The Doctor Who fandom tends to focus on Sherlock as its closest neighbour. But with Chris Chibnall taking over showrunning duties on our beloved show, the key to the future might instead reside with Broadchurch, the third series of which concludes tonight – bringing the show as a whole to a close.
While Series 1 was met with overwhelming praise, the second was less well received (undeservedly so, in my opinion). This final run of episodes will perhaps determine how the entire production is remembered.
This year’s story revolves around the rape of Trish Winterman (Julie Hesmondhalgh) – as sensitive a subject as the death of a child, as in the previous two seasons. And it has been handled well. Chibnall has consulted numerous agencies to show the reality behind such an awful event, and the first episode was especially chilling. Notably, when Trish revisited the scene of the crime, it proved a shocking and truly affecting piece of drama.
That’s what Broadchurch is all about. Deep, raw emotion in extreme circumstances. There are plenty of touching moments that show the best of humanity – the women of the town being brought together by Trish’s daughter in a show of support, and even Ed Burnett (Lenny Henry) mouthing “you alright?” to her during the football match. That scenario where he’s completely helpless to do anything, and doesn’t know what to say, so plumps for the only thing he’s worried about: is she okay? Of course it’s futile and insufficient and stupid; of course she’s not alright; but what else can he do?
As a flipside to this, the storyline has brought up some truly horrible moments. Cath Atwood (Sarah Parish) showed true spite when questioning why the rapist would’ve chosen Trish over anyone else. Clive Lucas’ (Sebastian Armesto) total disdain for basically everyone. Aaron Mayford, at all time (and Jim Howick really shows his incredible range in this, comparing this character to his comedic roles in The Armstrong and Miller Show and Horrible Histories).
It’s no shock that David Tennant and Olivia Colman are magnificent once more as Alec Hardy and Ellie Miller respectively. It’s good to have them back, especially seeing Hardy doing his best to be a good dad again. It’s a double act that really will be missed once Broadchurch ends.
And it’s naturally nice to see what the townspeople of Broadchurch are up to. Mark Latimer’s (Andrew Buchan) storyline so far has worked particularly well, as did his daughter, Chloe (Charlotte Beaumont) cuttingly asking why she and her mum (Beth, played by Jodie Whittaker) aren’t enough for him.
These elements have all really been in Broadchurch‘s favour, but the last point – seeing returning characters again – exposes a weakness of this final series.
For one, I’m split about the Latimers. The whole point of the first series was proving that a family can stay together despite the terrible thing that’s happened to them all. And “family” isn’t confined to the Latimers – it’s the Millers, too, and the town as a whole. There’s strength in togetherness. Broadchurch had learnt from what had happened to Sandbrook. Right?
Sadly, the Latimers have divided for Series 3, leaving Mark drifting, in all senses. Is this good or bad? Right now, until tonight’s finale airs, I don’t know. I admired the theme of Series 1, and I like that Series 3 demonstrates that not everything works out as it’s supposed to. I’d like the Latimers to be reconciled, at least partly, showing that they’re all still suffering but have each other.
The other problem with bringing in a new cast of characters while also seeing what old friends are up to is an obvious one: something’s got to give. By necessity, it’s the old cast. We’re teased with new ideas for them, but there’s simply not enough time to see these expand. The most promising is Arthur Darvill’s Rev. Paul Coates, who seems to be questioning his faith, his job, and the way he’s supported the town but got nothing in return.
When he admits to Beth that he’s jealous of her new part in the community, it recalls his desires to be seen in Series 1. Few really suspected him of Danny’s murder, but Hardy was wound up by his frequent TV appearances, his need to be seen doing something. The pulpit is nothing if not a stage.
What’s next for Coates? I don’t think we’ll get time to find out, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong.
Another issue is with how likeable the original cast are, and always were. Even Joe Miller (Matthew Gravelle) seemed a nice chap until the final episode. The new cast simply aren’t. They have some redeeming features, but all the suspects – plus Cath Atwood – are generally unpleasant. That includes Trish: a sympathetic character, but not particularly likeable, not in the same way as Paul, Maggie Radcliffe (Carolyn Pickles), or nutty Nige Carter (Joe Sims). I like Ian Winterman – but only because it’s Charlie Higson.
Compare these suspects to Jack Marshall (David Bradley), one of the show’s best characters. He was a truly likeable guy, even though Hardy had him in the frame for Danny’s killing.
The case has been highlighted to the detriment of the personalities to some degree, and that’s a shame. Similar is the attitude that all men are pigs. I can understand if this were how Trish felt following the attack, but it’s become the prevalent idea throughout the season. Only the Series 1 cast are exempt. Hardy even comments that it’s making him ashamed to be a man.
The plot point about porn is also a curious thing, and pretty unnecessary too. It’s as if Chibnall doesn’t know what happens when you type “topless” into Google. Lindsay Lucas (Becky Brunning) is horrified to open her husband’s computer to find an adult video, but one which showed less skin than a Mark and Spencer‘s ad for underwear. She’s clearly never seen Game of Thrones. If I were her, I’d be more distraught if Clive were a fan of Celebrity Juice.
This all jars, and doesn’t ring true. And yet Broadchuch got a reputation for realism, at least in Series 1.
Still, I don’t like to criticise Broadchurch too much because it remains very watchable, very well written, and will be sorely missed. It also gets a tough time of it: as with Doctor Who, most people praise it, but the internet is most alive with people saying it’s a massive let-down (or worse). It’s not. It’s still better than most TV shows. Its glory days have waned, but that’s because the glory days were so vocally lauded. Anything would’ve been a disappointment after Series 1. Few shows can maintain that wonderful momentum, live up to those brilliant expectations. Car Share‘s managed it. Line of Duty‘s managed it. But it’s a tough task.
We shall see how the show ends tonight. What’s your theory? My money – all £1.20 of it – is on Richard Hope’s character, owner of the huge house. It could really be anyone though. Broadchurch concludes, and we’ll have to see how satisfied it leaves us all.
Make no mistake though: the TV landscape won’t be as exceptional without Broadchurch. It’s made a mark on the nation, and, after Doctor Who, will likely be remembered as Chris Chibnall’s and David Tennant’s biggest achievement.