Four episodes of the second season of “Broadchurch” were provided for review purposes prior to broadcast.
There didn’t need to be a second season of Broadchurch. The first series of episodes from 2013 didn’t just spawn a quick series of dreary, Europe-based crime show imitators involving youths in a small town, but crossed the pond to the point that Fox aired a blander American variation last fall. (It was titled Gracepoint, which I reviewed for ten inconsistent weeks.) Daniel Latimer’s murder seemed to be wrapped up pretty tightly by the end of season one, with nary a loose corner in sight.
So, when a second season was announced, one wondered where the show could go from here. Would it explore the aftermath of the investigation and its effects on the divided cliffside town? Would the community be the center for yet another whodunit?
Well, season 2 of Broadchurch has taken some of the former elements, acting as an epilogue through Joe Miller’s murder trial, while a closed case from Det. Hardy’s life has opened up to add some intrigue when court isn’t in session. The bravura acting, serene seaside cinematography and emotional tension that gripped audiences two years ago is still there, although Chris Chibnall’s series is not as enthralling. Blame it on a cold case that cannot compete with heated courtroom proceedings.
The new mystery is an old one, which took place in the quiet town of Seabrook. It is the case that shamed Hardy and ultimately transferred him to the idyllic coastal town from the title. In Seabrook, two young girls were kidnapped and one was found dead three days after their disappearance. The prime suspect, who walked free due to Hardy botching the investigation, is Lee Ashworth (James D’Arcy). Lee’s wife, Claire Ripley (Eve Myles), has been under Hardy’s watch and protection just outside of Broadchurch, and is nervous her husband – who she believes really committed the crime – could return.
However, just as potent a mystery is whatever Joe Miller was thinking when he decided to submit a “not guilty” plea, outraging his community. The Latimers now have to suffer through a prolonged trial process, and Beth’s chilly friendship with Ellie only implodes even more. Although this case should seem open-and-shut to viewers of the previous season, Chibnall has done a fine job revisiting angles that Joe’s defense team could inspect further. (Of all the new cast members, the best is Marianne Jean-Baptiste, sly and stubborn without being too slick as defence counsel Sharon Bishop.)
Lending class to this current season, beyond Jean-Baptiste, is Charlotte Rampling as Jocelyn Knight, who comes out of retirement to work for the prosecution. “None of us has got anything left to hide,” Jodie Whittaker’s Beth tells Jocelyn, also trying to re-assure herself and her family that the trial will be over quickly. However, while season one seemed to have brought closure to the community of Broadchurch, there are still wounds open amidst the townspeople.
Regardless of some casting and setting changes, the core of the series is still the relationship between David Tennant’s prickly Hardy and Olivia Colman’s wounded Ellie. As an indignant trial drones on beyond its desired expiration date, all of the characters are looking for some form of renewal. Removed from her family, Ellie is grasping for a human connection. In one scene, when she heads for a night on the town and returns home with a man, a blank look underneath him during sex tells us all about the void inside her life, one that she fears will never be filled.
Colman is even more compelling as a woman shattered by the consequences of the case from season one. Without son Tom by her side, a new job outside her community and a murderous husband on the stand, Ellie’s life is in complete disrepair. Meanwhile, the quiet sympathy she gave toward the Latimers in the previous season has been replaced by distraught agony. Colman is ashen and haunting, although her involvement with Hardy’s re-opened Sandbrook files ensures she doesn’t mope through the entire season.
Hardy is also hoping for redemption. Two of the first four episodes open with him gasping for air as we visit his nightmares, seeing waves crashing over him. He feels suffocated by the loose ends from the Seabrook case and is invigorated to re-open the past and get to the bottom of things. Nevertheless, back with his Scottish brogue (after his appearance in the same role on Gracepoint yet with a tainted American accent), Tennant is much less crotchety this season. Without a high-pressured job driving him to illness, he is trying to do some good for the case he messed up.