We’re now just past the halfway point of Broadchurch 2. What do you think of it so far?
Are you one of the 140-character critics who hopped aboard the #Boredchurch bandwagon after Episode 1? Or do you love the show – and the way David Tennant’s DI Hardy emphatically says ‘Miller’ as ‘Millarrrrggh!’ – enough to see it through to the end?
7.6 million UK heads watched the opening of Broadchurch 2 (aka ‘From Sandbrook with Love’), a show that was so wrapped in secrecy we were lucky we knew the date and time it was being transmitted. By the second week that figure dropped to 6.1 million, while last night’s Episode 4 was seen by 5.17m.
I’m loathe to get bogged down in numbers – judging a show solely by its viewing figures is like appreciating a painting only by looking at how much people think it’s worth (undervalued past masterpieces Utopia and In the Flesh being good examples) – but where Season 1 united the audience in mystery, Season 2 has divided it in apathy.
Time (and the remaining four episodes) will tell how Broadchurch! Part Deux will hold up against its predecessor, but the immediate reaction in numbers and letters suggests it will be a shadow to the first, instead of an accomplice.
Still, we’re nothing if not fair here at CultBox, and as many viewers (myself included) haven’t yet made up their minds, I thought we’d have a courtroom-style defence and prosecution.
You can play the judge and jury. I’ll be Charlotte Rampling and Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Broadchurch 2 is on trial. The charge: that Broadchurch isn’t as good this time round. You may be seated. Order in the court! (Bangs homemade gavel thrice.)
Cast your mind back to 2013. The first season of Broadchurch was not only appointment viewing, it was practically interactive, as the audience would piece together their own evidence and discuss who they thought was the killer. It was the talk of bus rides and dinner parties and Monday nights on the sofa. Broadchurch made water-cooler detectives of us all.
What is there to discuss this time? How crazy good James D’Arcy looks in a t-shirt? (Seriously though, that is something worth discussing at a later date.) What else besides? The Sandbrook case hasn’t exactly got the Internet a-buzzin’ and the bookies aren’t taking bets on the outcome of Joe’s court case.
It’s indicative of the second season’s general stagnation. A stagnation best illustrated by the use of Eve Myles, who is a terrific actress but feels utterly wasted. Her character Claire Ripley is caught between Hardy grumbling at her, and her ex, Lee (James D’Arcy) staring sexily at her, and has nothing to do but be all wide-eyed and breathy in response.
It’s disappointing to see Myles stuck like that, given that she’s an actress who can make holding a baby and shooting at a helicopter look effortlessly cool.
And while no one expects the finale to be a helicopter smashing into the Jurassic coast in a plume of deckchairs and trilobites, it would be a fine use of Myles’ talents if she had more to do than just react passively.
But everyone is like that. Everyone is just passively reacting this season; pulling faces and unable to do anything else because they’re caught in the limbo of an ongoing trial.
The Latimers and the townsfolk sit in court and eject tears and gasps on cue when evidence is presented. Life beyond the court feels inconsequential. Even Beth Latimer giving birth feels like an aside against other paperwork-based events.
No one is doing anything. No one feels like they have a life outside the trial. Maybe that is the point this time around – to show how dispiriting and all-consuming the legal process is for all involved – but it doesn’t make for gripping TV.
Even DI Hardy appears stuck, wandering angrily on the fringes of his biggest failure. There is still a murder mystery, but it’s a cold case. A did-he-or-didn’t-he and do-we-care? You can see where Chibnall’s wrenching the drama from this time round – pulling open old wounds rather than prodding at fresh ones – but Broadchurch 2 is so busy looking back, exhuming emotions in trials and past investigations, that it feels like it isn’t going forward.
We’re learning a lot about the characters, and Chibnall has done exemplary work because everyone in the show feels like a person you’d hate/love to be stuck behind in a queue at Sainsburys, but there’s so much background that there’s no momentum.
With no momentum there have been no big moments. Nothing that strikes at the gut quite like the initial discovery of Danny’s body, or Jack Marshall’s death, or Ellie Miller’s reaction to her husband’s guilt. Joe Miller saying ‘Not guilty’ is worthy of an EastEnders’ ‘Doof-Doof’ but nothing more.
Broadchurch 1 was murder-mystery, Broadchurch 2 is courtroom drama. It’s become Kavanagh QC by the sea. A damp sandy clump of procedural drama. You can understand why some fans have turned off or on to Twitter to express their feelings. In the court of public opinion, the drama doesn’t quite hold itself together.
Read the defence on Page 2…