Netflix Gems: Murder in a Small Town Reveals the Nature of Secrecy and Community in Broadchurch

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Netflix may be everyone’s favorite way to catch a flick at home, but it can be easy to lose obscure titles in the mass of films and shows available. To help you get the most out of your Netflix experience — and maybe find a new favorite — we’ll be bringing your attention to some that may be flying under your radar, but deserve a place in your queue.

Set along the picturesque Dorset coast, the show begins immediately after the death of 11-year-old Danny Latimer. Local Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) is assigned to the case with new-in-town, gruff Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant). Her own close connection to the Latimer family and the tight-knit sense of community in the small town of Broadchurch, makes the investigation particularly challenging. Detective Sergeant Miller’s desire to solve the murder while balancing her own relationships with suspects presents obstacles, particularly in working with Detective Inspector Hardy, who struggles with his own past demons.


Broadchurch, unfolds slowly over the course of the first season. Each episode focuses closely on a particular resident, their history, darker corners, and links to Danny Latimer. In a town like Broadchurch, everyone knows everyone and possible motives or connections are easy to find. A former alcoholic parish priest, a scoutmaster who served time for a relationship with a minor, a father having an affair, all come under the close scrutiny of the investigation. For Detective Sergeant Miller, it’s a deeply personal experience trying to sort through leads while being a sympathetic and sensitive member of her own community. For Detective Inspector Hardy, the investigation is a chance to make right a former case he wasn’t able to solve, and his drive to bring justice in this case leaves little room for humanity.

The slow pacing of the show ratchets up the tension considerably, with drama drawn less from huge moments of action and more from the intimacy of relationships and the nature of secrecy in close communities. As each layer is pulled back on the characters, showing their secrets and regrets, the illusion of safety that at first makes Broadchurch seem so perfect fades away.

But the reality is that things like the murder of Danny Latimer happen in Broadchurch, and Miller’s shock as she learns the hidden truths about people she thought she knew well is juxtaposed against the casually cynical outlook that allows Detective Investigator Hardy to push past idyllic assumptions about small town life. Ill and self-medicating, Hardy’s growly voice and off putting distance make him a bit of a cop drama trope, but one that Tennant pulls off well. He’s not an easy-to-love hero, an outsider in a town full of insiders, but that’s what Broadchurch needs to see into itself.

Combining the grisly lure of cop dramas with a meditative approach to the nature of community, Broadchurch will hook you in early and keep you on the edge of your seat. Be ready to binge watch it, though. You’ll want to, and it will help you keep track the more understated details that make the story so engrossing.



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