Broadchurch: Series 2 Episode 1 Review
Reviewed by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.
Since we last checked in on the turbulent town of Broadchurch a lot has happened. For one, it went stateside with a tame remake also starring David Tennant but back here on British soil, it became the biggest thing since sliced bread. Broadchurch was an almighty success for ITV, a tour de force that held the nation transfixed in the countdown to the truth about Danny Latimer’s murder with critics (myself included) citing it as pushing the envelope of TV drama. Unsurprisingly, in its wake, Broadchurch gathered even more fans and garnered even more praise so it’s safe to say there was a lot riding on this surprise second series.
What can said for this week’s opener is that despite the apparent lull after the original crime was tied up, Broadchurch has in no way lost its momentum. While we have no central murder, the show’s lead writer Chris Chibnall has compensated with the core trial of Joe Miller (played with a nicely understated menace by Matthew Gravelle) and a number of tantalising plot lines running parallel. What’s more, we have the predicament of Claire Ripley (Eve Myles is terrific at balancing quiet vulnerability and a characteristic sweetness), the wife of the key suspect in Alec Hardy’s previous botched investigation, Sandbrook.
It’s interesting to see Chibnall adding flesh to the first series while establishing the second as it was revealed Hardy took up the job at Broadchurch because of the close proximity to Claire. While Hardy’s determination to solve the collapsed Sandbrook case will, undoubtedly, play second fiddle to the Joe Miller enquiry, it will be interesting to see how it pans out and whether Hardy will get justice. With the brooding, potentially homicidal Lee Ashworth (already James D’Arcy is deeply frightening despite having not one line in this episode) on his trail, the fate of Hardy, Claire and even Ellie Miller are up in the air.
The underlying mystery of the first series of Broadchurch was not what had viewers returning week after week because the dynamic between David Tennant and Olivia Colman was so electric, you could never miss an episode. For the second series both of them return but the partnership between the golden-hearted and merry Ellie Miller and dour Scotsman Alec Hardy has changed. After the reveal last series that Ellie was sleeping with Danny Latimer’s killer, her life has been upended and the buttery smiles of everyone’s favourite policewoman replaced with a sad, weepy rictus that should not be worn on the face of Olivia Colman. Now in a hi-vis jacket (replacing her trademark orange cagoule), Ellie Miller stalks Devon with a mournful weariness that is heartbreaking to watch.
In a groundbreaking move, ITV have also commissioned a series of synoptic Broadchurch e-books that tie in with each week’s episode and the first depicts what Ellie got up to in Devon. It’s well worth a read and really supplements your viewing experience, adding considerable depth to Ellie’s life away from Broadchurch.
While Ellie may keep up a despondent exterior, she is still quite clearly the woman the nation took to their collective hearts in series one with her vibrant, almost unintentional humour often shining through (“Did you put that there?”). In fact, this week’s episode was peppered with some cracking and unexpected one-liners (“Do we need milk?”), providing some well-needed levity to a suitably sombre opener.
The entire premiere had a grim, funereal atmosphere to it particularly after the revelation that Joe Miller considers himself innocent despite confessing to Danny Latimer’s murder at the end of series one. But is he really guilty or did he take the rap for someone else, perhaps, and Danny’s true killer remains at large? Other questions that remain unanswered are what really did happen at Sandbrook, whether Lee Ashworth really did off Pippa Newberry and if her cousin, Lisa is still alive?
Other newcomers Chibnall has drafted in are steely QC Jocelyn Knight, unsavourily lured out of retirement to become the Latimer’s counsel because she wants to combat former pupil, QC Sharon Bishop, and not because she empathises with the grieving Latimer family. Kudos to Chris Chibnall for bagging Charlotte Rampling, an actress almost as reluctant as her character with regards to appearing on British TV screens. Rampling is terrific here, spitting out a load of witty lines quicker than a stand-up comedian (“Spare me the sentimental populism, I get enough of that from your rag”) whilst upholding an almost ruthless, haughty manner. Butting heads with Knight is another lawyer with a chess related name: QC Sharon Bishop, played with a hardened intensity by Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Additional characters returning to, sadly, stand at the back of the stage are Arthur Darvill (just one of a profusion of Doctor Who and Torchwood alumni appearing here) as kindly vicar, Paul Coates and Jonathan Bailey and Carolyn Pickles (who – much to my delight – got more to do here than in the entire first series) repeating their roles as Broadchurch’s local journalists.
With a veritable tapestry of storylines and dangling threads erected, Chris Chibnall’s award-winning drama returned with an opener that reminded us just what made the first series so special. With characteristically strong performances from David Tennant and the marvellous Olivia Colman (every word, every movement feels real), a plethora of intriguing newbies to follow and a remarkably plausible storyline, the pieces are set in place for seven more weeks of beautifully executed white-knuckle drama.