Broadchurch episode 1 review

Review Louisa Mellor 4 Mar 2013 - 22:00

New ITV crime drama Broadchurch comes from Torchwood’s Chris Chibnall, and stars a Who’s Who of Who. Here’s Louisa’s review…

This review contains spoilers.

Everything about ITV’s new crime drama Broadchurch, from its intensely likeable cast to Chris Chibnall’s beautifully precise script and James Strong’s assured direction, tells us we’re in safe hands. Over the next seven weeks, episode one promises, this story is going to be pieced together like a well-tailored suit. Trust us, Broadchurch says, we know what we’re doing.

What they’re doing may not be new - murder in a close-knit community, a battling pair of Detective Inspectors, a steadily turning wheel of suspects, and a policeman with his own demons are all convention staples in modern crime drama – but it’s carried off here with such assurance and poise the familiarity is steadying rather than banal.

A steady hand is exactly what’s required when dealing with such overwhelmingly upsetting subject matter. To watch entertainment based around child murder and not feel complicit in exploitation, a bargain has to be reached between creators and audience. Sensitively show us human truth and we’ll willingly be made wretched by your story; use dead kids as a sensationalist ‘hook’ and we won’t feel anything at all. Broadchurch, I’m happy to report, made me feel entirely wretched.

Blame Jodie Whittaker. As anguished young mother Beth Latimer, confronted with the prone body of her eleven-year-old son, Whittaker’s performance was horrendous to watch for all the right reasons. Andrew Buchan’s grief as father Mark was also well-played, though the suspicion laid at his character’s feet in the episode made his a less simple perspective to channel.

The quality extends throughout the cast (David Bradley, Vicky McClure, Arthur Darvill, Pauline Quirke…), which stands comfortably on the broad shoulders of David Tennant and Olivia Colman, two hugely capable leads. He’s a brooding, irritable interloper with a scandal in his professional past; she’s the warm-hearted, emotionally involved station local he’s displaced. Together, they’re tasked with the promise Tennant’s character makes at the close of episode one: to catch whoever did this.

The Dorset-set whodunit stages its genre conventions with slick professionalism. Episode one ends with a parade of suspects (the unmarried newsagent, the mysterious dog-walker, the deceased’s best friend, the trendy vicar…) which is every bit as fluidly presented as the opening scene that established Broadchurch’s close community ties. Director James Strong weaves his camera through the village’s fabric, introducing its raft of characters with sage efficiency. After just a few minutes in their company, we’ve formed easy first impressions of the ensemble, though with another seven hours for the drama to unfold, you can bet we’ll be proved wrong more than once.

Broadchurch hones in on emotional truths with startling aim. Strong’s camera plummets over a vertiginous cliff-edge more than once, evoking the sense of a world tumbled off-kilter by loss. And if the clocks stopping in the Latimer family house at 3.20am - roughly the time of Danny’s death - is a metaphor for the time-arresting experience of losing a child, then it’s a good one.

The story has a conscience too, seen in its cynical-but-depressingly-accurate condemnation of the press. A London newspaper editor cavalierly dismisses Danny’s death as the “wrong profile” to merit the interest of his readers, an ambitious young journo endangers the investigation in an attempt to move up the career ladder (prompting Tennant’s best line: “Bloody Twitter!”), and Vicky McClure’s Nationals writer unscrupulously removes the keepsake placed at Danny’s memorial site by his sister. The press routinely make hardships like this much harder, says Broadchurch, another of its observations that rings horribly true.

It’s by no means an easy watch, this first episode, but it strikes the right emotional notes and tells its awful story with a surety that promises seriously good drama to come. I'll be back for more.

Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.

Disqus - noscript

I lasted 20 mins with Mayday. this, 2 minutes in, I went I *like* your pacing, sir. Mayday was trying waaay too hard on the spooky unsettled front and not actually being unsettling. This? solid, assured, looks like it's got legs.

i was mixed at first with a few cliches. the cop over looked for promotion etc but it was largely handled well and the opening continuous stedicam shot was exquisitely done.
So far a good start, that has only really introduced the deceased's family and the main police officers which although doesn't seem much for 45 minutes was actualy paced really well. looking forward to this

Loads of unlikely scenarios less than 4hours after body found 2main police offices eating ice cream .boys mother dragged from beach screaming but seems no one knew who the body was till girl leaves toy. Canvasser at hospital oblivious to fact that boys body inside even when police arrive with his friend would have thought crime would have been mentioned would screaming mother have gone home or stayed at beach probably ran back to car left in traffic jam and drove home

I enjoyed this, so many suspects to choose from. Who could it be???
My only prediction will be that the diesel stolen from the tractor will come back into it.

This show has a major flaw - it's not sexy at all

Why are you reviewing this? Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it thoroughly and will be watching next week, but the fact that Tennant played the Doctor doesn't really seem like enough to warrant weekly reviews of an entirely "ungeeky" show. I fully expect some holier-than-thou reader to slap an angry reply my way, criticizing my tiny minded view on the world and everything in it, but I'm going to say it anyway. If Tennant wasn't in it, would you be reviewing it? Does it fit naturally into DOG's pages otherwise? The die hard Tennant fans will always find ways to read about his entirely non sci fi works, I say just leave them to it and move on.

No your right. It does not deserve a review on here. Its another Crime drama to add to the many others out there. David Tennants career continues to go from strength to strength and its probably the only reason it was reviewed.

Another crime drama...splendid.......just what we needed

Yep, a review of some generic ITV crime drama doesn't really sit right in Den of Geek's pages. I guess a site can review whatever it likes to be fair, but couldn't we get some more actual geek TV show reviews? Where did the reviews of Clone Wars go?

Is that still on? I had no idea they were still making that crap. Didnt David Tennant pop up in an episode or two as well? Hmmmmmm

Another suspect is the photographer that did not turn up for work

I kept crying throughout the first twenty minutes, it really was quite wrenching.

Sponsored Links