Friday, February 12, 2016


Series 1 Promotional Art
Broadchurch (2013) burst onto ITV without much fanfare in 2013. It grabbed some media attention mainly because of David Tennant's (of Doctor Who fame) involvement, and a promotional campaign that tried to conjure up the dark mystique of Twin Peaks.

I started watching it mainly for Tennat, coming in with no expectations. Boy, was I surprised! The first series of Broadchurch is one of the finest TV shows I've seen in a long time, and arguably the finest mystery to air on TV in decades. Its deceptively simple premise of the murder of a young boy in a small coastal community and the investigation that follows, unravels slowly, expertly, revealing layer upon layer of evil, corruption, and deception, with every actor on the show (especially Tennant, Olivia Coleman, and David Bradley) delivering outstanding, heartfelt performances.

But it's all down to the writing. And creator/writer Chriss Chibnall delivers the goods, in spades. This is the best written dramatic series since Breaking Bad, almost flawless in every aspect (plot, character, dialogue, setting), while the picturesque locations are brilliantly shot by Matt Gray, giving the show an original, mesmerizing look.

But what really took me by surprise, was how humane and touching this story is. The conclusion is both shocking and gut-wrenching.


When it was announced that Broadchurch would return for a second series in 2015, I received the news with mixed feelings. Of course I was excited that one of the best TV shows I had ever seen was returning with another story to tell. But I was also wary of how creator Chibnall would top his previous effort.

Mostly, my fears were unjustified. Mostly. The second series of Broadchurch focuses on the trial of the killer apprehended at the end of the first series, and the effect of that trial on the community of Broadchurch. It adds more layers to the principal cast of characters, while introducing some new ones, most of them well-written and occasionally fascinating. There's also another mystery added to the broth: the Sandbrook case, which Tennant's character alluded to in the previous series, and which he tries to solve once and for all.

As with the first series, the writing is sharp, the characters feel real, and the suspense sometimes nerve-wracking. The photography by John Conroy is lush, and the performances by all involved almost flawless.

But unlike the first series, these eight episodes are not as touching and emotionally intense as the first series, while the Sandbrook case, though compelling, isn't as layered or darkly fascinating as the case of Danny Latimer, the boy who was murdered in the previous series. The plotting, also, seems a bit contrived this time, and lacks the smoothness and naturalistic precision of the first series.

That doesn't mean that series 2 is bad, or even mediocre. Chris Chibnall, arguably, is the finest writer now working in TV. It's just that the first series was such a strong, original, and hard-hitting story, taking the characters to some fascinating places, that nothing, really, could improve upon it.

Series 3 has now been announced. And I truly don't know how I feel about that.

Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2016.

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