For an opening episode, Broadchurch Series 2 Episode 1 delivered on the gasp-factor, although how it will cope with its newfound lease of life is yet to be determined.
The idea of the amazing one-off miniseries (to coin an American phrase) is almost dead, since success now generally dictates a comeback. As is the case with the wildly successful ITV crime drama Broadchurch which, nearly two years ago, drew in audiences of up to 10 million viewers and has since spawned DVDs, Blu-ray special editions, a novelisation by Erin Kelly, fan-fiction, borderline-obsessive websites, seemingly endless repeats on ITV Encore and, finally, a sequel series. The extent to which ITV have tried to protect their golden goose of a drama has reached almost Harry Potter-publication-day levels of hysteria. Both TV critics and the leading actors were held back from watching the episodes in case something about the show was inadvertently revealed. Now Episode 1 has aired it has become clear what direction the show is going in.
The new series has had to coax out a shift in genre and tone from the series and the characters that inhabit it. For a start, it is no longer a whodunit (or at least not a straightforward one). Second, the mystery surrounding the thing isn’t ‘who killed so and so’ but rather the show itself. The suspense lies in wondering which direction Broadchurch will take next. For as long as it survives, it will be its own mystery-machine – a neat trick if they can make it work. From the evidence presented so far it looks as if we can expect something closer to BBC One’s Silk or ITV’s The Jury. The ground is being prepped for a blockbuster court case, something that sent viewers spinning when it was revealed Joe Miller would be pleading ‘not guilty’ to the murder he confessed to at the end of the first series.
To lead the opposing sides are defence barrister Sharon Bishop and crown prosecutor Jocelyn Knight. To play these roles ITV have rolled out the big guns, casting Oscar-nominee Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Secrets and Lies, Without a Trace, RoboCop) and Cesar award winning actor Charlotte Rampling (Swimming Pool, Never Let Me Go). Neither does much TV these days (at least not in the UK) so it is a rare treat to see such talented actors occupying such rich dramatic ground over multiple hours.
With all this intrigue and space for explosive revelations comes a nagging sense of regret and doubt. Writer Chris Chibnall’s superb first series was nothing short of breathtaking and a lot of that was thanks to the mechanics of the who-killed-Danny plotline and the interplay between leading detectives Ellie (Olivia Colman) and Alec (David Tennant). Here we have the detectives (with a fabulously acted scene in a courtroom women’s toilets that is both touching and funny) but plot wise, things are not so sure. In order to pick up things where they left off and continue the story (including the lives of the damaged Latimer family), Chibnall undermines the closure and sense of power the final scenes of the first series gave us. There is also a slightly soapy feel about the more convoluted moments, such as a hysterical confrontation scene at a grave-yard exhumation which smacked a little of the ridiculous.
The thing that may keep the show on track, however, is the revisiting of Sandbrook, Alec’s previous case that was alluded to only briefly in series one. Now, we are getting flashbacks to the case that are presented in a similar way to how the BBC’s hit drama The Missing coped with a duel-time period narrative: different cinematography, characters with different clothes, hair styles, facial hair ect. There was even a shot of Tennant’s character looking shockingly young – a success of the make-up and costume department.
For an opening episode, Broadchurch Series 2 Episode 1 delivered on the gasp-factor, although how it will cope with its newfound lease of life is yet to be determined. It’s already a bit of a mixture of ingenuity and contrivance. Which it will veer towards as it continues to document the woes of this once-quiet West Country seaside town remains to be seen.
Broadchurch airs on Mondays on ITV & ITV HD. Episode 1 is available on demand on ITV Player for a limited time. Watch the trailer below: