Broadchurch: Series 2 Episode 4 Review
Reviewed by David Selby.
I assume it’ll be no surprise when I tell you that the Sandbrook subplot has been the dullest and most uninteresting component of Broadchurch’s second series for me: treated as a cold case with the occasional development and expounded through only brief flashbacks and throwaway lines, it’s been bordering on forgettable and time-wasting. Until this week.
Broadchurch employed its trademark trick of entrenching itself in raw human drama, and managed to grip me in the same way it did back in Series One – by exploring the humanity rather than the legal mechanics of the storylines. DI Alec Hardy’s experience finally provides a reason to invest emotionally in the Sandbrook case, whilst the sinister developments back home arouse suspicion towards all parties.
Are Lee and Claire Ashworth both in cahoots as vindictive Brady-and-Hindley style child killers – or was it a more domestic turnout, where Claire and Ricky’s affair was discovered by Pippa and one, in desperation, took the most twisted measure to silence her and frame Lee in the process? Either way, I’d be surprised if Claire doesn’t turn out to be an unhinged nutter, because with Eve Myles’ deceitful and at times troubled performance, it certainly seems to be where the show is heading.
Equally human was the wholly rewarding reveal of Hardy’s family, expanding the Whoniverse cast yet again with Lucy Cohu who played Captain Jack’s daughter in the third series of Torchwood. Their daughter, a character whose defining trait is currently debating profanities, is someone who could probably use a bit more screen time.
But back to where I started: humanity vs legal mechanics. Perchance humanity triumphs for the simple reason that the legal mechanics grind and wheeze like an old toy. From the get-go this series, Broadchurch has abandoned any sense of systematic realism with its court case – and quite shockingly from writer Chris Chibnall, who previously penned the marvellous Law & Order UK.
The case has been a shambles, abused by Sharon Bishop, a character whose regular episode-by-episode journey consists of being a ruthless tyrant in the courtroom and having redeeming moments outside of it by juxtaposing her with the yet more heartless Abby Thompson – and it’s not like Judge Sonia Sharma has been condemning any of Bishop’s ludicrous accusations. Jocelyn was, in that respect, wrong: Bishop doesn’t know how to play the system. She’s not even a part of the system. She somehow instead bears an intoxicating narrative power allowing her to change the most basic mechanics of interrogation.
So thankfully, steering away from the court case was the best move for Episode Four, and when we did eventually make a return to that ominous location, it was with the thrilling return of Susan Wright (Pauline Quirke).
It’s a slow process that’s a long way from the first series, but Broadchurch is beginning to find its feet again by returning to what it always: tenderly and uncompromisingly human.