Broadchurch: Series 2 Episode 8 Review
Reviewed by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.
It’s been a turbulent run for Broadchurch with critics going to town on it for its lack of focus and cluttered plot. There have been times where Broadchurch has disappointed me with episodes that have included Michelin-man padding and scads of aimless storylines, and come this week’s finale one would expect answers. On that respect, yes, Chris Chibnall tied up all the loose threads but there were caveats with the series as a whole.
Starting with the positives and, principally, the Latimer family dynamic. It seemed a little too neat for Beth and Mark to continue life as normal but taking liberties is something Chibnall thrives at so we can let this one slide. Particularly when you consider how successfully he wraps up every other plot strand he had going. But I digress. Beth and Mark’s relationship along with daughters Chloe and Lizzie was the emotional fulcrum (contrary to every other bit of human interest drama Chibnall threw at us), and seeing the family Latimer on the beach, reunited with the Millers was a perfect send-off for what has, undoubtedly, been a problematic series. It was nice of Chibnall to finish reassuring us that there are some strong, compelling elements in Broadchurch and that series two wasn’t all for naught.
What did not work so much was the strife between respective QCs Jocelyn Knight and Sharon Bishop whose friendship turned sour was something we never quite bought. Both seemed like characters who – and forgive me for sounding like a stuck record – were fleshed out for the sake of it. Neither contributed much personally (aside from, obviously, acting as defence and prosecution in the Joe Miller trial) and now with hindsight, it can said that they were extraneous in the grand scheme of Broadchurch series two. Sharon’s banged-up son and Jocelyn’s worsening vision, deceased mother and unrequited crush were a handful of back-stories that were just unnecessary. Effective and skilled barristers they may have been but both were still sub-par and unneeded characters through and through (although in all fairness, both Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Charlotte Rampling put their backs into this so praise must be landed at their doorstep for sterling performances each week).
With the Miller trial having come to an end rather tidily after a horrendous if expected ‘not guilty’ verdict, the spotlight twisted round to the Sandbrook case. Originally, DI Alec Hardy’s gloomy trip down not-very-nice nostalgia lane eclipsed the high intrigue of the courtroom but then, as both stories puttered down the home stretch, we realised they were even in terms of quality. There were two rather large problems with both; for the Miller trial, the majority of us guessed the final ruling long before this week’s episode; for the Sandbrook case, there was actually little interest in discovering the identity of Pippa and Lisa Newbury’s murderers/kidnappers.
Even as both halves of the wonderfully batty Ashworth couple confessed all in the sadly underused Broadchurch police station, there was little enthusiasm in discovering the truth. Conversely, there was but purely because after eight on-off weeks of tuning in, a resolution would be appreciated. However, we didn’t want the answer because we cared. Personally, my heart was never in the Sandbrook case and that’s because we never saw the effects of it on the people directly involved. We glimpsed an utterly empty Cate Gillespie a few weeks ago, brutish Ricky a number of times and Pippa and Lisa cropped up in the odd flashback but there was never any real understanding of the people involved or the consequences. But that’s the perils of retrospectively solving a mystery – and of telling an old story.
On the other hand, we saw the effects of the Sandbrook case on Hardy and, indeed, he’s been spending the last two series stumbling and grumbling over this but while there was tangible satisfaction in seeing him emerge from the investigation with it solved, that was it. The Sandbrook case could never evoke the same reaction the investigation in Danny Latimer’s death did because we just didn’t spend enough time with the people (victims, parents, friends, even the killers themselves who all fall into the aforesaid categories) or the place. Strictly speaking, this was a case of the Midsomer Murders ilk.
Regarding the resolution, there were many routes Chibnall could have taken here and, if we are realistic, the murderers could have only turned out to be Lee, Claire or Ricky Gillespie. In the end it was the three of them: Ricky clobbered Lisa to death when he discovered her and Lee bonking then Claire soused Pippa with enough Rohypnol to fell a horse before Lee smothered her to death. All very merry and unspectacular, then.
Finally, when all was said and done, and the audience were prepared to move on, the camera panned up from the Dorset sea and ‘Broadchurch Will Return’ materialised onscreen – and not for the first time. Where the series will go, I truly don’t know but it’s likely to be another whodunit although you can never be sure with these things. A pet theory of mine is that the entire third series will chronicle Joe Miller’s train journey from Bournemouth to Sheffield. I’ve done that trip myself but it’s none too interesting, mind.
On its own, this series finale of Broadchurch was strong because it focused on Broadchurch as a wounded community first (I don’t think I was the only one who felt that buzz of excitement and satisfaction when the townspeople united Wicker Man style and exiled Joe Miller) and a murder town second (pausing in the middle to untangle the Sandbrook case once and for all) but, generally, this second series has been a wildly uneven run.
There have been some excellent ideas involving the delivery of justice and the legal system as well as an intriguing initial concept (as an audience, we know the killer is guilty but the police’s mishandling of the investigation – which we overlooked because of our loyalties to the characters – left open the possibility of the killer getting away with it) but the scope was colossal and unwieldy. What kept us tuning in was not the emotionally-disconnected murder inquiry (Sandbrook) or the court case (Broadchurch) but the characters. Take into consideration that these are the characters from series one and not the newcomers who were landed with oodles of storylines to force us into identifying with them.
Broadchurch mark two simply didn’t hit the mark enough and while it was eminently watchable thanks to some engaging performances and a scattering of characters we truly care about, it was nowhere near as good as series one or, and I stress this, a lot of current dramas today. So I will be tuning into series three because the lukewarm reaction to this run will, hopefully, encourage Chris Chibnall to have a bit of a rethink and shape up series three into a fine beast. But right now, it’s goodbye to Broadchurch and all who inhabit it – for better or for worse.