At last, Broadchurch is back for its third and final series. But does this opening episode show promise for the concluding chapter of the crime drama?

It’s been two years since we last saw Hardy and Miller on our screens, and it’s fair to say their last outing was divisive. Broadchurch Series 2 dared to be different but, for many, it simply didn’t pay off. The first series came out of nowhere and compelled the nation with its deep and gripping investigation. To follow that up with a (somewhat haphazard) court case was a jarring, unwanted change for some. Thankfully, the debut episode of Series 3 directed by Paul Andrew Williams (Murdered by My Boyfriend) makes one thing abundantly clear: we’re going back to basics for the final chapter.

There’s absolutely no messing around. From the opening seconds, we’re straight down to business. After a shot of the infamous beach, we’re introduced to Trish and her case, which will be the focal point of Series 3. Julie Hesmondhalgh is the star of the show here, worlds away from her Coronation Street days. Her performance is quiet and understated, but immensely powerful. This is a complex, damaged woman who has been through a terrible ordeal and ITV have struck gold casting her in the role. We definitely look forward to seeing more from her character in the coming weeks.

DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) - Broadchurch Series 3 Episode 1 (c) ITV
DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) – Broadchurch Series 3 Episode 1 (c) ITV
Good Cop, Bad Cop

We’re also reintroduced to DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) from the off, too. They’re just as you remember them and their chemistry is as good as ever. The opening half an hour that follows is essentially all set-up for the case and the series ahead. In fact, aside from a few medical assistants, the first 30-minutes focuses solely on these three characters. In a way, this is good – it lets you get acquainted (or reacquainted) with the key players and the story. But at times the pacing can be somewhat slow and, by the halfway point of the episode, you’d be forgiven for thinking: what’s the rest of Broadchurch got to do with this?

Arguably, that’s the biggest criticism of Series 3 so far: it seems incredibly keen to move on from the events of the shaky Series 2. Don’t get us wrong, that’s probably for the best, but the feeling of wiping the slate clean is a little too glaring in places. Despite two series of build-up, Series 3 pushes almost all of its past to the side. It’s not even until the third quarter that we finally see another Broadchurch resident, Beth Latimer (Jodie Whittaker). We’re certain the townspeople will play a far bigger role as the story progresses, but as it stands, the new definitely overshadows the old.

Julie Hesmondhalgh as Trish Winterman – Broadchurch Series 3 (c) ITV
Julie Hesmondhalgh as Trish Winterman – Broadchurch Series 3 (c) ITV
New Beginnings

On the flipside though, the fresh start also works in the series’ favour. Stripping back the plot and the characters makes this a much easier starting point for viewers. While it lacks the shock value of Series 2’s opener as we’re not fully invested in this case yet, what’s here is certainly solid. Cleverly, the increased accessibility potentially also means that those who gave up on Series 2 can still dive back in without much trouble.

At the end of the day, the ‘whodunnit?’ formula is what Broadchurch thrives on and we’re glad to see it return. Once the proper detective work does kick in, that same spark from Series 1 really begins to rekindle. In the episode’s second half, we see some important clues and (briefly) meet a few possible suspects in the shape of new characters, Sir Lenny Henry (Ed Burnett) and Mark Bezeley as Jim Atwood. We’re even left with a trademark cliffhanger to keep us guessing for another week. Maybe it’s already possible to identify Trish’s attacker if you look closely enough. But, that would be too simple, surely? Anything this early on has to be a red herring… this is Broadchurch we’re talking about, after all!

Beth Latimer (Jodie Whittaker) Broadchurch Series 3 Episode 1 (c) ITV
Beth Latimer (Jodie Whittaker) Broadchurch Series 3 Episode 1 (c) ITV
Final Ruling

There are still plenty of questions that Broadchurch needs to answer in Series 3 – and not just in its narrative. It needs to produce an investigation as strong and as interesting as the one seen in Series 1. It needs to justify its existence as a concluding chapter after Series 2 already seemed to wrap up the Danny Latimer case. But, most importantly, it just needs to carry on being good. If any show deserves to go out with a bang, it’s this one.

It’s too early to make any definitive conclusions just yet. But, based on the evidence we’ve seen so far, we think we’re in for a wild ride…

Broadchurch Series 3 continues next Monday, 6th March at 9pm on ITV1.

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