Broadchurch series 2 episode 8 review

The Sandbrook murders have been solved and the Broadchurch verdict has been reached. So why aren’t we feeling satisfied?

This review contains spoilers.

Of all the possible reactions to a whodunit revelation – furious disbelief, knowing nods, cries of ‘I knew it!’ – lowest on the hoped-for list is indifference. Who’s the killer? Oh, them. Is the cricket on next?

Finding out who killed the Sandbrook girls and in what circumstances registered high on the shrug-o-meter. Lee shagged Lisa so Ricky killed her? Okay, right. Lee suffocated Pippa so she wouldn’t talk and Claire orchestrated the cover-up? That’s that then. Cup of tea?

Learning the truth about Sandbrook provided roughly the same level of satisfaction as pulling into a convenient parking space or popping a spoon through the metallic lid on a new jar of coffee. It was momentarily engaging, but ultimately banal. It could just as easily have been a different configuration of guilt, or even an accident. Emotionally, the stakes were hardly there.

Ad – content continues below

The reason being that Lee and Ricky had barely a hair of characterisation between them, and Claire was written and performed like one of those toys made from a stack of blocks painted on each side with a different head, body and set of legs. In her first arrangement she’s a terrified victim. Then twist, and she’s a lascivious colluder. Twist again, she’s a fire-breathing dragon. Another twist and she’s an abused imbecile. Twist. Psycho. Twist. Pawn. Twist. Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction. Twist. Claire’s personality didn’t stay still long enough for us to identify one, let alone empathise with it.

That was compounded by the drama casting DI Hardy as the emotional victim of Sandbrook, leapfrogging the sympathy line-up of murdered girls, their mothers, and even the bewildered culprits themselves. Pippa was the same age as his daughter, the case almost killed him, we kept hearing (yet he barely blinked when Joe walked free?). Cry us a river, Hardy. It’s not all about you, mate.

Nor was it really about anyone else, which is why it’s all been so unmoving. Sandbrook was a puppet show compared to the rich drama of series one. Unanchored by an emotional waypoint outside of Claire’s unreliable vacillations, we could only experience it at the level of a shopper pushing their trolley past a display of tabloid headlines at the supermarket. The script ill-served Pippa and Lisa as victims. Instead of feeling their tragedy, we were simply entertained by its scandal.

All of Broadchurch’s heart remained with series one’s characters, who chose to fight injustice this week in a show of communal strength. The stinking system really does stink, concluded series two, but love as strong as steel is the cure. Like antibodies rushing to the site of infection, the townsfolk gathered at the hut to chase Joe off, dealing out vigilante justice in the form of Paddington Bear hard stares.

Never mind that their moral high-road solution painted them as the worst kind of NIMBYists (“Off with you, you murdering, violent-tempered paedophile with nothing to lose. You’re Sheffield’s problem now”). Never mind that it was clear they’d had learned precisely nothing from the bungled police work that let Joe walk free (how are kidnapping, manhandling, and death threats going to play should the case ever be reopened?). Never mind all that. It was poetic justice that Beth was given the last word to her son’s killer, and moving that it was a promise to survive Danny’s death and not to avenge it.

Ultimately Beth was right to worry; the truth wasn’t enough. Joe’s not-guilty verdict was the crowning moment of series two’s intriguing thread of cynicism about the fractured relationship between the legal system and justice. There’s a real debate to be had there, one more nuanced the warring legal teams (planning to combine their powers in future to form a sort of Megazord barrister, we learn) were able to squeeze in this time around. Perhaps series three will see it fleshed out.

Ad – content continues below

Yes, ITV has found compelling enough evidence in the 9 million of us watching week after week to commission another run. The Broadchurch jurors may have been given a lifetime’s reprieve following the extreme difficulty and distress of series two, but the audience is getting no such pass. We’re being called up to serve one more time.

Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, here.

Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.