Broadchurch: Series 2 Episode 5 Review
Reviewed by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.
“We’re never going to please everybody,” said Eve Myles this week. Truer words were never spoken but despite Myles and her co-stars’ best efforts Broadchurch, quite tragically, appears to be doing something even worse – it’s displeasing the vast majority of its audience. With brickbats thrown in its direction weekly, diminishing ratings (Broadchurch has been losing millions to Silent Witness, a fact no one could have predicted prior to series two airing) and, critically, a lack of investment by the viewers, Broadchurch seems to be taking a nosedive. But did episode five – just over the halfway mark – see a change in tone for this rapidly deteriorating series?
Where series one of Broadchurch lay its foundations in tough realism, series two is rooted in painfully forced drama. Worse even: melodrama. Each episode, this week’s outing more so than the rest, is stuffed to the rafters with shots of characters meandering across picture-postcard landscapes talking in pure exposition. DI Alec Hardy, DS Ellie Miller, well meaning vicar Paul Coates, his girlfriend Becca Fisher, QC Jocelyn Knight and Mark Latimer all fell victim to this affliction – exacerbated by director Jonathan Teplitzky’s (in his first foray into Broadchurch) showy, distracting camerawork. Perhaps it’s not Teplitzky’s fault and Chris Chibnall’s increasingly feeble scripts themselves demand the characters to look guilty, watching each other with overdone suspicion while theories are bandied about.
Take the scene in the courtroom foyer where Alec and Ellie’s conversation with the shifty, aggravating Susan Wright (Pauline Quirke, fresh from Birds of a Feather, turning the grump up to eleven) was watched over by Lucy Miller and the Latimer couple – or Lee Ashworth angrily staring at Alec, Ellie and Ricky Gillespie’s waterside meeting. The dramatic importance of these scenes are further emphasised – nay, stuffed down our throats – by Ólafur Arnalds’ droning and interfering score, which has transformed from haunting and melancholic to intrusive and irksome.
The first series was a mystery wrapped around a sturdy emotional core. Series two appears to lack any emotional fulcrum; it’s a bundle of loose ends, red herrings and seemingly inconsequential strands mashed together with little concern for the Broadchurch townspeople. Chris Chibnall has taken every slight idea he came up with for series two, thrown it against the wall and crossed his fingers something sticks. Ultimately, very little has remained a solid storyline.
We have meagre human interest stories (nothing compared to the painfully realistic divided community we saw in the wake of Danny Latimer’s death last series) such as QC Jocelyn Knight (exquisitely played by Charlotte Rampling) with her waning eyesight, fellow barrister Sharon Bishop and her incarcerated son (a storyline quickly fleshed out by a Bishop vs. Knight shouting match), Paul and Becca’s relationship (untouched since episode one) and Beth Latimer’s side project of establishing a charity in Danny’s name. It’s all too much for Broadchurch and storylines like these strike all the wrong notes. Unless Broadchurch pulls it out of the bag in the remaining three hours – and I, for one, would be glad to be proven wrong – I predict a messy end for this once majestic beast.
The arrival of Ricky Gillespie last week – another character who would be right at home in EastEnders – was a relative step forward in the Sandbrook case, one of the many balls Chris Chibnall has been juggling this series. His grievance with Lee Ashworth is unsurprising so there was nothing particularly shocking on this front. With the bridesmaid romance theory rubbished and no alibi, Ricky seems like the top candidate to have offed Lisa Newbery particularly with his sinister appearance within the flashback to the bluebell-strewn forest (it’s been so clumsily pointed at, it has to be Lisa’s burial site).
However, there are other suspects – namely, Mr and Mrs Lee Ashworth, both of whom have exhibited questionable behaviour in the past few weeks. Similar to David Selby – who did a superb job covering last week – my suspicions rest on Claire Ripley who has long been painted as an innocent in the Sandbrook case. While her statements have changed somewhat, she currently maintains the fact she awoke during the night, drugged, and found Lee cleaning the house. We have only Claire’s word for this therefore the most likely path Chris Chibnall will take is that Claire will turn out to be the Sandbrook killer – or co-conspirator.
Regarding the traditional closing twist, the discovery of the furnace seemingly used to destroy Lisa Newbery’s body is far from shocking especially when you consider how old the Sandbrook case now is. This week’s episode did see a few marginal advancements in the Sandbrook case (the courtroom palaver rightly taking a back seat) but nothing particularly groundbreaking. Let’s hope for something a tad more scintillating in the coming weeks.
The majority of the performances this week were characteristically strong and by now the best players can clearly be separated from the weaker links. David Tennant is excellent as expected – although I do worry occasionally that he’s on autopilot – but Olivia Colman just dazzles. Her performance as Ellie Miller is so beautifully nuanced – running the whole gamut of emotions – that you forget she’s acting. It’s always a delight to see her perform. Another actress worth more than a mention is Charlotte Rampling who is superlative week in, week out and this week we fortunately saw a kinder side to Jocelyn.
On the other side of the fence is Marianne Jean-Baptiste who appears to have been given very little to do other than sneer and swagger as QC Sharon Bishop. While I understand there was always going to have to be someone to defend Joe Miller, Bishop seems caricatural: bludgeoning Reverend Coates into standing in the docks, verbally jousting with her enemy, having a biblical quote-off. Bishop and her pupil, Abby (Phoebe Waller-Bridge who bagged the best line last week), dressed in black, drift around Broadchurch oozing bad blood. At times it’s difficult to take seriously.
Things are not looking up for Broadchurch. With a rambling, scattershot narrative, an overabundance of characters, and a frustratingly arty direction, Broadchurch is deteriorating each week. Reviews have been far from complimentary and the once steep viewing figures have crumbled down. But I cleave to the hopes that Broadchurch will emerge from the ashes – Chris Chibnall has three more hours to prove me wrong. And I desperately hope he does.