Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Broadchurch - Season 2, Episode 2 - Review

My review of last week's episode

Agh...did you have to do it like that?

Broadchurch hasn't been above sacrificing strict logic for melodrama, but, unlike other shows, it simply glows with heart - which makes it hard for me to count its flaws against it. Central to this is the teddy-bear herself, Ellie Miller. Colman is simply not aware she's on screen. She's not going to stretch any moment longer than it needs, and there's no affectation about her performance. Alec Hardy is a more conventional hero: the moody, broken, secretly noble knight in tarnished armor. His hesitations, staring nervously away to let the tension build, are more distracting than tense.

He has a lot of chances to do that in this episode, as he not only faces down Lee Ashworth (who has arrived to protest his innocence and demand his wife back), but also Joe's attorney Sharon Bishop (thanks to Ellie's assault on Joe, Bishop has already managed to get Joe's confession chucked out). The trial is moving on, and is rushing ahead at a surprisingly fast pace.

In other news: Olly is still a jerk. Maggie is awesome, petal. And hey! Lisa Newberry is played by Eliza Bennett (Inkheart, Nanny McPhee). Matthew Gravelle, as Joe, is intriguingly two-faced. His motivations and actions are all over the place, so he's still an interesting character to watch.

Beth and Mark haven't lost all the ground they gained last season, but there are still the same problems. He's likely to make stupid decisions without telling anyone - in this case, meeting with Tom from a mix of mostly good motives - and Beth is just as ready to retreat into indignation. Unfortunately, Chibnall's handling of Beth's character is a little bit ridiculous, and produces two of the more awkwardly over-dramatic moments in the episode. For instance, surely she must have known she'd be asked personal questions on the stand. And because we already resolved the Mark-Becca affair last season, dredging it up doesn't pack much dramatic punch. We really just want to get all that out of the way so we can find out what will happen with Claire and Lee.

James D'Arcy in Broadchurch S02E02
What's that all about? Well, at Alec's request, Ellie convinces Claire to meet Lee. Why Alec wants to do this is unclear, but apparently it is so that Chris Chibnall can find a way for Lee to abduct Claire. This happens when Claire is left with Lee while Alec is distracted by Ellie being confronted by Beth(+baby) who was alerted to all this by Nige. Sound slightly far-fetched? It is, but I have to say, I didn't notice at the time. I was mystified as to why Alec would want to do this - after all, what can he hope to gain? A confession? Surely there's no way you could use that in court. Did he want Lee to let down his guard - unlikely, since Claire seems pretty weak-willed, and Lee potentially abusive. Is Alec hiding some secret plan (he'd better be!), or is he really the worst cop in Britain?

This nonsensical climax is made even worse by the way it goes wrong - of course it would go wrong, but to go wrong by having a pregnant woman hit the war-path, attack Ellie again, and then go into labor? Really?

While I like Charlotte Rampling as the enigmatically elegant Jocelyn Knight, the subplot with Sharon Bishop doesn't entirely work. Why should I care about her problems? I have no reason to, when she's not a suspect. This brings up a general problem with the new series: several characters are only here because they were there last season. During season 1, a character's existence was justified because they were either a suspect in the case, or served a purpose towards the broader themes of the story (self-knowledge, tabloid culture, faith vs. isolation). Now there's no murder mystery (if Lee didn't do it, I suspect Claire), and, apparently, no broader themes beyond a few throwbacks to "everybody has a secret," which was getting a bit stale last season anyway, so the story doesn't quite know its purpose.

But all that I just said is a bit misleading, because despite these problems, I simply couldn't tear my eyes from the screen. The humor and the heart alleviate the drama just enough, so that it isn't grim. Chibnall is really good with every-day dialogue - the characters talk about the court case while talking about Wi-Fi and where to find lunch. The pacing is terrific. No matter how soapy it's getting, it's still ridiculously entertaining.

But, guys, I've found the best thing ever:

My review of next week's episode

Hannah Long

1 comment:

  1. "And sometimes I SHOUT A LOT FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER, it's called for dramatic effect."

    "But like I say, it's NOTHING LIKE DR. WHO!"

    *laughs until tears*

    *clicks thumbnail for More David Tennant*


    *stays up way past my bedtime because once I started watching More David Tennant, I couldn't stop*


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