Broadchurch Series Two (Entertainment One, NR)

Broadchurch season2_75Watching it is a richly rewarding experience.

Broadchurch season2_500

The first series (season) of the ITV program Broadchurch received both critical and popular acclaim, achieving record ratings in the UK as well as winning several BAFTAs (British Academy Television Awards). The second series has the same qualities that made the first so popular, including vivid characters, a twisty plot, and a strong sense of location. Broadchurch is not for everyone—in particular, the leisurely pace that spreads investigation of a single case over two television seasons contrasts sharply with that of American procedurals like Law & Order, which solve a new case every week—but watching it is a richly rewarding experience. It’s also custom-made for binge watching, as many of the 50-minute episodes end with a cliffhanger.

In case you missed the first series, the central event is the murder of an 11-year-old boy in the fictional Dorset village of Broadchurch. Detectives Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) are assigned to the case. Both are carrying baggage—Hardy because of a failed investigation in a previous case, Miller because her husband Joe (Matthew Gravelle) is a suspect in this case—and they’re also starting off on the wrong foot because Miller thinks she should have been in charge of the case. In the final episode of the first series, Joe Miller is unequivocally identified as the murderer. He even confesses on the record, so apparently this case is solved.

But that wouldn’t be dramatic, would it? The second series opens with Joe Miller’s trial, in which he throws his lawyer and everyone else a real curveball by pleading not guilty. That means the family of the murdered boy will have to suffer through a real trial, and they convince local resident and retired barrister Jocelyn Knight (Charlotte Rampling) to take the case. Defending Miller is a former protégé of Knight, Sharon Bishop (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), and the rivalry between the two women forms a counterpoint to the progress of the criminal trial. Bishop also resents Knight for refusing to take the case of her son, who is now serving a prison sentence.

A second plot involves Hardy’s unsolved case, the so-called “Sandbrook” murders that took place in a different small town. Twelve-year-old Pippa Gillespie was found murdered, her older cousin Lisa Newbury disappeared, and Hardy is haunted by his inability to get a conviction of Lee Ashworth (James D’Arcy), whom he is sure is the killer. Ashworth’s wife Claire Ripley (Eve Myles) failed to provide an alibi for her husband, and is sufficiently afraid of him that Hardy put her into a sort of impromptu witness protection plan, hiding her in Broadchurch.

The progress through the eight episodes of the second series is similar to that of the first. It opens with a bang, complicates everything with lots of wrong turns while revealing surprising relationships and hidden secrets in the spirit of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple (“one does see so much evil in a village”), and eventually tells you exactly what did happen with a flashback, Thin Man style. That’s not a criticism, any more than it would be sensible to criticize a roller coaster for staying on its track instead of sprouting wings and flying off into the air. Broadchurch is not trying to reinvent the detective series, but rather to use the existing conventions effectively, and in that it succeeds very well.

One of the great pleasures of Broadchurch is the location shooting on England’s Jurassic coast (a natural World Heritage site), with direction by Chris Chibnall and cinematography by Matt Gray making full us of the cinematic possibilities of that region. They love to contrast the beauty and peacefulness of the small-town, seaside location, in all its natural splendor, with the horror of the deeds perpetrated by some residents of that location. The soundtrack by Icelandic musician Olafur Arnalds also helps set the mood and cue the relevant mood of each scene, ratcheting up the tension even when nothing seems to be happening on screen.

The second series of Broadchurch is distributed on DVD by Entertainment One, and is also currently available for streaming on all major platforms. Extras on the DVD set include deleted and extended scenes (32 min.), a making-of featurette (15 min.), a featurette about the first series (5 min.), a featurette on the Latimers (2 min.), and a series of video interviews with cast and crew, including Charlotte Rampling, Eve Myles, Marianne Jean Baptiste, Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan, Chris Chibnall, David Tennant, and Olivia Colman. | Sarah Boslaugh

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