Bumped this to the top of our list after hearing the Dr Who news, and ended up binge watching the first four episodes on a weeknight. The first thing that stands out for this series is that it’s beautifully filmed. Someone working with the camera is paying attention to volume, color, and light. Shots are carefully framed.
As with many contemporary English mystery shows, the Inspector/Sergeant dynamic is the core of many scenes. In this case, hometown detective Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) returns from vacation to find that her promised promotion was given to veteran investigator Alec Hardy (David Tennant). Hardy is hardened, bitter, and unsympathetic after a botched prosecution. Miller struggles to balance empathy for her friends, the need to pursue justice, and horror at her first murder investigation.
DS Miller serves to explain the community to both Hardy and the audience, while DI Hardy gives voice to the investigative problems the police face. The relationship is otherwise adversarial. “Back off or I’ll piss in a cup and throw it at you,” Miller exclaims during one argument.
The writers put opposite the police a rich cast of villagers who superficially read as stereotypes but reveal depth through performance: the grieving parents, the wayward daughter, the trio of reporters, the husband’s best friend, the awkward clergyman, the shopkeeper, and the mysterious cleaning lady. Diving into these characters help pull out the mystery to miniseries length without feeling too much of a drag.