Broadchurch Series 2 Episode 4

ITV1 26/01/15 written by Chris Chibnall, directed by Jessica Hobbs, starring David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker
Half way through the second series it is becoming difficult to escape the conclusion that Broadchurch is slowly changing into what we might call as drama-soap. That is to say a series that would never consider itself a soap but is displaying soapy tendencies. It’s happened for example to Last tango in Halifax which started off as a serial about two elderly people falling for in love but has become an unbelievable series of hysterical events. As far as Broadchurch is concerned the closest comparison I can think of is Twin Peaks which followed an un-missable first season with a second that seemed to meander away from the point. Some shows are better as one offs but in today’s more commercially orientated world success means follow up. Imagine if they’d made a third or fourth series of Fawlty Towers? Or someone had decided to pen a sequel to I, Claudius. That being said I’d say that the jury is still out on the case of Broadchurch. Given that a second series was going to happen Chris Chibnall has made a decent attempt to expand the story while keeping true to the stunning first series. What is happening though as the fabric of the story is stretched is that it is thinning.

The series has started to have too many `what I didn’t tell you was...` moments. You need these for drama, of course you do, but overplay them and it all starts to become a little, well, soapy. Like those characters in Corrie and EastEnders who in the course of a year suffer an untenable amount of hardship that would normally span a lifetime. Or a never previously mentioned relative who pops up.  Broadchurch has not reached that pitch yet, indeed it still seems restrained compared to something like Last Tango but even so the introduction of the Sandbrook case means we are now entering those realms.
By the time Hardy and Miller have finished their day trip to the scene of the earlier case we’ve been given several strands to play with all of which start to suggest a stronger link then we’d imagined between the two incidents. The more these spill out the more it seems as if menacing Lee Ashworth is actually telling the truth. It might be too soon to pin the blame on Shaun Dooley’s wound up Ricky Gillespie whose reasons for not wanting the investigation into his own daughter’s death could be because he has a lot to hide. While Hardy and Miller are away of course Lee and Claire get back together only Claire appears to have slept with Hardy whose wife turns out to be the investigating officer of the Sandbrook case…you can see how the circle is becoming rather too incestuous to be believed. .
Inevitably the drama seems sharper when we’re in the courtroom. I think it was a mistake to imagine the viewer would not want to see large chunks of this because trials always create interesting drama and the scenes in court are the most absorbing ones this week. The trial is balanced precariously enough to maintain interest and it would be preferable to see more of it. While we’re on the plusses Pauline Quirke is back! 2013’s scariest woman on telly gets her son into trouble again by re-asserting it was him she saw moving a body on the beach. Is she doing it because it’s what she actually saw or because she has fallen out with him? It reminds us how alike from a distance Nigel and Joe would look from a distance. Could Nigel have been the killer all the time? It makes some sense though teasingly Joe remains unexamined in or outside of the witness box. His jittery response to a mock questioning only serves to emphasise how thinly he is being sketched compared to others, though this is probably intentional.
Meanwhile Olly who has been like a fly trying to reach the honey pot all series gets his moment this week and has possibly caused a major issue by announcing online that Lee is in the area. It’s moments like this that work so well in agitating the characters that reminds you of the first series. I’m not as picky as The Guardian so Olly’s roving accent doesn’t  bother me though I don’t know why they made him have one as nobody else except Ellie has.  It’s harder though to ignore Sharon Bishop’s outburst about the sensitivities of the locals which totally contradicts her hitherto hard boiled stance that has included having Danny’s grave reopened and eviscerating witnesses in court. And I think we’re all united now in disliking Claire whose sympathy vote has evaporated the more we see of her behaviour. She probably lied to Ellie about the night of the Sandbrook kidnapping.
What’s not in dispute is the quality of acting on display; each actor has brought so much to the production that it becomes easy to overlook some of the narrative issues while direction and music contribute to the edginess that abounds.
 All in all I’d say the series could now go one of two ways. It could carry on with increasingly unlikely new explanations or it could pull the threads back together and stun the audience with a denouement we have yet to predict yet which remains logical within this fiction.  Hopefully people won’t lose faith in it until we see how it plays out.

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