Well, well. Kudos Productions have been busy. Having produced last week’s mini-series, Mayday here, their other, one assumes, main creations for 2013, Broadchurch is now showing on The Other Side. Otherwise known as ITV.
As Becky wrote here in her review of Episode One, Broadchurch follows the after events of the murder of 11 year old Daniel Lattimer, late of the small seaside town. The show's main focus is on the reaction of Daniel’s family, as well as on the detectives running the operation, led by a very beardy, broody David Tennant as DI Alec Hardy, and the considerably warmer, perhaps slightly hapless DI Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman). Last week’s episode, as Becky said, was very much an establishing episode, with the audience catching glimpses of potential storylines, tensions and even suspects through our introduction to the townspeople and their home. We’ve met the ever-versatile Arthur Darvill’s Reverend Coates, shifty Susan (not to be confused with Ripper Street’s long Susan), played by Pauline Quirke, David Bradley’s papershop owner, Jack, and now Will Mellor as a reluctant psychic.
If last week’s was a character focused episode, then, this week was the turn of themes- themes which we can tell will shape the drama of the rest of the series. Top of the list, and all the more noticeable since the days of Leveson, is the theme of Press interference and ethics. Young reporter Oliver Stevens (Jonathan Bailey) caused outrage in last week’s episode by breaking the news of the story via twitter. This week, he’s gone a step further, befriending visiting Daily Herald journo Karen White (Vicky McClure). Local Press old guard Maggie Radcliffe (Carolyn Pickles), editor of the local paper, is less than thrilled with this development. We can only speculate as to whether this is a result of the fictional Daily Herald’s striking resemblance to the Daily Mail. Regardless of her reasons, though, it is clear from DI Hardy’s reaction to her alone that Ms White is trouble with a capital phone hacking.
Next on the list of popular tropes is suspicion. An obvious one in a TV series about murder, I’ll grant you, but what with Daniel’s mother Beth (Jodie Whittaker) handing the police a list of suspects which turns out to be a list of all their friends, coupled with Pauline Quirke’s Susan lonely, watchful life on the cliff, not to mention the fact that Daniel’s own father is a suspect- suspicion is here to stay. So too is religion, and the idea of life after death. Most obviously, we see this through Reverend Coates (Darvill), and his TV appeals and attempts to help the family. We also now have Steve Connolly (Mellor), a phone engineer who claims to have received a message from Daniel about his death. He in turn receives a frosty reception at best from Tennant’s DI Hardy, a man in serious danger of turning into a living snowman if he doesn’t crack a smile by the next episode.
For fan as I am of David Tennant, or DT, as I prefer to call him, I’m not convinced as yet that this will turn into one of his better performances. At the moment, his performance is outshone in most scenes by the warm simplicity of Olivia Colman's. I know her character is far more likeable character to begin with, so she does have something of a headstart, but with Tennant’s role it feels as if the writers are trying a little too hard to make him into some sort of rude, moody iceman. Particularly as there are clear signs of emotional torment and a dark past just (about) under the surface. So far, so cliché. Arthur Darvill is giving a strong enough performance as the local vicar, as is Susan Brown as Liz Roper, Danny’s grandmother. Although they are all, in turn overshadowed by Jodie Whittaker’s heart-breaking performance as the grieving mother.
Again, as Becky mentioned, Broadchurch is currently running the risk of becoming just another detective drama, simply going through the motions rather than trying anything particularly new. I love a detective show as much as the next person, more, I'll wager, but it's always far more exciting to watch something that is not only done well, but is doing something exciting.
Next week’s episode seems set to focus on the latest suspects, and will, I would imagine, delve a little deeper into the mind of DI Hardy. Not too much, though, there’s another six episodes to go yet.
Broadchurch is next on tomorrow night,9pm, ITV1.