On Grief and Knowledge: Thoughts About Broadchurch

Today at Nerdy Girl Notes, we have a little treat for Broadchurch fans: Leah is back with some thoughts about the show before the next season starts up! She’s also going to be posting reviews here after each episode, and I know she can’t wait to talk about the show with all of you!

Source: collider.com

Source: collider.com

I recently had the pleasure of binge-watching the BBC drama Broadchurch, and I promptly fell in love with it! The second season’s premiere airs on BBC America on March 4, and, after watching some of the sneak peaks, I am practically quivering with anticipation. In honor of Season Two premiering this week, I decided to write about my favorite aspects of Season One, as well as some reasons why I’m looking forward to Season Two.

Spoilers lie ahead, so if you haven’t watched Season One yet, read at your own risk. I have not named the killer or mentioned exactly what happened, but there are things that could point you toward the answer, so if you truly want to stay unspoiled, I would suggest avoiding reading this post until you are caught up.

For those of you who’ve watched Season One but need a quick recap, here is a short video recap from the BBC to refresh your memory.

Five Things I Loved About Broadchurch, Season One:

The Portrayal of Grief
One of the things I found so interesting and wonderful about Broadchurch was the way in which they portrayed the spectrum of grief in all its nuances. Though not the only ones shown grieving, the Latimer family was the main focus of most scenes involving mourning the loss of Danny, and each family member was allowed to grieve in different ways. We also saw through their eyes the way in which grief can permeate all the different areas of your life. I could write a whole post just on the way Broadchurch shows grief, and maybe someday I will. But for now, I will briefly talk about Beth as a great example of the complexity in this show’s portrayal of the grieving process.

Throughout the season, Beth is an emotional tether for the audience, as she has the most time on screen and is the most outwardly emotional. Beth’s grief is allowed to be complex and, at times, ugly in ways not always allowed in female characters. At times she is overwhelmed with sadness, other times she’s angry or quietly vicious, and sometimes she feels completely isolated from the rest of the world. Her struggle also gains a layer of nuance through the discovery her marriage is in trouble, as well as her conflicting feelings about being pregnant and bringing a new life into this world while she is still mourning a life she has just lost. The variety of emotions we see Beth feel, sometimes feeling all of them all at once, is an example of what made the characters and the show feel real to us, and that is part of why the show resonated so much with me.

Complexity of Characters
In true serialized, mystery-show fashion, Broadchurch is not just a puzzle for the audience and main characters to solve, but also a contemplation of human nature. As I made my way through the episodes, I found that even the characters that I didn’t like had moments that made me conflicted over my opinion of them. All the characters have many different sides to them, but while the Latimer family made me contemplate the nature of family and grief and secrets, the roles of Karen, Jack, and Susan were the ones that made me think about morality and the complicated ways in which no one is simply good or evil, but a convoluted mix of everything.

Everyone Has A Secret
“How could you not know?”

It’s the question that is asked by so many people in the town of Broadchurch throughout the season, and the show explores the question of whether you can ever truly know someone through the conflicts between Alec and Ellie and the things they uncover about the town. People both in the fictional town of Broadchurch and in our real world like to think they could read someone well enough to determine if they could be capable of such violent acts, but often that is not the case. Even those you love and live with can be hiding something from you, as is shown with the Latimers and the Millers. Everyone is hiding something—whether it’s an innocent secret or something more sinister—and the show reflects that truth.

The Butterfly Effect
Part of what makes Broadchurch so fascinating to me is that it uses the small-town setting to help illuminate the ways a violent crime affects a community. In this town, everyone knows everyone else, and we see that it’s not just the Latimer family that is affected by Danny’s death. The businesses in town lose some of their needed income because fewer tourists want to come visit. Danny’s death also creates an air of suspicion that hangs over the town like a toxic cloud, as people begin to question how well they truly know the people they see every day. Many lives are upended, not just through the sudden absence of Danny, but also in the revelations that come in the wake of the investigation.

The Cast and Crew
As someone who is not overly familiar with British actors, there were only a few faces in Broadchurch that I recognized, but it is clear to me that there are a lot of talented people involved. The way they were able to convey the nuances in the emotions of the characters, especially when dealing with emotions as difficult and complex as grief, completely blew me away. In particular, the performances of Olivia Colman (Ellie) and Jodie Whittaker (Beth) connected with me in their ability to show the audience what their characters were going through. For the male actors, David Tennant (Alec) did a wonderful job as well, and Andrew Buchan (Mark) was someone who I also thought stood out in his ability to show a multitude of emotions.

The musical score also set the mood and provided emphasis to the emotion of scenes in ways that did not distract you from what you were watching. Every time I hear a clip from one of the songs used in the show, I am taken right back to the emotions it provoked in me, which for me is a sign of good music.

Three Things I Want To See In Season Two:

The Fallout – I’m really curious to see how the town will deal with the knowledge of who the killer is, how the trial is going to affect the town, and whether Broadchurch will get an even bigger swarm of media coming in to cover the trial.

The Millers – Seeing how this trial and the town’s reactions to it are going to affect Ellie and Tom are likely going to be heartbreaking, and I am interested in if this will bring Ellie and Tom closer or if it will cause friction between them.

Alec Hardy’s Backstory – We got the truth behind the Sandbrook scandal at the very end of Season One, but the story around Sandbrook is most of what we know about Alec’s life before he showed up in Broadchurch. Hopefully in Season Two, we will meet his wife and daughter, and learn more about his past.

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4 thoughts on “On Grief and Knowledge: Thoughts About Broadchurch

  1. Yessssssssssssssss.
    This show.
    It’s not a high-concept plot. It’s just a profoundly human one. There’s no way to tell someone about Broadchurch and fully express how good it is, because what sets it apart is the way the characters are written. Broadchurch has the biggest heart and the widest eyes, and it’s just going around trying to get to know people, trying to tease them apart. I’ve never seen a better or more thorough exploration of grief on television. Chris Chibnall is a master, and he does it all through the most ordinary details. Pair that with the acting (David Tennant’s my favorite actor, and Olivia Colman still wound up being the one I was most excited to watch every week, which is really saying something), the cinematography, and THAT SCORE, and this show is a work of art. It stayed with me long after even the third time I watched it. I’m totally with you.

    • I completely agree with everything you’re saying here! I don’t think I’ve seen a better exploration of grief on television either, and it just blew me away. The whole show was a tightly-written, beautifully shot and edited, fantastically scored work of art. As soon as I finished watching it I wanted to start it all over again! It’s probably some of the best TV I’ve ever watched.

  2. I’m so happy that you’ll be reviewing this show! It gives me even more incentive to prioritize it and not let it stack up 😀

    I was so fascinated by what they did with everyone’s history and messy past. I love complicated characters more than anything and this show had so many. Everyone has a story and oftentimes, looking at just one piece of the story (especially in a sensationalized media context) leads to conclusions about the entirety of a person that may or may not be true. The characters were never easy to entirely know or even to like but they never felt like anything less than real people, which for suspects in a murder investigation is really saying something.

    • Awww thanks! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on each episode!

      I totally agree with you about complicated characters, I love them as well. I was so fascinated by the way the show was able to make everything dramatic and make everyone look like a suspect while also making everyone very human.

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