TV REVIEW: Broadchurch - Episodes Three & Four

When the first series of Broadchurch had reached the halfway point, the nation was on tenterhooks wanting to know who had killed Danny Latimer. Now, everyone seems to be wondering how long it's going to be before everyone in that courtroom gets disbarred and/or starts dancing a fandango on the grave of this particular fictional legal system. As much as I still love the show and all the weird and wonderful goings-on, it's gone a bit mad. It's not quite full cobblers just yet, but compared to the glorious restraint shown in the first series, it feels like Broadchurch has taken a running jump of the picturesque Cliff of Sanity, falling headlong into the Sea of Melodrama below.

The two strands of the Broadchurch and Sandbrook cases aren't so much weaving together as crashing into each other at opportune intervals. Lee Ashworth lurks in every scene he's let near like a handsome, dangerous lurking thing (James D'Arcy gives good lurk), the residents of Broadchurch itself seem to have forgotten that a young boy died and are revelling with a grotesque glee at the proceedings whilst Miller and Hardy try to connect the dots. The trouble is, all of the dots are screaming 'Lee Ashworth is innocent! Look check out this creepy guy over here!" Only they're not.

Before I descend into a complete frenzy of bewilderment and slightly open-mouthed awe, I do have to point out a lot of the positives going on in Broadchurch right now. Well, a few of the positives. Ok, fine, one major positive; all of the roles for older women currently occupying this production. Obviously, Olivia Colman is wonderful and amazing and we still love her. Then's there's Charlotte Rampling who is utter class, Meera Syal bringing fierceness and an excellent wig to the proceedings and Marianne Jean-Baptiste as the conscience-stricken defence barrister. They are all absolutely fantastic and are really excelling within the slightly bonkers proceedings.

Not only that, but we also get the return of lurking Pauline Quirke in the fourth episode (more lurking) who points the finger at Creepy Nige for the disposal of Danny's body. Yes, Creepy Nige is back to earning his nickname, pulling all sorts of facial expressions at his estranged mother when she first tries to make peace with him before trying to frame him in another ridiculous shock moment. It's at these more emotional, sombre moments of high melodrama that Broadchurch is striving for a balance that it's not always able to keep. 

There are those jaw-dropping moments that are fuelled by pure pettiness on behalf of the witness (seriously, how have none of them been done for perjury?) and then there are others where Chris Chibnall is trying to hark back to the restraint of the first series. It doesn't always quite land. The scene of David Tennant gallantly carrying the body of the Sandbrook murder victim back to shore through the pouring rain was far too overwrought to be taken seriously. Tennant is a good enough actor to just let the storytelling land the emotional moments. He doesn't need sodden flashbacks to make him look good.

And yet, we're still hooked. It's still absolutely compelling television, it's just compelling television of an entirely different kind to the first series. This one seems to be hinging more on how many times can we shock the audience with another cliffhanger before they call foul as opposed to crafting the meticulous crime drama we all fell in love with. And I'm sort of OK with that. Granted, if we do get that courtroom-based fandango, I may eat my words, but hell, I'm all for Meera Syal dancing on her bench with wig in hand.

- Becky

You can read Jen's review of Episode Two here.

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