Broadchurch, Series 2

No one will mourn you. – Beth Latimer

You are dead to us, do you understand? – Ellie Miller

I’ve missed two episodes of Broadchurch this year, and I never bothered to catch up on iview. I’ve seen shows that have had ongoing sotrylines that have dropped in quality in their second season, but Broadchurch is perhaps the best example I can think of for letting a well written, acted, directed and produced crime drama just stand on its own as a miniseries. What set the first series of Broadchurch apart was that the serialised mystery wasn’t just something that needed to be solved the way they did on Law and Order: SVU, but that the victim, Danny Latimer, and the people close to him, were treated as characters. The serialisation on the first series Broadchurch is a step up from the combination of procedural mysteries with ongoing character work in Grantchester, which I wrote about last night, but the second series has paled in comparison to both its predecessor and this new show about an attractive priest who solves crimes.

A few weeks ago, I was frustrated with the direction that Broadchurch had taken in its second series. I wasn’t particularly articulate, but then I heard Maureen Ryan talk about it on episode of Talking TV With Ryan and Ryan, and she managed to articulate her issues with the second series of Broadchurch much better than I could. This sentence in Mo’s review of the second series sums up the issues I have with the show perfectly:

Sadly, Season 2 of “Broadchurch” is amped up and melodramatic in ways that feel clumsy and inorganic when they’re not simply loud (the soundtrack is often gratingly bombastic).

The series started this way: Joe Miller was all set to plea Guilty, but then he changed his mind, and caused more pain to the people he hurt. It seems that Chris Chibnall was thinking about what the second series of Broadchurch would be when he was writing the first, because of the way that Alec and Ellie handled the case, but it didn’t exactly work. Yes, Ellie assaulted her husband after he was arrested, and yes that can be twisted to be police brutality, but everything that was brought up during Joe’s trial from the first series of the show seemed contrived. It’s as if the events first series, such as a manufactured gap in Mark’s alibi, were reverse engineered in order to make Joe seem as if he wasn’t guilty. And (spoiler alert), the jury found him not guilty, but rather than enhancing the effect it had on the people of Broadchurch, it cheapens the work done in the first series. The most interesting consequence of the trial is how it led to the repair of Ellie and Beth’s fractured friendship.

One of the reasons the court case didn’t work is because it brought in new characters that had a history between them that felt inorganic. Sharon Bishop, who defended Joe, was once the prosecutor Jocelyn’s protege, but they had a falling out. Bishop’s defense of Joe was nothing other than an attack on the people connected to Danny, and the only reason Jocelyn agreed to prosecute the case was because she saw that Sharon was defending Joe. It turns out that Sharon’s son was in jail, and she wanted Jocelyn to defend him, but she refused because she was going blind. So Sharon blamed Jocelyn for her son’s predicament, and Jocelyn was mad at Sharon for not being the kind of lawyer she wanted her to be. Unfortunately the conflict between these characters wasn’t developed as organically as the drama of the first series, and because we didn’t know or sympathise with these characters, it fell flat.

The second series of Broadchurch also picked up on Hardy’s cold casae that he mentioned in the first series. The case in itself wasn’t particularly interesting, there were lies upon lies, and a pendant. What I liked about it was that it brought Alec and Ellie back together working on a case. One of the downfalls of the series’ focus on Joe’s trial is that the chemistry between David Tennant and Olivia Colman in their professional relationship was the highlight of the first series. They care about each other, but Ellie’s to fragile to admit it, and the best lines of the show are usually exchanges between Alec and Ellie. One of the best moments of the finale is a montage of scenes in which they interrogate three different suspects connected to the case. It was great to see them working together again, especially because they’re so good at their jobs. It’s not a coincidence that the only scenes that worked in this finale were those in which the characters affected by Danny’s murder had to deal with the fact that Joe was found not guilty.

The other moments of the finale that worked were the scene in which the Millers and the Latimers banished Joe from Broadchurch, and when the two families have a picnic on the beach. As great as David Tennant is, Olivia Colman and Jodie Whittaker’s performances were the highlight of the first series of Broadchurch, and it’s true for the second series. Once the show had moved past their antagonism and realised that they were mad at the same person, they were able to work through their grief together, and the acting and writing when they banish Joe from Broadchurch are the best of the series.

ITV has commissioned a third series of Broadchurch, but I don’t know if I’ll watch it. The second series has been interesting in parts, but it didn’t touch on the beauty and the raw emotion of the first. The second series of Broadchurch hasn’t diminished my love for the first, but if the third series is in the same vain, I think there will continue to be diminishing returns.

Other thoughts:

  • Alec: “You’re too emotionally wound up!”
    Ellie: “Me?! Have you met yourself?”
  • Jocelyn says this after Joe is found not guilty: “I can take a loss, but this one mattered. Now the whole town knows I failed.” There is absolutely no subtext.
  • Whenever I see David Tennant act in his Scottish accent, I think that those four years of him being English in Doctor Who were a mistake.
  • Ricky is such a dick, telling his daughter that his niece’s murder wasn’t his own fault: “I’m afraid Lee’s really hurt her”
  • Alec: “Miller I couldn’t have done this without you.”
    Ellie: “No you couldn’t. And you didn’t.”
    That’s what counts as emotion for these two.
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