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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Broadchurch: The final anticlimax

I've had a night to process that final episode of Broadchurch. I slept quite well, woke up feeling quite perky as the sun poked it's happy yellow face through my curtains. I came down, had some breakfast and then, remembered Broadchurch. My sunny disposition left me. The truth is, Chris Chibnall's series was an average series lifted sky high by top notch performances by the big names ITV managed to lure in.


Very few British series get eight episodes to tell their story. Chibnall has had a total of 24 episodes to tell the story of his little community over the course of three series and I still question what he was trying to tell us. Not all the blame can be placed at his feet, ITV execs greedily asked Chibnall for more after the first series drew figures they just don't get anymore. Of course, Chibnall doesn't say that. If you listen to him, it was always his plan for the show to be a trilogy. What a load of tosh.

I was a HUGE fan of the first series until its difficult to swallow final episode. The less said about the second series the better but I found this series MORE frustrating. I could write off the second series as eight hours of a writer scrabbling to tell a story that didn't need to be told, but with this one there were nuggets of a really a really interesting story that got lost in Chibnall's continual instance on shifting focus to minor characters like the ruddy vicar and that sodding newspaper editor.

The rape of Trish Winterman made for a difficult but ultimately intriguing and important viewing. Chibnall and his team handled the immediate aftermath of the rape in its opening episode with a sensitivity that I'd forgotten the series was capable of. The first few scenes of that opening episode were more documentary like than drama. Unfortunately though, Chibnall quickly shifted focus to sour faced Mark Latimer and other relentlessly dull members of the Broadchurch chorus we'd long forgotten lived there.

I appreciate that the very nature of a mystery means the writer has to throw in a lot of characters to throw the audience off the scent of eventual culprit, but the last seven weeks has seen Chibnall throw many red herrings in our face it's a wonder the entire the nation doesn't pong of fish. The suspects weren't cleverly formed characters there were crime drama cliche with the majority doing their best to look more menacing than the last. Let's take Trish's boss Ed Burnett. Lenny Henry tried his best, but Burnett wasn't exactly a well drawn human being. When Hardy and Miller first encounter him to inform him Trish won't be coming to work he bellows, "Why am I hearing this from you?!" He's abrupt and one of many unfathomably angry men that Chibnall decided to populate his final series with. It later transpires that this annoyingly angry man actually has deep feelings for Trish. Are we supposed to believe that when a few days after the incident he's seen bellowing at police and demanding to know where his employee is.


As it turns out Ed was a red herring. As was  Jim Atwood (another angry and cliched performance from scenery chewing Mark Bazeley). Just like his acclaimed first series, Chibnall's culprits were two characters that the audience had spent very little time with. Cocky fishing tackle shopboy Leo Humphries (Chris Mason) had raped other women in the community but it had somehow coaxed dim-witted Michael Lucas (Deon Lee-Williams), son of shifty taxi driver Clive into raping Trish at Axhampton House. The reveal was out of left-field that it left me feeling like I'd wasted the last seven Mondays. If you'd never seen the lead-up you could've tuned in for the first time on Monday night and not have missed anything! Chibnall never seems to respect the loyalty of his audience and the scenes leading up to the rape felt as if they'd been ripped out of a gritty Channel 4 drama rather than the show I'd been watching for weeks.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining because I didn't get the ending I wanted. By the time we got to this final episode my illusions of what the show was had long since vanished, it's more that it fell apart. Broadchurch is all about the build up and not the conclusion. Chibnall got lost somewhere along the way. I never liked the idea of Beth Latimer being at Trish's side as a VISPER, but that slowly peeled away halfway through the series. There was literally no point to Tennant's daughter being there. I had thought that Chibnall might have put young Daisy there to be preyed upon by the Broadchurch rapist, but Chibnall would never really have the guts to do that. The majority of the characters/cliches were only there to throw the audience off rather than to move the story along.

The thing that really niggles at me is how many people are hailing this as a masterpiece. It's far from that. I think sometimes Olivia Colman, and to a lesser extent Tennant can be so good we're blinded by their acting that we don't hear the duff dialogue the pair are having to spout. I, like most will miss the pairing. They are without a doubt a wonderful duo, but I won't miss the convoluted investigations they've been roped into.

If Broadchurch had ended with its first series I would hold it in a very high regard as a brilliantly paced mystery drama with a slightly anti climatic conclusion, sadly when I look back on the series as a whole I'll see it as drama that was filled to the brim with promise but overflowed with disappointment..

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