REVIEW: Broadchurch Series 2 Episode 1: How Do You Plead?

Check out our review of the first episode of Broadchurch below. Please be aware that the article contains spoilers if you haven't caught up yet.

Broadchurch returned last night with a bang that had viewers reeling in shock from the first few minutes. By the first episode’s heartrending climax, series creator Chris Chibnall has already ensnared the audience in not just one but two gripping storylines, linked together by ailing former detective Alec Hardy (David Tennant). New cast members, including Eve Myles as the frightened Claire and Charlotte Rampling and Marianne Jean-Baptiste as feuding QCs, slot into the world of Broadchurch quite effortlessly and provide the catalyst for new events to grow out of and weave around the central storyline and throw up new questions and secrets.

The town of Broadchurch is expecting a resolution to the terrible tragedy of Danny Latimer’s murder, and as the first scenes revisit some familiar faces, it is clear that their focus is on one event – Joe Miller’s (Matthew Gravelle) trial. Joe is expected to take responsibility for the crime but his last minute change of heart plunges the Latimer family and the residents of the town right back into a living nightmare. Alec Hardy has to face the prospect of another trial collapsing, just like it did around the Sandbrook case, as the defence prepare themselves to pick holes in the case against Joe. There is also a sense that many people were pinning hopes on the sentencing of Joe as the switch that put things back to normal, and even though this could never really have been the case, Joe’s plea now leaves many adrift and unsure of what happens next.

Woven through the continuing narrative of Danny Latimer’s murder is the ongoing plot of Hardy’s previous case at Sandbrook, involving the abduction of two girls. The case was Hardy’s driving force in series one, but now it’s revealed why the case is never far from his thoughts: he has been protecting one of his witnesses and has remained in Broadchurch to continue to do so. Claire Ripley is the wife of the accused, Lee Ashworth (James D’Arcy), and it’s his return that provides a new layer of menace over the drama and a new focus for Hardy and Miller.

It would have been completely unrealistic to find the community settled and happy after Joe’s arrest, and fortunately Chris Chibnall does not insult the viewer’s intelligence by showing any Happy Ever Afters. The events of series one were life changing for many people and they are still feeling the repercussions; for many there will never be a ‘back to normal’. Relationships and roles have changed, and some many never come to terms with the consequences of the murder. Strife and secrecy are very much apparent in the opening episode. Ellie professes murderous fantasies to her counsellor Julie (Adjoa Andoh), while Beth (Jodie Whittaker) in turn rounds on Ellie in a screaming fury and her son Tom (Adam Wilson) refuses to have anything to do with her.  Hardy generally holds the rest of humanity in contempt. Ironically one of the strongest and surest relationships seems to be that of Hardy and Miller themselves: certainly they frustrate each other and he still treats her like an employee, but they do understand one another and they are the closest each other has to a friend right now.

Interestingly, Chibnall also inserts an uneasy scene where it is revealed that Mark Latimer (Andrew Buchan) has slipped away to meet up in secret with Tom, a foreboding parallel of the first series relationship between Joe and murder victim Danny. And Beth has no idea...

Performances are, once again, top notch. The grief of the Latimers is still raw and believable, especially the emotional collapse by all three (Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan and Charlotte Beaumont) in the courtroom. David Tennant steps effortlessly back into place as Alec Hardy, who, as rude and socially inept as he is, is still committed to doing the right thing for the victims’ families. Olivia Colman is devastating as a woman who has lost everything that made sense to her in life and is struggling to accept that she may never get it back again.

The episode ends on a sickening note for the Latimers as they witness the exhumation of Danny’s body, the start of more digging and delving by the defence team as they try to ensure Joe’s freedom. Worse for Hardy, as he stands watching the small coffin ripped from the ground, up on the hill he spots the figure of Lee Ashworth watching proceedings. It’s a stark parallel for Hardy of events in his earlier case and he faces a reality where he might be responsible for two guilty men walking free.

Broadchurch continues on Monday 12th January at 9pm GMT on ITV in the UK and at 10pm on TV3 in Ireland.