Broadchurch aired its finale on BBC America last night - and, while that channel's relatively low viewing figures compared to the major US networks mean the British whodunnit was not a national ratings-buster, it certainly picked up a keen cult following. Savvy US viewers who have previously fallen for Doctor Who, Sherlock and The Fall were on edge with anticipation, as the last part of Chris Chibnall's classy whodunnit revealed who had killed a young boy called Danny Latimer in a sleepy English coastal town.
Leading the pre-finale hype was, er, Senator John McCain. The failed 2008 Presidential candidate tweeted:
"That made me laugh in itself," Chibnall told Entertainment Weekly, "but then it also made me laugh to see the tirade of responses from people going, ‘Haven’t you got better things to be doing than recommending television shows?’ The whole Broadchurch thing, for all of us, has been this kind of amazing response and amazing madness, and I think that one today has just beaten all the others. I’m here in my office, looking out into the rain of Dorset, and I’m really giggling.”
After the finale aired, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and Desperate Housewives/Body of Proof actor Dana Delany shared their reaction with fans:
Some British viewers had thought the identity of the killer was too obvious, but that doesn't seem to have been a problem in the States:
For some viewers, it was simply all too dramatic:
Chibnall revealed that, back in April when millions of British fans were about to watch the last episode, he suffered a crisis of confidence: "I sat there about ten to nine on the Monday night before episode 8 went out in the UK," the writer told EW. "I texted Jane Featherstone, the other executive producer on the show, and said, 'I think we’ve got it entirely wrong. I think we’ve made a terrible mistake. I think it’s an awful ending.'
"I had the equivalent of stage fright knowing that so many people by that point were really invested in it and watching it. I’ve never been more panicked in my life. Then after about 20 minutes in, I was like, 'No, no, it’s all right. I’ve had a drink. It seems to be going okay.'”
The highly respected US critic Alan Sepinwall thought Chibnall got it spot on. In his review for Hitfix, Sepinwall wrote: "We begin the series with Ellie telling Alec how well she knows the people in her quaint little community. Scene after scene, episode after episode, we discover just how wrong she was, and how many secrets can be kept by the population of a small seaside village. So to take the crime all the way into her home, and make the killer her husband, makes the lesson as terrible and powerful as it could be. If Ellie wasn't aware of what the man in her bed was up to, how could she feel she truly knew anyone around her?
"The reveal of her husband as the killer was a situation of Chris Chibnall neither telegraphing the solution nor trying so hard to hide it that the end result felt like a cheat. Ellie's husband was just a guy in the town, maybe a bit frustrated to be the primary caregiver for their kids, but not someone coming across as either evil or saintly. I recall early on finding it distracting that he looked a bit like Mark Latimer's buddy, but that wound up being a plot point; all the accusations against the buddy were a case of people seeing a skinny bald guy in the dark and identifying the wrong one. And the nature of his relationship with Danny hit the right note: unsettling and wrong, but not so lurid that the show was reveling in the sickness of it all.
"The revelation — and the hand grenade it dropped into every aspect of Ellie's life — gave Olivia Colman her best material of the entire series. She was incredible throughout here, and David Tennant, Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan were, as usual, not far behind."
For many Americans, the series has joined a pantheon of recent BBC America smashes, with many viewers hailing it as an example of top-quality BBC programme-making, understandably not realising that Broadchurch was in fact made by ITV:
BBC America is, however, niche viewing in the States. It may be that Broadchurch will find a larger audience in the future on Netflix. That's the prediction of Tim Goodman, chief TV critic for The Hollywood Reporter:
Just as in the UK, many viewers tuned in to watch David Tennant but ended up giving the biggest plaudits to Olivia Colman for her portrayal of Ellie Miller, the cop who struggles to find the murderer only to be told in the end that it was her own husband all along:
Now for series two. Chibnall stayed tight-lipped in conversation with Entertainment Weekly, saying: "Literally, as I stand here talking to you now, I am standing one foot away — I’ve now moved, just for the theatre of it — in front of the board which has the whole of the first episode plotted out on it. Every single bit of the first episode, I’m looking at now… And that’s all I’m gonna tell you. But there are numerous whiteboards. We know what we’re doing. And I’m really excited about it. For people who are wondering, I promise we have interesting stories still to tell.
Chibnall also spoke about the US remake, which will pilot on Fox in the new year. "I’ve written the first episode and I’ll be an executive producer on it. There’s a whole team coming into place on that, and Fox will decide whether they go forward with it. But we’re very excited about it. I think there’s a really great opportunity to make something that is hopefully as good if not better than the British version.
"I’m very, very fascinated to see this story in a different landscape with an acting ensemble that’s just as strong but taken from really great American actors. The DNA of the original is absolutely intact and filtered through a new prism, so it should still feel just as vibrant, and interesting, and strange, and unique, and beautiful, but just in a different setting — and then it’s exploring the dramatic opportunities that that offers up.
"We’re not gonna do the terrible version. We’re gonna do a great version."