Monday, 17 April 2017

TV Review: An uneven season gets a great conclusion as Broadchurch leaves for good

Contains spoilers.

Thank God for that.

That might sound like a rather insensitive way to begin a review tackling such a harrowing episode of television, but after Broadchurch's uneven nature this series and its handling of its second series finale two years ago, I think I'm justified to be feeling relief right now. This hasn't been Broadchurch's best series - it never was going to top its very first year, after all - but the show can lay claim to wrapping this one up on a high. Considering this is also the show's final ever episode, I feel confident in saying it's a show that will be remembered fondly. Phew.

Anyway, onto the more serious stuff. Michael Lucas (Deon Lee-Williams) was identified as Trish's rapist, having been groomed into committing the assault by Leo Humphries (Chris Mason). It's a result that confirmed many theories I've seen floating around the internet - more than two people being involved and the rape being filmed, to name a few - but also one that felt surprising without being gimmicky.

After all, Broadchurch already mastered the crazy left field murder back in series one, and series two's resolution of the Sandbrook case essentially just said "Yeah, you know those two guys who have been suspects since episode one? It was them all along! Surprise?". This finale finds a nice balance between the two: it brings a new face into the equation at the last minute while also keeping one of the main suspects involved. The fact that it also locates and establishes a believably sad dynamic between the two of them in just a short series of flashbacks lends even more weight to the reveal.

Watching those flashbacks of Leo essentially grooming Michael and turning him into a kind of rapist protege was deeply uncomfortable. While it's kind of frustrating that Trish (Julie Hesmondhalgh) herself doesn't actually appear in the episode until we see the assault in a flashback - Broadchurch has worked well to portray the emotional destruction that rape is capable of, almost removing her from the story tonight counters this argument in slightly damaging ways - Michael's internal struggle never surpassed the level of trauma that Trish was shown to endure in the series' earlier episodes.

The emotional balancing is effective throughout. When Clive Lucas (Sebastian Armesto) breaks down in his interview and we start to piece the puzzle together ourselves, the episode manages to find some sympathy within him. Nothing overpowering, we know the guy's a dick, but it locates a human element behind the ego. The same can't be said for Leo Humphries. Mason handles the material well, especially given how dark it was - the words maybe felt a little too on the nose occasionally, as if the scene was trying too hard to act as social commentary when it really should've focused on Leo as a character. Still, Mason handled the scene admirably - it was sickening.

On the other end of the episode, we had the wrapping up of Beth and Mark Latimer (Jodie Whitaker and Andrew Buchan), finally bidding them farewell after three series'. Whitaker and Buchan's performances were beautiful tonight, the scene of them talking through the past to try and find their future was heartbreaking to watch. It makes sense for Mark to leave Broadchurch and try to recover independently, but that didn't make it any less devastating. Series two might have cut these characters short a lot, but tonight's finale gave them a send off worth remembering.

At the end of the day, though, Broadchurch has been the story of two people: Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) and Alec Hardy (David Tennant). Talking about the strength of their performances tonight feels redundant - they're exceptional every week - but tonight's finale fixed the one wrong committed by the first series' endgame. Miller and Hardy actually cracked the case. No one gave in and confessed. It's a brilliant payoff after spending so much harrowing time watching them try to do the right thing and help people. The level of tension throughout the police work scenes was astounding too - there were multiple moments in tonight's finale where heart failure seemed like a viable way to end my Monday night.

So yes, Broadchurch is finished for good. Showrunner Chris Chibnall is leaving the sea side in favour of the TARDIS. After an uneven second series, it's deeply satisfying to see the show go out on a high. Broadchurch's first series told a community driven tale more intricately woven than any other, and even if the two stories that followed it didn't quite hold that standard up, the first year was strong enough to do that work for them. Watching a community go through hell for 24 hours of television shouldn't feel rewarding but, series two finale aside, Broadchurch understands how to engineer devastation into beauty. It's been a show unlike any other, and I'm unspeakably pleased that it's closing on a high. This was a powerfully acted, narratively satisfying finale in every way.

Oh, and that final shot of Alec and Ellie walking away while the cliff that started it all looms right behind them? Perfection itself.


  • The acting on this show has always been great, but tonight's was almost a whole new level entirely. David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whitaker and Andrew Buchan, take a bow.
  • This show's cinematography is unparalleled in British TV. The tight close ups in all the interviews, the horror-esque framing of Trish's assault, the wide open road as Mark drove away. All of it, stunning.
  • I'll miss a lot of characters from this show, but none more than Ellie Miller. She's a national treasure and if fictional characters could be knighted I'd place her first in line.
  • Who won't I miss? Maggie Radcliffe. The scene between her and Paul Coates was the most pointless thing I've seen on TV all year.
  • Chloe Latimer walking into the room to find Beth asleep on Mark's lap as he watched home video footage of Danny from years ago was a beautiful final moment to spend with that family.
  • The moment of Miller loading up the owner of the car from the CCTV footage was ridiculously tense. That bar slowly buffering along the screen felt like it lasted ages when it could only have been a matter of seconds. 
  • Was Katie Harford a necessary character in the end? I don't really think so. That's a real shame too, Georgina Campbell is so great.
  • Well, that's really it for Broadchurch. It's been great to cover it each week on here, I hope you've all enjoyed my ramblings and failed predictions. Cheers, guys!

Series Grade

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