One of the most successful UK series in recent history returns for a second series with an unexpected focus.
Let’s bitch it out…
A few years ago Broadchurch swept the UK by storm, garnering critical acclaim and massive ratings over the course of its eight episodes. The story was only intended to be a closed-ended murder mystery, but with so much success it was inevitable that creator Chris Chibnall was lured back for another round. And so here we are, with a second series featuring nearly the entire cast and a brand new storyline.
When the new series was announced and it was revealed that both series leads David Tenant and Olivia Colman were returning to their acclaimed roles, many wondered how it would work. Most (myself included) believed that it would be a prequel, focusing on Hardy’s (Tenant) notorious Sandbrook case, the one that brought him to Broadchurch in the first series. Others believed that there would be a new case that would reunite Miller and Hardy.
It turns out to be a bit from column A and a bit from column B. In what now seems like an obvious decision, Chibnall focuses on the fall-out from series one as Joe Miller (Matthew Gravelle) pleads not guilty to Danny’s murder and Hardy’s past catches up to him in the form of Sandbrook, Claire (Eve Myles) and her ex-husband who she accused of murder, Lee Ashworth (James D’Arcy).
The opening scenes, which reunites everyone in Broadchurch as they gather in the courtroom to hear Joe’s plea, is a testimony to the series’ enduring power. As characters arrive, we’re quickly and efficiently filling in what’s happened since series one, learning about the “new normal” for these people: some, like Arthur Darvill’s Paul and Simone McAullay’s Becca are dating, while others, like Jodie Whittaker’s Beth and Miller, are no longer on speaking terms. Once Joe enters the courtroom, the dialogue is reduced to a minimum and the technical elements take over. The entire sequence is incredibly emotional – the nearly palpable tension that has held the community in its grip is communicated via the sweeping score and the visages of the talented cast. When the hammer comes down and Joe opts to plead not-guilty, the sense of closure and finality that everyone was seeking is swept away in a single moment, leaving only burning anger (from Andrew Buchan’s Mark) and agony (from Beth and Miller, both of them so desperate to put the first series’ nightmare behind them).
The rest of the premiere has the burden of fleshing out what else has happened in between seasons while also laying the groundwork for the season to come. A lot of that rests on Tenant’s shoulders as we’re introduced to Claire (mostly via Miller) and provided a ret-con background about how Claire’s presence is what drew Hardy to Broadchurch in the first place. The flip side is Joe’s defense, as both sides of the courtroom swing into action, recruiting two powerhouse new actresses to the series in the process: Charlotte Rampling as retired prosecutor Jocelyn Knight and Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Sharon Bishop, Knight’s former protégé, now looking to spread her wings and prove herself.
The Knight/Bishop contrast is an interesting reframing of the battle of wills between Hardy and Miller that we saw in the early episodes of the first series. It seems designed to fill the gap left behind by the original pair, who have since moved into confidant/partner mode (built on equal parts comedy and exasperation – both unexpectedly amusingly). The introduction of Rampling and Jean-Baptiste may have caused me to break out in audible gasps of ohhhs and ahhhs; their presence can only mean good things for a series that is already so stacked with talented actors. In fact, both women are fantastic in what little we’ve seen of them (hardly surprising). As for the series itself, repositioning it as a courtroom drama, as opposed to a police procedural, should help to skirt the apprehension that there isn’t enough story left the tell, one concern that was tempering expectations in the lead-up to the series’ return.
- Bishop and Knight, huh? That chess metaphor is a wee bit heavy-handed.
- Much like Hardy did in the first series, Knight is carrying a hidden secret/burden (it is heavily suggested that this is the reason she has not practiced law in several years). Presumably it has something to do with a child, which is simultaneously the reason why she was apprehensive to get involved in the case and also why she eventually takes it on.
- Things between Mark and Beth have not improved since last series. He’s dodging her calls to spend time playing video games with Tom (Adam Wilson) in Susan’s old RV. Is Tom acting as a surrogate son? Is Mark acting as a surrogate father? (We actually learn that Tom and Miller aren’t speaking, so technically Mark could be acting in both parental roles).
- Re: Susan: Guess she’s not coming back this series?
- I’d forgotten how opportunistic the Stevens’ are. Olly (Jonathan Bailey) uses his first opportunity to get a dig in at Hardy and then later discusses how the case will help him get published more widely. His mother Lucy (Tanya Franks), meanwhile, gleefully wonders whether she’ll be asked to testify now that Joe’s case will be tried. These two are total bottom feeders.
- Speculation time: Why has Joe decided not to plead guilty? Initially I thought it was Paul’s doing since we see them meet beforehand, but Paul is among the most shocked when Joe enters his plea. It’s either as simple as Joe doesn’t want to go to prison for the rest of his life…or there’s more to Danny’s murder than we were led to believe. Broadchurch sure is full of secrets!
- Hardy (when Olly asks if he misses being on active duty): “You can probably stop taking the asshole pills now, Oliver.”
- Hardy (to a very visibly distraught Miller): “Do you want a hug?”
Your turn: what do you think of Hardy and Miller’s new camaraderie? Are Knight and Bishop the new Hardy and Miller? Now that we’ve met Claire, is she what you imagined Hardy’s ex would be like? Will the Sandbrook and Broadchurch murders be linked? Why has Joe plead not-guilty? And how excited are you about the talent that has joined the series? Sound off below, but please note that we’re only talking about the US episodes, and spoilers for upcoming episodes (already screened in the UK) will not be tolerated.
Broadchurch airs Wednesdays at 10pm EST on BBC America