Monday, January 5, 2015

Broadchurch - Season 2, Episode 1 - Review

Given that I invested far more emotion in the first season of Broadchurch than I have in any TV show for years, it's fair to say that my expectations for the second season were extremely high. Sharpening my red pen, I glared at the laptop screen and just dared Chris Chibnall to ruin these characters so I would have something to complain about.

But despite a somewhat melodramatic, music-heavy opening, Broadchurch 2.0 is instantly compelling and nearly flawless. After the lukewarm Gracepoint, just the atmosphere alone is enough to evoke positive response, but Chibnall's writing is exceptional, and the acting is, as ever, superb.

I'd better go ahead and say that this will have spoilers not only for season 2, but also, necessarily, for season 1.

Both of my suspicions were confirmed as to plot. The Latimers and Co. are still involved in the old case, which has moved the the court phase. Not only that, but Joe Miller (who in a clever twist, was not mentioned in advertisements) has decided to plead not guilty. This means there will be a full trial, and lots more drama. For the Latimers, the rest of the episode is spent trying to hire the best lawyer in Broadchurch: Jocelyn Knight (Charlotte Rampling).

Unfortunately, Knight is a recluse, and it takes all the efforts of newspaper editor Maggie, combined with the announcement that Joe will be represented by one of Knight's old students, Sharon Bishop, to convince Knight to take the case. All this results in the exhumation of Danny's body, which itself results in an explosive confrontation between Ellie, Mark, and Beth.

Meanwhile, we learn the the reason Alec Hardy came to Broadchurch in the first place: to protect Claire Ripley (Eve Myles), the wife of the killer of the girls of the case of Sandbrook...of course. She had given her husband a false alibi, but on the persuasion of Hardy, rescinded this alibi with the promise that he, Hardy, would protect her. Since Alec's own wife bungled the case (I was holding out hope Eve Myles would be said wife, but I sense romance in the air, all the same), he feels responsible for putting Claire in danger, and has thus spirited her away to where her husband, Lee Ashworth, cannot find her. Except that he can, and he's back, and he's James D'Arcy.

In other news: Olly is still a jerk. Paul Coates and Becca Fisher are dating (hey man, remember that whole "unequally yoked" thing?). Mark Latimer is hanging out with Tom Miller which is both a little bit strange and rather creepily reminiscent of Joe and Danny. Tom has rejected Ellie, who's been working in a startlingly green Devon.

And...where did THAT come from?
Chibnall takes the time to reintroduce all the old characters, often in surprising ways. Perhaps the most surprising thing, to me, was that Paul was visiting Joe. This is reasonable, and within character, but I dread to think what will happen when the Latimers find out.

Where a lesser writer would have allowed Ellie to wallow in grief for a few episodes, he quickly forces her to move on - which lightens proceedings a great deal. She's barely given a few moments before an insistent Alec Hardy recruits her to help out in this new crisis. She gets time to blast us with the full Colman heart-on-her-sleeve melt-down, but is also just as ready with a withering one-liner as she ever was. Tennant is back to his Scottish self, thank God, complete with no social skills whatsoever (he's been taking lessons on How Not to Offer a Hug from Chris Christie, I suppose). Colman and Tennant still have massive chemistry, which doesn't take long to show itself. Also, he of the great sorrow lives in a blue house now. Figures.

Looking at the big picture, this is an amazing show-opener. Not only does it reacquaint us with old favorites, but introduces new faces - it establishes both major storylines, and two new antagonists (Bishop and Ashworth) - has a great sense of humor, but also of sadness - throws lots and lots of information at us, but at a perfect pace, and plants the seeds for more trouble to come. I'm still reluctant to be completely positive - and I'm far from happy that all the emotional (and theological) closure from last season is being unknitted - but it's still very, very good telly.

My review of next week's episode

Hannah Long


  1. My heart sank when I saw the scene with Mark and Tom. I just thought, "Oh come on, not AGAIN." Must every season of this show revolve around implied pedophilia? It just feels contrived and unnecessarily unpleasant. There's plenty of suspense and drama in the rest of the characters and their story. Why do I have a feeling this is going to turn into a giant "Et tu" with Joe triumphantly pointing the finger at Mark? "Everyone's hiding something!" Yes, yes, foreshadowing, we get it. Eyeroll.

    Meanwhile, I do like the character of the prosecutor very much. I love crusty old recluse types. I'm sorry Paul Coates is actually sleeping with the town flirt though. I hope we see some repentance from him on that.

    1. Whoops, meant "a giant tu quoque." Must get my Latin straight.

    2. Well, I think you're kind of reading into it. I suspect Mark just misses Danny.

      As for Paul, maybe I missed something, but all I saw was them kissing. Though this is a British show - so I wouldn't put it past them to go farther than that. Still hopeful, though.

    3. Though you're right - it's absolutely pointing towards Joe doing that. He's determined to blame everyone else.

    4. Well, why did Mark look so nervous when the prosecutor said NOTHING can be hidden? And why is he hiding it from his wife? I have a bad feeling about it, but I think it will be significant regardless. Another possibility is that it will turn out to be normal, but it will come out and be used by the defense as possible evidence that Mark was the killer.

      Ehhh, the flirt was talking about cooking for him, having him over, that sort of thing. I suppose they could just be dating. But it's obviously pure physical attraction.

    5. I tend to think they'll try and use it to frame Mark.

      As for Becca and Paul - I enjoyed their back and forth banter in the first season, but having them dating seems like a really bad idea, however far it's gone. Regardless, I'm watching how Chibnall handles the character of Paul like a hawk.

    6. Absolutely, me too. (On both counts, but I meant about Paul.) So far, I have appreciated their handling of his character. He seems absolutely sincere when he prays, and they don't seem to be itching for him to go down. Although he didn't always say the most profound things last season ("God sometimes takes those he loves most first," eeeeek), but then again, good people often fumble for the right words.

      One good thing about the case going to trial is that they do seem to be quite clearly painting Joe and his defense team as scummy and villainous. Joe is now outright lying and prepared to frame another man, and his lawyer is obviously smarmy and bad. So we're no longer being prompted to feel any sympathy for him, because he's the one dragging the town through this agonizing process now.

    7. I didn't like the decision to make him the killer at first, but I've come to enjoy Matthew Gravelle's performance as Joe. He's not mustache-twirly, but he's still villainous in a pathetic, every-day way. The way he's determined to blame everyone else also feels very realistic.

      On the other hand, psychological realism aside, I'm kind of looking forward to Lee Ashworth as a more typical villain.

      As for Paul - yeah, I remember that line "God sometimes takes those he loves most first"....that one was a clunker - but I think it was supposed to be. I'm curious as to how they handle his relationship with Joe - it would be very gutsy to try and use forgiveness as a theme.


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