Broadchurch: Series 3 - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
AFTER the disappointment of its sophomore run, Broadchurch completed its third and final season with a welcome return to form.
By eschewing the central narrative of the first two seasons in favour of a new investigation, the drama rediscovered its creative mojo, thereby enabling series creator and writer Chris Chibnall to once again keep viewers guessing the identity of a new criminal.
On this occasion, the crime involved the rape of a local woman named Trish Winterman (Julie Hesmondhalgh, of Coronation Street fame) at a party that, in turn, led to the prospect of a serial rapist operating in the area.
Heading the investigation, as ever, were DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), while their list of potential suspects extended to everyone from Trish’s ex-husband Ian (Charlie Higson) to dodgy cab driver Clive Lucas (Sebastian Armesto) via shop owner Ed Burnett (Lenny Henry) and philandering mechanic Jim Atwood (Mark Bazeley), whose wife (Sarah Parish) staged the party at which Trish was attacked.
As with the excellent first series, Broadchurch once again revelled in its ability to mix emotionally involving character drama with a twisting, turning plot that saw several suspects emerge and be discarded. And as with season one, the eventual culprit was cleverly hidden until the end.
Yet as engaging as the whodunit element remained throughout, it was the characters that resonated the most – and who sometimes made up for the shortcomings in some of the writing.
Tennant and Colman once again excelled in the primary roles, their love-hate relationship filled with delicious exchanges – whether encouraging each other professionally and personally, or berating each other for sudden mood-swings or errors in judgment. Colman, in particular, delivered another master-class in facial expressions, often saying more with a glance or a look than any amount of words could convey.
But Tennant remained as tenacious and moody as ever, and even benefitted from a nice father-daughter side story that led to some genuinely touching moments.
Of the new cast members, Hesmondhalgh excelled as Trish, expertly conveying the torment and courage of a rape victim. Her emotional trauma was convincingly displayed throughout, but especially during the first hour of the series, which often felt more like a procedural than a drama. The episode in question set a very high bar for the remainder of the series.
But the likes of Lenny Henry, Sarah Parish and Mark Bazeley also excelled, creating complex characters whose motivations weren’t always clear – but whose involvement, even by association, to Trish’s plight led to some emotional tussles of their own.
Chibnall, meanwhile, didn’t completely forget the events of the first two seasons, weaving the continuing story of Mark and Beth Latimer, the grieving parents of series one’s murdered schoolboy, into proceedings and giving rise to more emotional complexity and some genuinely heart-rending moments. Andrew Buchan and Jodie Whittaker both excelled in their respective roles, which offered a bittersweet resolution to the late Danny’s tale.
Not everything worked, of course, with some plot turns struggling to convince. Chibnall also struggled to give everyone the screen-time they perhaps deserved, with the likes of Broadchurch Echo editor Maggie Radcliffe (Carolyn Pickles) largely surplus to requirements and offered up as some kind of half-hearted dig at the state of modern journalism.
But then Chibnall did sometimes also seem to be laying into certain modern demons a little too heavy-handedly given that even the central plot concerning sex, sex crime, porn and masculinity was tackled with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer cracking a nut. The issues the series raised concerning modern attitudes to sexuality could, and should, form a valid debate, yet his portrait of a small community whose male contingent were almost all hiding dirty secrets felt like a stretch and way too contrived.
It also meant that some red herrings were left dangling in the wind, along with the fates of the characters involved.
And one of the series biggest moments, involving Mark Latimer, also felt poorly handled – in that it delivered the type of anti-climactic emotional cliff-hanger that smacks more of writer desperation than anything inspired, and which robs the audience of their emotional investment.
Indeed, as tightly wound as the first few episodes undoubtedly were, the final two instalments often felt as though Chibnall had maybe bitten off more than he could chew as events found themselves unravelling a little too conveniently and, as a result, unconvincingly. In those cases, it was left to his talented ensemble to compensate, which they did with aplomb.
That being said, the third and final season of Broadchurch did provide a satisfying climax to a series that genuinely excelled during its nation-grabbing first run. And for that, fans can be truly relieved and grateful.
UK DVD Release: April 24, 2017