Reviewed by John Hussey
I’m not going to lie, Broadchurch is one of my favourite programmes on television at the moment. It has such a unique edge to it, lent by the fact that the show is run by Chris Chibnall. This man knows how to create drama, particularly when it comes to creating interesting characters with lots of depth and emotion. This is why I loved the first two series of Doctor Who spin-off, Torchwood, so much because he handled the characters brilliantly, as well as creating some awesome stories full of depth and true meaning, often than not testing the characters on a personal level.
I will admit that one of the main reasons I wanted to give Broadchurch a go (back in 2013) was because David Tennant was in it. What can I say, he’s a terrific actor. Suddenly I was met with such a deep, and personal, narrative that kept me gripped from start to finish. I desperately wanted to see the next episode and watch the plot thicken. I’ve never seen a show that’s so deeply developed, filled with such personal problems that affected every single character onscreen in compelling ways. And then the revelation of Danny Latimer’s killer only made things explode even more and the personal levels got even deeper.
Come Series Two I was again enthralled by Chibnall’s creativity and attention to detail, especially with developing his characters. Broadchurch was one of those shows were you worried it wouldn’t be as good come a second outing, but I’m glad we were proven wrong and that Chibnall’s planned trilogy performed perfectly. Series Two pushed the narrative further and the characters were pushed to new levels of endurance, to the point it became unbearable. But the narrative remained just as good (if not better) than the first run and explored more deep and personal problems in another well-crafted story.
And now Series Three has started, and sadly this will be the end of Broadchurch, concluding the trilogy hopefully on the highest note possible. Upon hearing that the third series would tackle “rape” I became intrigued as to how Chibnall would tackle such a delicate, and tragic, event. Plus, it bothered me as to how this subject matter would tie into what has happened before. With Series Two the narrative continued, and eventually concluded, the events of Series One, whilst also exploring events from an unfinished case first referenced in Series One, which ultimately tied off all the loose ends of the series. So to have a third series that followed a completely different story would seem rather disjointed.
It seemed to head that way within the first half of the opening episode but soon pulled us back into familiar territories. That’s not to say that we weren’t blessed with the brilliant performances of Tennant and Olivia Coleman. What can I say about these two fine actors. They’re absolutely brilliant together and formulate one of the greatest pairings in television history. Their chemistry is great to witness week-in, week-out, because they have a strange love/hate relationship. It’s clear they have a strong respect for one another but they clearly act as polar opposites through their means of investigating cases.
Alec Hardy has always been the sharp, aggressive Scotsman whilst Ellie Miller has been a more caring, and understanding officer. It’s clear that they both want the same goal but wish to take different approaches. Alec is quite harsh and tough, willing to push himself in order to get the facts (which ultimately nearly got him killed in the previous series), even if it means getting personal. Ellie, on the other-hand, allows her emotions to drive her instincts and tries to be more emotional with her deductions and more understands the feelings of those around her, whereas Alec sometimes doesn’t take that into account. This often leads to disputes over who’s methods are better, with them both having their own personal strengths and weaknesses.
After two cases involving child murder, Alec and Ellie move onto another controversial case involving a rape victim. Trish Winterman contacts the police to inform them of a sexual assault. Alec and Ellie come to look after Trish in this difficult situation and it is challenging to watch because it’s such a delicate subject matter. It’s a horrific idea for any woman to have to feel vulnerable and degraded by a man that wants to take advantage of them, causing them the worst kind of violation, not to mention permanent psychological problems. The idea of rape makes me feel disgusted, to the point where I can’t help but feel ashamed of my own species.
But to give Chibnall credit, he dared to tackle this terrible event and treated it with care. The opening episode of Series Three almost gave us a clear insight into the victim’s mind and how traumatising it was for them. One of the greatest issues that has always been apparent with rape cases is the shame of the victim, and their reluctance to inform anyone. It’s understandable that they want to simply forget such a terrible event, but to have to admit it to someone close to you must be one of the lowest moments in anyone’s life. Who wants to discuss the events of another person abusing them in the most personal way possible? Nobody.
Julie Hesmondhalgh plays Trish remarkably well and adds to the story with her presence. She conveys her emotions perfectly. We really get an understanding of her feelings and the devastating affects this event has had on her. The fact that she remains almost silent throughout the first quarter of the narrative just shows how much she’s in shock. She’s reluctant to open up. Her mind has locked up and her memory closed to those horrific events as a means of defence.
Alec and Ellie do their best to try and help Trish, doing their absolute best to be delicate in extracting the needed information. It’s clear that they are both caring and understanding towards Trish, both clearly wanting to help her get justice by finding the person that has insulted her privacy. They both display their differences in approaching a case. Alec becomes intrusive by investigating Trish’s home, searching for any relevant piece of evidence from a number of different sources. Ellie decides to show her kindness by giving Trish her personal phone number in order to reassure Trish in this difficult situation.
Though it’s questionable as to whether this was professional or not (with Alec attempting to call her out on her emotional behaviour – which has got her into trouble in the past) but this is quickly forgotten when this act of kindness proves useful upon Trish giving Ellie valuable information over the phone. This is then helped further by her new evidence matching details to forensic evidence, meaning her story is becoming more concrete.
I suppose the horrible thought that kept crossing my mind during the opening episode was whether or not the “attack” actually happened, added by the fact that there was a three day period between Trish’s “apparent” assault and her contacting the police. This added the usual Broadchurch air of mystery, leaving you puzzled as to what was really going on because everything wasn’t what it originally seemed.
Then there’s the usual aspect of looking out for the “suspects”. Broadchurch is notorious for making you triple check every single character onscreen in order to determine who is the culprit. Though Series Two was somewhat easier to dissect, Series Three seems to be going back to a more Series One feel where lots of people could be suspects and any one of them could be guilty (which adds greatly to the drama and the on-going mystery). Though this time it might be more difficult considering the setting for Trish’s rape, which happened at a friend’s party in the countryside, consisting of around seventy guests (with fifty of them possibly being male).
I did really like how the Latimer’s were incorporated into the narrative. Having been a key aspect to the previous two series it would seem rather odd not to feature them somehow within the final chapter of the Broadchurch trilogy. Beth Latimer is still struggling from grief after the death of Danny in Series One (and not receiving full justice in Series Two) and so has now become a councillor in order to help other woman with difficult situations, pushed by her own life experiences. I will say that I’ve never fully liked her character. Yes I’ve always felt sorry for her but some of her reactions, whether justified by her emotional status or not, have been completely uncalled for.
Now her and her husband Mark Latimer have split up and her bitterness towards him has created a clear rift within the family. However, she may just yet redeem herself by becoming a helpful aid to Trish by becoming her councillor and perhaps her past experiences could help relieve Trish from her traumatic experience and help convince her that their is a future to be had. Perhaps this will even help Beth out as well, allowing her to finally some sort of closure and to be able to move on from her own demons.
The mystery deepens by Ellie’s strange reactions to the ongoing case, almost as if it’s personal to her, similar to Alec with Danny’s case because it reminded him of his unsolved case (which was returned to in Series Two). I’m actually wondering whether Ellie may have been a victim to rape herself, or a family member was, or she was on a similar case before (which was ultimately unsolved), in which case would explain her attitude towards the ongoing events, making it rather personal. Also there is her struggles with her son, Tom Miller, who was suspended from school due to sharing pornography with other students, making her extremely angered and disappointed, pushing her to remember the terrible deeds of her ex-husband and how she hopes Tom doesn’t end up like him.
Then there’s Alec worrying about his own daughter, Daisy Hardy, as it becomes more and more clear that the town could be plagued with a sexual predator, and that they may attack again. Things develop further upon Trish’s friend discovering that Trish had been raped during the events of her party, making her and her husband rather suspicious. On top of this someone returns to the “apparent” crime-scene and removes some vital evidence left behind. It’s fair to say that the final series of Broadchurch is shaping up nicely and I really can’t wait to see how it unfolds.