Broadchurch: Series 2 Episode 2 Review
Reviewed by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.
In its first episode, this second series of Broadchurch set out its stall as a scintillating courtroom drama with the mystique of the first run retained as well as a considerably wider scope. What this week’s episode had to do was continue the themes of the first, firmly establishing what this renewed Broadchurch was about and nudge the plot on just that little bit; it succeeded but we were served up an episode with little of the velocity exhibited last week.
With Claire Ashworth (née Ripley) firmly installed in her comely country cottage and this sudden arrival of potentially murderous husband, Lee (James D’Arcy is a chilling, muscular presence , appearing like a nefarious Benedict Cumberbatch) in the area, it was inevitable that her comfortable if lonely lifestyle would be shaken up. When DI Alec Hardy arranged the reunion of the Ashworth marrieds, it was obvious that events would led to the cementation of his title as Britain’s worst cop. While the last ten minutes was signposted a mile away, it was still palm-sweatingly tense stuff. In typically ITV melodramatic fashion, Beth Latimer’s (played with ungovernable rage by Jodie Whittaker) waters broke at the worst possible moment when poor Claire was whisked off by her seedy husband while Beth berated browbeaten Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman continues to go from strength to strength).
With two characters’ fates in the balance, this week’s ending was further evidence Chris Chibnall has mastered the art of the juicy cliffhanger with viewers nationwide no doubt punching the air in frustration at yet another week of waiting. Broadchurch couldn’t have returned with the slow-burning pace of the first series and it’s evident that Chibnall has taken a far more soapy approach to matters but that’s not a criticism; with the talent featured here behind and in front of the camera, this new tone works in spades.
Pushing DI Hardy’s latest pratfall aside, events within the Wessex Crown Court have escalated to a worrying degree with Joe Miller’s confession now blackballed from proceedings. It’s the deciding and most damning bit of evidence the Latimer family, headed by the unfeeling QC Jocelyn Knight, had and Ellie’s angry rage at Joe (which audiences, understandably, ignored at the time) now renders that moot. It’s a frustrating yet exciting twist in what’s expected to be a snaky trial.
Presiding over the whole ordeal was the wonderful Meera Syal as Judge Sonia Sharma, and while this week’s episode left little impression of her outside the court, hopefully in the coming weeks we’ll see more of her. The same can be said for QC Sharon Bishop (Marianne Jean-Baptiste is superb) whose tough-as-nails manner appears to be something of a façade as her emotional phone call revealed. Sadly, this doesn’t apply to Abby Thompson (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), Bishop’s pupil, who has done very little so far although fingers crossed Waller-Bridge gets something more substantial to do in the coming weeks.
I have a couple of cavils, however. Olly Stevens (played excellently by Jonathan Bailey) appears to be set to a different wavelength as everything he speaks is dialogue that would look clichéd if it was said by a teenage boy. Last week he was discussing the attractiveness of Becca Fisher, the hotelier (Simone McAullay) – who, on another note, isn’t the best at her job going by Abby and Sharon’s experience – with his own mother and now it was describing the court case as “sick”. Furthermore, the death of Liz Roper, Beth’s mother who passed away between series one and two was a fact strangely brushed over. Considering just how fractured the Latimer family is, you think something like the death of Beth’s own mother would have had severer effects. It’s pettifogging, I’ll admit, but there was something off about the way they handled Granny Latimer’s passing.
Broadchurch is still, undoubtedly, one of the best things on TV at the moment, boasting storytelling on a Rowling level with the seeds sown aeons ago for conflict and drama only appearing now. Chibnall is a writing virtuoso and Broadchurch continues to shine as his true magnum opus. Each week, I think about what might emerge in the next episode but it’s difficult. Broadchurch is now hazy and unpredictable, and there’s nothing quite as compelling as it.