WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD
Broadchurch’s second series has reached its halfway point and while the show’s previous episode was one of the weaker ones, this week’s episode, while flawed, is thankfully a lot stronger.
The episode begins with a mysterious image (it wouldn’t be Broadchurch without one) of Alec Hardy (David Tennant) struggling against a current. But this mystery is resolved quickly; it was Hardy trying to retrieve the body of one of the victims of the infamous Sandbrook case and getting pulled under by the river. After Hardy re-lives this nightmare, we see him do something that he’s never done before: Break down and cry. This opening proves that Hardy isn’t just a sarcastic, rude and obsessed man. He also has feelings, he just needs to stop hiding them.
The supporting characters of Broadchurch get a lot more screen time this week and it’s about time, although sadly journalist Olly Stevens (Jonathan Bailey) continues to act like a childish buffoon. Still, the rest of the town are a joy to watch, in particluar, Ellie Miller’s (Olivia Coleman) sister Lucy (Tanya Franks) who is called to the witness box for Joe Miller’s (Matthew Gravelle) trial. Unfortunatley, she messes everything up and causes more problems for the prossecutor Jocelyn Knight (Charlotte Rampling).
The trial scenes in Broadchurch used to be the highlight of most episodes, but now they seem to be getting more and more repetitive and not as interesting as they used to be. For example, we are introduced to a new character who claims that she had witnessed Joe Miller attacking someone in a vent of anger. Now this could have been a great opportunity to meet a new character who is not defending Miller, however, she is never seen again. In fact the entire sequence of the new witness seemed entirely pointless.
Thankfully, the trial is given a backseat for the most part as Hardy reveals to Ellie that he wants to go to Sandbrook to try and get the case open again. This leads to a much needed change of location. Somewhere the audience can forget about the unrealistic trial scenes and instead focus on new characters and more of the investigation.
Another good thing here is that Hardy has to face his demons at Sandbrook, and not just his wife and daughter, but also the fact that he may have got the original case wrong! After a heated discussion with the mother of one of the victims (Amanda Drew) he admits to Ellie that maybe Lee Ashworth (James D’Arcy), his primary suspect, is innocent after all.
New suspects are introduced, like Hardy’s wife and the father of one of the victims, named Ricky (Shaun Dooley), who both want Hardy to leave the case alone. Although their introductions could be stronger, they are still welcome new characters who can hopefully bring more interesting conflict to the show.
We are also introduced to an interesting twist of Hardy apparently sleeping with Claire (Eve Myles). This could all be a lie conceived by Lee, but Hardy seems to be having flashbacks of waking up next to Claire in bed. Maybe it’s time to question what Alec’s motives really are.
Sadly like the previoous episode, this one is also flawed. Back in the town, we get one cute scene between Mark Latimer (Andrew Buchan) and their newborn baby daughter, but no more. It seems that this episode was more foccused on spouting out exposition (Jocelyn explaining that she took the case because Danny Latimer delivered the local paper to her house) than building the relationship between Beth (Jodie Whittaker), Mark and their new child.
Also, in a bizzarely fast paced scene, Mark tells Tom Miller (Adam Wilson) he is no longer going to meet him. This was a great mystery introduced in the first episode and now it seems to have been answered in a very anti-climatic way. Also, all of the Miller children suddenly seem to be so easily disposable. We don’t even know where Ellie’s 4-year old son Fred is this week!
For once, Joe Miller’s defense team, led by Sharon (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), don’t act like cartoons. Instead that position goes to Lee as throughout this episode he does nothing but appear in numerous cliché manners at different locations and talk like a cartoon. Sadly the character of Lee is now becoming less and less interesting. The same can be said for his wife Claire, who does nothing but complain and disobey instructions.
Thankfully, this episode did have its fair share of strong moments. As mentioned before, it is very nice to see a more emotional side of Hardy. David Tennant always provides a great performance when playing this character and this week is no exception. It’s also nice to learn more about the new characters of the Sandbrook case and watch them shine.
But by far the strongest element of this episode is the return of the mysterious Susan Wright (Pauline Quirke), who has now returned to her caravan in Broachurch with her dog, Vince. Seeing Susan again is a delight as she was one of the best characters in the first season. She always sends a shiver down someone’s spine whenever she’s around and it will be exciting to see what her future plans are for her and her family.
The ending for the episode is also quite good as it opens the door for more suspects to enter Broadchurch and the more suspects, the better.
Certainly a mixed bag, but the change of location and return of Susan Wright makes this episode a lot stronger than its predecessor.