Broadchurch is returning for its third and final series, but does the series live up to expectations?
There’s no denying that the first series of Broadchurch back in 2013 was one of the finest British television dramas in recent years and its two main leads Olivia Colman and David Tennant gave some of their best performances to date.
However when a second series was announced off the back of exceptionally high ratings for ITV, the move felt somewhat unnecessary. By the time the second series was about to air, ITV had kept everything surrounding it a secret. There was no press launch, no previews and no interviews with talent – meaning that press could only run pieces after the episode had aired. It was this level of secrecy around the series that meant expectations were high. Otherwise why hide it from everyone?
In fact, the opposite was true. Series two just didn’t deliver. It was unnecessary of Chris Chibnall to use eight episodes to cover Joe Miller’s trial. It felt like re-treading old ground, and as viewers we felt that Chibnall had runout of ideas and ITV were simply chasing ratings (which they still got).
Although all of that criticism isn’t entirely fair. I remember watching the first episode of series two and really rather enjoyed it. It showed great promise but then it wasn’t long into episode two that I had lost interest.
It was a real shame that series two didn’t deliver as it’s now how people remember Broadchurch – it was the series which came back weaker and was nowhere near as strong as the first. So why did ITV choose to commission a third series? I can only assume that this one done to turn around the show’s misfortune.
Speaking at the launch event for the series, Chibnall said Broadchurch was always designed to be a three-parter. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether he’s telling the truth or not.
All that being said and judging from what I’ve seen so far of series three, it feels as though this series might just be able to turn the perception of Broadchurch back around and allow it to reclaim its position as one of the finest television dramas in the UK.
So what’s different this time around that shows ITV and Chibnall have learnt from their mistakes? Well it’s a new story for a start. For the first half of episode one, Danny Latimer, or any of the Latimer family aren’t seen or mentioned.
We begin series three by re-joining DI Alec Hardy and DS Ellie Miller three years on from Danny’s disappearance, as they are called out to attend to a woman who has reported a serious sexual assault. They take her to the SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) where she is examined.
There is no doubt that she had been raped, but where, and when, and by who,?
The woman is Trish Winterman and she’s played by the superb Julie Hesmonhalgh (Coronation Street). A farm shop worker with a daughter and a recently estranged husband, Trish now has to find a way yo put her life back together. In doing so she will discover a great deal about herself and the people in the town around her.
The first half of episode one of Broadchurch series three is superb. Julie’s raw, authentic and emotional performance hooks you in and you really care for Trish as a character. You care about what’s happened to her, you care about the decisions she makes and you want justice and will therefore stick around for eight episodes.
You wonder for a bit at the start whether Trish will actually find the courage to speak as she spends the entire five minutes of the first episode giving very little away, except for an occasional nod.
Speaking at a recent press launch for Broadchurch, about appearing in the third and final series, Julie spoke about the reservations she had about accepting the role because of the storyline. She said:
“I was a little bit scared. There’s been a lot of talk recently about how unfortunately sexual violence is becoming normalised. It was something I had to really think about and I had a conversation with Chris (Chibnall), because I didn’t know Chris and I didn’t know what his politics were around this issue.
I probably could have guessed, but I needed to know that that was something which was going to handled sensitively. Even by the very fact that it’s me that has been cast as the person who had experienced this is very interesting – as an ordinary middle-aged woman.
Rather than the classic good looking girl being chased through the woods. That in itself is quite an interesting take on it.
I had to look at some of my own internalised misogyny, because I had views that the audience wouldn’t buy that this could happen to someone like me. But obviously, this isn’t an act of sex and desire, it’s an act of violence. It happens to all people. Men, women and children.”
Speaking about joining such a well established cast and working alongside David Tennant and Olivia Colman, Julie said:
“I remember on my first day I had to apologise to David and Olivia and say that I would try to be less of a competition winner. I did feel like that, like I’d been let in. We did the classic photoshoot on the pier with everybody and it was a bit like being in Madam Tussauds!”
Whilst Julie dominates the first half of the episode brilliantly, and already cements herself as a deserving future BAFTA winner, the second half has a touch of series two Broadchurch about it. And by that I mean the rather convenient inclusion of Beth and Mark Latimer into the story.
I won’t spoil how the Latimer’s are brought into series three, but I would say it all feels rather forced and detracts from what was promising to be a great new direction for the series.
I get it, they were a big part of the first two series, however I would have respected Chibnall more if he had not included these characters in the third series. After all Hardy and Miller are back, and rightly so. In my opinion, they’re the real backbone of Broadchurch and you don’t mind about rejoining them on a new case.
Speaking at the same press launch as Julie, David touched on the audience expectation of the series and told us that “It couldn’t have been another body on another beach. That wouldn’t have had the truthfulness that you come to expect from this series.” He went on to say:
“Beyond that, you travel in trust really that Chris is going to produce something that is sensitive and appropriate – and also a stinking piece of drama. They’re quite difficult elements to balance but it’s what I think this series has become known for. It’s the same world, but it’s a different show.
What I love from mine and Olivia’s point of view is that suddenly we’re two coppers doing a job. It was really interesting to play these people as policemen and how they go about their actual job.”
As you’d expect, with a new story comes a raft of new characters, so as well as Trish, there’s also Trish’s ex-husband Ian, played by Charlie Higson (The Fast Show), Cath Atwood who works in the local farm shop and is played by Sarah Parish (W1A) and her husband Ian ,played by Mark Bazeley (Home Fires).
There’s also Ed Burnett, played by Lenny Henry (The Syndicate) who runs the local farm shop where Trish and Cath both work and Georgina Campbell (Murdered By My Boyfriend) joins the cast as a young, ambitious Detective Constable in Broadchurch CID.
Much like the first series, everyone is a suspect. You trust no one. And by the end of the first episode you’ll be left feeling very very suspicious about one particular character, but with seven more episodes to come, I doubt the guilty party would be revealed this early on.
Time will tell as to whether or not series three of Broadchurch will right the wrongs of series two but from what I’ve seen it’s certainly well on its way to doing so. And as I simply adored the first series and its characters I hope Chibnall and ITV are able to go out on a high rather than a dissapointing low.
The pressure is there. The expectation is there. But ultimately, it seems as though the right script, right cast and right storyline is also there this time around. Broadchurch is hoping to leave with its head held high.
Here’s a first look at the new series with the opening three minutes…
Broadchurch returns Monday 27th February at 9pm on ITV