Broadchurch 2 verdict – guilty of being a letdown

AFTER the hoo-hah it attracted during its second outing, Broadchurch finished with the announcement that there will be a third series.

The papers had a field day slamming the drama this time round, loudly blowing raspberries as the ratings drooped – Telegraph: ‘Loses two-million viewers’; Independent: ‘Lowest ratings’; Daily Mail: ‘Boredchurch’.

I felt the first episode was a good jump-start to the second series. But after that, it became implausible and dull. I quickly caught up by watching several episodes last week in time for Monday night’s finale, but still felt it was a shadow of the first, multi-award-winning season.

The performances were again terrific, but it was criticised for its legal inaccuracies and tortured plot. My own gripes were these:

• The storytelling was manipulative and the courtroom scenes irritating. Alex and Ellie performed like novices when questioned. Every time barrister Sharon Bishop made a wild accusation, we got reaction shots of the Latimers and the detectives looking distraught, ramming home the point that everything the defence asserted was on target with the jury. And the flashbacks showing Lee creeping about the woods and at the furnace were another attempt to steer viewers rather than let us work things out for ourselves.

• Even if it was possible, the idea that Joe would get off because the defence suggested a number of totally baseless fantasy scenarios – Ellie and Alec’s affair, Danny spotting his dad in a tryst and dad Mark ending up killing him etc – was deeply unsatisfying.

Radio Times describes Joe Miller’s acquittal as a ‘shock verdict’. Surely this was the most predictable verdict since as early as episode two. The constant judicial decisions in favour of the defence were a flashing neon sign that Joe was going to get off. So was a guilty man declared innocent here? My guess is that writer Chris Chibnall’s big series-three twist is going to be that it was Ellie and Joe’s son Tom that really killed Danny and Joe was protecting him.

• After all the tedious red-herrings (he did it, she did it, Ricky did it, the stalker did it), the whole Claire-Lee-Ricky denouement was muddled and unbelievable. Threatened with being implicated by Ricky, Lee turns cold-blooded child killer? Hmm…

• Alex’s one-man witness protection of Claire also stretched credibility to breaking point.

• And what is the point of Susan Wright and son Nige? In both series she’s been lurking with intent but has not affected the final story at all.

• Alex and Ellie spent most of the series going round in circles. Their characters hardly developed at all. In the last scene, they parted awkwardly, still as alien to each other as they been from the start.

So, Broadchurch will return, ITV cheered by the way its ratings rallied to nearly 8million. The good news is that David Tennant and Olivia Colman should return with it. Maybe after this difficult second series, Chris Chibnall will find his mojo again and conjure another classic.

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