Broadchurch: Series 2 Episode 7 Review
Reviewed by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.
Despite this entire series of Broadchurch feeling like one maze-like narrative, this week’s episode felt very much like the beginning of a two-part finale. Chris Chibnall teased out the jury’s verdict on Joe Miller for the whole episode (climaxing in an obscenely unfair cliffhanger) and thus little else got done but that’s not to say this wasn’t another engaging entry into the increasingly knotty Broadchurch saga.
Perhaps I’m alone in thinking this but the defence’s alternative scenario for how Danny perished seemed a tad woolly for my liking. So Mark offed his son when young Danny discovered his affair with Becca Fisher the hotelier, the latter of which would have plainly seen Mark throw the scythe at Danny? For even the wildly imaginative QC Sharon Bishop, a three-way conspiracy to murder between Becca, Mark and Nige Carter (who Mark called upon shortly after Danny died) seems that little bit too far-fetched. Thankfully, her speech was riddled with problems and I’m confident the result the none-too-friendly-looking Madam Foreperson will deliver next week will be favourable to the prosecution. QC Jocelyn Knight’s own declamation was beautifully delivered by Charlotte Rampling (a steadfast positive in a problematic series), summarising the quite frankly damning evidence against Joe Miller. But whatever the result, it’s bound to irritate us; should Miller walk free, we’ll be enraged at the miscarriage of justice but if he’s convicted then that renders the entire series moot.
While there might have been a good deal of filler this week (Claire and Lee Ashworth appear to be two characters who fair significantly better when they appear separately) Broadchurch managed to strike a neat balance between character moments – viz. realism – and courtroom intrigue. The honeyed cliff-top picnic was a beautiful touch, expertly shot by director Mike Barker (a real step up from the Instagram-esque camerawork of Jonathan Teplitzky). But the unrequited love aspect of Jocelyn and the nicest journalist in Dorset, Maggie Radcliffe (two actors who worked their socks off here) seemed tacked on. Already lumbered with a weakening eyesight and a poorly mother storyline, Chibnall appeared to have expanded on Charlotte Rampling’s character for the sake of it – or maybe because she’s Charlotte Rampling. Rampling has done plenty with the role but hers and Bishop’s back-stories don’t come off as necessary or believable. Notwithstanding this, the blossoming (you could say rekindling) relationship between Maggie and Jocelyn has been a particular highlight of this series.
With the Broadchurch trial winding down, there’s an increased amount of pressure for the Sandbrook trial to deliver the goods. How Chibnall is going to tie everything up in a bow that will please everyone is the question on everyone’s lips and I’d wager he won’t satisfy all viewers but hopefully he’ll do it with a bit of the chutzpah he had when he decided to press ahead with a second series. Regarding his script this week, the scenes set within the courtroom were far more deftly handled than in previous weeks. The tension did wonders for ground that has been trodden repeatedly this series.
My greatest source of anxiety about Broadchurch is not about whether Joe Miller will walk or whether Pippa Newbury will turn up a corpse (though from what Lee hinted, it appears she may have been bronzing nicely in France), it’s about whether Beth Latimer will leave her husband. The Latimer family have been a constant in the whole of Broadchurch with Beth and Mark’s fraught relationship in a near permanent state of ambiguity. Major kudos to Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan for turning in such sterling performances week in, week out. While that couple’s relationship might not be healthy, it’s nice to see Beth’s friendship with Ellie is mending after its breakdown at the end of the last series – the silver lining on a tempestuous cloud.
Broadchurch series two has been comprised of many different elements but despite so many successful parts (the development of Alec and Ellie; Charlotte Rampling; some revelations in the Sandbrook case) there are so many weak links (extraneous back-stories, unfocused narrative, clunky dialogue) Broadchurch has failed to make a cohesive whole. With a streamlined plot, this could have been something special but Broadchurch is now just a mixed bag. There are things to like but far too many detriments.
This second series of Broadchurch is an enjoyable beast, undoubtedly, but lacks the sophistication of both the first series and a lot of current successful dramas. It might come with a lot of baggage but that’s the challenge Chris Chibnall set himself. Whether he’ll pull the whole thing out of the bag and not leave us with a sour taste in the mouth remains to be seen but I’m still holding onto the hope he’ll throw a curveball at us and simply blow us away.
This week’s episode of Broadchurch could have been far worse but the compelling performances of David Tennant and Olivia Colman, the gradual resolution of more than a few story arcs, and Charlotte Rampling’s sheer presence are the saving graces. With the all important pendant (a leaving gift bestowed on Claire by her Nain back in Wales – a fact you’ll have learned if you’ve been reading Erin Kelly’s terrific short stories; if not, then do catch up, they really are smashing) now in Alec’s possession and several suspects lingering guiltily in the frame, the resolution is just around the corner and the prospect of answers is a really appealing one. If it’s largely pleasing the completist within me.