Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Broadchurch - Season 2, Episode 3 - Review

My review of last week's episode.

There was a moment while watching this episode that I actually exclaimed, “Poor Ellie.” That pretty much sums it up. Last week, Chibnall was reaching, this week he lost balance completely. But by a curious magic (characters I’m attached to, music, setting, cinematography), I still can’t quite disregard the series.

The cliffhanger from last week resolves fairly quickly. After a brief quarrel with a strangely unhelpful Ellie, Alec drives off to find that Claire and Lee have retreated to her cottage. Why? Claire mutters something unconvincing. Lee knocks Alec down and is macho and generally Suspicious which is a good sign that he’s innocent. (Once again, I’m startled by how different James D’Arcy is in this role—even if he doesn’t have much to do but smirk in a sleazy fashion and show off his biceps.)

Ludicrous: David Tennant's DI Hardy has become increasingly ludicrous 
Meanwhile, Ellie helps a very angry Beth across the field to her house, and phones for help. Unlikely as the situation is, I enjoyed Ellie’s no-nonsense midwifery skills. As she waits on the stairs, she is shown the first signs of—maybe not forgiveness, but at least forbearance, from Chloe. In the morning (Elizabeth Latimer is born safely), Mark also seems inclined to treat Ellie with politeness, but Beth is intransigent.

It’s important that Elizabeth, “Lizzie,” represents a new beginning for the Latimers. Ellie’s presence, and Danny’s photograph, are reminders of grief, but Mark’s first moments with the baby are still filled with a fragile optimism which recalls the first moments of hope and healing in season one, and packs the most emotional punch of any moment so far this season. But while this, coupled with Chloe and Ellie’s conversation, provide some good anchoring moments, they feel sullied by the rest of the increasingly ludicrous story. (Also, why has Mark suddenly become all anti-God?)

Taking away from the story: Star casting including Charlotte Rampling is distracting from the story 
I’m no lawyer, but I’m pretty certain William Garrow must be turning in his grave (sitting next to Beth, he certainly looked uncomfortable). It’s particularly unfortunate that this series comes close on the heels of the podcast Serial, which gave ordinary mystery lovers a glimpse into the legal process, and painted a very tedious, complex, rigorously professional picture.

Not so in Broadchurch. This courtroom is a hive of emotions gone wild. It’s only made worse when Sharon Bishop starts throwing around ridiculous assertions. Anyone in that police station would have testified that Ellie and Alec had a—difficult—working relationship, to say the least. They can still barely be together without fighting. Becca could surely confirm that Ellie had never visited Alec’s room before. And yet, an affair? Really? What can Sharon Bishop hope to gain from a tactic so easily discredited? And why I should care about her poor imprisoned son when she’s being such a jerk, I cannot tell.

Ellie’s life outside of court is little better. Claire has led her off the straight and narrow into the Broadchurch nightlife. Ecclesiastes ensues, and Ellie is left feeling just as unsatisfied as before. As we go further, the parallels between Ellie, Claire, and Beth are growing all the more stronger, and form one of the more interesting themes. Just like Claire, Ellie was drugged when her husband was off murdering Just like Beth, Ellie doesn’t believe Claire’s story. Just like Ellie, Beth has a husband who is lying to her.

All that is kind of interesting. But I'm not sure if it's enough to save the show. The legal quagmire has turned into a soap opera instead of an interesting, informing take on real life murder trials; the barristers' private lives are neither relevant or interesting; Ellie's misery is catching.

My review of next week's episode

Hannah Long


  1. Ecclesiastes ensues. . .

    First time I heard it put that way. . .

    1. And probably the last. I was just getting that "all is vanity" vibe, y'know.

  2. I skipped the sex scene with no qualms. Totally gratuitous. Why not just show Claire knocking on the door the morning after? We all get it, you don't have to show it.

    Jocelyn is giving me Alec flashbacks with her car "moment." As hysterical as everything's been so far, I won't be surprised if she passes out in court. But I won't worry if she doesn't---someone else is sure to!

    1. "But I won't worry if she doesn't---someone else is sure to!"

      It may be me.

  3. I'm thinking the writer not only kept all the actors in the dark so they could not spill the beans as to what is going on, he did the same to himself somehow. Charlotte Rampling must have forgotten she gets a chance to redirect after the defense barrister finishes sling mud. I'm hoping the accident jogged her memory. It's cute how people in the UK seem to think that a plea of innocent really means you are innocent. Guess they were making tea when Ellie's husband said he just didn't want to go to prison. I doubt that Claire was drugged. She was off killing the girls next door for making goo-goo-eyes at her fence-post pounding man.

    1. I doubt Sharon Bishop believes Joe is innocent. I think she just doesn't care.

      I don't believe Claire - but that highlights the fact that the jury may not believe Ellie. But the only reason I distrust Claire is because of narrative conventions - if it were real life, the most obvious solution is generally true.

      But none of the court sequences have rung true so far. It's much easier to believe in tabloid journalists than tabloid courts. Just having a *bit* of legal tedium would give it some credibility.

    2. Everything about the court scenes is wrong, even from the family "hiring" the prosecutor. It's so wrong that one starts to wonder if there was some grand plan with doing it that way. It's hard to believe that Chibnall couldn't ask a legal consultant a few questions, or never saw other courtroom dramas. I'm going by comments at British boards about people not understanding that a plea of "innocent" has little to do with actual innocence. Actual barristers know it's about winning--for their sake. Same as here. It's the prosecutor's job to make sure that her witness, Ellie, looks as good to the jury as possible. She would make sure that the jury understood there was no affair with Hardy, on redirect. She would have also clarified that Hardy never laid a hand on the suspect, before and after he was in police custody. She might have even brought up his medical condition, since he was hours away from a forced medical leave because of extreme heart problems, that had resulted in loss of consciousness on several occasions.

    3. I don't know much about process, but it all feels pretty ridiculous. The whole thing where Lee accused Hardy of assault was crazy too. If I was Hardy, I'd have let the guy try and prove it.

    4. Hardy went along with the Constable because (as the PC mentioned), he would have to call Internal Affairs and that process is much less favorable to police personnel. Judging by other Brit TV shows, cops are hung out to dry. In Scott & Bailey, two senior police officers followed a suspect who had gotten into his car and took off. They never got within a mile of him and he crashed on his own. The police officers following were treated worse than murder suspects. They were immediately suspended and prosecutors were hanging around debating whether to throw them into the prison system. The only "witness" against them was the guy's wife. And she was at the farm all the time--miles and miles from the crash.


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