Broadchurch series two: the half-term report

We're four episodes in and it's already been a turbulent ride – here are the highs and lows of the ITV drama's second outing...

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It’s nearly February which means we’re halfway through Broadchurch series two. Can you believe it? We’ve had four hour-long episodes and it’s been a turbulent ride.

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For me, tonight’s instalment showed some glimpses of the Broadchurch of old. The introduction of sinister Ricky Gillespie (brought creepily to life by Shaun Dooley) gave Chris Chibnall room to do what he does best: pull us to and fro as, piece by piece, the characters’ secrets and potential motives are unfurled. 

Back in 2013, the ITV drama wowed critics and audiences alike, but its return has been alternately praised and mauled. So, four weeks in, what do we want to see Broadchurch doing more of? And what should be banished to the back of Claire Ashworth’s closet? 


PLEASE, GIVE US MORE…


1. Suspects! 

Thank goodness for Ricky Gillespie. How refreshing it feels to have the eye of suspicion cast over someone other than Lee Ashworth. From the very beginning it’s seemed unlikely that James D’Arcy’s muscly ‘baddie’ committed the Sandbrook murders. It was too obvious, and as the series has progressed it’s been his shady wife – Claire “will you tie me up this time?” Ashworth – who’s emerged as the dark dominatrix of their relationship.

But sitting in the hot seat this week was Gillespie, Pippa’s father who – according to his now ex-wife Kate – was sowing his seed around Sandbrook, with Claire among his conquests. Ricky’s alibi is no longer water-tight – Kate has denied she was with him; instead, he was allegedly off shagging the bridesmaid at the wedding (but that’s unsubstantiated). And he’s reluctant for Hardy to reopen the investigation. So he’s now the main suspect. Of course, it probably wasn’t him either – we’ve still got four episodes of this stuff to go – but the enjoyment is in the speculation. 

2. Scenes with the Latimer family

Andrew Buchan as Mark Latimer has been nailing it these past two episodes, following the birth of his baby daughter. You could not fail to be moved last week when he tearfully promised newly-born Lizzie, “we’ll get it right this time”. This was neatly followed up in the opening moments of episode four as Mark took his baby to see the sun rise from the Broadchurch cliff tops – followed by scenes of his wife Beth (Jodie Whittaker) pondering Danny’s legacy. 

Buchan and Whittaker are class acts – give them a hard-hitting scene and they steep it in emotion without overbaking it. I want to see more of them – not the wracking sobs and snotty faces but their struggles with the day-to-day strife that follows the loss of a child.

3. Space for David Tennant and Olivia Colman to do what they do best

In series one, Chris Chibnall built us two rollickingly good characters in Alec Hardy and Ellie Miller. One, the pallid, socially-inept detective wracked with guilt and teetering on the brink of physical breakdown. The other, a diligent community-oriented sergeant whose family was blown apart in one fell swoop. 

They were created by giving David Tennant and Olivia Colman room to breathe. Those big echoing scenes that allowed them to convey their characters’ thoughts rather than speak them, that’s one of the reasons series one went from good to great. The show’s return has afforded us precious few opportunities to see these two do what they do best – but tonight there was the scene where Hardy recalled the moment he found Pippa’s body. I want more of that, please! 


AND PLEASE, NO MORE…


1. Courtroom scenes

When it was first revealed series two would follow Joe Miller’s trial, I was excited. We’d asked ourselves time and again what premise could possibly fulfil our lofty expectations and this one seemed to work. But as the court began hearing the case, Broadchurch went from dramatic to dreary. The plausibility of proceedings failed to stand up to scrutiny – and while the sparring between barristers Jocelyn Knight (Charlotte Rampling) and Sharon Bishop (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) was engaging at first, as the weeks wear on it’s beginning to feel tired. Let’s get to the closing arguments quickly, please.

2. Revelations in the dock

Too many of this series’ ‘shocks’ are things we’ve heard before. Miller and Hardy’s affair? We’re 99.999% certain that didn’t happen. Mark Latimer’s fling with Becca Fisher, we know did. And as for Susan Wright’s sighting of Nige Carter on the beach the night of Danny’s death, doesn’t it feel like well-trodden ground? The courtroom may be left gasping at Susan’s revelation but we’re not. Unless this is building up to a shellshocking “Joe didn’t do it” reveal, we’ve got to ask, what’s the point? 

3. Hardy and Miller as Thelma and Louise

Before the start of series two, we thought it might be fun to cook up some ways it could be rubbish – ridiculous ideas that, surely, would never happen. One of them was a blossoming romance between Hardy and Miller – Broadchurch’s world-weary detective pairing, now both single and ready to mingle.

But the first four episodes of series two have seen our worst fears begin to be realised as the pair bickered like a married couple, almost shared a hug and crammed into the same hotel bed (snazzy pyjamas, Ellie!) The latter felt particularly daft – especially set in direct contrast to Lee and Claire’s rampant bedroom session – and followed on from the mawkish exchanges that have come to define their partnership this series. “Look at us,” says Ellie. “Thelma and Louise. You can be Susan Sarandon.” Are anyone else’s toes curling?  

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What would you like to see more of in Broadchurch series two? And what – if anything – do you think they’re doing wrong? Let us know in the comments box below…