'It was...' the words that gripped 8million viewers: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's Broadchurch finale
For weeks, up to 8million viewers have been in the thrall of Broadchurch, ITV's gripping murder mystery. Last night, as the whodunnit came to its spectacular conclusion, ITV announced a second series would go ahead. The show, starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman, has been acclaimed for its sensitive portrayal of a community ripped apart by the murder of a child. Last night, however, viewers were on the edge of their seats as the identity of the killer was finally revealed.
Just 15 minutes into the final episode of Broadchurch last night and we all knew whodunnit. Viewers were staggered – not that bookies' favourite Joe Miller confessed to the crime – but that he gave himself up to police so soon into the 65-minute episode.
Just before the first ad break, Joe – the stay-at-home husband of Detective Sergeant Miller – told police 'I'm sick of hiding' and confessed to strangling 11-year-old Danny Latimer in a fit of rage.
The rest of the programme focused on the emotional drama of the story. The killing was shown in unflinching detail – but it was the scene in which DI Hardy, played by David Tennant, broke the news to DS Miller (Olivia Colman) that gripped hardest.
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In custody: Joe apologised for his actions but blamed Mark for being a bad father
Interrupting her in the middle of interviewing a suspect, Hardy cleared the room and quizzed his colleague about how much she had seen or guessed – before telling her, 'It was Joe.'
Miller's visceral reactions – anger, defiance and then collapse– built to an explosive confrontation with her husband, in which she pushed him to the ground and lashed out with her boots.
Explaining the decision to reveal the killer early on, writer and creator Chris Chibnall said last night: 'Broadchurch has a whodunnit aspect, but the point is that you should be able to watch this show more than once. Even when you know the ending you can go back and rewatch, as a drama.
'It's about community, it's about how we deal with tragedy and grief, it's about human strength and also about faith. There are no cheats: seeing it for a second time you'll be able to tell what were clues and what were red herrings or clues to other stories.'
Viewers were bowled over by the acting, with rave reviews on Twitter. 'Some powerful performances in Broadchurch,' tweeted @mattdavelewis. 'British drama at its very best. Got “award-winning” all over it.'
It won praise from crime writer Val McDermid as well. She tweeted: 'When I write about murder, I try to show the reverberations in the lives left behind. Broadchurch final ep nailed that.'
But others had doubts that the motive for the crime seemed less than compelling.
It's back: ITV have confirmed that the hit show will return to screens for a second series
Denouement: Joe Miller was revealed as the killer of Danny Latimer in the finale of the show, which gripped 10million
Joe Miller claimed he was in love with Danny, although he had never sexually abused him.
They met at a clifftop holiday chalet, where the boy would sit on his lap and hug him. In return, Joe gave him presents and, on one occasion, £500 in cash.
On the night he was killed, Danny said he wanted the arrangement to end, and warned he might tell other people what was going on. After chasing him to the cliff edge, Joe led him back to the chalet, where he throttled him.
'I wanted something that was my own,' the killer told Hardy. 'I wanted him to love me.'
If the revelation seemed unconvincing to many, it also dashed the hopes of many armchair detectives who had been combing the script for clues – such as newsagent Jack Marshall's remark that he was reading a classic novel set in Dorset, Jude The Obscure by Thomas Hardy.
Two children are murdered in that book by another child, which many took to be a hint that Joe Miller's 11-year-old son Tom would turn out to be the killer. But the ending did turn on another line from the screenplay, in which Ellie Miller questioned a suspect whose husband had abused and murdered their daughter, and demanded, 'How could you not know what was happening under your own roof?'
Saying goodbye: With Joe charged with murder the Latimer family were able to say a proper goodbye to Danny
Paying their respects: The town came together at the funeral of the 11-year-old boy
A town shattered: Broadchurch residents gathered together to remember Danny, who was taken too soon
It was a question which Beth Latimer, mother of the murdered Danny, threw back in DS Miller's face.The climactic episode was shrouded in secrecy, as ITV executives went to all lengths to prevent the killer's identity from leaking out.
The first six parts of the series were made available as online previews for journalists, weeks in advance of broadcast – but as speculation reached fever pitch, all previews were halted.
Yesterday ITV's press office claimed that they couldn't give sneak peaks to reviewers because even they did not have advance copies of the show.
'We've had hundreds of requests over the last three weeks,' said one harassed publicist, 'and all the papers renewed their requests on Monday morning. We've said No to everyone.'
Chris Chibnall, on constant call for interviews as the 9pm broadcast neared, described it as 'a bonkers day'.
He attributed the show's success to a combination of factors – top actors, emotional storylines and an intense sense of Englishness.
Mark Latimer (played by Andrew Buchan), the father of the murdered boy, is overwhelmed in last night's episode
Horror: DS Miller has to be held back from her husband Joe Miller when she learns he is the killer
'Broadchurch is set in the Dorset landscape where I've lived for about ten years,' he said last night. 'I was brought up on Merseyside, but the town where I live now is particularly wonderful, with a interesting, varied community. In a way, Broadchurch is a love letter to the town and the county and the landscape.'
He denied that characters were based on people from his own community, but fans have been eagerly spotting locations where key scenes were shot. For £8, tourists in West Bay, Dorset, can take a walking tour that visits the beach where Danny's body was found, and the newsagent's where the real-life owner, Richard Attrill, has cleverly pasted up a tribute to fictional counterpart Jack Marshall
Red herring: Jack Marshall (portrayed by David Bradley) was a major suspect after it was revealed he had a shady past
For Chibnall, the success of a script he originally wrote 'on spec', without a commission from a production company, is more than he ever dared hope.
'I feel it surpasses my original vision,' he said, 'because I have the most brilliant team. The director, the director of photography and an amazing cast all took what I imagined and made it far better. Broadchurch is a real team effort and everybody just played out of their skin – they delivered such brilliant work.
'David Tennant and Olivia Colman are two of the finest actors working in the world today. What's great is that they loved working with the rest of the ensemble. The cast had such strength in depth, it felt like we had a Champion's League team of actors.'
VIDEO Broadchurch EXTRA SCENE released (catch up in full on ITV)
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