Andrew Buchan

Broadchurch S2 E1 (ITV)

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The biggest surprise at the conclusion of the first series of Broadchurch had been the appearance of the caption after the end titles boldly declaring that “Broadchurch will return”. Why such a surprise? The eight-part story surrounding the death of young Danny Latimer in a small south west coastal resort town had been such a perfect gem of a production that you couldn’t help but wonder just what on earth they could possibly do to extend the show that wouldn’t also end up wrecking the reputaion of the original in the process.

It was with this trepidation in mind that eighteen months later I sat down to watch the first episode of the second season – and happily, any fears or concerns that I had about whether Broadchurch could possibly return as strong as it went out were pretty much swept aside in the first ten minutes. In a ghostly echo of the way that the first series had kicked off, it opened with an overview of our sprawling main cast of characters as they started to converge on one particular destination in town. But there were no cheery nods and waved greetings this time; it was a far more sombre affair as they all headed to the local court to see the murderer of Danny Latimer formally enter his plea. Once this was done then everyone would be able to start to move on, recover and heal from the vicious wounds inflicted on the community by the original killing and the investigation that had followed.

The way the moment was built up, you just knew there was a sting coming. It wasn’t very hard to see what it had to be, either. But even so, the moment when it actually came was still enough to make you gasp and it actually felt like you’d been slapped round the face without warning. Any show that can achieve something of that impact before the first commercial break clearly knows what it’s doing, and there was no question that the showrunner and series creator Chris Chibnall was in assured form as he set about following the implications as they rippled through the community. Read the rest of this entry »

The Honourable Woman E1 (BBC2)

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The first episode of BBC2’s new thriller series The Honourable Woman starts with a shocking assassination and ends with a chase and a kidnapping, and in between there are all sorts of mysterious intrigues swirling around in the world of international politics, global business and 21st century espionage.

You’d think that so much packed into its first hour, the show would be universally hailed as a gripping success. But this is a Hugo Blick production (he wrote and directed the eight-part mini-series) and that can be a very acquired taste, a significant number of viewers apparently finding it slow and ponderous, overly styled and irritatingly oblique.

Well yes, it can be seen as all of those things. Just as with his previous effort The Shadow Line, Blick makes unusual demands on his audience: we have to be patient and observant, intelligent and committed enough to the show to be able to figure out for ourselves what’s going on without being spoon fed the answers, and as fascinated by the small details of character and location as in the big attention-grabbing moments. If we don’t fit Blick’s requirements then we should kindly go elsewhere and watch Big Brother instead. Read the rest of this entry »

Broadchurch E8 (ITV)

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Contains spoilers: if you haven’t seen the final episode, do not read on!

I can’t remember the last time that ITV went to town hyping the last episode of a drama series quite as much as it did with Broadchurch in the days leading up to Monday night’s conclusion to the eight-part series.

In many ways, all the build-up and hype were the show’s biggest enemies in the end, reducing the story of “Who killed Danny Latimer?” down to the same level of whodunnit parlour game as “Who shot JR?” or “Who killed Laura Palmer?”. In fact the show had never been intended a simple matter of guessing who the guilty party was: instead it was meant as a deep and emotional study on the effects of a terrible crime on a small close-knit community. A Fatal Attraction-style shock/twist ending was never really on the cards and just like Forbrydelsen before it, Broadchurch was determined not to go down that road no matter who it left feeling dissatisfied. Read the rest of this entry »