Broadchurch series 2 episode 4 review

With spiralling plots and returning characters retreading old ground, Broadchurch’ second series is really starting to flounder…

This review contains spoilers.

Increasingly, Broadchurch’s second run is starting to feel less like a drama in its own right, and more like a set of specially filmed DVD extras to accompany the first series. Previously unseen Broadchurch trial footage! Hear witness testimony from your favourite characters! Click here for the juicy alternate killer! Exclusive documentary special: what really happened in Sandbrook…

As such, it’s diverting for rabid fans, but not compelling enough to stand alone.

That sense was compounded this week by the return of Susan Wright (Pauline Quirke), who threw one of plumber Nige’s spanners in the works by testifying that it was her estranged son and not Joe Miller she saw placing Danny’s body on the beach. Why land her boy in it? Either Susan still thinks he did it, or it’s revenge for him rejecting her dying wish (“me lungs are done in”) for reconciliation.

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Who knows, perhaps Susan’s suffering the effects of the same town-wide gas leak that caused the previously contrite Joe Miller to try to pin incriminating evidence on Ellie, Claire Ripley to go from terrified to horny at the sight of a prawn cracker, and Hardy to push his former partner inside yet another tragic empty house on that magical misery tour? (What was Ellie supposed to do in that place? Go all Derek Acorah and divine what happened to those girls by fingering the laminate flooring?)

Broadchurch was full of puzzling behaviour this week, the most mystifying of which had to be from Sandbrook mother Kate Gillespie. You’d have thought the news that her philandering hubby (Shaun Dooley) was shagging the wife of the chief suspect in their daughter’s murder might have come up before now. As might the possibility that Lee Ashworth may not be the Sandbrook murderer have occurred to Hardy.

Worst cop in Britain? He’s not doing much to convince us otherwise, however many emotionally manipulative flashbacks he stars in.

One of the few times a character expressed a recognisably human thought this week – Junior QC Abby’s “Shit Sharon, he totally did it” – she was told off for her trouble. Abby must have missed the stunning clifftop walk on which it was decided that Broadchurch’s legal teams were only allowed to speak in exposition and ellipsis. (That gas leak theory gets stronger by the minute: at least it explains why Joe’s defence holds all its prep meetings in the open air.)

Exposition, ellipsis and metaphors, we should say. Lee Ashworth was right when he told Ellie that “it’s all a game” to the barristers. Less a game and more a boxing match, one starring Jocelyn as Willie Pep (not an off-brand erectile dysfunction remedy, but an American featherweight with impressive stats).

Also treating Joe’s trial like a bit of fun was Ellie’s unpredictable sister, Lucy, who congratulated herself on “pulling a blinder” not realising that her shifting testimony simply pulled another brick out of the wall Knight was building. A boxing wall, presumably. Made of punching bricks.

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The rest of the hour’s gaps were stuffed up with the characters reconstructing meta versions of the conversations we’ve all been having about the show. “What do you reckon happened at Sandbrook?” said Ellie, “He says he’s innocent” said Tom, “He totally did it” said Abby. Instead of watching a drama this week, at points we were sitting through a running commentary on the one we saw in 2013.

Chief among the new information we were given was confirmation that Hardy and Claire had gone beyond the professionalism of the protected witness/possible suspect relationship by hooking up. We also witnessed Claire lying to Lee, casting even more doubt on the reliability of her testimony.

Speaking of doubt, what are the odds that Lisa Newberry will be found alive by the end of the series? A fiver says she makes her debut as the week seven cliff-hanger.

In the episode’s favour, wrapped around its legal burlesque was a loose, honest theme of parents missing their kids growing up. A family trip to Nando’s showed Hardy that his teenage daughter was growing beyond his reach, while Mark Latimer was determined not to miss wee Lizzie’s infancy. Bluebell-fancier Ricky Gillespie (make a note on your clue pad) took the pain of his lost child out on Hardy, telling Daisy that her dad was the reason that his daughter’s murderer was still free.

The very short scene in which Beth discussed the possibilities for Danny’s charity also felt more like the Broadchurch of old. Forgiveness and vengeance are exactly the stuff a drama dealing with the aftermath of a murder should be wrestling with, there just isn’t much time for that in a series so overweight with incident and scandal.

There’s still a glint of human truth in Broadchurch, but with only four episodes to go, we’re going to need to see a lot more of it over the next four weeks for the show to regain its former reputation.

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