Broadchurch: Compelling – or trying too hard?

23FB35D000000578-2870505-image-a-1_1418326838060You’ll be forgiven for missing it as ITV did hardly any promotion whatsoever (snort!) but a little known drama called Broadchurch returned to our screens last night; picking up the story where we left off. The sleepy seaside settlement had been rocked by the revelation that Joe Miller had killed young Danny Latimer after the investigations of DS Hardy and Joe’s own wife, Ellie, outed him and prompted him to confess. 

The start of the episode looked like it was set to tie up all loose ends in the first quarter so we could move cleanly on to the next story. That’s when the first of Broadchurch’s infamous curveballs was thrown – Joe pleaded not guilty to the murder before declaring to his representative that he was going to fight his case at trial and wanted a QC to support him in this. So, not so clean cut after all then?

As ‘Who Killed Danny Latimer?’ became ‘Did Joe really kill Danny Latimer?’ there was a sense of shock in the air as the whole nightmare situation exploded once more, plunging the residents of Broadchurch into fresh chaos. As a viewer, I had mixed feelings about this. There was no denying the sheer tension of performances and the drama as Joe uttered the two words ‘Not Guilty’ and yet I am a little bit concerned that playing this route is detrimental to the success of Series One. The whole torture of 8 long episodes with clues and red herrings aplenty was worth it for the payoff at the end. We discovered who committed the crime; mystery was solved and the pieces (sort of) fitted nicely together. There was a sense of justice and closure.

To an esteemed TV Critic such as myself (snort again!) it’s a hard pill to swallow to suspect that you have been deceived for an entire series. The reason being not that it’s a particular cop out in writing terms but just that I don’t think this was planned from the outset. The mystery of Broadchurch had very much the feeling that it was a stand alone episode-set telling a story from start to finish. Then the unexpected ratings explosion happened and the TV chiefs were hungry for more.

“I don’t care how you do it, just write some more!”

Still, I am intrigued by where they will go with this and there was no denying that the episode was an extremely compelling watch. Performances, as ever, were spectacular. The writing was sharp and David Tennant and Olivia Colman shone once more in their roles; their chemistry very much still intact. The supporting cast remained stellar, with fantastic new additions into the mix, from the two new lawyers to the frankly terrifying suspect in the Sandbrook case.

Seamlessly, the writers have integrated Hardy’s past case into the storytelling arc of this series meaning that there are two main plotlines running concurrently; the build up to and trial of Joe Miller and Hardy’s own investigations into the resurfaced mystery of Sandbrook.

The fact that there was a lot going on was never more apparent than in the final scene of last night’s episode, where almost the entire cast of characters from the family, to the lawyers to the detectives to the press were present for Danny’s body to be exhumed while a character from the other story glared ominously in plain sight at Hardy.

Coping with all of this at once is both exciting and infuriating and it makes me wonder if Series One set the bar impossibly high for a second series to follow. The writers seem determined to make this series even more perplexing and pack as much intrigue as possibly in each hour of drama. But with so much focus on twists and shocks, we risk losing the drama and atmosphere. In this episode alone we had scenes exploring the back stories of the two lawyers, the reappearance of a witness in the Sandbrook case, a confession from Hardy, a break in at Hardy’s house, Ellie’s own guilt, Joe’s plea, the vicar’s secret visits to Joe in prison and Mark’s bizarre budding relationship with Ellie’s son (is he trying to replace Danny or, even more sinisterly is he plotting a horrendous revenge to show Joe and Ellie how it feels?)

With all of this going on, there’s a real concern that Broadchurch might become a bit of a complex mess and lose the charm of the first series. Nevertheless, the episode was very good and, as modern dramas go, up there with the best. Olafur Arnalds returned to provide a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack, the scenery was simply gorgeous, the acting phenomenal and the writing spot on. There is a lot to enjoy here and we are only an episode in.

Here’s hoping my initial fears are unfounded and Series 2 can match the triumph that was the first Broadchurch. We’ve waited long enough for it, after all.

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Written By Our Man In The North


Filed under Drama

3 responses to “Broadchurch: Compelling – or trying too hard?

  1. wiggles

    Have to admit I’m a bit unsure about the whole ‘Joe not guilty’ thing either (although I got the feeling that he wasn’t necessarily saying he didn’t kill Danny but that there was more to it then he’d previously let on which he now wanted to get out there) as I’m wondering if it’ll stretch the storyline past breaking point but definitely have my Monday night’s viewing sorted for the next 7 weeks.
    And thank you for clearing something up for me – I kept hearing Hardy’s previous case as the ‘Sam Brook case’ so was very confused when neither the victims nor the suspect were called that. Of course it all makes perfect sense now I see that its the Sandbrook case.

    Was also wondering if you think Lee Ashworth and the person who burgled/robbed Hardy’s house were one and the same?? I’m not convinced…

  2. I always assumed he was; but now you’ve put the seeds of doubt in my mind!

  3. wiggles

    Oooh sorry – it’s just how they (very carefully) didn’t show the burglars face but then Lee Ashworth was right there in full view at the end. Also the fact that he just stole Hardy’s post rather than tried to go through his drawers/files etc to find out where Claire was seemed a bit odd to me (but could just be a(nother) red herring I’m sure)