The town of Broadchurch is a small, quiet, seaside village that is readying itself for the summer influx of beach-going travelers on holiday. It’s the kind of town where everybody seems to know everybody else, but as is typical for most small towns, a lot of what they think they know is really nothing more than gossip.
Local police officer Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) returns from an extended holiday to find that the promotion she was all but promised has gone to an outsider, D.I. Alec Hardy (David Tennant). The two officers couldn’t be more different. Miller is very caring and personable and these aspects of her personality are aided by the fact that she knows the people of this town. Hardy, on the other hand, is a gruff, cold outsider, haunted by a failure in his past.
As the Latimer family is beginning to wonder just where their son, Danny, has gone off to, the body of a young boy is found on the beach. As the detective duo arrive on the scene, Miller recognizes the body as that of the young Danny Latimer who was her son’s best friend. She’s visibly shaken, but not nearly as much as Beth Latimer (Jodie Whittaker) who, upon hearing about the body on the beach, races to the scene only to be dragged away by the police.
Whittaker’s performance in this scene just killed me. As a parent I could feel the dread and anguish fill me as I watched her break down and fight the officers who were keeping her from the scene. Naturally, I’d hate to ever be in that position and I’m not sure I’d be so easily dragged away, but any parent would feel that way. This was the first truly gut-wrenching scene of the show and it really hit home with me thanks to the pitch-perfect performances of all involved.
Danny’s body was found on the beach at the base of a cliff and there’s evidence he was at the top of the cliff before his death. Initially it looked like the boy might have jumped from the cliff, but forensics determines that the trajectory would’ve been all wrong. In addition, the area around his body was clearly staged to make it look like an accident.
Now it becomes a murder investigation.
The coroner determined the cause of the death was asphyxiation. The pattern of bruising suggests large hands in a position where Danny would’ve been facing his killer, so probably a male he knew. If there was any good news from the examination it’s that Danny wasn’t sexually abused.
At the crime scene, local newspaper reporter Olly Stevens sees Danny’s sister leave a stuffed toy monkey on the ground nearby. He calls Miller, who happens to be his aunt, to try and get confirmation that the body found was that of the missing Danny Latimer. Naturally she won’t confirm this since such information hasn’t been officially released, but Olly tweets the news anyway which gets the attention of Karen White who is a reporter for a national newspaper. Karen convinces her editor to let her go to Broadchurch to report on the incident.
Hardy is outraged, believing someone on the force leaked the information. Miller admits that she may have been partially responsible and although the situation really wasn’t her fault she feels as though it was. Now that the news is out Hardy arranges a press conference to make the information official.
Since he was Danny’s friend, Ellie tells her son, Tom, about what happened. Once Ellie leaves his room, Tom immediately deletes all messages from Danny from his phone and begins to delete documents from his laptop’s hard drive. He knows something, but what?
As the day draws to a close Ellie discovers CCTV footage from the town center that shows Danny skateboarding down the empty street in the middle of the night. This proves he wasn’t abducted, but instead went willingly to meet someone. The police didn’t find his skateboard or mobile phone during their investigation, which only serves to bring up more questions.
Other than the mystery of who killed Danny Latimer, there’s still the question of what is in Hardy’s past that haunts him? It is what makes him so cold and disagreeable? As the series progresses all these questions will be addressed.
This was a very solid start for Broadchurch. The characters are believable and react in ways that one would expect ordinary people to. With his somewhat unpleasant demeanor and troubled past David Tennant’s Alec Hardy is nothing at all like the Doctor. The acting in Broadchurch is nothing short of superb and from the outset it’s easy to see why this show has been met with a positive reception by all who have seen it.
We still have seven more episodes in the story and I can promise you that there is a conclusion to it all. Viewers won’t be left hanging with no answers or closure while watching Broadchurch. In these eight episodes you will see a complete tale from start to finish and that story will be deeply satisfying.
Broadchurch airs Wednesdays at 10:00pm ET/PT (9 CT) as part of BBC America’s Dramaville.