When Twin Peaks first hit TV screens the question on everyone’s lips was “Who killed Laura Palmer?” ITV managed to capture a similar nationwide fascination when crime drama Broadchurch aired in April, with more than eight million viewers tuning in to the finale with baited breath to finally find out who had murdered Danny Latimer. With the Blu-ray release approaching, we list the top five reasons why you should catch this top-class drama.
1. The Story
Set in sunny, beachside tourist-haven Broadchurch, the story follows the disappearance of 11-year old schoolboy Danny Latimer. As the Latimer family frantically search for their missing son, Detective Ellie Miller, their family friend, has the devastating task of attending a murder scene on the beach where she finds that he is the victim. Forced to work for newly promoted Detective Inspector Alec Hardy, an outsider with a notorious failed murder case under his belt, Miller struggles to keep her personal and professional obligations separate. And as the town becomes more desperate to find the killer, with the national spotlight of news media on them and businesses struggling as the tourist industry fails, the townspeople find their secrets are revealed and paranoia spreads.
Writer and creator Chris Chibnall may be a familiar name to fans of quality British TV, having written for Life on Mars, Merlin, Doctor Who, and Law & Order: UK. His distinctive tone works brilliantly here. Rich characterisation allows for complex desires to motivate people in the story in ways that are morally dubious, unpredictable, but always understandable. It never gets too saccharine and handles heavy subject matter with delicacy. The plot has enough twists to keep the viewer hooked, but avoids wavering into sensationalist territory. And the themes of the story touch on very prevalent issues, from media intrusion to the fragility of the justice system to ideas of community vs the individual. It delivers the difficult task of being an entertaining drama that still makes you think.
2. The Cast
David Tennant returns to TV to play Alec Hardy, the detective whose past failures haunt him and relentlessly drive him on to pursue Danny’s murderer. Tennant has his acting chops on TV and on stage, having played one of the most famous and beloved incarnations of The Doctor, but also one of the most popular recent portrayals of Hamlet. He is on consistently fine form here, giving depth and empathy to a character that has the unenviable task of being a distrusted outsider in a close-knit town.
But the hat must go off to Olivia Colman, best known for her comedy work in Peep Show, Twenty Twelve and Rev. By turns prickly, funny, brazen, sweet and determined, she manages to create an instantly endearing character and portrays her ups and downs with subtlety and realism. Hers is by far the stand-out performance in a show that has a huge group of secondary characters, played faultlessly by a talented cast.
3. The Style
Shot in West Dorset, and featuring picturesque seaside locales like piers and stunning cliff-top views, the show manages to combine high production values and a stylish aesthetic to capture the disturbing goings on in Broadchurch. The cliffs that dominate the show, and indeed the plot, are a stark visual cue of the show’s tone and scope, which alternates between a sense of epic scale and a sense of intimacy depending on how the scene is shot – and, of course, always perched on the edge. Bleak tones mingle with sunny pastels and isolated landscapes contrast sharply with the seething public outrage and moral decay at the heart of the town. It makes for an unsettling atmosphere and tone, but you won’t be able to take your eyes off it.
4. The Extras
The Blu-ray release doesn’t just display these high production values in stunning HD, but also features a range of extras that fans of the show will love. Audio commentaries with David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Chris Chibnall, director James Strong, and producer Richard Stokes offer more information about the story, filming, actors and locations that gives an insight into the way the show was shot, the way the cast approached the story, and how the mystery was revealed to those on set. Broadchurch is a densely layered production and seeing how it was made is a rewarding experience for eagle-eyed viewers, which is why the deleted scenes and especially the Behinds the Scenes feature are a big plus.
The DVD also includes cast filmographies and a picture gallery.
5. It’s returning for season two…
Chris Chibnall confirms in an audio commentary that season two is definitely going to happen, and the show was re-commissioned before the first season had even finished airing. It seems Olivia Colman and Arthur Darvill are reprising their roles for the sequel, but speculation is rife as to what the new show will be about and which characters will return. Will any of the ambiguous endings be tied up? Will it be a brand new mystery? Is it even going to be set in Broadchurch?
With production set to begin in January 2014, there’s plenty of time for audiences and Broadchurch fans to come up with a few theories of their own!
Broadchurch is out on DVD now and released on Blu-ray on 4 November.