Broadchurch: Series 2 Episode 6 Review
Reviewed by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.
After weeks of narrative incoherence, endless vista-staring and a lack of investment from viewers, Broadchurch has turned up trumps this week with an instalment that was surely on level with the premiere (and series one) in terms of quality. Having sat through a weak, sped-up story with plot strands aplenty, week six is when Broadchurch has turned itself around and reclaimed some of the glory of the first series.
A lot of this second series of Broadchurch’s criticisms have stemmed simply from its lack of consequences. While characters such as Alec Hardy have undergone real emotional journeys, narratively Broadchurch has offered few answers. Episode six saw the exposition-heavy dialogue and endless newly-emerged plot strands discontinued with an episode that managed to nudge the story along, develop the characters and tease where the show might be heading to boot. Chris Chibnall wrote a script this week that was stuffed with emotional oomph, nothing too showy or distracting, just gentle, almost imperceptible moments between the characters that echoed the first series.
Joe Miller’s U-turn on his confession has had equal – perhaps harder-hitting – consequences for the townspeople of Broadchurch. As a result of Joe’s son, Tom’s false statement in the stand regarding Mark Latimer and his rendezvouses, Mark was forced to admit to his wife, Beth, that he planned to leave her had their son still been alive. Jodie Whittaker gave a quite astonishing performance this week, once again exhibiting her ability to come apart at the seams at will.
Similarly, Ellie Miller’s meltdown and superbly written denunciation of Tom was exquisitely performed by Olivia Colman. On the character of Ellie, she really has come on as a person particularly after her vow to solve the Sandbrook case. She’s taken on an edge we’ve not seen: the assertiveness she lost between series one and two (as a result of being ostracised in Broadchurch) has returned but, this being Ellie Miller, she’s retained the gentle wholesomeness we love her for.
Interestingly, Claire Ripley has come out as one of the chief suspects in the Sandbrook case after weeks of seemingly feigned doe-eyed naïveté. I had her marked as a suspicious type from the off purely because the writing initially indicated that she was innocent. In recent weeks we have seen her sketchy story changed a number of times, have sex with the husband she’s hiding from and act strangely in a number of situations (notably her apparent communications with Ricky Gillespie).
Claire’s guilt was finally confirmed tonight at the climax of an episode that saw her completely unravel – she was the person who stole the pendant from Tess Hardy, née Henchard’s car (sporting a fetching black hoodie, too). Presently, it seems too early in the day for her to be the Sandbrook killer, though she was squarely in the frame this week. This reviewer’s guess now is that the missing Lisa Newbery has something to do with her cousin’s death but how all this connects remains to be seen. Only two more episodes to go, folks.
While I’m not wholly invested in some of the subplots Chris Chibnall has laid out for us this series, I found myself caring about them more than ever in this week’s episode. Despite the now twinkly Jocelyn Knight’s (another sublime performance by Charlotte Rampling) ill mother serving as a rather clumsy timebomb for the barrister this series (ready to explode just when Knight is on top of the Joe Miller trial), my heart went out to Knight. With failing eyesight and a deceased mother, things are looking grim for her but will Jocelyn step down from the case and leave the Latimers heading for the rocks?
Similarly, while I didn’t much care for this story, I found myself delighted when Reverend Paul Coates cancelled his trips to Joe Miller in prison. Although he has not had much to do this series, Matthew Gravelle is excellent at making you hate Joe Miller. Initially – back at the end of series one – you pitied the man but his change of tune is eating away at Broadchurch and that’s more than enough reason to dislike the man. Jocelyn Knight’s nemesis, fellow QC Sharon Bishop, is also a character you love to hate and Marianne Jean-Baptiste does a sterling job at balancing pantomime villainy with genuine pathos.
Someone whose performance has been rather overlooked is Andrew Buchan who has embraced the layered, difficult role of Mark Latimer and really turned him around. Much like his wife, Mark has been through the wringer since series one and Buchan has excelled in the part. Likewise, David Tennant has really matured Alec since series one (and in these past few episodes) with his pesky heart condition and his relationship with Tess and his daughter, Daisy both on the mend.
Despite Broadchurch’s mid-series slump, it has managed to pull up its socks and deliver an episode of the same calibre as the first series. With a solid story we can invest in, excellent performances from all quarters (there’s barely a weak link in the cast) and a freshly honed direction, Broadchurch is shooting back up to the top. Fingers crossed it keeps it up for another fortnight.