VOD TV review: Broadchurch Season 2, Episode 5
James R | On 04, Feb 2015
Warning: If you haven’t seen Season 1, this will contain spoilers.
“Don’t get pulled into it,” says DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) to Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), as they continue to dig up the old Sandbrook case. “I’m going to solve it,” she predictably replies. At which point a part of you lets out a tiny, almost inaudible sigh.
Broadchurch Season 1 always impressed because it was able to be unpredictable; it was a story that engaged so much emotionally that you couldn’t tell what was coming. You cared so much, you didn’t notice any implausible moments. Season 2, though, has felt driven by those moments instead of its characters. Which makes the whole thing seem implausible.
After weeks of Hardy pleading with – if not ordering – Miller to assist him solve Sandbrook, to suddenly turn around and tell her not to get involved is a jarring note in what is otherwise an impressively consistent relationship. It ironically arrives just as we finally get a convincing justification from Ellie for devoting time to the past mystery when more pressing matters are happening in the present. A chilling reunion with her son, Tom, makes it clear that Miller’s not helping Hardy in spite of her problems, but as a distraction from them.
In fact, Episode 5 is a slight improvement over Episode 4 because it finally feels like we’re making headway in Hardy’s old case. Ricky – the father of the murdered Pippa – turns up to beat some revenge into our likeable suspect, Lee (James D’Arcy), while Claire’s ever-changing accounts of the night in question only make her seem more and more like the guilty party. Flashbacks of Ricky playing hide and seek with Pippa and her (still missing) cousin add to the muddy waters of memory.
And yet the presentation of Sandbrook within the framework of Broadchurch almost undoes the whole thing: while Ellie feverishly sorts through the closed files (Olivia Colman’s facial expressions are amazing), Hardy finds himself having another attack outside, as his illness seems to be triggered by the traumatic stimulus of water. Which raises the most important unanswered question of all: why on earth did he decide to live in a chalet right next to the sea?
Things become increasingly laughable in the courtroom too, where any pretence of legal accuracy has been given up altogether in favour of fun, melodramatic confrontations. With Pauline Quirke’s deliberately awkward Susan determined to strike back at her son, some of those laughs are intentional. When it comes to our legal counsel, though, the sniggers slip in between the cracks in their unnecessary back-story, which is introduced seemingly to back up a rivalry that Charlotte Rampling and Marianne Jean-Baptiste are more than capable of communicating themselves. A bizarre piece of blackmail involving Arthur Darvill’s priest and the fact that he visited Joe in prison before the trial smacks even more of trying to create scandalous tension where there is none – not to mention the sudden appearance of another witness who would clearly never be allowed to testify of their own accord. Implausible moments are one thing, but when that doubt extends to the actual characters themselves, you know a TV series is struggling.
As things are spelled out and logic is abandoned, it’s Beth and Mark Latimer who emerge from Chris Chibnall’s increasingly unsubtle script as the real stars, quietly trying to move on with their new baby, while still dealing with the death of Danny. Their performances and a burning cliffhanger are just enough to keep you curious for one more hour.
Don’t get pulled into it, warns DI Hardy. If Broadchurch doesn’t get its act sorted out in the final three episodes, he won’t have to tell us a second time.
Season 1 and 2 of Broadchurch are available on-demand with ITV Encore, ITV’s premium subscription channel. ITV Encore is available through Sky on demand and Sky Go. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream ITV Encore’s catalogue through NOW, which costs £6.99 a month, no contract.