Monday, 27 March 2017

Broadchurch - Season 3 (Weekly Reviews, Episodes 5-8)

Continuation of the weekly Broadchurch reviews. The remaining four episodes of the ITV's final series can be found below...



Episode 5 (28th March 2017)


After last week re-discovered a more assured footing at the mid-way point, the fifth episode of Broadchurch's final season feels more like a melting pot of plot revelations used to spur the final run of episodes on, rather than a cohesive episode in its own right. It's still a solid hour of television that recalls the glory days of season one, but isn't tied together as cohesively as last week's masterclass in crime-drama and loses a little bit of the momentum.

Revelations that the Broadchurch detectives have a serial rapist on their hands adds a whole new layer to explore and the show goes full speed ahead with the notion, re-examining possible suspects, their motives and the change in timeframe, throwing everything they think they may know into jeopardy. Handling the reveal that Trish slept with Jim, Cath's husband, on the morning of the party brings the theme of revenge, we are reminded that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and we bring out a terrific side Sarah Parish' Cath; in fact, the whole scene is rather intense and possibly the highlight of the episode, crafting an insanely powerful atmosphere; "of all the women at that party, why would some rape you?" sent shivers down my spine and opens a whole new can of worms regarding character relationships across the board. These new characters are finally beginning to feel a little more fleshed out, five episodes into the series, meaning the intensity is ramped up as another layer is peeled back on every one of our new characters. Trish is fading from the focus a little bit, taking on only a cameo role in an episode and thus remaining a human face to remind on the consequences of the case, so a renewed focus of the trauma is needed. Lenny Henry's Ed is shrouded in mystery and definitely suspicious, bound to be somewhat involved in the unfolding case. Leo Humphries remains the most intriguing suspect to me and next week hints at a few more revelations regarding his shadiness and lies, while Aaron Mayford seems like the most obvious red herring going - but maybe that's the point.

Mark Latimer's search for Joe Miller comes to a little bit of a head as we get our first glimpse of Danny's killer and the promise of fireworks over the coming weeks. Beth Latimer slips out of mind a little, save for a couple of appearances to spur elements of the case on, while its nice to see Paul Coates dealing with a personal crisis and suggesting his character may have a little more of an impact on the series than he already has. The two sides of Broadchurch aren't colliding as efficiently as hoped with Beth, Hardy and Miller the only bridge between. Tennant and Colman excel again, with the scenes between Hardy and his daughter incredibly touching and telling, appearing to set up the series' end-point not so subtly but effectively enough. Another great scene, the opening quarter of the show in which the new victim reveals her reason for not reporting the cast to police - namely her fear of judgement and assumption that she will not be taken seriously - is emotionally-charged and Kelly Gough is brilliant in it but the rest of the episode partially drops off this focus on the case, shifting to the more middling 'whodunnit' side of the show.

Episode 5 is a bit of a bumpy ride but admittedly prepares an abundance of new ground to cover over the final three episodes. In terms of drama, it's brilliant and intense and atmospheric and well-acted, but the whodunnit in wearing a little thin now, mainly because Trish isn't at the focus and the emotional side of the case is not as profound when she fades from centre. It's an episode mediating on evolving and changing relationships and character dynamics, with the cracks finally beginning to show and paths widening, rather than closing, as we head for the final stretch. Episode 5 stumbles a little bit in places but I'm still hopeful for a home run.

B+



Episode 6 (3rd April 2017)



Broadchurch have, without question, delivered their best episode of the series in the sixth instalment of season three: they've pulled off an episode that encompasses the show's strongest elements, packed to the rafters with intensity, emotion and drama, expertly energising the main storyline, fleshing out characters and propelling the show forward towards its conclusion. We drop in on almost all of the characters, cover all basis and deliver genuine developments for each and every one of them. It is well-crafted and masterful television, showing just what Broadchurch can achieve when they are firing on all cylinders.

Pretty much as soon as episode six begins, you get the feeling it will be a strong one; after an exposition-ladened introduction which makes sure all elements are aligned in the audiences mind, they infer that although the suspect list is large, they are slowly but surely narrowing down the field, crafting an intensity almost immediately. While the audience know of the forthcoming reveal regarding Katie's relationship with one of the main suspects, the way it plays out is absorbing; the reaction from Miller and Hardy in particular is feverish, with the sudden realisation of the implications her dishonesty may have in the court case echoing back to Danny's case extraordinarily, with all three actors delivering. Miller's unfolding anger later in the episode towards Katie's speedy path to success beautifully uncovers this new side to Elle we are seeing more of, with Olivia Colman passionate deconstruction of her self-entitlement both thrilling and uncomfortable to view. Colman receives another chance to shine, with a confrontation between her and Tom over his porn obsession, in a storyline that still feels important to the plot despite the supposed end-point it appears to reach. Beth's vehement towards a possible victim and her shrinking silence is captivating, once again depicting Jodie Whittaker's brilliance and control, while Trish's sharpness towards Cath reveals a new side to her character, with the writer's having us question whether this has been deep inside of her, somewhat bitchy and scathing all along, or whether it is simply the consequence of such a life-changing event in your life. Tonight's terrific script brings this notion to the forefront, but has anyone else noticed a slight diminishing likability to her character? It seems purposeful and while we unconditionally root for her perpetrator to be caught, a slightly nasty side seems to be emerging from her over the previous few weeks... Hmmm. Following the press conference, a fire seems to have been set under many of the suspects, included in a brilliant montage of the main players, and I can only hope the brilliance of this episode catapults the series forward, hoping that the remaining two episodes continue the fierce momentum it has built up over this sublime hour. For all the darkness it builds up though, the script writers remember to bring us the humour that makes the central duo so enjoyable to watch, summed up this week in Miller's 'bollocking'.

Mark Latimer's quest to avenge Joe Miller came to a head this week in the episode's most touching moments, showing the fragility of each of the men for very similar reasons (losing their loved ones), despite the very different actions that lead them to it. It's brilliant that the show, while showing the toxicity of masculinity in one storyline, can then demonstrate the frailty of them elsewhere, wonderfully utilising opposing representations so efficiently and effectively. I've continually remarked how much Andrew Buchan has impressed me (this season more so than ever) but nothing could have prepared me for tonight's masterclass - from those opening moments, so clearly a dream but so harrowing nonetheless, to the phone call that evokes memories of Danny atop of the cliff in season one and that haunting, powerful final shot of a man reduced to desperation and resolution - is utterly extraordinary. Both Buchan and the director manage to sell every single moment of his pain and subsequent collapse, with that lingering final shot so painful to witness. This season's career-defining performance from the talented actor is sensational, completely and utterly shattering your emotional wellbeing and leaving the week ahead until the aftermath and fallout almost unbearable. Heartbreaking, agonising and heart-wrenching, I'm beginning the campaign for (at least) a BAFTA nomination for Buchan after tonight's episode.

The only slight weakness of the episode though is the decision to place Ed Burnett as a prime suspect so close (but so far) from the end - in terms of representation, I'm pretty sure they won't have the only notable black man in Broadchurch as the town's serial rapist, so it seems like a damn obvious red herring to throw in so close to the end. That said, the unfolding investigation surrounding his character in no less compelling and will be just as interesting to see how he is pardoned or excused from the investigation after the mounting evidence against him.  On the whole though, Broadchurch's beauty shines once again this week, including some excellent camera work (again, that final shot will not leave me for WEEKS) and scenery, with a more notable use of Olafur Arnald's mesmerising score recapturing its power after fading slightly over the previous few weeks.

Broadchurch returns to peak potential and it feels excellent to have the show on top, back where it belongs. It pulled on the heartstrings, spurred the central mystery on and still manages to develop characters, after all this time. The cast, the script, the storyline, the production, the scenery, the direction and so, so much more is all combined in the most stunning episode of the series to date and pushes the show forward into the final two hours of the show and - if the remaining two episodes are of the same quality as this one - it may be enough to convince me that season three is the strongest Broadchurch season of them all.

A



Episode 7 (10th April 2017)



It's penultimate episode time! Broadchurch's seventh episode of the final season, rather than solving some of the show's mysteries in preparation for next week's series finale, actually gives us more to consider. It always has something to do, with new suspects thrust into the spotlight between every ad break, keeping audiences on our toes and waiting with baited breath - yet it doesn't seem to have actually revealed anything new or enlightening. It refuses to rule suspects out and adds little evidence to the fold, stumbling around until next week's expectedly explosive finale. Particularly when compared to last week's stellar effort, this penultimate instalment is somewhat unsatisfactory in Broadchurch terms; that being, it's solid but not to the high standard we have come to expect.

Rather than narrowing down the suspect list, Broadchurch's refusal to do so leaves the field so open that anyone could still emerge as the perpetrator - and that's actually rather frustrating. When you look at the early stages of the series and compare them with this latest episode, no one has been inexplicably ruled out or pardoned; new evidence has come into the frame, with each new piece altering the likelihood of the perpetrator and turning the heat up on certain individuals, ensuring the intensity is high throughout  - but the waters are just as muddied with absolutely no clarity at this (very) late stage in the game. It's so up in the air that it's actually becoming irritating. Yes, I want to still be guessing and yes I want to be enthralled with the unfolding mystery, but there are far too many suspects in the frame and everything delivered at this late stage seems to appear only as a red herring. A lot of the revelations we see here (Leo installing the spyware on Trish's laptop for Ian, the taxi driver in possession of Trish's keys and Jim's choice in condoms, to name just a few) are known to the audiences and it is simply a case of aligning the characters in play with the evidence, meaning the element of surprise is somewhat lacking due to our prior knowledge. Nothing feels illuminative and the episode plays out as a courtesy, perfunctory filling the hour before next week's finale.

It's not that episode seven is a completely empty instalment; Hardy's lambasting of his daughter's bullies is terrific television, with great script work and a reliably committed performance as a father rather than a detective from Tennant; the chemistry between Tennant and Colman is great, with Elle stealing Alec's toast a wonderful touch to demonstrate how their partnership has blossomed over the show's history, alongside Elle's excellent translation from delight into bamboozlement when Alec reveals he is 'being too nice'; and the beautiful parallelism between Beth awakening on the day of Danny's death and Mark's suicide attempt, representing the attention to detail the Broadchurch team pays to the show. All of this is solid, solid television work, with this perhaps being the most beautiful episode of the season yet (from the soft sunlight penetrating the interview scenes and some lovely sweeping shots of the coast) and impressive performances (again) - but it is not penultimate-episode quality. Mark's suicide attempt, framed so beautifully at the end of last week's episode, returns on a note as damp as Mark after spending, what, ten minutes in the sea? I do not mind he survived (in fact, I breathed a sigh of relief) but to have him return on this wimper is so underwhelming and a wasted opportunity more than anything, despite first-rate performances from Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan and Charlotte Beaumont. Plus, as well-intentioned and symbolic as it tried to be, the 'solidarity march' was poorly executed and disappointing, shoehorned in and standing out for the wrong reasons, delivering an important message in a frustrating way.

Frustrating is how you sum up this entire episode actually - it's far from bad and actually enjoyable as a sum of its parts; but breaking it down, and looking at it from a critical viewpoint, the episode doesn't stand up to a) what came before it, b) what we expect from the show and c) for the fact this is the penultimate ever episode of Broadchurch. It stumbles far too often, fails to rule out any suspects and retreads ground too regularly to be deemed a success, delivering the season's weakest episode at the poorest time imaginable. So many plot points need clearing up (who owns the house next to the river? Where is the porn coming from? What was the light Trish was able to see as she was being raped?  Oh, and that mystery of who raped Trish Winterman...). I can only hope that next week's finale is closer in quality to last week's chapter than this week's instalment. I want this show to go out on a high more than anything but right now, it's pretty 50-50 as to whether it will or won't.

B-


Episode 8 (17th April 2017)


Stepping into the final ever episode of Broadchurch was tinged with an apprehension and a sadness; the show has, in all honesty, been my favourite British television series of all time - gripping from day one and consistently good. Chris Chibnall's coastal drama-thriller is of such a high quality that whenever the show dips somewhat in quality, as the penultimate episode did last week, its downfalls are only more pronounced. Last week's mediocre episode happened to follow the series' strongest chapter this year, so knowing what to expect from the finale was very uncertain.

To my absolute relief, Broadchurch's series finale delivered what has made the show a national phenomenon in a one hour slot: an episode of unwavering intensity, heartbreaking emotion, simultaneous beauty and darkness, with a stunning score and terrific tonal work closes the entire series out on an almost perfect note. As well as wrapping up season three's rape plot in a satisfying way - one that was both foreshadowed and partially unsurprising, combined with some genuine shock twists and turns - while closing out the overarching Broadchurch citizens across the three seasons nicely. It registers in the top-end of the season regarding episode quality and pay-off, landing on an optimistic note as our favourite seaside town fades into the sunset - and what a beautiful moment it was by the time we reach the credits.

(Spoilers below so look away if you are yet to see the finale episode)

Michael Lucas' (Deon Lee-Williams) involvement in the rape has been somewhat clear for two weeks now and absolute concrete within the first two minutes of the episode, with Lee-Williams bringing some tremendous nuance to his character throughout the episode after being overlooked throughout. Incorporating the theme of grooming was a surprisingly dark turn that makes perfect sense in retrospect, musing on the consideration of consent across the season and the toxicity of masculinity manifesting as the case has progressed. Leo Humphries (Chris Mason) seemed like an obvious red herring for the majority of the season so his involvement - and complete vulgarness - was more surprising but convincing when the darkness began to seep from him during the interrogation scene. Despite the script making some of these moments a little too striking and forced, with some revelations seemingly coming from nowhere, Mason's performance is sickening and a few little subtleties (including the timings of the attack) redeem this slight flaw, crafting some of the most brutal scenes of the entire show - and my god do they boil your blood and have you repulsively gasp.  Most of the elements slotted into place and while a few holes were left uncovered, they were minor enough to be forgiven in the long-run - particularly considering the extensive ground the episode was required to cover (both as a season finale and a series finale). Thematically, it was a well-balanced and capacious piece, with a lot of the darkness counterbalanced by a certain pairing...

Ellie Miller and Alec Hardy, as expected, have been terrific all-series long, mainly because of the wonderfully-developed chemistry between the once mis-matched pair and Colman and Tennant's sharp performances; quips are expertly timed, the emotion is restrained when needed and liberated when required, with the final moments between the pair an absolutely beautiful way to close out the show and the central partnership we have come to love and admire for all its differences. Another important pairing of the series, Beth and Mark's fraught relationship, comes to a bittersweet head in this final chapter, with some heart-wrenching scenes acting perfectly as an salient tonal shift, offering extended periods of silence and reticence - a notable departure from the franticness of Plot A. Of course, Andrew Buchan and Jodie Whittaker sell this for every penny it is worth and deliver an emotional and conflicting end-point for the pair who experienced such rocky waters - although heartbreaking in its final moments, it is refreshing to see the writer's avoiding the 'happy ending for all' cliche. Admittedly, this final episode had so much to cover that it physically couldn't include every main and supporting character across the series - but we were stretched so thin with our time that some characters were entirely dropped in this final stretch, confirming an opinion held across the entire season: we had too many suspects in the frame. Jim Atwood - arguably the very first suspect - was nowhere to be seen, Cath was nothing but a flashback, Tom Miller might have muttered a few words and Katie was disappointingly absent for the majority. Even Trish, after Julie Hesmondhalgh's powerhouse performance in the first half of the series, was under utilised in this conclusive instalment but you can't win them all.

Once again, it was an episode of complete beauty; despite its prominent night-setting, the camera and director manage to pick out some genuinely stunning moments, from the gloomy lighting of the flashback sequences to the majesty of the cliff sequence, always leaving you in awe. The cinematography has forever been one of the series' high points and this absolutely proves that, with the final sequence - between Miller and Hardy at the forefront of the cliff-face that has become a character in its own right throughout the show's course - is one that captures everything special about Broadchurch. Olafur Arnards' haunting and evocative score transforms into its own tonight after its insufficient use elsewhere across the season, truly emphasising key moments effectively and really rather beautifully. As mentioned, some of the writing felt a little too forced, particularly from characters who didn't appear to have the intelligence to actually believe the metaphors they were spewing, but the tonal work and thematic content is more than solid, delving in far deeper than expected - with some wonderful musing on impressionable young minds, masculinity and parental impact. All of this, presented brilliantly by Chibnall, ensures and prevents the episode from coming across as if it is preaching and painting all young people with the same brush, evident in Miller and Hardy's affirmations. It's thoughtful, subtle and tremendous work from the scriptwriters and performers who handle their material expertly.

I am so, so thankful Broadchurch ended on such a positive note. It is well-earned, emotionally-driven and satisfying conclusion to a series that has so often nailed the genre. It slips up on a couple of occasions, mainly because of how much ground the final episode was left to cover, but Episode 8 perpetuates and wraps up the show to the high-standard we have come to expect from the Dorset-set series. The acting and performances, writing and scripting, filming, directing, score and cinematography were all nailed in this final chapter, working tremendously well as a season and a series finale, culminating three seasons' worth of hard-work in this conclusive chapter that wraps up the stories they have told very effectively. Our parting shot of the Miller and Hardy, framed so beautifully by the cliffs, demonstrates everything that works about this show and what a ride it has been. Thank you Broadchurch and goodbye.

A-


SERIES OVERVIEW:



If you didn't already know that the third season of ITV's hugely-popular crime-drama Broadchurch was the final chapter, the ending shot itself implied some finality. Lingering on the cliffs that became as much a character in their own right as the residents that populated the town, we waved goodbye to the coast that delivered three seasons worth of shocks, upsets and drama. With season one focusing on the murder of Danny Latimer, season two exploring the aftermath of the arrest as well as the Sandbrook case, season three was somewhat left to its own devices, popping back in with the characters every now and then but predominantly centering around the sexual assault of a woman in the seaside town. Thankfully, The Final Chapter proved as successful as previous seasons, keeping viewers gripped during its eight episode run. To mark the release of the DVD, Blu-Ray and Series Boxset, let's take a look back on the series as a whole. Was it worth taking a trip back to Broadchurch?

I'll hold my hands up and admit that I didn't expect the third season to be a standalone as it was. With seasons one and two intrinsically linked, with each case relying heavily on the other in season two in particular, season three felt like a different show - except with the same setting, cast and characters. It did a relatively fine job of keeping the Danny case and the Trish investigation separate, only overlapping through certain character's involvement in each and all but erasing the second season completely after its mixed reception. On a personal level, I would have liked the two 'sides' of Broadchurch to overlap slightly more seamlessly, but it was nice to drop in one some old friends and discover more of the residents populating the town.

Season three's storyline was a gripping one and although it perhaps felt a step down from 'murder' at first, remained dark and engaging continually. Exploring the sexual assault of Trish Winterman offered a plethora of new themes to consider and the writer's managed to handle that pretty well throughout; a few scenes felt a little shoehorned and on the nose, but that can be forgiven in the statements they tried to convey. Once again, the finale in particular delivered twists and turns and kept us guessing right until the very end; some elements became clearer earlier on but no one can claim to have sussed the entirety of the very last instalment. The season slightly tripped up regarding the number of suspects it introduced, including how many still remained in the frame by the time the finale rolled around; there was so much to cover in last Monday's episode that I'm surprised it did enough to satisfy the majority of viewers, myself included. Few of the characters were as compelling as the cohort from season one but they were never really intended to - unlike the first batch of characters, the new lot were only ever intended to be suspects, a one season done deal almost. The new cast were terrific on the whole, with a special mention for Julie Hesmondhalgh for her raw and honest portrayal of a sexual assault victim and the aftermath experienced.

Where the cast really shined was with the returnees though; David Tennant and Olivia Colman were on top form, as ever, with their beautiful chemistry at fever-pitch throughout. They balance the emotion of the piece with burst of genuine hilarity, excellently developing a partnership to a friendship and it has been an absolute joy to watch blossom. Really stepping up their game for season three was Jodie Whittaker and (particularly) Andrew Buchan. While their scenes were not always necessary to the plot, they were stunningly acted and offered some of the season's most powerful moments, including that cliffhanger in episode six, which is easily the stand-out moment (and episode) of the season. The performances elevate the show terrifically, alongside the sheer beauty of the direction and cinematography. It's been just as exceptional this year and the show continues to amaze me 24 hours in, demonstrating the talent of the production team in discovering the beauty of Dorset and bringing it to our screen. Olafur Arnards' haunting score continued to be an triumph, certifying the Icelandic composer as one of the best of his generation.

Episodes rolled by and were typically of a B+ grade standard, although it dipped on occasions and rose to absolute greatness a couple of times. Episodes 1, 6 and 8 proved to be standouts, while Episode 7 was the weakest of the bunch and caused a lot of worry heading for that final hour, registering the series at a solid B+/A- on the whole. While, at a push, I would say I preferred seasons one and two slightly, that is a testament to their strength rather than season three's weakness, wonderfully demonstrating the insane heights this show can reach. Broadchurch, ultimately, proved to be darkest before dawn but it has been an absolute thrill to experience and I will lovingly look back on this show as the pinnacle of British television.

Average grade: B+/A- (I'll let you know after a rewatch!)

Goodbye Broadchurch!

No comments:

Post a Comment