If American audiences have ever heard of, or watched, the acclaimed crime drama Broadchurch, chances are they were led to it one of three ways. They either 1) knew of lead actor David Tennant from his days as the 10th Doctor on the popular science fiction series Doctor Who, 2) were some of the few American viewers who watched the first two seasons when they aired on BBC America, or 3) put two and two together when they realized Fox’s Gracepoint was an adaptation of the original. (Complete with an American-accented Tennant in what is essentially the same role, and Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall at the helm, no less.)
As excited as you or I may be for the third and final season’s premiere, the show seems destined to attract little attention compared to BBC America’s more popular offerings, like Orphan Black. Yet low ratings haven’t deterred the British broadcaster’s American arm from pushing Broadchurch‘s June premiere (despite the fact it originally ran on ITV in March and April), and for good reason. Chibnall, who’s set to take over as Doctor Who‘s showrunner following Steven Moffat’s departure, paints an intimate portrait of a small, fictional town along southern England’s Jurassic Coast. The result is slow-burning television at its best, and its final eight episodes will surely please fans who fell in love with the first season.
Uproxx‘s Alan Sepinwall praised the latter for the “simple” story told by Chibnall’s “lean and spare” writing, which resulted in a mesmerizing mystery “as devastating as you can imagine.” Simply put, the story of young Danny Latimer’s murder — and the manner in which it rocks the small seaside town to its core — proved to be more than enough to carry the first eight episodes. Chibnall’s whodunit kept audiences and critics guessing while detectives Alec Hardy (Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) struggle to find the culprit amid growing tensions among the residents. When Broadchurch finally reveals who is responsible for killing Danny, however, it only promises more devastation for what remains of Chibnall’s planned trilogy.
Joe Miller (Matthew Gravelle), Ellie’s stay-at-home husband, confesses to murdering Danny after the boy calls off their affair. Yet when his trial kicks off season two, he shocks everyone by pleading not guilty. Along with a major subplot detailing Hardy’s previous case and his reasons for moving to Broadchurch, the middle chunk of Chibnall’s three-part series flails under too much complexity and insurmountable expectations. Thankfully, the final entry returns to its roots and focuses entirely on the overwhelming case of Trish Winterman (Julie Hesmondhalgh), a woman who reports her rape days after it happens. As the show adds more layers to this excruciating tale, it delivers on the first season’s promise of a simple, devastating story.