Spoilers for all of Broadchurch’s three seasons follow.
When it first premiered, Broadchurch was a juggernaut of a crime series. In it, a heinous act was committed in a beautiful locale where almost anyone could be a suspect. It was twisty, haunting, and engrossing. The emotional score combined with the lush cinematograph and affecting performances across the board elevated Broadchurch beyond a typical crime drama. It forged such a memorable legacy (and one forgettable U.S. TV remake) that it’s still held up as a standard of measurement by which all subsequent crime dramas are weighed.
And while it could have, and maybe should have, ended there, the new team-up of Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) and Alec Hardy (David Tennant) was too hard to give up. Creator Chris Chibnall also said he always saw the series as a trilogy, although frankly, it never really felt like one. The second season brought in outsiders, with a (still accidental) crime that ran alongside a not particularly justifiable courtroom drama where Danny’s killer, Joe Miller (Matthew Gravelle), was exonerated by the court. It all felt a little half-baked, as if the show wanted to broach a bigger subject about the failure of the criminal justice system, but ultimately didn’t have the time or the margins to really explore it.
I had a similar feeling while watching the finale of Broadchurch’s third season, which was an improvement over Season 2, but not without its own issues. Season 3 focused on the aftermath of a rape instead of a murder, and was just as harrowing in its portrayal. Julie Hesmondhalgh gave a particularly exceptional performance as Trish, a woman assaulted at her friend’s birthday party. This season did not shy away from investigating every horrifying detail of Trish’s ordeal with the police and the invasion of her own privacy, as she was forced to confront not only the judgement of her assault but also the fallout of her affair with her friend’s husband.
Throughout it all, Ellie and Alec continued to make a fantastic team during the procedural aspects of solving the crime, and one thing Broadchurch has been consistently great with is its twisty clues and multiple potential suspects over the course of each season. And yet, it tends to drop the truth of the crime in our laps in the finales without time for any consideration of aftermath, which can make those reveals feel unsatisfying.
But whether you watched the final season or not, here are some notes on how everything ended up: