WARNING: spoilers below
When ITV unveiled Broadchurch back in March 2013, a few of the bosses had hopes it might do quite well. Those who’d worked on the series’ production expected some favourable reviews and good viewing figures too. Behind the scenes, they knew they’d made a solid, realistic and gripping crime drama. What they didn’t realise is they’d come up with a HUGE smash hit that would regularly draw in over ten million viewers a week, spawn a US remake and capture the public imagination in an almost unprecedented manner.
Four years on, and after an ever so slightly disappointing follow-up second series, we find ourselves back on the Dorset coast, investigating another shocking crime in what looks set to be the final chapter in Broadchurch‘s history. The murder of little Danny Latimer still casts a shadow over the place, but people are slowly moving on. New faces are being drawn into their own nightmares, though – not least of all farm shop worker Trish Winterman, played in devastating fashion by Coronation Street’s Julie Hesmondhalgh. The chirpy face of Hayley Cropper gone, Trish is the focal point of this first episode and the pivot of the eight episode series.
We open not with a body on a beach this time around, but with a battered and bruised woman making a telephone call. Disorientated and in shock, Trish calls the police to report a serious and violent sexual assault. She tells DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) that’s she’s been struck over the back of the head with a blunt object, tied up and raped. Her attacker? She didn’t see. The ever-bickering Hardy and Miller soon uncover the scene of the crime. And some potentially vital clues at that scene. They also discover that the list of suspects could be as many as FIFTY. Well, this is Broadchurch, after all…
This first episode, as you might expect, mostly serves to lay out the plot for us. But it also reacquaints us with some familiar faces so ties with the past aren’t entirely severed. Newcomers to the series need not panic, though. Subtle exposition clues the more casual viewer in to what’s happened previously in Broadchurch. Trish’s case worker is Beth Latimer (Jodie Whitaker), Danny’s still-grieving mum. Danny’s dad Mark (Andrew Buchan) is still in town too – only a squeak more stable than he was the last time we saw him. Will he find himself drawn into the mire of this new case?
As for new faces? Well, it looks as though we’re being drip fed them slowly. Roy Hudd turns up as Ellie’s dad. Plus we met Trish’s friend Cath Atwood (played by Sarah Parish) and her unwelcoming husband – and Trish’s employer (Sir Lenny Henry). Plus, obviously, a couple of seriously shady sorts who skulk in the bushes looking pretty darn suspicious… We’ll no doubt hear and see more from that lot (as well as a whole host of other shady folk) as the Monday evenings pass.
One criticism that the second season faced was a certain lack of accuracy with its police – and specifically court – procedures. But this time around, no such critique can be made. The fine line between realism and entertainment, in this first episode at least, is perfectly tread.
There’s a quiet assurance and patience about this opener. The kind of confidence that comes from a programme with form. Reviews for series two may not have matched those for Broadchurch’s maiden outing, but with a new grounded, believable and gripping case, we’ve got a good feeling about series three.
Just don’t ask us to guess whodunit!