WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD
For eight weeks in 2013, the nation became obsessed with ITV’s crime drama Broadchurch, a show that told the story of a small town and how it dealt with a big tragedy. Over nine million viewers tuned in to the final episode to find out who killed schoolboy Danny Latimer and the first series ended with the crime solved but the community broken apart and in despair. Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) was especially badly affected.
It was the perfect ending for a fantastic series. Or was it? After winning multiple awards and securing enormous viewer ratings, the hit show is now back for a second series, which revisits the town in the aftermath of the investigation. The arrival of the second outing came with a lot of pressure to achieve the same phenomenal success that the first series did. Can this new series continue to surprise and engage its audience as well as it did before? Well, the first episode definitely lives up to the hype.
Episode 1 picks up around 6 months after the previous series ended and suffice to say, things are not going too well for the small community. The Lattimer family are still are still struggling with their grief, Ellie Miller is living in Devon as a Police Officer, without her son Tom (Adam Wilson), who is now living with Ellie’s sister, Lucy (Tanya Franks). Troubled Detective Alec Hardy (David Tennant) is also struggling with severe heart disease. The series opens with a shot of a beautiful field of bluebells and then cuts to Hardy who is still living in Broadchurch. At first, this is confusing, as he has no obvious reason to stay in a town that he was never particularly fond of, but he is still here and shows no signs of leaving.
This opening immediately throws questions at us and that’s exactly what is needed to engage the audience’s interest, but what really makes this episode stand out is the central story. It’s Joe Miller’s (Matthew Gravelle) hearing and the Lattimer’s are now ready for closure after he was revealed to be Danny’s killer. As Hardy, Ellie, The Lattimers and the rest of the returning characters attend the trial to hear Miller’s plea, the show proves that it has come back with a bang as Joe delivers a shocking “not guilty” plea. The entire courtroom scene is magnificent and is the best part of the episode.
The idea of the second series focusing on the trial of Joe Miller and proving that he killed Danny, even after his lengthy confession at the end of the first series, is a fantastic idea as it demonstrates that the show is still capable of delivering original storylines and reassuring audiences that it won’t be a repeat of the first series with another whodunit.
But it wouldn’t be Broadchurch if there wasn’t some level of mystery and thankfully, the show provides an intriguing new puzzle in the form of a sub-plot. We are introduced to Claire Ripley (Eve Myles), a witness in Hardy’s previous Sandbrook case whom he is now protecting, after it is revealed that the prime suspect, Lee (James D’Arcy), is stalking her and has made his way to Broadchurch. Hardy and Ellie decide to team up again to solve the Sandbrook case once and for all, which leads to some predictable but brilliantly written banter between the two characters.
It’s great to see these characters working together again, despite the tragic circumstances. Reverend Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill) also makes a surprising appearance in the opening, when he is shown to talking to Joe and consoling him before his trial begins. The new faces around town are all fascinating, with each one hiding its own secrets. New characters include Jocelyn Knight (Charlotte Rampling), a retired lawyer, called on by the Lattimers to help them in the trial, and Sharon Bishop (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) a rival lawyer who is defending Joe Miller. Early on, it is revealed that Knight is Bishop’s former boss and the two women clearly have a history together. The standout new character is Claire, however, as she brings a sense of fear and suspense to the show. It will be interesting to see how her character develops as the series progresses.
This may be the same town as before, but the stories are still fresh. Mark Lattimer (Andrew Buchan), for example, is shown spending some secret, personal time with Tom Miller after he hears Joe’s “not guilty” plea. Could this mean that Mark might be turning into the new Joe Miller? Writer Chris Chibnall has kept the plot details for the second series tightly under wraps, so only time will tell.
It’s also nice to see the town and the Lattimers particularly trying to move on from the tragedy in the first series. Beth (Jodie Whittaker) is heavily pregnant and Chloe (Charlotte Beaumont) is shown to be a lot stronger, looking after her Mum however she can. Sadly though, the Lattimers don’t get enough screentime in this episode. It would have been nice to focus more on their reactions to Joe’s outburst as every scene they have feels a little rushed. Also, some of the old cast from the previous series like Susan Wright (Pauline Quirke) are missed, but the introduction to the new characters makes up for it.
Like it’s predecessor, this episode features stunning cinematography, brilliant direction from James Strong, beautiful locations and excellent music, although at times, the music can be a little too loud. The acting and writing is still top notch, the pacing is still fast and the twists and drama are as exciting as they has ever been. The episode ends with Danny’s body being exhumed, while leads to some tense conflict between Ellie and Beth and immediately leaves you wanting more.
The series has returned with an encouraging start, with enough ideas to take the show off into new directions. The real test, however, will be whether it can manage to sustain another 8-week run without the effective driving force of a murder investigation.
Welcome back, Broadchurch. You’ve been missed.