*Warning: spoilers. Do not read this if you have not seen Broadchurch series 2, episode 4*
Well, that was slightly better. Broadchurch made a tentative return to form tonight in an episode where the story twisted and turned with a refreshing absence (well, almost) of absurd implausibilities.
Admittedly the final climactic moment was a bit hollow, with Chris Chibnall relying on another courtroom bombshell that we’ve already covered as Susan Wright stood in the dock and identified estranged son Nigel Carter as the man she saw dragging Danny’s body onto the beach.
But as any fans of series one will know, we’ve since established it was Joe, not Nige, who she saw on the beach that night. Was her revelation designed purely to get her own back on her child for spurning her when she revealed she was dying of cancer?
Still, the moment took the rug from under the prosecution barrister Jocelyn Knight (Charlotte Rampling) who thought she had delivered a knockout punch of her own earlier on, calling an ex-colleague of Joe’s to the witness stand to tell the jury about a disturbing incident when he lost his cool and beat someone up in a supermarket car park.
But whether Susan’s bombshell testimony will sway the jury is anyone’s guess. My preference is for us to leave the Miller case and get on with Sandbrook because that’s where the real meat and drama of Broadchurch series two lies.
Far more intriguingly, the dial of Sandbrook suspicion swerved dramatically towards Ricky Gillespie – the father of Pippa who was found murdered (her cousin Lisa is still missing).
And the final moment when we discovered Ricky and Claire are still in touch before the camera panned behind Ricky into a picture of bluebells that suddenly became real…. well, that was a twist I found genuinely creepy and intriguing.
There was also a terrible flashback scene in which we saw David Tennant’s Alec Hardy discovering Pippa’s body, diving into the water on a sunny day while the production unit’s rain machine pelted him. (Poor Alec, who opened the episode with a nasty hacking cough – this job isn’t very good for his health…)
In addition, tonight’s episode introduced Alec’s former wife for the first time – the copper who lost the Sandbrook pendant – accompanied by their daughter in a very stiff restaurant scene that prompted perhaps the worst moment of the episode’s dialogue when a parenting class straight out of a bad soap prompted Hardy’s ex to tell him: “She’s not your little girl any more.”
The Lee/Claire mysteries also continued to baffle. Did Alec sleep with Claire as James D’Arcy’s Lee claimed? A flashback suggested yes, but was this something Alec recalled or was he merely fantasising?
As for Lee and Claire, they (finally) slept together after Lee’s bizarre seduction technique, leaving a package outside her door of what appeared to be food. But Claire is clearly no angel, asking him in bed: “Will you tie me up next time?” Is this really the frightened ex-wife in need of protection?
As for his tender response? “What have you told them Claire? You’d better be telling the truth.” There be secrets here and no mistake.
Their moment in bed was directly contrasted with Alec and Ellie’s somewhat less passionate bed-hopping. While investigating Sandbrook they were forced to share a double bed because – implausibility alert – there was only one room available in their hotel. Here’s to hoping they weren’t discreetly snapped because this felt very much like a set up to be used by Joe Miller’s defence barrister as proof of their affair.
In place of the courtroom stuff I’d like to see more Mark and Beth. The scene when Andrew Buchan’s Mark and baby Lizzie watched the sunrise was genuinely beautiful and Beth’s refusal to set up a foundation for rehabilitated sex offenders suggested by the vicar rang true. If your son was murdered, would you be capable of helping the kind of criminal who killed him? It may not be honourable but it felt plausible, and we see far too little of these characters.
Still, things have been set up nicely for episode five….
Broadchurch continues on ITV on Mondays