Warning: If you haven’t seen Season 1, this will contain spoilers.
Closing speeches are a gift for films and TV series. Dramatic. Rousing. Full of heightened emotion and theatrical rhetoric. Episode 7 of Broadchurch Season 2 impresses, then, by managing to make them so boring.
The courtroom has long been the weakest part of this second season, partly thanks to a tendency towards histrionics in the stand without a thought for realism or character motivation. The introduction of back-stories for each of our barristers – one going blind, the other with a son whose appeal is denied – was meant to keep us engaged with their shenanigans but has only come across as filler, detaching us further from the emotional stakes of the trial; the shock of that decision by Joe Miller to plead not guilty feels a long time ago. Now, the only feeling we get from Broadchurch is a resounding indifference.
That sense of padding spreads across the rest of the show this week – a surprise, given it’s the penultimate entry in the whole season. At this point, we should be on the edge of our seats, rather than on the brink of dropping off.
The Sandbrook mystery drives the bulk of the story and things are starting to come into focus, from the increasingly suspect Ricky Gillespie (who has bluebells in his office) to the clarification of the exact nature of DI Hardy (David Tennant) and Claire’s (Eve Myles) relationship. Detours via a stalker, suicide and more sex bulk out the love triangle between old Lee Ashworth and the duo, although it turns out to be more a love circle, or a love line that looks increasingly thin.
Twists and turns like these are commonplace in Broadchurch Season 2, revealing past conflicts to be contrivances with no consequence. The problem is that the whole season feels like that too; half of the discoveries that are announced dramatically in this penultimate chapter are ones we know already, or at the very least were aware of. So when we get a central set piece that sees DI Hardy, boasting about his new lease of life post-heart operation, square off against Lee, it fizzles when it should spark.
“I thought she was lying to protect you, maybe it’s the other way around,” Alec declares, despite us having reached that conclusion two episodes ago. There is more satisfying spite in the showdown between Lee and Claire, although that still swings wildly between enjoyably cruel dialogue (“Thank God you never became a father”) and a downright daft skirmish in the sea.
Even when the hint of an unknown party in France intrigues, the return of a mobile phone number discovered weeks before (that was, for some reason, never investigated) overrides that suspense with frustration. It’s no wonder, then, after all this rigmarole, that young Jocelyn’s junior takes against rival lawyer Abby, who shagged Olly to find out that Miller’s sister was paid by Ellie before her confession – which, of course, we already knew as well.
“You’re a terrible person,” he says, with a glare. And we agree. After all, who cares about her? Even a sweet picnic between the excellent Charlotte Rampling and journo Maggie can’t endear us to these legal types, with their trumped up attempts at melodrama and disregard of continuity. The decision to hold back the final verdict until next week is the least surprising thing of all, but it still irks. At this point in Season 1, the cliffhanger was nail-biting, leaving you clamouring for the concluding chapter. Here, it’s less “Why can’t we have the finale now?” and more “What? There’s still another episode?” Who knew a closing speech could have that effect?
Broadchurch Season 2 is available to catch up on ITV Player. Here’s where you can watch Season 1 online.