Editor’s Warning: There are not only spoilers here, but a reminder that this show is about the murder of a child and the fallout that follows. If you’re a sensitive reader or viewer you may want to sit this one out. No one will judge you. Oh, and we think you’re lovely.
I will admit without shame that the reason I first began watching Broadchurch was David Tennant. After all, a show about the murder of a young boy in a sleepy coastal British community isn’t exactly the most cheery of material. However, even after several years after his time on Doctor Who I’ve felt the need to watch pretty much everything he’s been in (Decoy Bride was adorable, right?). What I got from Broadchurch was a nonstop gut-punching emotional trip that made me insanely protective of children I don’t even have.
Passed over for a promotion, Detective Inspector Ellie Miller (Oliva Colman) is horrified to discover that a transfer from a bigger city, Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant) has taken her promotion. She is more deeply horrified when the body of her neighbor’s son, Danny Latimer, is found on the beach in their small city of Broadchurch. The community is so small that there is only one local hotel and everyone knows everyone else’s business. Detective Hardy is just come in disgrace from a botched child murder case in Sandhurst. Evidence was stolen from another inspector named Tess, who just so happened to be his wife. Hardy secretly took the rap for Tess to avoid anyone discovering she’d been having an affair at the time the evidence was taken. Disgraced, and with a new heart issue from deep amounts of stress, Hardy was counting on a quiet community but certainly does not get that. Meanwhile, the Latimer family watches as their lives are torn apart, not just from the death of their son, but from the secrets the flood of media are discovering and printing about their lives. Season one ends with the terrifying discovery of just who killed Danny. I’d like to say Season two gets easier to stomach, but prepare your tissues because it’s about to get dramatic.
Season 2 starts with Ellie Miller still reeling over the fact that her husband is a child killer. Her son, Tom, has gone to stay with family as he wants nothing to do with his mother. Alex Hardy is still separated from his family, but now is being haunted by a witness (Eve Myles) he helped stay hidden from her murder-suspect husband from the Sandhurst case. With the suspect (James D’Arcy ) running free, Hardy has to balance supporting the town of Broadchurch with the trial of Joe Miller and the task of trying to protect his witness. Joe Miller surprises all when instead of entering a plea of guilty as he has promised, he changes his plea to “Not Guilty.” Already torn apart, the Latimers now have to endure a trial and the painful secrets that it will unveil. Also introduced are two Barristers. One is a rough and tumble London attorney with a massive chip on her shoulder who wants to do anything to get her name out there. The other is an older woman who has decided to leave the profession and live her life quietly in Broadchurch as her vision slips away.
Broadchurch, in short, is one gut-shot to the next from beginning to end. If you’re a good person in Broadchurch, you’re going to hurt. If you’re a mediocre person, you’re going to hurt. If you’re a terrible person, you’re going to hurt. Having watched a parent go through the loss of their child, I will tell you that some of the scenes involving the parent’s grief are dead-on accurate and horrifyingly sad.
Let’s take a moment right here to discuss how absolutely incredible Olivia Colman is as an actress. If you’re a fan of Mitchell and Webb, you may remember her flitting in from sketch to sketch and doing it brilliantly. If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you may remember her as one of Prisoner Zero’s final forms in the very first Matt Smith episode. She has proven her chops in comedy and camp, but my word is this woman the ultimate in heart-breakingly real when it comes to drama. As Ellie Miller, Colman must not only play the frustrated detective, but the mother, the friend and the deeply-wronged woman. She expresses real emotions in a way that very few actresses can. I found myself sobbing when she sobbed, feeling her anger as her husband yet again refuses to do the right thing.
A fantastic surprise was the additional talents of Eve Myles and James D’Arcy in the second season. Eve Myles is best known for her work as Gwen Cooper on the show Torchwood. In real life, Myles is a sweet woman with a wonderful heart who will happily chat with you at a convention. In this Broadchurch I was surprised by how at home she is at playing a woman who makes more than questionable choices. She was a welcome surprise to the cast. James D’Arcy you may know as Edwin Jarvis in Marvel’s Agent Carter. It was odd to see him go from oddly quiet and bookish Jarvis to relatively well-ripped and definitely creepy-stalker-vibe Lee Ashworth. Functional couple Eve Myles and James D’Arcy are not. In addition, Doctor Who fans will find Arthur Darvill as the local parish priest, Martha’s mom as a therapist and so many more brief cameos from former cast members. The writer, Chris Chibnall, seems to have many friends left over from his time at Doctor Who.
If you’re able to withstand insane emotional turmoil, unreliable characters and just overall wickedly brilliant writing, Broadchurch is worth a watch. Just make sure you have a box of tissues handy and a therapist on speed dial.
Broadchurch season 2 airs Wednesday at 10:00pm EST on BBC America. Season one is available on Netflix.