Broadchurch review: David Tennant and Olivia Coleman shine in this brilliantly filmed ITV thriller

by Matt D


So far this year ITV’s drama output hasn’t been great what with Mr Selfridge still dragging on and Great Night Out flopping in the ratings it seems as if the channel needs a hit. Thankfully they may just have that with Broadchurch a new eight part thriller drama set around a small seaside community who experience a tragedy after a eleven year old boy is killed.

The eleven year old boy in question is Danny Latimer who is first seen in the programme’s opening shot teetering on the edge of a cliff before falling to his death. Though we the audience know what has happened to Danny his family don’t as his mother Beth believes he’s gone to school without his packed lunch and plans to give it to him when she attends his sports day later on. Meanwhile Danny’s plumber father Mark believed his son to be in bed when he came home from a late night job however both parents soon find out their son is missing and rightly fear the worst. As Beth attempts to find her son she gets caught in a gridlock and upon leaving the car hears form one of the other drivers that the police have found a body on the beach. It is at that moment that Beth realises what has happened and as she sprints along the road eventually arriving at the beach she is greeted by the sight of her dead son.


Running alongside this story is that of Olivia Colman’s DS Ellie Miller who returns back at Broadchurch police station after her maternity leave to find her boss has given her promotion to somebody else. That somebody else is David Tennant’s Alec Hardy who has moved to Broadchurch for a quieter life after being in charge of a high profile murder investigation. Hardy hopes that he will only have to deal with matters of petty crime but when Danny’s body is found on the beach he realises that he will be the face of a high profile murder investigation once again. Danny’s death has a more personal edge for Ellie as he was best friends with her eldest son while she and Beth are also very close. It isn’t long before Broadchurch’s local press get wind of something going on and Ellie’s nephew Olly tries to get his aunt to tell him whose body has been found on the beach. After Olly sees Danny’s sister Chloe leave a bear on the beach he realises who the body belongs to and puts the details on Twitter essentially revealing the incident to the whole world. The fact that Hardy is on the case is of interest to a lot of journalists most notably Daily Herald reporter Karen White who seemingly has history with Hardy following his last murder investigation. Karen later convinces her editor to let her cover the Broadchurch case and as soon as she gets into town tries to manipulate Olly into giving her information.


It’s clear to me that the show has been named Broadchurch as Danny’s death affects the whole community in a number of different ways and appears as if things will never be the same again. This community aspect is tackled early on in the episode when we follow Mark on his way to work as he laughs and jokes with many of the locals who know him personally. This scene is there to set up Broadchurch as a town where everybody gets on with each other and therefore a murder in the community is something of a shock. Interestingly the only outsider to come to the town is the one investigating the case and there is a sense that a lot of the locals believe that Ellie should be in charge of finding Danny’s murderer rather than Hardy. As well as the investigation itself Broadchurch shows how the death of a young boy can impact on the family. We see this when Beth wonders if Danny really knew that she loved him and wished she could’ve done more. Meanwhile Mark is struck with grief when he has to identify the body a job that is made worse when one of the locals gets him to sign a petition to save the hospital. Chloe also is grieving and seeks solace in the arms of her older boyfriend however he is more worried about them being seen together as she is underage.


Chris Chibnall’s script for Broadchurch is extraordinary as after episode one I already feel like I know a lot of the main characters and their motivations. However at the same time there are a lot of characters who we are yet to properly meet including Arthur Darvill’s vicar and Pauline Quirke’s solitary caravan-dweller. While Chibnall gives us enough reason to suspect a few characters of wrong-doing his primary goal is to make Danny’s murder a very personal subject and I think he carries this out successfully. The personal impact of the murder is evident in so many of the scenes from Ellie informing her son of the death to Beth asking Ellie to solve the case as she doesn’t trust Alec. The characters are also brilliantly bought to life by a wonderful ensemble cast led by Olivia Colman as Ellie which is a role that allows her to combine her skills for both comic and dramatic acting. The fact that Ellie is a character who wears her heart on her sleeve perfectly counter-balances Hardy’s cold exterior something that David Tennant successfully portrays. The partnership between Tennant and Colman works perfectly as both work well with each other and you can believe that they respect each other professionally even if their personal styles don’t gel. Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan are also a delight as Beth and Mark as they attempt to deal with the death of their son something that no parent should ever have to do.

From the opening sounds of the waves and shots of Danny up on the cliffs to the final close-up on Hardy’s face at the press conference everything about Broadchurch is done brilliantly. The cast are uniformly fantastic while the script is well-paced as we are introduced to the primary characters and are promised so much more in the weeks to come. My only hope is that Broadchurch isn’t a series that has a stunning opening episode then starts to dip in quality about halfway through the run. However based on episode one it seems that ITV definitely have another big hit on their hands as Broadchurch is the best crime drama I’ve seen on TV in quite some time.

What did you think of Broadchurch? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Leave Your Comments Below.


  1. Stacey Leeds on March 4, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    Gripped already! Can’t wait for next week.

  2. Chris Kent on March 5, 2013 at 12:48 am

    A very intriguing and questioning first episode which leaves me looking forward to the next installment. Far, far better then BBC’s ‘Mayday’ which is awful!.

  3. Betty on March 5, 2013 at 10:37 am

    11 year olds can’t have paper rounds – they have to be 13

  4. Annette on March 6, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Fab 1st episode can not wait till next week.

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