When Broadchurch premiered in 2013, many – including this writer – touted it as one of the most interesting, complex, and elegant dramas on television. But should we have left well enough alone?
As the original series of eight episodes drew to a tidy, shocking, and ultimately satisfying conclusion in 2013, audiences were blindsided by the announcement that Broadchurch had always been conceived as a trilogy. Series Two would begin filming almost immediately with most of the original cast back for more heartbreak and intrigue. Along with countless other viewers, my heart was a mix of elation and skepticism. Can we never let anything just “be?” Following its success in the UK and Canada, Broadchurch was adapted for American and French television to near disastrous results. Honestly, the American Gracepoint was never interesting enough to be “disastrous” – it just existed and then it was done, with an apropos salacious and ridiculously American conclusion.
But what is left to detail? We know the identity of Danny Latimer’s murderer, and Broadchurch is not likely to be the setting for more mystery…or so we thought. Series Two offers a rare glimpse into the aftermath of an explosion: an inside look into those left behind. Further, having media lightening rod Hardy (David Tennant) still circling the beach side town adds its own treasure trove of story. With the casting additions of Eve Myles (Torchwood), James D’Arcy (hubba hubba Agent Carter), and Charlotte Rampling (Goddess Divine) to aid season one standouts Tennant, Olivia Colman, Arthur Darvill, and Andrew Buchan, Series Two does not short itself talent-wise. So before you commit, let us take a look at where we’ve been, where we are, and if you should book your ticket to Broadchurch’s spring observance.
After the unconscionable murder of their son Danny, Mark (Buchan) and Beth (Jodie Whittaker) must pick up the pieces of their life and come to terms with the fact that their close friend Joe Miller (Matthew Gravelle) was responsible. To add further stress, Beth is near-term with her third pregnancy, and 16 year-old daughter Chloe (Charlotte Beaumont) finds herself more alienated than ever. Now the family is forced to sit in on Miller’s trial after the murderer pleads “not guilty,” vowing to expose secrets of the whole town in the process of the proceedings. I’ve always been a fan of the authentic relationship between Mark and Beth, and as harsh as it sounds, Danny’s death was in many ways a wake-up call for their marriage. We find them surprisingly well-adjusted and stronger in Series Two than when we first met, but old wounds fester, testing the family to their limits. The Latimers continue to anchor the show in terms of drama and character study. Andrew Buchan stands out — once again – in a series of strong actors. His ability to steal every scene he is in shocks me every time.
The only problem Ellie Miller ever thought she had was losing her promotion to Detective Inspector to Alec Hardy – that is until the liaison between her husband Joe and Danny Latimer led to the death of the latter. Now, faced with immense guilt and shame, Series Two opens with Ellie working as a uniformed police officer in nearby Devon. Her son Tom – and former best friend of Danny – blames her for his father’s incarceration, and opts to live with his troubled aunt and cousin in Broadchurch. Joe further antagonizes Ellie by making a mockery of his trial and vowing to expose all of Broadchurch’s secrets. Series Two finds Ellie attempting to claw herself back to some semblance of normalcy, Joe becoming more of a villain than he ever was in Series One, and Tom finding peace with his own guilt. Olivia Coleman continues to amaze and delight, especially when acting opposite Tennant. Their chemistry is palpable, each making the other better.
To say that Tennant’s Hardy is a “haunted” man is much more a character trait than a window into his past. Hardy is perpetually haunted, not just by the conclusion of the police investigation into the Latimer murder case, or the close friendship and respect he garnered with his former partner Ellie Miller – the press crucified him in the wake of the Sandbrook case, leading him to take the supposedly “quiet” job in Broadchurch. In addition, his mental state and physical well-being continue to deteriorate with all the guilt he carries himself. Series Two examines Hardy’s need to finish Sandbrook and Broadchurch once and for all – marrying the two towns together.
Notable Townspeople, Lawyers, and Press
Olly Stevens – local beat reporter and cousin to Ellie – continues his climb up the journalistic ladder. All of his previous backbiting seems to have helped secure his place covering the Latimer trial. He also cares for Tom Miller, and does his best to repair the relationship between mother and son. His reveling in the events of Joe Miller’s trial is an interesting choice for a character so closely tied to everyone involved. I found him kind of useless in the first series, but the character becomes much more fascinating over the course of Series Two.
Nigel Carter (Joe Sims), best-friend and business partner of Mark Latimer, was a prime suspect in Danny’s death during Series One, and is quickly touted as an alternative suspect by Joe Miller’s attorneys. His adoption and connection to Susan Wright continues to make him an intriguing character, albeit one that causes a few eye rolls by me…
Jocelyn Knight (Charlotte Rampling)/Sharon Bishop (Marianna Jean-Baptise) – former professor and student respectively, Knight prosecutes Joe Miller as Bishop acts as defense attorney. (Check out those chess names – oh, the symbolism!) Knight is an ailing, aging attorney that feels she has little fight left in her until she jumps at the chance to face her former student in court. Bishop proves a worthy adversary and the dance between the two women is one of my favorite storylines in Series Two. Although the outcome of the trial feels like something out of a bad Law and Order episode, getting there was hella fun.
Claire Ripley(Myles)/Lee Ashworth(D’Arcy) – Ripley provided an alibi for her former husband Ashworth in the Sandbrook case — the lead suspect in the kidnapping and murder of two girls. When Hardy got her to change her story, he offered to hide her out in Broadchurch once the case broke down and Ashworth was freed. Hardy convinces Ellie to watch over Claire, embroiling his former partner in the Sandbrook killings and hoping to solve the case once and for all. When Ashworth comes to Broadchurch, seeking out his former wife, Hardy just might get his wish.
VERDICT: Anchored by the same stylized photography, unmatched cast, and haunting score Broadchurch, continues to amaze. There is enough mystery surrounding the further investigation into the Sandbrook case to keep the thriller/crime storyline churning along, but the continued exploration into a seemingly simple town with so many hidden secrets is far more interesting. Like Twin Peaks, the revelation of the initial murderer is never the final answer, and it is much more difficult to keep a show exciting once you’ve played your hand. I appreciate creator Chris Chibnall’s need to keep the Danny Latimer murder case the central storyline – and when more questions surrounded that trial, I often found myself rolling my eyes – but the overall story growth was enough to keep me watching every week. Broadchurch Series Two is absolutely worth your time and continues to be one of the best shows ever on television, certainly now. And just wait until you reach that cheeky cliffhanger. Boy, will that have you salivating for Series 3!
I’ll check in midseason and after the finale, but feel free to post any questions you have below, and I’ll try to answer as spoiler-free as possible!