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BROADCHURCH Not Warm, But Welcome

Broadchurch poster

Written by : published Saturday 31st August 2013

BBC America viewers are halfway through the first series of the British show Broadchurch as of this past week. The hour-long drama is similar to The Killing, revolving around a single murder of a young boy over the course of the eight episode run, and depicting his family as well as the police looking into the death. At this point, the list of suspects is long, but the number of important clues are sparse.

Broadchurch is an excellent entry to the crime genre. It boasts strong storytelling, with natural twists, and numerous threads intertwined. The acting, done by a roster that includes several familiar faces, is fantastic, and the series lets us dwell on characters as appropriate. However, it also avoids the slow pacing that turned some (not including myself) off of The Killing, and will almost certainly solve the case at the end of hour eight.

The lead detective is DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant, Doctor Who), a man with a past. It is clear that whatever demons dwell within him, owing to an old case he screwed up, are catching up now, as he falls and hits his head, which is presumably connected to pills he is taking, mixed with alcohol. The question we're faced with is, will he self-destruct before he can finish the job? Tennant very rarely lets Who slip into the role, showing fans something new with this part.

Alec is assisted by DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman, Twenty Twelve), who is inexperienced in such grisly murders, but is intelligent and capable. This week, Ellie invites Alec over for dinner, which he awkwardly agrees to. This not only allows them to bond a bit, but we see a lighter side of Alec as he drinks with Ellie's husband, Joe (Matthew Gravelle, The Bible). Alec and Ellie are a bit of an odd couple, but are likely to succeed together, both being beneficial to the other.

Of course, Ellie is distracted by her very personal connection to the small town scandal, her son, Tom (Adam Wilson, Mr Selfridge), being the dead boy's best friend, leaving her in an awkward position when talking to the victim's mother, Beth (Jodie Whittaker, Wired). It's an interesting dynamic, when the police, by virtue of the size of the village, have feelings about those involved, and it's part of what makes Broadchurch so good.

Another thing the show does well is deal with the aspects of this type of murder. For instance, this week Beth finally agrees to talk to Karen White (Vicky McClure, Line of Duty), a big-paper journalist who is working with the local press. Karen isn't pushy, and seems sincere when pleading with Beth to do the interview, pointing out that press attention could help motivate witnesses to come forward and the truth to come out, and she's not getting that support now. But are Karen's motivations merely selfish? The pack of pushy reporters who follow behind her aren't so kind to the family, and Karen doesn't do a good job of preparing Beth for that backlash. It's a tricky business.

There is also a fake psychic who convinces Beth he wants to help, but whom Ellie reveals as a charlatan. It's a shame such jerks prey on those who are grieving, but this is a fact of life, not often seen in standard cop procedurals, so it's interesting to be brought in here. Plus, the psychic character is fairly convincing, even for those skeptical, so it's easy to see how a desperate Beth would fall for his charade.

I also love the way Alec goes to church just to spy on the locals, hoping to figure out who is responsible. It's a smart, though cynical, viewpoint, aided by the other characters' treatment of religion in general, attitudes that are just now catching on on this side of the pond.

Among the prime suspects right now are: Mark (Andrew Buchan), the victim's father, who was having an affair with hotel manager, Becca (Simone McAullay, Blue Heelers); Jack (David Bradley, the Harry Potter films), the victim's newspaper delivery boss, who claims his recently uncovered past as a sex offender isn't what it appears to be; Susan (Pauline Quirker), the scary owner of the cabin that is likely the crime scene, and who goes by a different name than she used to; and Rev. Coates (Arthur Darvill, Doctor Who), who doesn't have an alibi, and just feels slightly creepy.

It likely isn't any of these people, since we're still only halfway through. Anyone who has read or watched a few murder mysteries know that the killer isn't unmasked until late in the game, with plenty of red herrings along the way. My wife has theorized that Joe Miller could be the culprit, appearing the least likely at this time, but that seems too much of a stretch to me. However, I don't mind waiting to find out when the journey getting there is this good.

Something some people misunderstand about a good series such as this is that who is guilty is not the point. If it were, we'd learn who they are early on, and the rest of the tale would be about proving it. Instead, the draw is the process of putting together the clues, as that is what most of the plot concerns. In this, Broadchurch is doing a spectacular job with a complex, well-thought-out arc. This is definitely one of my favorite shows of the summer.

Broadchurch airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on BBC America.

Watch Episode 4 - Episode 4 online

About the author JeromeWetzelTV


Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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