From Gracepoint to Broadchurch: A Guide to Making the Switch
If you enjoyed Gracepoint, Fox’s murder mystery steeped in the secrets of a bucolic small town, and were hoping for a second season, you’re out of luck. However, all hope is not lost. No matter what the network execs told us repeatedly, Gracepoint ended up being a near shot-for-shot remake, give or take the final episode, of its UK original, Broadchurch. Why not, then, just jump into season two of Broadchurch, which begins airing tomorrow in the US?
The first season of Broadchurch aired on BBC America in 2013, and is available for streaming on Netflix. It’s very good – far superior to its US remake – but if you don’t have time to binge, there really is no need; with a few tweaks to catch you up, you can move seamlessly over to the UK version with little cognitive dissonance (once you get used to the accents).
Gracepoint (and the first season of Broadchurch) derived its entire narrative thrust from the investigation into 11-year-old Danny’s murder. All the secrets revealed, all the character development, all the red herrings stemmed from that singular motivation. The second season of Broadchurch widens that scope, fruitfully if unevenly, as the characters’ pasts come to interfere with the pursuit of justice for Danny’s murder. If Broadchurch’s second season does one thing, it reminds us that after the killer is apprehended, life still needs to be lived by those whose existence is left in tatters.
Read our handy guide below, and you should have no problem following the continuation of Gracepoint’s story across the pond to Broadchurch:
Whereas Gracepoint took place on the Northern California coast, Broadchurch is set in a fictional sleepy fishing town in Dorset, on the southern coast of England. Broadchurch is breathtakingly quaint and more atmospheric than its American counterpart; just look at that picture above. Like in Gracepoint, the lead investigator in Broadchurch (played in both series by David Tennant) struggles under the weight of a past failed investigation. In Gracepoint, this was in a place called Rosemont; in Broadchurch, the town is called Sandbrook. Remember that name; it becomes crucial to the trajectory of the second season.
Because half of the second season of Broadchurch revolves around Joe Miller’s trial, some knowledge of British legal terminology might help smooth an otherwise jarring transition. In the UK, there is a tiered system of legal representation, with solicitors representing the personal ligation interests of clients, while barristers generally argue cases in courts at the request of a person’s solicitor. If a case is extremely high-stakes, then a case will be argued by Queen’s Counsel – QC’s, or silks – who are a recognized class of senior barristers. Two new characters, Jocelyn Knight (a regal Charlotte Rampling) and Sharon Bishop (Marianne Jean-Baptiste, razor-sharp), are both QCs. Also, they all wear wigs, which is just fun.
Beth, Mark, Chloe, and Danny, renamed the Solano family for the US adaptation to reflect the family’s Latino heritage, are the Latimers in the UK original, but little else was changed. Mark (Andrew Buchan, The Honorable Woman) still had an affair with the local hotelier, and Beth (Jodie Whittaker, Black Mirror) is pregnant with a surprise baby and due to give birth any day. Surviving daughter Chloe (Charlotte Beaumont, Jupiter Ascending) had an identical plotline in both iterations, including the older boyfriend and a brief flirtation with a career as a drug runner. The Latimers, formerly close friends of the Millers, remain distant from Ellie and furious that she never noticed Joe’s behavior.
While the Ellie, Joe, and Tom Miller of Broadchurch share identical names with their American counterparts, that’s where the similarities end. Detective Inspector (DI) Ellie Miller, played to devastating perfection by Olivia Colman (The Iron Lady), is a warmer, wittier, more relatable incarnation than Anna Gunn’s steely, commanding detective on Gracepoint. As such, she functions as a much more comedic and balancing counterpoint to David Tennant’s stoicism.
The biggest differences, though, are in the fates of Joe (Matthew Gravelle, Son of God) and Tom (Adam Wilson, Mr. Selfridge). In the UK original, Joe was Danny’s actual murderer; his advances spurned by the child, Joe strangled Danny in a moment of anger. The British Tom never undertook his own amateur sleuthing into the police investigation, never went missing, and remained unaware of his father’s involvement with Danny until Joe’s arrest. At the start of Broadchurch’s second season, Tom is living with his aunt, feeling a sense of betrayal and seething with rage at his parents. Joe is in prison, awaiting trial.
Ellie Miller’s cub reporter nephew, Olly Stephens (Jonathan Bailey), followed much the same lovesick, careerist trajectory as his American counterpart, but unlike Owen, Olly shows little remorse for his actions. In the second season, he’s up to the same insubordinate antics, complicating the efforts of the Broadchurch PD and frustrating his seasoned editor, Maggie (Carolyn Pickles).
The owner of Broadchurch’s lone bed and breakfast got a name change for the American version, but that’s about it. Called Becca here (and played by Simone McAullay) she’s still blond, single, and hungry for both love and business. The Reverend Coates is, however, a much different matter. As played by Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who) in Broadchurch, the vicar is approximately 400% less creepy than the American priest, even though he too was a suspect in Danny’s murder for a time. Part of this stems from Gracepoint’s attempt to work into the priest’s storyline the American distrust of Catholicism when it comes to young boys, a pitfall-laden path that Broadchurch managed mostly to avoid.
Nigel got a name change to Vince for Gracepoint (because nothing may prevent the suspension of disbelief more than an American named Nigel) but everything else about the estranged mother and son remains realtively the same. Susan Wright (Pauline Quirke) is still the same bitter, secretive woman with a tragic past, but Nigel (Joe Sims) is much closer with the Latimer family than Vince was with the Solano’s.
You’d think this would be the smallest change, since David Tennant plays the irascible, irritated, ailing detective in charge in both incarnations. You’d be wrong. Tennant in the original is a live wire, his close-jawed regard barely masking both a constant frustration at those around him and a profound isolation and awkwardness. Whether it was the American accent or the relative lack of chemistry with Anna Gunn, something flattened Tennant in Gracepoint; if you liked him there, you’ll love his wry vivacity in Braodchurch as delivered in his native Scottish accent. The fundamentals are the same: Hardy, like Carver, is haunted by his past failure to apprehend the murderer of two young girls, and the subsequent dissolution of his marriage. He has a bad heart, a propensity to forget first names, and at the start of the first episode, has relocated to Broadchurch on a permanent basis.
If you do make the switch from Gracepoint to Broadchurch without watching the first season, let us know how it goes. What’s confusing? What’s different that we missed?
Broadchurch airs on BBC America at 9pm EST starting on Wednesday, March 4th.