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Warning: contains spoilers.
ITV’s award winning Broadchurch is back. But having reached a new low of 5.6 million viewers on Monday and having being recently dubbed as ‘Boredchurch’ on twitter, is Chris Chibnall’s mystery drama suffering from the classic second series syndrome?
After the success of the first series of the whodunit drama, which saw it win a string of awards and millions of fans, the pressure was on for the eagerly anticipated opening episode of the second instalment of Broadchurch. A publicity blackout ahead of the new season raised expectations even higher and it didn’t disappoint.
Andrew Billen, at The Times gave the first episode five stars, describing it as ‘expansively told, imaginatively filmed’ with an ‘extraordinary ensemble cast that churns the narrative like waves in a harbour.’
In many ways, as the trailer promised, ‘the end is where it begins.’ Detective Ellie Miller, played by Olivia Colman, is still recovering from the revelation that her husband Joe murdered schoolboy Danny Latimer in the first series and the community continues to mourn, and be shaken, by the 11 year Old’s death.
But the twist comes when Joe pleads not guilty to Danny’s murder, forcing the town to endure a full trial and shifting the show’s genre from murder mystery to courtroom drama.
‘Broadchurch was not moving on,’ says Billen. ‘More interestingly it was digging deeper’.
‘But without the shock, and with no whodunit to unravel, will the series remain as compelling?’ asks Ellen E Jones in the Independent. Well in light of more recent episodes, maybe not.
As it has developed the second season has faced criticism for its plot blunders and an overload of storylines, which has led to a record slump in viewers.
‘At the heart of the first series was one question – who killed Danny Latimer? Try summing up this series in four simple words?’ says the Independent’s Chris Bennion.
He’s got a point. Whilst the first series subtly gripped us, simply by sinking into the rifts that a death creates in a community, this new season seems more like a spider web whose ever expanding threads are snapping under the weight of subplot piled on subplot.
Subplots that on the whole seem to be offering us nothing new. In episode four Pauline Quirke made a surprise return as the shifty caravan owner Susan Wright and promptly implicates her own son in Danny’s murder for the second time. However this courtroom bombshell ran a bit hollow as we all know from the first series, having watched him do it, that it was Joe who murdered Danny and not her son. Are these storylines really essential to what will hopefully be a thrilling conclusion to the series, or simply a way for Chris Chibnall to keep his Broadchurch, like DI Hardy with his new pacemaker, alive and ticking?
The series has also seen a backlash in recent weeks for taking liberties with the legal system, Christopher Stevens at the Daily Mail stating that Broadchurch is ‘floundering in a mire of errors’, some of them ‘so bizarre that Broadchurch would fail its GCSE in Common Sense.’
The most recent ‘courtroom lunacy’ came as Joe Miller’s defence barrister suggested her client would be found guilty if she didn’t find someone else to blame for Danny Latimer’s murder. ‘Of course that’s how murder trials always work’ says Stevens of the Daily Mail. ‘If the lawyers can pluck another name out of their wigs, the defendant goes free.’
It seems it’s up to Sandbrook to save Broadchurch then.
Whilst the legal battle over the Broadchurch murder seems to be floundering, the Sandbrook B plot turned A grade in this week’s episode as we learn that Claire (Eve Myles) stole the missing pendant, the key piece of evidence in the Sandbrook case, which led to her husband’s exoneration. The frightened ex-wife in need of protection is looking increasingly less angelic, after her request for her husband to tie her up in bed and her major temper tantrum which saw her hurl cereal across her kitchen.
In fact it was a week of raging women, as we saw Ellie Miller finally lose her temper with her son, who had lied on oath minutes earlier to keep his dad out of jail, and witnessed bereaved mother Beth Latimer (Jodie Whitaker) flee the court howling after her husband revealed he was ready to call off the marriage on the night of their son’s death. Finally we are given some of the rifts in the community that made the first series so brilliant.
These emotional eruptions seem to have done the trick on Twitter, where the show was dubbed ‘Boredchurch’ last week, the mood changed, with several viewers describing Colman’s outburst as ‘Phenomenal’. With outstanding performances from its cast, particularly its female members, and the revelation, finally, of a key piece of evidence in the pendant, it appears Broadchurch, like Alec Hardy’s ticker, is finally pumping properly again. The stage is set then for the final two episodes. Strap yourselves in.