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BROADCHURCH’s Final Season Brings the Series Full Circle (Review)

BROADCHURCH’s Final Season Brings the Series Full Circle (Review)

Broadchurch, the moody British drama from Doctor Who and Torchwood writer Chris Chibnall, returns tonight for a third and final season… but is it worth a watch? Though the first season deftly portrayed the lives of a small town grappling with a horrific murder, Broadchurch’s second outing (not to mention its U.S. adaptation, Gracepoint) didn’t quite fully resonate with audiences in the same way.

At its best, Broadchurch thrives on its relationships. The strength of the show is not the whodunnit mystery plot, but the intricacy of the characters at its center. Thankfully, after binging the entirety of season three, we’re happy to report that not only is Broadchurch back on track, it brings the series full circle just in time for a satisfying finish.

Broadchurch - Series III

Warning: This season and review deals with sexual abuse and trauma, and may be triggering for some readers.

Broadchurch’s third season continues to delve into loss and betrayal, but with a new case, turns its focus sharply onto sexual assault. While this is an incredibly distressing and difficult subject matter to address, the writers handle their portrayal of the characters, their experiences, and their reactions to the trauma and its aftermath with the nuance and honesty this issue deserves. From the moment Detective Investigator Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Detective Inspector Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) meet Trish (Julie Hesmondhalgh), who is so much more than just “the victim,” they treat her with the respect that is often not afforded women who report sexual assault. They listen to her, they help her find the counseling and support she needs, and they never once question her story. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for some of her neighbors, who, like the first season, each have their own secrets to hide.

As word of Trish’s assault inevitably spreads through the small town, we learn a few things about this self-contained world. Not only is this community ravaged by toxic masculinity and rape culture, but this is not a one-off assault. Trish’s story inspires other women to come forward and seek help, as they realize a serial rapist has been in Broadchurch‘s midst for who knows how long. While many other shows often handled the responsibility of portraying rape and sexual assault with a careless eye, Broadchurch avoids sensationalizing the trauma and focuses on the characters’ attempts to process and heal.

After being so personally connected to the past two cases in the series, Hardy and Miller have a different sort of journey in season three. Hardy has moved back to the town with his daughter, and it is a delight to watch David Tennant showcase another side to the scowling detective, as a concerned and horrified parent. Olivia Colman is once again a powerhouse as Miller, who is OVER IT in the best way. As a woman who has suffered through the manipulations and machinations of disturbed men, this case hits home in a way that has her furious and fed up, and rightfully so. Tennant may think Colman is too busy to take on the TARDIS, but we still think she’d make a brilliant, badass Doctor.

Broadchurch - Series III

As the investigation ripples through the town, familiar faces from the Latimer case continue their lives. Though Beth (Jodie Whittaker) and Mark (Andrew Buchan) Latimer’s grief takes them in different directions, Broadchurch gives the family a chance to try and start over. Beth takes on a new job as a sexual assault counselor, and her intimate knowledge of loss gives her a unique sense of compassion for her clients. Though some of the other characters (sorry, Arthur Darville) have outgrown their welcome by this point, Whittaker is a welcome breath of fresh air. You can feel her struggling to move on amidst her pain, frustrated with Mark, who is drowning in his own rage. If we didn’t already know this was the final season of Broadchurch, the episode’s final moments all but confirm it, as they finally give the Latimers some semblance of closure.

Much like the rest of its runBroadchurch’s third season deals with incredible pain, an experience that doesn’t necessarily have a solution or a happy ending. But it is real, and it does happen, and it’s important to shed a light on the people who live through and survive them. As Broadchurch takes its final bow, it goes out on a hopeful, if bittersweet note. “We do our job, Miller,” Hardy says quietly. “That’s all we can do.”

Rating: 4 out of 5 burritos

4-burritos

Broadchurch‘s third and final season premieres Wednesday, June 28 at 10/9c on BBC America.

If you have experienced sexual assault, know that you are not alone and there are resources available to assist you.

  • The National Rape Hotline can be accessed at 1.800.656.HOPE (4673) or via the Online Hotline.
  • You can learn more about sexual assault by visiting the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network at www.rainn.org.
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