There are several components to a good mystery series.
- A good story.
- Good characters.
- A solid cast who can sell the other two aspects believably without over-acting.
Good story: To be sure, the construction of the mystery will keep you intrigued from start to finish. There is a reason this series challenged Downton Abbey in viewership and millions tuned in trying to identify the killer. Honestly, Broadchurch is simply a fairly standard plot done well. But, let’s face it, there are only so many reasons and ways to kill someone after all. It is how you get to the end that makes a good mystery satisfying. To spike that aspect, only a handful of people knew “who done it” before the final show was aired. In some ways, this caused the end to be a little rushed, but the writers even use that to their advantage.
Good characters: The show definitely offers a collection of intriguing characters and red herrings to keep you guessing. In fact, the reasons behind the character’s actions is one of its better conceived aspects. Folks aren’t weird and secretive just to be weird and secretive, they have complex back-stories that we get to learn episode by episode as the misdirects are revealed and the potential guilty field identified. Even the resolution has complexities and goes beyond your typical mystery end point.
Great cast: Casting-wise, it is a solid collection of talent capable of subtlety and depth without losing the thread of reality. While most UK drama has performers that you see over and over again, this show also has some fun connections around Doctor Who. Not entirely a surprise given the main star, Tennant (Doctor Who series 2-4 as the 10th Doctor, Hamlet). Tennant creates a compelling and dedicated DCI at the end of his career trying to redeem himself while surviving his own demons.
Colman (Hot Fuzz, Tyrannasaur, The Iron Lady) in the other primary role brings her own unique talents to a difficult role: female DS in a small village who’s life isn’t her job, yet. She was also part of the recent series 5 Who (The Eleventh Hour).
But the Who connections don’t stop there. Darvill (The Paradise, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll) was companion to the 11th Doctor, and Buchan, co-starred in Party Animals with Matt Smith (the 11th Doctor). Even Bradley (Game of Thrones, Harry Potter) was a main big bad in the most recent Who season (Dinosaurs on a Spaceship). Yes, this is all a sad indictment on my geekiness that I didn’t even have to look most of that up. But it was a kick to notice and they all add their talents and value to the story.
Returning to the point… all the effort poured into this series paid off as the series was renewed just before the final episode aired. How they can go forward from what was intended as a stand-alone story is another mystery they’ll have to solve satisfactorily before they go to film next year. If this 8-parter is any indication of what the team is capable of, it will be a series worth checking out when it arrives in a year or so.
For now, do yourself a favor and avoid all discussion of the show until you see it, except debating with others “who” did it and “why” as you watch it together.