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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Broadchurch S3

Series 3

I've talked before -- in reviews on entirely different subjects -- about how Broadchurch was, in its first series, the most talked about event television in the UK. A clever, atmospheric murder mystery that embedded you in the community of the small seaside village of Broadchurch (and which boasted a star-studded cast), the series far exceeded any expectations of it, capturing audience interest and prompting a fever of speculation over who the killer would be. For good reason, too: Broadchurch's first series was a rare example of a perfect, self-contained story.

'Self-contained' being the key word. Its popularity eventually prompted ITV to bring it back for a second series, and while that second series wasn't unremittingly terrible -- the trial parts of the plotline were very good -- it had a great many flaws, including a baffling mystery plotline that didn't manage to be compelling and didn't make any sense.

In spite of all that, everyone I know was pretty excited for the third series, despite the fact that we didn't really know what we'd be getting. Almost no details on the story had leaked out beforehand, and nobody really had any idea if it'd be a return to form, more of the same standard as the second series, or a step down in quality.

Also, this is a nice promo image.

As it turned out, it was a return to form. Mostly. Somewhat. The third series -- also the last, but it was left open for specials and the like -- didn't ever manage to reach the heights that its first series did, but it was a marked improvement over the second series, and a lot of that comes from something of a shift away from the emphasis on Danny Latimer's murder in the first series. That murder still looms over the show, but it does so mostly in the form of a subplot revolving around Mark and Beth Latimer.

Instead, the main plot of this series involves the rape of resident Trish Winterman at a friend's birthday party. As Alec and Ellie investigate -- while each struggling with problems with their children -- they discover that Trish's attacker may actually be a serial rapist, and that he's a severe public safety risk. As the investigation goes on, more and more potential suspects begin to appear, as the case winds its way to an unexpected and harrowing close.

The main plot is managed in much the same way as the murder plotline in the first series: A load of suspects are thrown at us near the start, with a couple more revealed later on, and one by one the likelihood of them being the culprit waxes or wanes, with red herrings thrown at the audience before being ruled out, until eventually the field of culprits is narrowed down to just a few.

The cast. Or most of them. Some of them.

Where it falls down somewhat is that, unlike in the first series, there isn't the sense that anyone in the town could have done it: Characters carried over from the first series, like Mark Latimer and Reverend Paul Coates (played by Arthur Darvill, who's rapidly becoming one of my favourite actors), are automatically safe from suspicion, meaning that the field of suspects is entirely composed of characters we have no particular attachment to.

The series never really manages to make us attached to them, either. Lenny Henry's Ed Burnett comes the closest to being sympathetic, because Lenny Henry is a national treasure who we all adore, but he, like all of the newly introduced cast members bar Trish, comes across as kind of a creep most of the time, thus making it more or less impossible to get invested in him not being the rapist in any sense other than 'I don't want to see Sir Lenworth playing a sex criminal.'

All the cast give excellent performances, but the main kudos, of course, has to go to Olivia Colman and David Tennant as the two leads, perpetual bros and angry detectives Ellie and Alec. Both of them bring a world-weariness and sheer rage to their roles, while also having excellent comic timing in their few comedic scenes. Olivia Colman especially is a grand master of having a comic reaction using only her face.

A boating equipment store.

The subplot, meanwhile, revolving around Mark and Beth Latimer and Mark's inability to recover from his son's death, is actually pretty touching, and moreover, feels very real -- by the end, everything isn't perfect, but you can tell that things are going to improve (eventually, at least) for the family.

All in all, while it never reached the heights of its first series, this was still one of the best television shows I've seen all year, and oddly for a final series, was one which seemingly could have opened the way for more. But, then, Chris Chibnall is off being showrunner for Doctor Who soon, Olivia Colman no doubt has something great lined up, and David Tennant is off doing Ducktales and various other sundry things, so a fourth series was unlikely to be on the cards anyway. So it goes, I guess, and at the very least, this series gave the show a strong send-off.

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