Great detective series are never about the crimes; they’re
about great detectives, and BBC America’s Broadchurch
has one. With a depth that goes beyond formula drama, Olivia Colman plays
Ellie Miller, a wife and mother in the sea- side town of Broadchurch, who finds
herself investigating the murder of the 11-year-old boy next door, her own
son’s best friend. Ellie has a practical, crimped hairstyle that may be the
worst in the history of haircuts. She wears the drab gray pantsuit that
lady-detectives in most crime shows try to glam up; she doesn’t. She is
empathetic, engaging, and down-to-earth — qualities that only grow as she
slowly realizes that someone in her own apparently wholesome community, someone
she has to know, killed that little boy and left his body on the beach.
Ellie’s chilly partner, new to Broadchurch, is played by
David Tennant with ideal, enigmatic distance. Like almost everyone else in
town, he has a secret, although his is less sinister than most: a career-threatening
arrhythmic heart he’s trying to hide from his superiors. Together, they sort through the suspects: the
vicar who gave computer lessons to kids; the wizened old man who owns the news
stand; the woman with a dog who lives in a trailer near the beach; the murdered
child’s own father. As the suspects’ stories and alibis are revealed, it sometimes
seem that Broadchurch is overpopulated with people who have come to escape
their guilty pasts. Is this the worst town on earth? More likely, as Ellie
comes to see, the world is full of more secrets and deceptions than even a
tough detective ever imagined.
There’s no denying that Broadchurch
is based on a generic Agatha-Christie-worthy premise, but the cast lifts every
episode; nothing about the series feels stale. Jodie Whittaker is especially
wrenching as the murdered child’s mother, who doesn’t give in to histrionics,
but is painfully baffled about how to go on with day-to-day-life. Creator and
writer Chris Chibnall (Law and Order UK)
creates a rich texture, while never losing
sight of the suspense that drives the plot.
But this would be just another detective series without
Colman (who played Thatcher’s daughter in Iron
Lady, and the abused woman in Tyrannosaur).
At the start Ellie is a smart career woman with a happy family life — her
stay-at-home husband cares for their children, including a younger son still in
a stroller. And she insists on the
innocence of people who have been her trusted friends and neighbors for years —
until she can’t any more. Colman brings Ellie’s profound questioning, her sense
of morality gone askew, to such vibrant life that they become more than
abstract themes; they are her new reality.
the most-tweeted show in history when it was shown in the UK, and has been
renewed for a second season. This week the Fox network announced an American
remake. It’s easy to see why in every instance.
The enthralling Broadchurch
would be perfect for binge-watching, but you’ll have to watch the old-fashioned way; the series will be parceled out
weekly on BBC America starting August
7th. The first episode is On Demand on on-line here.