Season finale review: ‘Broadchurch’

09.25.13 4 years ago 84 Comments

BBC America

“Broadchurch” came to the end of its first season tonight. For the most part, I said what I had to say about this terrific show in my initial review, but I have a few specific thoughts on the mystery’s conclusion coming up just as soon as I score a little cocaine for you…

Sticking the landing on a longform TV mystery isn’t easy. “Veronica Mars” did it beautifully way back in its first season, but “The Killing” botched two different endings, and “The Bridge” gave us the least interesting possible villain. “Broadchurch” nailed its resolution, though, by keeping things simple and by sticking to the themes of the series as a whole.

We begin the series with Ellie telling Alec how well she knows the people in her quaint little community. Scene after scene, episode after episode, we discover just how wrong she was, and how many secrets can be kept by the population of a small seaside village. So to take the crime all the way into her home, and make the killer her husband, makes the lesson as terrible and powerful as it could be. If Ellie wasn’t aware of what the man in her bed was up to, how could she feel she truly knew anyone around her?

The reveal of her husband as the killer was a situation of Chris Chibnall neither telegraphing the solution nor trying so hard to hide it that the end result felt like a cheat. Ellie’s husband was just a guy in the town, maybe a bit frustrated to be the primary caregiver for their kids, but not someone coming across as either evil or saintly. I recall early on finding it distracting that he looked a bit like Mark Latimer’s buddy, but that wound up being a plot point; all the accusations against the buddy were a case of people seeing a skinny bald guy in the dark and identifying the wrong one. And the nature of his relationship with Danny hit the right note: unsettling and wrong, but not so lurid that the show was reveling in the sickness of it all.

The revelation – and the hand grenade it dropped into every aspect of Ellie’s life – gave Olivia Colman her best material of the entire series. She was incredible throughout here, and David Tennant, Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan were, as usual, not far behind.

We end on a somewhat hopeful note, as all the towns up and down the shore light their own fires in a show of solidarity with Broadchurch and the Latimer family, and as Beth gets one last glimpse of Danny’s face (as with the telephone installer psychic, the show practiced the right level of restraint with all things supernatural). At the same time, Ellie isn’t standing at the memorial with all her friends and neighbors. She’s sitting on a bench nearby with the only true friend she has left – a man she despised and didn’t understand when they first were assigned to work together – because she’s no longer part of this place any more than Alec Hardy is. They got their man, but they both paid huge prices to do it.

I’m just very pleased with how this whole miniseries was put together. I don’t instantly object to the idea of an American remake, but I would say that the original set an incredibly high bar for the new version to clear, and I would hope that Chibnall and anyone else working on the one for FOX uses the basic idea as a jumping-off point, rather than doing a beat-for-beat remake.

What did everybody else think?

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