The wheels start to come off Broadchurch as the series continues to struggle to find a balance between the court case and the Sandbrook murders.
Let’s bitch it out…
How do you watch a series that doesn’t capture your attention 50% of the time? This is the issue that I’m struggling with as I watch Broadchurch. At this point, despite how invested I was in the proceedings for S1, I just legitimately do not care about the court case against Joe (Matthew Gravelle). Partially this is because I don’t particularly like court room dramas – and Broadchurch isn’t executing this in a particularly memorable fashion – but also because it feels like the series has become overstuffed as a result of dividing its time between two major storylines. Whereas season one was lean and focused, S2 thus far has been the opposite: busy, plot heavy at the expense of characters and, most damning, mildly boring.
Take Jocelyn Knight (Charlotte Rampling). Last week I pondered why she took on the Latimer case, anticipating that it was financial issues related to her mother. Turns out it was (at least partially) because Danny was her paper boy. Erm…okay. I mean, I love a good lasagna delivery as much as the next person, but is this really the extent of the character development that we need to ground Jocelyn’s courtroom drama? Between this and Jocelyn’s continuing eyesight issues, you have to think that Broadchurch can do better with its top tier talent.
Thankfully the Sandbrook stuff is more interesting, although it’s only developing in starts and stops because it isn’t occupying the entire narrative (in my dream vision of Broadchurch S2, this is the whole series). Eve Myles continues to fascinate. This week we’re meant to question Claire even more as she and Lee (James D’Arcy) renew their destructive relationship, though I am concerned that there’s an implicit judgment about Claire simply because she’s not vanilla in the sack (light BDSM does not make a person less credible). Still, it feels like we’re finally starting to delve into the Sandbrook case and the semi-destructive Hardy (David Tennant) family dinner helps to highlight just how damaging it has been to an entire community who have never truly recovered.
Despite these strengths, it’s hard not to question some fairly serious inconsistencies in characterization. Last week Ellie’s (Olivia Colman) testimony against her husband was practically ruined by malicious rumours that she and Hardy were having an affair, so why would she agree to share a hotel room with him only a few days later? For Hardy/Ellie shippers, it’s certainly amusing to watch how awkward the resulting situation is, but these two competent professionals are far too smart to do something so stupid. It simply doesn’t make sense given what we know of them, and that feels like a lot of Broadchurch S2: characters we used to recognize now do things for narrative expediency. It’s disheartening and more than a little worrying as we hit the halfway point of the second series.
- There’s a level of discontinuity in the way that Hardy’s wife (Lucy Cohu) accuses him of being a bad father at their family dinner. We learned in S1 that Hardy’s case against Lee fell apart not because of his inadequacy, but because of his wife. So it doesn’t make sense for her to blame him for all of the family problems
- The Guardian makes a good point when they discuss how hypocritical it is for Sharon Bishop (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) to bark at her assistant to respect the Latimer family considering she ordered Danny’s body dug up in the premiere. Consistency has really been an issue this season, no?
- Susan’s (Pauline Quirke) return foreshadows a shock and lo and behold, she identifies her son Nigel (Joe Sims) as the man carrying Danny’s body onto the beach. So apparently we’re just revising everything that S1 uncovered now? Not sure this is a wise move.
- Credit where credit is due: the scene when Mark Latimer (Andrew Buchnan) holds his daughter in deep focus before the camera focuses on the family portrait in the foreground is beautiful and stirring. Broadchurch has always had a way with its visuals (see also: Hardy’s slow-motion rain soaked discovery of the body in the river, although this went on just a smidge too long for my liking)
Your turn: are you still feeling this second series? Are you troubled by the changes in characterizations to suit the narrative? Do you wish there was less focus on the court room? Would Ellie and Hardy be dumb enough to get a room together? Do you trust Claire now that she’s sleeping with Lee again? Sound off below
Broadchurch airs Wednesdays at 10pm EST on BBC America