So who’s been watching Broadchurch? The second series of ITV’s hit drama reaches its conclusion next week with many questions still unanswered. Do we really know who killed young Danny Latimer? Who was responsible for the murder and disappearance at Sandbrook? And just how many scenes of David Tennant looking breathless and close to collapse can the nation take?
The penultimate episode ended on a gripping, if predictable, cliffhanger with the verdict in the trial of Joe Miller about to be announced. But at times in this second run it’s almost felt as though Broadchurch itself was on trial, with criticisms being aired throughout the run for alleged plot holes, inaccurate depictions of courtroom procedure, inaudible dialogue (rapidly becoming an old chestnut, that one) and characters acting irrationally. Commenting on what was wrong with the latest episode had become something of a Monday night game on Twitter these last two months, and the press haven’t been slow to point to lower ratings than in the show’s first series.
Broadchurch is, of course, a programme with strong Doctor Who connections and therefore of considerable interest to us at Kasterborous. The show’s creator Chris Chibnall has been a prolific writer for both Doctor Who and Torchwood and directors James Strong and Euros Lynn have featured on both programme’s credits. When looking at the principal cast it’s almost easier to find people who haven’t been in Doctor Who than people who have, with David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Arthur Darvill, Eve Myles and David Bradley all in leading roles.
The programme’s stars have done their best to be sanguine in the face of the criticism. In The Guardian David Tennant puts it down to the difficulty of following up such a huge hit: “I think we’re a victim of our success to be honest. The first series was such an extraordinary thing. This country, we never allow lightening to strike twice in this country… we just don’t let that happen. So, inevitably there was going to be a certain amount of ‘it’s not as good as the first time’. I think it is. I think it’s a wonderful series that I’m very proud to be part of.”
Speaking to Radio Times Eve Myles says she’s not too disappointed at any negative reaction: “With something so successful, when it’s so heavily anticipated, you’re going to get people not enjoying it as much as the first series. It’s a brilliant drama, but what gets highlighted is the negative stuff. At least people are talking about it!”
Tennant and Myles surely have a point here. The first series crept up on people with little fanfare but over the course of its run became a national talking point, and it would have been impossible to repeat the formula with a known property. On reflection ITV may decide that the veto on previews of the first episode and the total news blackout on plot details before series 2 started were a mistake; if there’s one thing people in the media really hate it’s not having anything to write about and there may well have been an element of settling scores in some of the coverage the show has received.
But what of the criticism of many of the plot points in this series? People with legal knowledge have plainly had a field day highlighting the shortcomings (bereaved families don’t get to choose the prosecuting barrister; witnesses can’t sit and listen to all the other testimony in court; a dead child’s parents would surely be told in advance if the body was to be exhumed) but the producers have argued that there’s a balance to strike between total accuracy and the need to tell a compelling story. Some elements have felt like they belonged in a soap rather than a drama striving for credibility (Hardy, acting with no authorisation, tries to lure a suspect into incriminating himself on tape, just as a heavily pregnant Beth turns up to make a scene. And her waters break. Outside the house of her son’s alleged murderer). And at times it has felt as though some of the more unbelievable moments from the first series were being highlighted by the defence barrister in the second (a murder suspect’s wife, herself a serving police officer, attacks him in a cell; the bereaved boy’s father persuades a custody officer to allow him to confront the man charged with murdering his son at the police station).
And yet, if you can get past some of this there have been a lot of things to enjoy in Broadchurch series 2. As a depiction of a community in shock and a family in the most desperate grief following a murder it’s hard to think of a better example. The programme is to be commended for refusing to go down the route of so many successful crime dramas which, when given a second series, simply give their protagonists a new case to tackle. Broadchurch’s second run has followed the after-effects of a singularly traumatic event in a way that television just doesn’t normally do and has always persuaded us to care about the characters involved, even when they act rashly or stupidly.
Performances have been consistently strong. Eve Myles’s Claire Ripley, the woman with a fatal attraction to a man who is thoroughly bad news, has added a new dimension as we’ve slowly learned what happened that went so badly wrong in the Sandbrook case (though there are surely more revelations to come there). The two leads have been excellent as ever as a TV couple who most definitely do not fancy each other but, for all they can become exasperated by one another’s behaviour, share a genuine friendship with all the frustration and falling-out that can bring. If there have been moments when the show has dipped it has generally been when the focus has shifted away from Hardy and Miller (yes, all that courtroom stuff has dragged at times…).
So what do you think? Have you enjoyed series 2? Will you be counting down the days to the final episode? Has the whole thing made any darned sense at all?! Tell us below!