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The Oldest Story: Broadchurch and True Detective
Patrick Redmond
Arthur Darvill, David Tennant, and Olivia Colman in 'Broadchurch'

Note: No key plot spoilers! Nothing you couldn’t get from the synopsis. I promise.

Last night, I finished Broadchurch.

In preparation for the premiere of Gracepoint this fall on FOX, I’ve been watching the British show on which it’s based. Both shows are about a sleepy coastal town that gets rocked by the murder of a young boy. The resulting investigation leaves its mark.

The names give away the show’s interest in exploring, carefully and quietly, the relationship between what goes on in heaven and what happens here down on earth. It wants to know whether what we do here triggers punishments or, perhaps more importantly, whether there’s anyone up there who cares at all, or whether we’ve been abandoned.

What I was thinking about as I watched was how much it reminded me of True Detective (though, hear me on this: that show is far, far more brutal and graphic). In both, detectives sense that a sort of salvation rides on what they’re doing. Both are about investigations into unthinkable murders that wind up unearthing the darkest secrets. They’re also both beautifully shot and powerfully directed in ways we rarely see on television.

But there’s one very important thing both shows do, something that Christians, frankly, need to do better in their storytelling: they understand intuitively that sin is both a personal and a corporate matter. Sin is something in people’s hearts, and it’s also something that permeates a community. And when something goes wrong in a community, rarely is the perpetrator the only one at fault.

In True Detective, it becomes clear that the evil within the community is far more pervasive than one man. It starts high and slides ...

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Watch This Way
How we watch matters at least as much as what we watch. TV and movies are more than entertainment: they teach us how to live and how to love one another, for better or worse. And they both mirror and shape our culture.
Alissa Wilkinson
Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today's chief film critic and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn.
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The Oldest Story: Broadchurch and True Detective
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