Broadchurch: The Complete Second Season
US DVD: 5 May 2015
Note: This review contains season 1 spoilers.
When a show has as popular and successful a first season as Broadchurch, the expectations for the second season can sometimes be impossible to reach. Fortunately, Broadchurch steps up to the challenge and in many ways surpasses itself. While the first season focused on finding the killer of a young boy, the second season holds a different kind of suspense in the killer’s trial, as well as in the continued investigation of an older unsolved murder.
As the series picks up only a few months following the arrest of Joe Miller (Matthew Gravelle) for the murder of Danny Latimer, the small seaside community is gripped by the surprise of Joe’s unexpected ‘not guilty’ plea, despite his confession at the end of last season. The bombshell of Joe’s plea is felt throughout Broadchurch and affects more than just the families involved, particularly as the second season introduces the two lawyers trying the case, Sharon Bishop (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) for the defense, and Jocelyn Knight (Charlotte Rampling) for the prosecution, who have their own complicated past to navigate.
Much of the success of the first season can absolutely be attributed to the relationship between DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman). Though DI Hardy’s taciturn ways are almost always in direct contrast to Ellie’s more open nature, they are fundamentally similar in their dedication to their jobs. Their relationship built slowly over the first season, and though they were often at odds in terms of their respective approaches, it was clear that a mutual respect had developed between the two.
The devastating news that Ellie’s husband was the killer they were investigating all along would have been even more terrible had Ellie and Hardy’s relationship not grown over the season to provide support for each other. The complete trust between the two extends to this season when Alec brings Ellie into his investigation of his old case at Sandstone, something that he went out of his way to keep from her initially.
Sandstone is the case that prompted Hardy’s escape to Broadchurch, yet as Danny’s murder begins to bleed into his reinvestigation, he and Ellie work together on both, especially when the Ashworths (James D’Arcy and Eve Myles) arrive in Broadchurch. The Ashworths are manipulative and secretive and it’s only because Hardy and Ellie are each other’s professional sounding boards and confidantes that they understand one another almost intuitively as they attempt to parse out the truth.
Tennant and Colman are the obvious standouts, although in a cast as accomplished and talented as Broadchurch’s it’s difficult to highlight almost anyone. That being said, it’s the chemistry between Tennant and Colman that grounds the series at its most basic level. The bonus features offer even more evidence of their natural camaraderie as it clearly extends to the actors, not just the characters.
There’s not a weak link in the cast of this show. Still, the performances by Jean-Baptiste and Rampling are some of the best, particularly in their interactions with one another, and deserve to be recognized. They’re both well-established powerhouse actors, and although they’re part of an ensemble in Broadchurch, they still manage to shine. They both portray their respective strengths and vulnerabilities so well as to be alternately frustrating and sympathetic, fully layered characters.
Broadchurch is undoubtedly a very bleak series. Not only is the subject matter dismal, but also the tone is one of constant tension and emotional turbulence. In spite of this, the series still manages to find small moments of humor that provide a break in the overwhelming sadness at the heart of the show. As unlikely as it may seem, these lighthearted moments are perfectly placed and never cheapen or demean any of the darker elements of the show. Most often than not, the humor comes from Hardy and Ellie’s interactions. Hardy’s discomfort in expressing himself can sometimes be played for laughs very effectively when contrasted with Ellie’s more intrusive and sincere personality.
Apart from the central relationship between Hardy and Ellie, the relationship between Ellie and Beth Latimer (Jodie Whitaker, giving yet another excellent performance) is integral to the season as they come to terms with their broken friendship following Joe’s arrest, and begin to repair it as the trial goes on. Beth’s grief caused her to initially partly blame Ellie for Danny’s death, but as the season progresses they come to a place of understanding that sets up the basis for their reconciliation in ways that feel both understandable and earned. There are no quick resolutions in Broadchurch and the handling of Ellie and Beth’s shattered relationship is paced in such a way as to make the finalé especially satisfying.
Broadchurch is the kind of series that builds slowly, but it never sacrifices characterization or suspense. The moments in which truths are revealed for various characters feel authentic precisely because the show never rushes through anything. As this is the second season, there is less time needed to introduce characters, creating more opportunity for deeper character examination. Broadchurch not only continues to draw in and engage viewers, it also finds a way to add even more interest in its second season, making for a wholly satisfying series.
The DVD release includes quite a few extras, such as behind the scenes featurettes with cast, crew, and creators of the show; as well as deleted scenes and promotional spots. The deleted scenes in particular are an excellent addition to the set, and many of them could’ve very easily been included in the season.