3 out of 5
Created by: Daragh Carville and Richard Clark
covers seasons 1 – 3
There were mystery series about small town secrets before Broadchurch, shows where such secrets unravel said small town, exposing tesseracting cracks in surface goodness as investigating DSs question every red herring suspect, triggering realizations regarding their own fractured lives, which then threaten to throw the central issue into complete and utter disarray, and even as I’m writing this out to criticize how unhelpful it is to lump a show like The Bay into the Broadchurch club (something I’ve seen other reviews do) just because, presumably, it’s from the UK and DS Lisa Armstrong (Morven Christie) is part of the team tasked to a mysterious mystery involving dastardly stuff and children… even as I’m writing out this long and winding “intro” to “prove” that one thing is very much like the other, I am laughing a bit at how generic the high level summary points are, which could probably encompass almost 90% of these types of series, The Bay included.
In short: The Bay is not Broadchurch. But what it does share with that series is a good core who/why-dunnit, and I’d argue that it one ups a lot of similar series by introducing a fun wrinkle up front: Armstrong had a one night fling with the main suspect in the case on the night of the crime, but chooses to hide that fact (to be his alibi), and “where were you during those hours” questions him, in front of his wife. In other words, dumb shit that would probably shorten the show to a single episode if she or he just fessed up. But: the brazen way The Bay goes about this is pretty fun, and while the writing never quite justifies this decision – a lack of clear characterization for Lisa is where the series can’t match up to its peers, at least in the first season – writer / co-creator Daragh Carville smartly doesn’t try to center things around this wrinkle, and instead putd the focus on the core mystery of the missing kids, actually following logical threads throughout and presenting us with legitimate progress along the way. Subplots involving Lisa’s children, though? Pointless (despite a great turn by Imogen King, playing her daughter), and underline the show’s often embarassing lack of character – it feels very empty, personality-wise – which can make it easy to lose interest in the story…
But: hang in there. In the back half of the first season, even if the subplots don’t connect, the actors are able to push through initial story constraints to engender more interest, and this is very successfully carried over to the second season, where the formula humorously flip-flops and the mystery sorta flops while the subplots and characters soar, particularly Daniel Ryan as the DI, in an incredibly humane performance.
This flip-flop is arguably more worth our time overall, though, which makes the swap to a new central DS in season 3 (Marsha Thomason) unfortunate, though The Bay has, by this point, established its own rhythm and tone – far, far away from the dour dramaturgy and noise of Broadchurch – that we’re trusting and willing to give this new run a go, and, wouldn’t ya know, things are able to proceed with even more confidence at the outset, suggesting good things for an (at this point, 2022) forthcoming fourth season.