Warning: Series 1 spoilers follow!
“Do you find the defendant Joseph Michael Miller, guilty or not guilty?” On Monday 23rd February at 9pm, this very question, that has kept viewers on the edge of their seats for the second series of the ITV mystery crime drama Broadchurch, was finally answered. The finale brought an outcome to the two main stories of this series: Joe’s trial and the Sandbrook case.
What drama could possibly be unravelled in the second series with Daniel Latimer’s murderer arrested? When the second series was announced, this was a major concern for followers of Broadchucrh at the end of the acclaimed first series, which was both visually stunning and characterised by an engrossing storyline. The plot development of the Sandbrook case turned out to be no big surprise as it remained an untapped mystery in series 1. However, the legal plot twist that emerged this series was genuinely unexpected.
New series, new characters. In order to give the show a fresh boost, several new figures have been introduced. With regards to the trial , two new cast members have entered the Broadchurch community: Miller’s fierce defence lawyer Sharon Bishop, played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste and the terrific Charlotte Rampling, who plays a retired barrister Jocelyn Knight, returning to court to prosecute the defendant.
On the villainous side, viewers trembled whilst watching the suspicious and creepy couple, Claire Ripley and Lee Ashworth (Eve Myles and James D’Arcy). Are they guilty of killing 19-year-old Lisa and 12-year-old Pippa? The eighth and final episode concluded the long suspense with the confessions of the two suspects and several flashbacks that allowed the audience to piece the puzzle by linking the various clues throughout the second series. Yet, these significant developments may have a downside for series 1 lovers.
What made Broadchurch one of the most popular British programmes when it premiered in 2013 was the endearing yet mysterious central characters live in a solid community with breathtaking scenery, but face a horrific tragedy set to a backdrop of stirring music. In the show’s second series, some of this has been lost, as characters remain present, but have been demoted to second-rate roles, except for the leading shock duo and the Latimer couple. Even the Reverend Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill) who was once under a cloud of suspicion, or Mark’s fishy BFF Nige Carter (Joe Sims) were both main characters two years ago when Broadchurch began, but have ended up with much less screen time this time around.
On the other hand meanwhile, the Tennant-Colman dynamic is still effective and brilliantly developed. A broken Miller is struggling to get her son back and an even darker and sicker DI Hardy is supporting her in these difficult times by getting her back on track with the reopening of the Sandbrook case.
Another feature that slightly disturbed Broadchurch’s aura is the somewhat risky choice to shoot half of the scenes behind closed doors. The shift from a whodunit drama to a courtroom drama – far from being everyone’s cup of tea – requires a change of environment: less beautiful coastal scenery to introduce the Wessex Crown Court where all the legal twists take place.
The show’s creator/writer, Chris Chibnall, explained that “the landscape informed the drama, the cliffs, the sea, the beach are all key elements of the story.” One should not worry though, the second series still features some gorgeous outdoor scenes of the Jurassic Coast in the Dorset area.
In addition to the impressive cinematography, much of the show’s tone is created with the music of the BAFTA-winning composer Ólafur Arnalds. The haunting mood of Broadchurch is perfectly conveyed by its austere and melancholic score. The Icelandic musician has succeeded in making music that has become a narrative of its own. Besides, for the most insightful viewers, some musical clues were dotted around the first series. For example, each character had a specific theme, but Joe’s – aka the villain of the show – was slightly different.
Arnalds’ soundtrack may have been a winning remedy in winning the audience’s heart, but recent criticism about the premiere of the second series had taken over Twitter to suggest not all were on board. Apparently, the main score was much faster and pounding. Some complained that this change added an “over-dramatic” and “distracting” side to the series. However, the producer explained that it was completely intentional since the emotional feel of the new series was based on the characters’ sorrow and confusion.
Overall, series 2 has been a surprisingly terrific series, largely thanks to the cast’s performances. The newbies from Sandbrook have been really effective by constantly acting mysteriously and maintaining the suspense until the very end over the circumstances of the two young girls’ death. It helped overcome the legal inconsistencies around the trial (such as the issue of inadmissible evidence in the second episode, regarding Ellie who had beaten Joe up after his confession) and the somehow surrealistic and cliché ending with the Broadchurch community banishing the criminal to serve justice.
But, does all of that really matter? Broadchurch is above all, a fiction. The quality of acting and the ingenuity of the script allow us to still be enthralled in its drama. It is nice, for just a moment, to immerse ourselves in a good “street-fight in wigs”, as stated in the finale. The funny-awkward-touching farewell between Miller and Hardy makes the wait for series 3 even more difficult, as “Broadchurch will return” appeared after the closing credits in ITV’s official confirmation of the show’s renewal.