. Her new boss Alec Hardy (with his fantastic Scottish accent) comes with his own baggage, trailing behind a failed investigation where a murderer still walks unidentified and an illness he is trying to keep hidden. Failure is not an option—not again—and his health will just have to take a back seat. Unfortunately, his body doesn’t always play by the rules.

The interplay between Ellie and Hardy is a perfect blend of acute differences converging into a sort of grudging respect. She’s warm and caring; she knows these people, and wants to treat them with respect during this difficult time. Hardy only wants the truth and will stop at nothing to get at it, even if it ruffles people’s feathers, including Ellie’s. As he is fond of saying, anyone is capable of killing someone in the right circumstances.

Danny’s father Mark does not have an alibi for the night Danny was murdered. His refusal to say where he was puts yet another strain on his marriage, which is already creaking apart in the wake of their son’s death. Jodie Whitaker, who plays Danny’s mother, is amazing in her portrayal of a mother lost in grief.

The media is unintentionally tipped off (Ellie’s nephew is a reporter: everything in this community is intertwined), creating a media circus that gathers enough strength to become a witch hunt, as facts are misunderstood and the innocent are found guilty in the minds of the frightened townspeople.

Through it all, the fact remains that a boy’s life was taken much too soon, and if the police don’t do something about it, the murderer is going to get away with it. The threads of grief, loss, suspicion, following the trail left by the killer, and the interminable waiting for an answer that may never come are woven together with a cast of characters who all have something to hide and a plot that releases mini bombshells so often that I couldn’t stop watching, even when it was way past my bedtime.

The acting is terrific and so are the accents, although I will confess that at times I had trouble understanding what they were saying. If that’s the price I must pay for being able to watch such a compelling show from the BBC, so be it. Season 1 is only 8 episodes long and I binge-watched it last week, forsaking sleep and the ability to focus on anything other than how soon I would be able to press “Play” again on my DVD player. The mystery wraps up with a heart-wrenching vengeance at the end of Season 1, but Broadchurch has been renewed for a second season so it will be interesting to see what they do next. Another murder investigation or something different? I just hope the detectives are still around, because they are fantastic.