Broadchurch series two, episode two review: an explosive final scene ramps up the tension

While Broadchurch sometimes strains credibility, some clever plotting is keeping us all guessing as the second series takes another dramatic twist…

*SPOILER ALERT. Do not read if you have not seen Broadchurch series 2 episode 2 *


Another episode of Broadchurch, another explosive ending, complete with lots of the now-obligatory heavy, portentous music…

After last week’s traumatic closing scene when the police (and just about everyone else in Broadchurch) arrived at the churchyard to watch the exhumation of Danny Latimer’s body, we moved on in episode two. The exhumation (a bit of cynical plotting, it now seems) found nothing. But tonight’s episode ended with another cliffhanger: James D’Arcy’s Lee Ashworth appears to have kidnapped his wife Claire (Eve Myles).

But first, to the other bombshells dropped in this fast-moving instalment.

Dramatic court scenes showed the terrible consequences of Ellie’s (Olivia Colman) physical assault on her husband Joe in the police cells after he had confessed his guilt at the end of series one.

Her doing a “bloody Bruce Lee” on him (Alec Hardy’s words, not ours) meant that Joe’s ruthless defence barrister Sharon (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) could successfully argue that police brutality may have played a part in his confession. His admission of guilt is now prohibited from forming part of the prosecution’s case.

As has happened before with Broadchurch, plausibility is inevitably called into question: wouldn’t the exclusion of this evidence have been decided without the jury being present in court? But gripes aside, the moment carried a dramatic punch and will have far-reaching consequences. The ruling intensified the pain felt by the parents Beth and Mark (Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan), leading to the former’s dramatic showdown with Ellie outside the house that Olivia Colman’s copper shared with Danny’s killer.

As we saw, this was the place chosen by David Tennant’s Hardy for a meeting between Lee – the man he suspects of the Sandbrook double murders, let’s not forget – and Claire, Lee’s wife who agreed to testify against him at trial.

Again, the plot’s credibility felt a little stretched here. Why choose that house for the meeting given its associations? Also, why was Lee able to escape so easily? Did Claire help him? As always with Broadchurch, there is more going on here than meets the eye…

But whatever the answer, it made for a tense and thrilling final few moments as Beth and Ellie’s showdown outside gave Lee his chance, but not before he checked his ex-wife for a wire by creepily unbuttoning her blouse.

Lee is shaping up to be a brilliant character – with D’Arcy eschewing the posh boy parts he often plays to deliver a performance of real cockney menace and intensity.

Back in the courtroom Mark’s affair with Becca was exposed to the Broadchurch residents and Beth was forced to admit that he had once hit their son (will the defence team try and turn the finger of suspicion on him, one wonders?)

Meanwhile, Claire revealed she had a sexually-complicated relationship with Lee, informing Ellie that he was never rough with her “unless I asked”, prompting a delicious look of surprise from Colman (who was on top form once again in this episode). 

And we met Meera Syal’s character Sonia Sharma for the first time – the firm but compassionate judge presiding over Joe’s trial. Plus, we got to see a truly nasty side to defence QC Sharon. Her hope that the exhumation of Danny’s body may have “rattled” the prosecution showed how callous she can be given the terrible impact it had on the Latimer family although Jean-Baptiste’s scenes did feel a bit laboured and expository, with clunking lines like “what’s our game plan?” trotted out.

In fact, the legal moments seemed the weakest to me. They never feel entirely credible (do the parents of murder victims really get to choose the barrister for the Crown?) and threaten to spoil my engagement with what is, for the most part, an exciting, emotionally sophisticated, beautifully shot and superbly acted drama.

Because Broadchurch is galloping off in a thrilling direction nobody was expecting and only a fool would predict where we are heading in episode three…


Broadchurch is on ITV on Mondays at 9pm