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Tuesday 7 July 2015

Plausible Sequel or Too Far Out to Sea - Broadchurch 2

Detective Inspector Alex Hardy (David Tennant) and his former partner ex-Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Oliva Coleman), now a uniformed Police Constable working traffic, are brought together again over the resulting trial of their previous investigation. Hardy is still troubled by his health and also finds himself drawn back into the murder case he failed to solve before his work in Broadchurch. Miller is wracked by personal guilt and the impact the case had on her family. Meanwhile the Lattimer family struggle to rebuild their family and will be put through new tortures as the court case proceeds…

I feel the urge of the completest to write this review above all else. I suppose that is quite apt given the way the strength of this series’ continuation is based on its audience demanding that certain loose threads be tied. Many critics and good number of viewers reflected that it might have been better if these threads had been left dangling. Given the focus on the mystery of the first season being so masterfully executed, it was inevitable that Season 2 was being lined up for a fall. The first episode, directed by the main director of Season 1, boded well with both the public and most of the media giving it a positive response. However, by the third episode in I heard the collective groans and read the annoyed social media statuses, with viewers expressing their disappointment. Looking at the sporadic ratings and the to and fro reviews over the eight episodes, it did look like the season was fighting a battle with viewers. After the season finale, which received its biggest rating after the premiere, one newspaper declared it to be another example of how good ideas get milked dry. I could see the journalist’s point, but I did not agree.

“Broadchurch” Season 2 is a worthy sequel. It is not the equal to the first season, but it follows a believable line from the original story and makes some wise decisions. A lesser director might have followed a “Midsomer Murders” formula and had another murder be committed in Broadchurch for our heroic duo to solve. Instead, we receive a believable aftermath and some great risk taking with the structure of the story. Chris Chibnail deserves the lion’s share of the credit for keeping a consistent trajectory of character development and for not surrendering to easy plot turns. I don’t think I am spoiling the plot too much by saying that Ellie and Miller don’t have anything remotely resembles a romantic relationship despite accusations being thrown at them at one point. Both seasons do a good job of not caving into the clichéd male/female will they/won’t they sexual tension. I got bored with that after “Dempsey and Makepeace” finished and I wasn’t even a teenager. It’s such lazy writing and renders all viewers down to the level of “Over the Garden Wall” gossiping stereotypes. Instead both Tennant and Coleman are given mature material to work with in some great scenes that showcase their complex contrasting damaged personalities and burgeoning mutual respect.

The impact of the simple idea of the original story was always going to be hard replicate. Extra difficulties are presented by the fact that more than enough had been revealed about the case and the background of the child victim to warrant many twists. By focusing on the unresolved murder case Hardy blames himself for not concluding and the drama surrounding the trial, we get a story that is interesting enough without feeling like a re-hash of what has gone before or a betrayal of the characters or previous events.

Although “Broadchurch” was supposedly conceived as a trilogy viewers of Season 2 might, at first, struggle to see this idea. For example, if Season 1 appeared to be fairly self-contained then Season 2 proverbially padlocks the treasure chest and sends it seaworthy. In this respect, the gesture at the end that hints at the continuing adventures of Hardy and Miller undermines the style of the show. Furthermore, the introduction of some brand new characters that weren’t referenced in Season 1, including junior barrister Abby Thompson who seems to be a more amoral character replacement for journalist Karen White, smacks of mechanical sequel writing.

Having said this, Charlotte Rampling is on her usual fine form (apparently the other actors were originally intimidated by her casting) and her character is a much better unannounced fit in a series sequel than her role in the disappointing final season of “Dexter”. There are also some great plot points taken from the original series that have an unpredicted impact on the events in Season 2. This latter point, of course, lends more credibility to Chibnail’s grand plan or, at the very least, his imaginative agility.

A key strength of “Broadchurch” is its ability to get inside multiple characters’ heads and to present different viewpoints. The only other notable crime series that does this at least as well is “Hannibal”. This can be deceptive, but you get a feel for human nature in all its fallibilities. “Broadchurch” both presents the mess of events and troubled characters that are often behind a murder case and the traumatic uncertainties that sow doubt in the minds of those involved in a court case. Season 2 continued in the same vein as Season 1 in the way it takes a mature look at platonic relationships. In doing so, it holds up a mirror to the narrow view our oversexed brains tend to cynically interpret the way humans interact. A now deceased historian friend of mine once wrote an excellent article on how modern society jump to conclusions about companionship. In our efforts to become less naïve we might have lost a degree of empathetic sophistication. Let’s hope the success of “Broadchurch” will herald in more “human” drama.

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