The Not-So-Sunny Seaside – A Review of Broadchurch

Adam Wollerton

A child standing on the edge of a cliff with blood on his hands, letting the sea breeze sway him backwards and forwards – A punchy start to the new Monday night drama Broadchurch. It definitely set the scene for this new eerie crime thriller.

The first ten minutes of the programme has you watching with squinted eyes in concentration as we flash from detective to family and back to detective – all of whom are struggling to face the fact that the child, Danny, has committed suicide. Why he does it, or even if it was suicide, is a complete mystery – obviously, otherwise we wouldn’t have a crime drama!

We are quickly introduced to the protagonists in Broadchurch with the appearance of David Tennant as DI Alec Hardy, and Olivia Colman as DS Ellie Miller, who is personally linked to the dead child, identifying him as her son’s best friend from school. This is certainly a different character for Tennant, more familiar to audiences as a Saturday night Tardis-flying hero. Nevertheless, he is strangely suited to the serious nature of a detective inspector, even though at points you do hope for a sarcastic line, a cheeky smile, or a witticism to break the glum atmosphere of the drama.

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Credit must go to Jodie Whittaker, who plays the distraught Beth Latimer, the mother of Danny. When the family are presented with the news of their child’s death by our protagonists, Whittaker presents the audience with her interpretation of a horrified response that only a mother could feel. The portrayal of a steady progression into a rank realisation through silent screams, bawling eyes, and the staggered breaths really hit your heart as a viewer. Simply brilliant acting.

The investigation is taken on a slight bend when a crime scene investigator suggests that it wasn’t suicide but rather a staged murder – shock horror. Suicide would have been way too simple to base an eight part drama around, but even though this is only the first episode, you are presented with numerous twists that promise for something with a little more body than a straight forward murder.
When a forensic team member examines the body, he clearly states that Danny has been handled around the neck heavily by a male, suggestively. It is also revealed that Danny would have known his attacker – adding a nice dark edge to the story although there’s not really much that can be drawn from the mouth of a dead boy, so hope of identifying the killer is still very slim…

The acting offered here by the forensic team member is somewhat melodramatic with breathy pauses between descriptions that really don’t need it such as ‘large…hands’ and emphasis on the same word ‘suggest’ repeatedly. This pantomime-like investigation scene is topped with a lovely histrionic line of ‘We don’t get these around here, make sure you find them.’ Spooky.

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After this scene, in a crime-drama-esque way, we are introduced to a series of men, who we can only assume have ‘large…hands’ as per the description given by the dramatic forensic team. One of these is Ollie, DS Ellie Miller’s ambitious wannabe-reporter nephew, played by the youthful and handsome looking Jonathan Bailey, who draws out of our protagonist the name of the dead boy.

When a rogue tweet reveals the name of the dead boy to the public, the family is dropped further into deep devastation and a rift is reveled between Hardy and Miller. This is followed up by a questioning between the mother, Beth, and father, Mark, of Danny when she asks where he was the night of his death and Mark replies with ‘I told you I was on a job…’. Obviously, this is all done with dramatic license and clever writing – everyone must be presented to the viewers as potential suspects even if they aren’t done so in the actual script. And this is definitely one cleverly crafted script by creator and writer Chris Chibnall.

The last ten minutes of this first episode are brilliant. A scene where Ellie Miller sits her son, Tom, down to tell him about his best friend’s death is heart breaking. However, immediately after he is told and Miller leaves the room, the young boy turns to his phone and laptop and proceeds to delete all messages and shared files between them… suspicious!

The episode concludes with Danny being spotted on the town’s CCTV and him willingly walking the streets (showing he hasn’t been abducted) followed by a broadcast from the police, spearheaded by DI Alec Hardy, stating that he will catch Danny’s killer whilst the camera pans from one character to another in a lovely Cluedo-esque moment.

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Broadchurch is definitely the next must-see crime drama in 2013 on ITV. Make sure you catch up with ITVplayer and tune in next week to visit the cast by the not-so-sunny seaside.

About Adam Wollerton

Adam is a Writer and Director of Off-West End and West End Theatre Productions. He is also the Co-Founder of Curious Tales Theatre Company and is the author of LoveStuck: A New Musical.