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March 4, 2019 | by  | in TV |
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The Chilling Crimes of Broadchurch

CW: Sexual assault

As I write this, it’s one day before the 2019 Oscars, and Olivia Colman is nominated for Best Actress. You’ll know if she has won when you read this, but I’m going to write this review as though she already has, because her career and oeuvre absolutely deserve it.


Broadchurch is a British crime series from a few years back, starring David Tennant (Alec Hardy) and Olivia Colman (Ellie Miller) as two police officers. They spend three series dealing with a bunch of terrible crimes in a beach town called Broadchurch.

This show isn’t for the faint of heart—it’s a crime show after all—but it does take a deeper and harder look at crime than most crime shows tend to. In the first season, Beth Latimer (played by Doctor Who’s 13th Doctor, Jodie Whittaker)’s son Danny gets killed, and Ellie and Alec spend eight long episodes trying to find out who does it. Tensions are high in the town of Broadchurch and everyone is a suspect.  

Broadchurch’s portrayal of grief is very raw. No holds barred, it’s the realest and hardest part of the show to watch. The moment when Beth sees a body covered in a sheet lying on the beach and recognises that it’s her son, just from his trainers, is brutal. She screams and cries as she’s ushered away from the body, and we all know that her life has suddenly been changed irrevocably. This sheer emotion is portrayed honestly and I commend the show for it. In many crime shows, writers tend to shy away from the anguish of those around the victim, but Broadchurch pulls no punches. It’s devastatingly human.

Tennant’s Alec Hardy is an extreme contrast from most publicised role. Far from the cheerful, kindly Doctor, he’s a grumpy Scottish detective with an axe to grind. Though he is short-tempered, there is reason in his madness, and his dark past threatens to catch up to him at every turn. (He’s not a bad guy, really; he’s just had a shit life.)

Colman’s Ellie Miller is the heart of the show, and an excellent foil to Hardy’s prickliness. Not to spoil anything, but her character goes through a lot during the show, yet she has the strength to carry on, despite significant losses and more than a little bit of grief. I have a soft spot for Ellie as a character because she’s written very well. Women in media who fall into one section of the Maiden–Mother–Whore dichotomy are often forced to remain there—due to lazy writing—but Ellie is genuinely complex. She’s a mother, but not flawless. She talks about sex, and she has agency. For a detective series, that’s a pretty rare thing.

Broadchurch is an incredible series, but it’s also very hard to get through. It’s not the sort of work that can be binged in a night or two—though you’ll probably want to. The third season is about a woman who was raped at a party, and all the real-world things that stem from that. In a reflection on our very real society, she’s asked what she was wearing, how much she’d had to drink, who she’d been flirting with. The police have less resources because, “a rape gets less attention than a murder”, and the victim has to fight to be heard at every turn. It’s a very upsetting premise, but does effectively mirror our modern lives. Broadchurch, at least, treats the subject sensitively, and it’s not solved in half an hour like a normal police procedural.


Broadchurch is a show that will absolutely make you think about your own life. It’s hard to watch sometimes, but utterly gripping, and I absolutely implore you to check it out when you can.


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