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Tag Archive: Broadchurch


Review by C.J. Bunce

An exciting new Gothic suspense thriller has arrived in the new Netflix series Requiem.  Like any great mystery–and it seems even more so in this sub-genre–you never can tell what kind of story you’re in until the very end.  Clues are everywhere if you only look at what is right in front of you.  Call it a psychological thriller, call it a ghost story, call it a police procedural, call it another X-Files entry, call it outright horror, Requiem is a British production that, unlike so many past British series, it’s arrived for American audiences as quickly as it premiered in England.  And one of the great things about Netflix is it’s now bridging that gap of time that has so often taken British television series years to arrive in the States.  We don’t know their trick but we love it.  Requiem is as creepy, as atmospheric, and as chilling as anything you’re going to see this year.

Fans of the original The Watcher in the Woods will appreciate Requiem for many reasons, including getting that obligatory British estate nestled in the far-off woods so very right.  Viewers familiar with the Gothic genre will find themselves transfixed, scrabbling to follow clues and guess before the final episode the true nature of the darkness in the story.  The beauty of the script, acting, and setting is that you probably won’t be able to figure it all out.  It’s that good.  Expect a few “I didn’t see that coming” utterances and a satisfying ending.  Is this just another procedural crime drama about a missing child?  Something like The Missing, Thirteen, Broadchurch, Hinterlands, Shetland, or this year’s Netflix release, Collateral Or something with a more supernatural twist like British series Marchlands, Lightfields, The Secret of Crickley Hall, or a litany of creepy ghosts, haunts, and other fears from the big screen across the decades, like Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake is Missing, Gaslight, The Lady Vanishes, or The Woman in Black, like the film adaptations of the Daphne du Maurier novels My Cousin Rachel, The Birds, and Rebecca, or adaptations of Gothic classics Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Turn of the Screw, or Great Expectations?  Maybe this is a modern horror tale wrapped in Gothic dress, like The Boy, The Ring, The Sixth Sense, The Shining, The Others, The Fog (and other John Carpenter classics), Skeleton Key, the Oscar winner Get Out, this year’s film Winchester, or Guillermo del Toro’s modern creation inspired by the classic Gothic thriller, Crimson Peak Or maybe it only has the atmosphere of the above productions.  

Virtuoso cellist Matilda Grey (Star Trek Beyond, Black Mirror, and Never Let Me Go’s Lydia Wilson) is readying a London premiere with her musical partner Hal (Game of Thrones’ Joel Fry).  But her world falls apart when her mother Janice (Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams and Spaced’s Joanna Scanlan) commits suicide.  At her mother’s home she finds a hidden box of secrets that reveals her own past may not be what it seems, and she and Hal find themselves trying to come to terms with Matilda’s loss in the seemingly unpronounceable Welsh town of Penllynith.  Something wicked this way comes, or does it?  Is everyone just caught up in an old missing persons case from years ago and the quirky lore of an old village?

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The movie-going world first met Anna Paquin when she co-starred in Jane Campion’s The Piano, which earned her the Academy Award for her supporting role at age 11–the second youngest Oscar winner in history.  As the New Zealand actress gained experience in her craft she went on to star in True Blood, which earned her a Golden Globe Award.  These days she’s best known as Rogue in the X-Men series, appearing in four X-Men movies so far.  This past fall she starred as a murder victim in Netflix’s 19th century historical drama series Alias Grace, and this month U.S. audiences were introduced to her performance as a cop in one of the better episodes of season one of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams.  This week she returns to television in a starring role again as a cop in the new series Bellevue on WGN America.

Paquin continues to show her Oscar and Golden Globe wins were deserved.  The actor has a command of the stage, and consistently her presence in a scene brings authority to her characters.  In Bellevue we meet a down-to-Earth side of Paquin as she plays Detective Annie Ryder, a local institution in her small town, whose brash personality and working class roots put her at odds with other officers in her department and every other faction in the town of Bellevue.  Her new case is locating a missing young man, a local hockey player and celebrity of sorts who we learn had a transgendered lifestyle and possibly was being counseled by a priest at a local church.  Paquin’s Ryder has her own odd sense of humor as she makes the best of handling a daughter, a sad sack ex-husband, and the residents of a mining town with a newly closed mine and a newly opened brewery.  The first episode really kicks in as we watch Ryder find a connection between the recent crime and strange messages left to her after her father’s suicide when she was a child.

You can see bits and pieces of a myriad of dark-murder-mystery genre TV and film in Bellevue, everything from the dark creepy vibe of Haven, Grimm, Twin Peaks, The Returned, The X-Files, and Wayward Pines–minus the supernatural elements–along with the serious crime material of Broadchurch, Fargo, and Thirteen.  As for its pacing, this Canada production for WGN America is presented like many British mystery series–there seems to be more time spent in study of each scene, as found in better mysteries like Shetland or Hinterlands.  One episode in and it already is more compelling than The Killing.  For current audiences Bellevue may feel more like Riverdale–the series pilot even has Ryder’s daughter recounting a past murder in the small town as Jughead often narrates in Riverdale.

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You really can’t beat waking up to the biggest entertainment news of the year.  Yesterday the BBC teased that we’d see a reveal of the next Doctor on Doctor Who, the 13th Doctor, to take over for the lead role of the iconic 54-year science fiction franchise currently played by Peter Capaldi.  After the men’s Wimbledon final today, the BBC released the big news:  Finally, the BBC is breaking new ground, for the first time casting an actress as the next Doctor–a woman in the role played previously by 13 men on television (counting unnumbered War Doctor John Hurt), and not only a woman, but a great genre actress at that–35-year-old Jodie Whittaker, who hails from West Yorkshire.

Whittaker is best known for her starring role along with Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ John Boyega in the science fiction cult classic Attack the Block.  She also was featured in the great British ghost story series Marchlands and most recently in the drama Broadchurch.  Replacing Doctor Who’s showrunner Steven Moffat is the previously announced Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall.  Whittaker said in an announcement today, “I’m beyond excited to begin this epic journey – with Chris and with every Whovian on this planet….  It’s more than an honour to play the Doctor.  It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope.  I can’t wait.”

When David Tenant regenerated into Matt Smith for Smith to become the eleventh Doctor on the series, Smith’s Doctor initially thought he was female because of his hair, teasing fans a bit and planting the seed for a gender change to be coming in the near future.  “I’m a girl!” he shouted.  Also, the addition of a female Master (Michelle Gomez) in recent seasons helped prepare viewers for the change.

Check out yesterday’s teaser, followed by the big reveal:

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jodie-comer-thirteen

Review by C.J. Bunce

Thirteen–a moody and creepy new suspense mystery series is now airing on BBC America. It’s become a strangely familiar, recurring trope among the modern mystery tale–especially among British television: The lost girl, and more to the point, the lost girl found. Think The Revenants (and the English version The Returned) but without the supernatural. But flip the gender of the victim and it’s another take on the Starz Brit import The Missing, BBC’s less than stellar Broadchurch, or BBC’s brilliant Marchlands.

Like Elizabeth Smart, Johnny Gosch (and all of those missing milk carton kids of the 1980s), Ivy Moxam (played hauntingly by Jodie Comer) was snatched from her neighborhood at age 13.  She now finds herself walking out of the house she has been held hostage in, 13 years later at age 26.  In her own neighborhood all these years.  And the detective story begins as we meet Ivy and sympathize with her struggle to return to a world outside the walls of her captivity, an enormous gap of time lost.  In episode one she tries–and fails–to take up life where she left off, calling her old boyfriend (now married thirteen years later) and doing anything to avoid what has happened to her.  The series, which already aired in the UK, is only five episodes, so we learn the kidnapper midway through episode one and a manhunt begins.

13-series-bbc

Because of the serious nature of the subject matter these series are usually gut-wrenching. The closer you get to the truth, the closer the stories seem to mirror real-life crime horrors.

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The Missing Starz

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s difficult to pinpoint the fine line between a run-of-the-mill, contemporary real-life drama and a good thriller.  If it’s dry and boring, we give it the label of “drama” and are happy to skip over it.  But if it has a mystery or action component and something special, then we sometimes take a closer look.  Case in point: The Starz British-produced mini-series The Missing, which was just renewed for a second season.  The “something special” is a handful of actors we’ve seen in great genre film and TV.

If you can get past the dreary sounding plot–a real-life drama about the kidnapping of a British boy vacationing with his parents in France–you’re in for a compelling suspense-thriller on par with the best police procedurals, like the BBC’s Zen or the original Law and Order.

Hobbits dwarves Nesbitt and Stott in The Missing

Another British mini-series, Broadchurch, repackaged for U.S. audiences as Gracepoint, had much in common with The Missing, at least on paper.  Broadchurch starred Doctor Who’s David Tennant and Arthur Darvill, and Attack the Block and Marchlands’ Jodie Whitaker and also followed a crime about a little boy in a small community.  The Missing features two actors who starred as dwarves in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit series, James Nesbitt, who played Bofur, and Ken Stott, who played Balin.  Mr. Selfridge and Timeline’s versatile actress Frances O’Connor plays the mother of the missing son, wife to Nesbitt’s determined and grim father.  A similar crime and genre actors are where the similarities end.  Where Broadchurch settled in as a passable melodrama, The Missing becomes a rich, engrossing, addictive tour of a place no one would want to go in real life.

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Broadchurch Tennant and Whittaker

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

Two episodes down and we at borg.com seem to be the only viewers utterly underwhelmed by BBC America’s hotly-anticipated new import, Broadchurch.  Lured in by trailers featuring some of our genre favorites, including Jodie Whittaker (Attack the Block), David Tennant, and Arthur Darvill (both, Doctor Who), we eagerly cleared our schedule and tuned in, expecting the sort of dazzling drama that series like The Hour and Life on Mars have led us to expect from BBC.  We won’t tell you what happened next (it makes borg.com TV reviewer Elizabeth C. Bunce seem soulless), and we won’t waste the bandwidth trying to shout over the accolades.  Instead, we’re putting our energy into giving other disappointed viewers what they really wanted from the eight-part series.  Unfortunately for many American viewers, several of these shows have not yet made it to Region 1 (U.S.) DVD, but they are well worth tracking down.

If you tuned in to see…

Whittaker in Marchlands

Jodie Whittaker as a grieving mum, try Marchlands  (reviewed earlier this year here at borg.com)

The luminous Jodie Whittaker gives a haunting, nuanced performance as a young mother trying to come to terms with the disappearance of her daughter, while stifled by life at her in-laws’ home and the judgement of local villagers.  Also starring Denis Lawson (Bleak House, Star Wars) and Doctor Who’s own River Song, Alex Kingston (Arrow), Marchlands is a complex look at the lingering resonance of one family’s tragedy.  Plus there are ghosts, which in borg.com’s opinion is always a bonus.  (And if you love Marchlands then you’ll want to see the follow-on series Lightfields we also reviewed here).

Morrissey and Tennant in Viva Blackpool

David Tennant investigating a murder in an idyllic seaside village, check out Viva Blackpool (just Blackpool in the UK)

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