When the second series was announced, it heralded many jokes about Broadchurch turning into a coastal Midsomer, a town in which murders took place with such alarming regularity that no one would want to visit, let alone move there. Wisely, series creator Chris Chibnall keeps that close, emotional focus on the ramifications of Danny's murder as the audience checks in for Joe Miller's trial.
Given how central he was to the community through his wife and detective on the Latimer case, Ellie, Joe's actions in pleading 'not guilty' to Danny's murder instantly throws the direction of the series towards a full trial. Meanwhile, in the background, Alec is haunted by the Sandbrook case, oft-mentioned but never explored fully in the first series, as the main suspect in that case returns to haunt his wife, whom Alec has under his unofficial protection.
When we were first introduced to Broadchurch, the town and its inhabitants were revealed to us through a fantastic tracking shot that followed Mark Latimer through his morning routine. It had a nice, flowing style that not only demonstrated the residents' closeness, but also the town itself; quiet, idyllic and rarely interrupted. The contrast to the opening episode of this series is stark. The audience is given glimpses of the characters' new dynamics following the outcome of the investigation as the action cuts between several of the main players in their respective and, importantly, distant locations.
As ever, the performances are excellent, showcased perfectly in the court scene at the heart of the episode in which Joe delivered his unexpected plea. As the family torn apart by the murder of their son and the subsequent focus on them, both Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan provide a solid emotional core, every new development etched in pain across their faces. Newcomers Eve Myles and Charlotte Rampling also make a strong first impression respectively, adding a gravitas to the two plots which will no doubt become the focus of the series.
However, it is once again down to the fabulous Olivia Colman who steals every scene she's let near as the downtrodden and rightfully angry Ellie. Brimming with a quiet fury throughout the episode, Colman proves just how valuable she is to Broadchurch as a series, inspiring sympathy for a character who could quite easily have faded alongside the taciturn Hardy. Her chemistry with David Tennant has improved even further since their first outing together, antagonising and relying on each other in equal measure. Their scene in the bathroom allowed a grim levity to an otherwise mournful episode, further impacted by Ellie's inclusion into the world of Claire.
Moving forward into the series, the two main plot strands promise plenty more intrigue and there are several suggestions along the way that factors from both the Sandbrook and Broadchurch cases echo and parallel each other. Mark has struck up a close, secretive relationship with Tom Miller, much like Joe's with Danny, that sets alarm bells ringing. Lee Ashworth, the main suspect in the previous case, was acquitted after his case fell apart, something which threatens Joe's trial and Ellie's post-murder investigation situation parallels Claire's, exiled and alone. And I'm still not convinced that Arthur Darvill's reverend isn't involved in there somewhere along the way. He's just a bit too shifty.
There is a slight concern that Broadchurch has traded in its usually realistic focus for something a bit more dramatic and thriller-lite, particularly given the return of the Sandbrook case's main suspect and its inherent threat to newcomer Claire. However, Broadchurch earned itself a lot of good faith in its excellent first series and it's a strong start to its second.
Jen and I will be alternating episodes once again and so I shall leave you in her capable hands for next week's instalment.
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