REVIEW: Broadchurch - Episode 2 - A Loss Of Control

Our review of the second episode of Broadchurch series 2 is below. Please be aware that it contains spoilers.

The second episode of Broadchurch continues to ramp up the tension of the series opener. In a slower paced narrative the twin plots continue to unfold, and a shocking bombshell that is dropped in one has later, potentially deadly, consequences for the other. At the beginning of the series, the residents of the troubled town of Broadchurch were anticipating closure on the events that had ripped through the small community. Now this has been snatched away from them and the prospect of a child killer walking free is devastating for the Latimer family and for detective team Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman).

The trial of Joe Miller (Matthew Gravelle) begins, and it’s a delight to see the appearance of Meera Syal as unconventional judge Sonia Sharma. In the first episode, QC Jocelyn Knight (Charlotte Rampling) warned that the defence would play dirty. They had already started with the exhumation of Danny’s body, and although this resulted in no new evidence it certainly upset and disorientated the family and prosecution witnesses. Newcomers to town, Sharon Bishop (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) and Abby Thompson (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) have clearly been snooping around the private lives of all involved in the case. The opening testimonies of the case allow for the rival QCs to begin to spar. Although the reason for the enmity between Jocelyn and her former protégé Sharon is not made clear, there’s a neat demonstration of their connection in Sharon’s repetition of Jocelyn’s wall metaphor. Within a few minutes in court the Latimers, portrayed in the press as a typical nuclear family, are discredited as Mark’s (Andrew Buchan) affair with Becca (Simone McAullay) is exposed to the jury. Then, devastatingly, the whole trial is derailed thanks to a combination of Hardy’s lapse of judgement and Ellie’s loss of control during Joe’s arrest and questioning. The confession is thrown out on a claim of police brutality and Beth Latimer (Jodie Whittaker) now really does have a reason to hate Ellie. At the moment the defence have the upper hand. One can only hope that Jocelyn was brought out of retirement for a reason, and she has yet to have her moment to shine.

Hardy, meanwhile, has other things to occupy him during the trial as he becomes more determined than ever to wrap up the Sandbrook case. A tense face-off with Lee Ashworth (James D’Arcy), the one that got away, makes Hardy put his plan into action and use Claire (Eve Myles) as the bait to catch his quarry. He arranges a meeting at Ellie’s old family home, much to Ellie’s despair. With the living room bugged and monitored Hardy brings Lee and Claire face to face, but thanks to a tip off from Nige (Joe Sims), Beth arrives to confront Ellie following the courtroom revelation of her actions. Hardy is distracted for a moment and in that instant Lee is gone and with him, Claire.

It's thanks to David Tennant subtle and multi-layered performance that Hardy's court appearance may outwardly bluster confidence and professionalism while at the same time leaving the viewer holding their breath anticipating an imminent collapse. The events of the trial are another blow for Hardy. He was once labelled the worst cop in Britain, and you can’t wonder, on current evidence, whether the press may have a point. It was his decision to go against protocol and let Ellie see Joe, which directly led to the rendering of Joe’s confession as inadmissible. His health is clearly failing. He can barely manage to drag himself to the front door of his austere little shack, but he still continues to ignore advice and push himself physically and mentally. His concealment of Claire is unofficial and no doubt his latest scheme is without the knowledge or blessing of his superiors. He even drags Ellie, an officer assigned to a different force altogether, in to help him, and he lacks the sensitivity to see how returning to her home might affect her. It’s obvious from the whole set up that the meeting with Lee is going to go catastrophically wrong.

In the Hardy-Ellie dynamic, there is more evidence of a shift between them. Hardy has become the one that looks out for Ellie and makes sure she is eating. Olivia Colman continues to flip between Ellie's devastation to rage to antipathy with enviable ease. Ellie has become the hardened bitter one, friendless, rejected by her colleagues, even SOCO Brian (Peter de Jersey). She is horrified to accept that she has a lot in common with Claire (signposted by the bright yellow walls in their homes, perhaps?), but a mutual bonding session over a bag of chips shows her that as wives of men accused of murder they are probably the only people who can understand one another. Ellie is falling lower and lower and nothing drives that home harder than the scenes of her sitting devastated among the Marie Celeste-like evidence of her past happy life in the family house that they had to leave so quickly. Moreover, the guilt that she expressed to her counsellor seems justified. She might actually be responsible for Joe getting off the hook.

Lee continues to be a sinister presence and his meeting with his wife does nothing to dispel the uneasy feeling around him. Far from being fearful and horrified, Claire seems to be compliant, allowing him to expose her breasts without a murmur. Is it fear? Is their dynamic one of control? Or is it something else, something that Hardy could not have suspected?  There’s no shout from Claire, no sign of a struggle. In an instant the pair are gone, hinting that they might always have been in this together and Claire might be the holder of more secrets about Sandbrook than Hardy ever imagined. Perhaps the key is discovering who sent her that single bluebell that she keeps wrapped up so carefully in her wardrobe.

The episode closes on a chaotic cliffhanger, with both cases slipping out of Hardy’s reach and secrets starting to emerge that could cause even further upset. And poor Beth probably won’t even get her planned home birth now. Will anybody start to claw back a bit of control?

Broadchurch continues on Monday 19th January at 9pm on ITV in the UK and at 10pm on TV3 in Ireland.