It's Always Worth A Trip To "Broadchurch" Review

Broadchurch was a smash hit when it debuted on ITV in 2013. Created and written by Chris Chibnall (Torchwood) and starring David Tennant (Doctor Who) and the ever-underrated Olivia Colman (Peep Show, Hot Fuzz), the debut season chronicled the devastating effect that a murder investigation had on a small fictional town on England’s Jurassic Coast, all towering cliffs and crashing waves--gorgeous, but undeniably dangerous. Tennant’s DI Alec Hardy, an outsider sent to Broadchurch to start anew after a high-profile investigation went awry, and Colman’s DS Ellie Miller, an ambitious local cop resentful of Hardy for swooping in and stealing the promotion she wanted, had some of the best crime-solving chemistry since Special Agent Dale Cooper met Sheriff Harry S. Truman on Twin Peaks. The eventual reveal of who murdered local boy Danny Latimer was a real doozy, with a twist that could have came off as cheap in lesser hands but instead felt rich thanks to Chibnall’s masterful writing and Colman’s punched-in-the-gut performance. Like all successful things, people immediately wanted more--but with the murder solved, where could Broadchurch possibly go from there?

With season two, Chibnall focuses on how the close-knit community, torn apart by the tragic events surrounding Danny’s murder, attempts to move on. However, a major obstacle is thrown in their way in the form of a trial, after the killer--Ellie’s husband, Joe Miller--suddenly decides that he cannot plead guilty and instead has to try and win his freedom. (As the apparently deluded Joe, unable to accept that he is guilty of a terrible crime and willing to put Danny’s family through even more heartbreak in order to save himself, Matthew Gravelle is properly disturbing to behold in the courtroom, not to mention in the jailhouse scenes where he begs the sympathetic minister played by Arthur Darvill for help rather than forgiveness.) Naturally, the trial threatens to expose a multitude of dirty secrets still been kept under wraps by the various characters. However, when Alec and Ellie’s actions throughout the investigation are called into question, it looks as though the entire case may unravel--much to the horror of the Latimers, who crave justice, and everyone else in Broadchurch, who want closure.

The trial makes for a delightfully juicy story arc. Not only does it introduce compelling new characters like fierce prosecutor Jocelyn Knight (Charlotte Rampling) and her former pupil, the no-holds-barred defense attorney Sharon Bishop (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), but it also gives viewers an entirely new perspective on season one; all of the characters’ actions are picked apart and re-constructed in an attempt to show that, while it might be impossible to prove Joe Miller’s innocence, it sure as hell isn’t impossible to find reasonable doubt of his guilt. Yet where season two of Broadchurch goes slightly off the rails is in its subplot, which concerns the Sandbrook case alluded to in the first season. The disaster that was Alec’s failure to solve the Sandbrook murders was what led him to come to Broadchurch in the first place, and now he and Ellie are determined to crack the case once and for all. Despite having the talented Eve Myles (Torchwood) and James D’Arcy (Agent Carter) play the dysfunctional married couple at the center of the murders, Sandbrook just feels like an unwanted distraction from the much more interesting Latimer trial. I’ll admit I was still hooked enough to plow through episodes in order to learn the truth about Sandbrook as soon as possible, but the path was far more tangled and the resolution far less satisfying than I would have liked. Fortunately, what is still satisfying is the rapport between Tennant and Colman, the latter of whom is truly the beating heart of Broadchurch. Warm and friendly when she wants to be, cold and calculating when she needs to be, Colman's Ellie is someone who you definitely want in your corner and definitely do not want on your tail.

As odd as it may initially sound, one of the best things about Broadchurch is how few episodes there are; each season contains only eight hour-long installments, all of which are absolutely soaked with suspense. This ensures that the quality of Broadchurch remains high and the series remains easily and enjoyably bingeable. One hopes that, if more Broadchurch is made (and yes, season three has already been greenlit), Chibnall and company stick with this tried and true formula rather than be tempted to go overboard. Broadchurch may be good--and it is very, very good--but as we all know, there can be too much of a good thing.

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES

The three-disc set includes cast and crew interviews, behind the scenes featurettes, deleted scenes and “The Making of Broadchurch.

"Broadchurch: The Complete Second Season" is on sale May 5, 2015 and is not rated. Drama. Directed by James Strong, Jessica Hobbs, Jonathan Teplitzky, Mike Barker. Written by Chris Chibnall. Starring David Tennant, Jodie Whittaker, Olivia Colman.

Jun
27
2015
Lee Jutton • Staff Writer

Lee attended NYU for Film & TV Production, but she now works mostly in PR. Her primary obsessions in life are Doctor Who, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Arsenal F.C. When not writing about things she's watched, she's running or kickboxing in preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 

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