Five months after it wowed viewers in the U.K., Broadchurch made its debut on BBC America last night.
The 8-episode mystery series is about the effect of the murder of a young boy on the various residents of a small, English coastal town in Dorset, including the two lead police detectives on the case, newly arrived Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (played by former Doctor Who star David Tennant) and veteran Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman).
Here’s what happened in the introductory episode:
An adult couple is shown asleep in bed. Next we see a child’s bedroom, with a sign on the door marking it as “Danny’s Room.” Then we see a young boy, presumably Danny, standing atop a cliff overlooking the ocean. He has blood dripping from his fingertips.
The series’ title, Broadchurch, comes on the screen and the woman in the bed wakes up. It was her dream we were seeing. She looks over at picture of her son, Danny.
The woman is Beth Latimer (Jodie Whittaker), a housewife living in Broadchurch, the coastal village. She goes downstairs and greets her husband, Mark (Andrew Duncan), a plumber, and their 15-year old daughter, Chloe, who are having breakfast and getting ready for the day.
“Have you seen Danny?” Beth asks. Nobody has. Mark heads out of the house and into town to work.
In town, Ellie heads into the police station for her first day back at work after giving birth to her second child. At the station, her colleagues welcome her back with a round of applause though her boss, Chief Superintendent Elaine Jenkinson (Tracey Childs), takes Ellie aside to give her the disappointing news that newcomer Alec Harding has been appointed to the job that Ellie had hoped to be promoted to upon returning.
We see Alec Harding for the first time. He’s meeting with a farmer who has had diesel fuel stolen when a colleague interrupts Alec’s consultation with the farmer to tell him he’s needed down by the beach.
Beth show’s up at Danny and Chloe’s school. A teacher asks her where Danny is. “I thought he was here,” Beth says. She starts calling around on her cell, trying to locate her son, and then begins driving around town looking for him. She soon is caught in a traffic jam caused by a police blockade near the beach. She gets out of her car and, with a sense of bleak foreboding, runs to the beach.
Alec is already there. “Oh God, don’t do this to me,” he says, as he heads across the beach toward the body of a dead youth who will turn out to be Danny.
Ellie is there too. “Oh, God, no, no, no. I know him,” she tells Alec as they look at Danny’s corpse. “He lives here. He’s my boy’s best friend.”
As Ellie starts to cry, Alec barks at her, “Shut it off. You’re working a case now.”
At the local newspaper, the Broadchurch Echo, an ambitious young reporter, Olly Stevens (Jonathan Bailey), has just learned that his job application at a big city daily has been turned down. His veteran boss, Maggie Radcliffe (Carolyn Pickles), tells him his chance will come and then sends him off to check out a report that something’s happening at the beach.
Back on the beach, Alec and Ellie have climbed up to the cliff from which Danny fell. A police investigator tells them that Danny didn’t fall or jump of his own accord. “Someone tried to make it look like an accident,” the investigator says, implying that Danny may have already been dead when he went off the cliff.
Alec and Ellie notify the Latimers of the death of their son. Ellie embraces Beth, with whom she is friends. “Can you think why [Danny] would have been up on the cliffs this morning?” Alec asks the couple.
Beth says Danny would never kill himself. Mark says he wants to see the body, and Ellie escorts him to the morgue. “I’m sorry that I wasn’t there for you,” Mark tells his dead son. “You’re my boy Danny and I let you down. I’m so, so sorry.”
Back at the police station, Alec gathers the other cops around and tells them they need to find out “Was Danny abducted? Did someone have the key? Who’s the family? What were they doing?”
Elaine Jenkinson, the head of the department, takes Alec aside and offers him a chance to step away from the case, apparently because of his involvement with a controversial case that may have had similarities at his previous job. (At this point, we don’t know any more about what that earlier case involved.) Alec firmly tells her no. “I’m the best man for the job. If you want to stop me, you’re welcome to try,” he says.
The coroner tells Alec and Ellie that Danny was strangled and that there were traces of cleaning fluid on his skin. He reports that it likely was an adult male who killed Danny and that the boy would have been facing his attacker when he was murdered.
Alec heads to the Latimer residence where he tells the family that Danny’s death is being treated as suspicious. “I promise, we will find the person responsible. You have my word,” he vows.
Danny’s sister Chloe goes off to meet her boyfriend, an older youth on a motorbike. “Do they know about us, because you’re not 16 yet?” he asks (“they” being the police). At the beach, Chloe leaves a stuffed toy monkey near where Danny was found.
Olly, the local newspaper reporter, see Chloe’s gesture. He puts two and two together and asks Ellie, who’s his aunt, “Is it Danny Latimer?” Ellie tells him she can’t confirm that but Olly, spotting a scoop, sends out a tweet naming Danny as the victim.
Karen White (Vicky McClure), a big city reporter at the national Daily Herald, spots Olly’s tweet and convinces her editor to assign her to the story, partly by pointing out that Alec is the investigating officer on the case. “Can you believe it? He got another job after Sandbrook?” she says, referring to the apparently scandalous case at his old job about which we viewers are still in the dark.
Back in Broadchurch, Alec gets wind of Olly’s tweet naming Danny. He is not happy. “Bloody Twitter,” he sputters. “These people’s lives have been destroyed and now they have to cope with this. Who told the journalist?”
Ellie owns up. “I think it might have been me,” she says sheepishly.
Alec drops by the bed and breakfast where he is temporarily bunking until finding permanent digs. The clerk tactlessly asks him, “Do you think the beach will be open tomorrow? I need to know what to tell the guests.”
Local newspaper editor Maggie and a now chastened Olly meet with Alec at the B&B. Olly apologizes for his tweet and Maggie assures the detective, “All reporting will come through me from now on. The Echo works with the police.”
Meanwhile, at the Latimer household, there’s tension between Beth and Mark.
“Why didn’t you look in on [Danny] last night? Why didn’t you see that he was gone?” Beth asks her husband accusingly.
“Why didn’t you?” he responds.
“Where were you last night?” she asks.
“I was on a job,” he says, somewhat evasively.
Ellie stops by her house to visit briefly with her husband and two children before returning to work. She goes upstairs to tell her son Tom, who was best friends with Danny, that his buddy is dead. She tells him that it’s okay to cry. Tom wants to know if the police will question him.
“Yes,” Ellie tells him. “Is there anything you want to tell me?”
Tom shakes his head no.
Once Ellie leaves, Tom cries. Then he takes out his mobile phone and deletes seven messages from Danny. He walks over to the keyboard of his computer and deletes files. What’s up? Obviously, nothing good.
Big city reporter Karen White arrives in Broadchurch and phones Olly to pump him for information. At the beach where Danny died, she spots the toy monkey that Chloe had left and stuffs it in her purse.
Alec and Ellie view CCTV footage from the night of the murder. They spot Danny skateboarding late at night down one of Broadchurch’s streets. Apparently, he snuck out of his house, but why and where was he headed and whom was he meeting? Alec observes Danny didn’t have a mobile phone on him when his body was found. “He definitely had one,” Ellie tells her partner.
Alec holds a press conference to report on the murder investigation. “There will be no hiding place for Danny’s killer,” he vows. “We will catch whoever did this.”
The final credits roll. And we are left to ponder the following questions, which will doubtless be explored in future episodes: Who killed Danny Latimer? Will Alec and Ellie learn to trust each other and work together? What’s the scandal in Alec’s past? Is one of the Latimer parents hiding a secret? Who’ll turn out to be the more ruthless journalist, Olly or Karen? And what the heck is it that Ellie’s son, Tom, deleted from his phone and computer?
What did you think of the opening episode?