“I want my old life back.”
Broadchurch returns for a gripping second episode, as the Sandbrook mystery continues and Joe Miller’s court case grows tenser.
Last week’s episode ended with the order for Danny Latimer’s body to be exhumed, and the secrets of the Broadchurch residents continued to be unearthed this week. Lee Ashworth and Alec Hardy may not share much in the way of good will towards each other, but Lee’s impassioned plea of “I want my life back” must have resonated with the dissatisfied Detective Inspector.
Hardy’s discontent with his new teaching position mirrors Ellie’s longing for her son, and the saddest scene of the episode was undoubtedly Miller’s trip to her old home. Walking through a hallway full of unread letters and old family pictures, it’s almost as if Ellie’s family was never ripped apart by Joe’s appalling crime- and yes, Olivia Coleman remains Broadchurch’s most compelling feature in its sophomore season.
Miller and Hardy aren’t the only ones raking through their own pasts. Claire and Ellie’s relationship developed nicely this episode, with Miller having the good sense to treat Claire as a person, rather than a victim and a witness to Lee Ashcroft’s crimes. Having Ellie and Claire face the demons in their past together- Ellie by visiting the family home, Claire by meeting her husband again- was characteristic of the parallels that Chibnall favours in his writing, and really helped give the episode a satisfying conclusion.
Jocelyn Knight’s reintroduction to the courtroom was exemplified in a beautiful moment with her old wig, filled with nervous tension and anticipation as she resurrected her former career. And more details have begun to emerge about Sharon Bishop’s personal life- could the person at the end of her phone-call be the reason for her rift with her former mentor Jocelyn?
The pervasive media presence of a modern day murder trial is a horrifying but fascinating aspect of Broadchurch, with the obsessions of the national press playing second fiddle to the newly exploitative aspects of the local Broadchurch press. This parasitic desire for knowledge is personified in the figure of Olly (Jonathan Bailey), having been thoroughly seduced by tabloid journalism last season. Olly is now so detached from the personal elements of his job, busy gleefully live-tweeting the emotionally draining events of the Latimer case, that it’s easy to forget that he’s the nephew of Ellie Miller.
And however much Beth Latimer may protest that “none of us have got anything left to hide,” the press and the trial are drawing yet more secrets from the citizens of Broadchurch. Quite how the community will react to the news that Mark Latimer once hit his son is as of yet unknown.
After the extreme isolation of the first episode, Broadchurch refocused this week on its emerging relationships. The tentative partnership between Hardy and Miller that was built in season one was emotionally shattered after their time apart, but their trust appears to be rebuilding through a mutual respect and support. The same can’t be said for the Latimers, and both Mark and Beth appear to be on the verge of an act of emotional infidelity.
Mark’s secret visits to Tom Miller (Adam Wilson), so eerily reminiscent of Joe’s fatal obsession with Danny Latimer, are emotionally draining for Tom. He’s probably the most sympathetic character this season, forced to deal with the emotional outbursts of a grieving father and the incarceration of his father, issues beyond the comprehension of such a young boy. His mother Beth’s attempts at reaching out to her husband fail, and lead to her calling the vicar Paul Coates for emotional support. Despite his ongoing relationship with Becca Fisher (Simone McAullay), I suspect that the close relationship between Paul and Beth could develop into something more this season, causing extreme emotional turmoil for all involved.
The actions of the police in the Broadchurch and Sandbrook cases have been less than perfect, with both investigations spiralling out of control by the culmination of the episode. Ellie’s assault on her husband at the end of season one, such a classic moment in the show’s history, comes back to haunt her when it results in Joe’s confession being struck from the trial.
Lee Ashworth had not only contacted Claire but managed to abduct her, a colossal mistake on Hardy’s part (Hardy and Miller, fucking up together since 2013). For someone being framed as a killer, we know suspiciously little so far to suggest that Lee actually did kill the Sandbrook girls. Could it be that Lee is innocent, as Ellie poignantly asks Hardy before the meeting? And is Claire as innocent as she seems? My hunch is that they’re in the murders together, and I have the horrible feeling that the allusions to potential BDSM in their relationship is going to be used as part of a Bondage Is Badtrope. Don’t disappoint me, Chibnall.
The episode wasn’t flawless- some of Broadchurch’s compelling realism has been lost through the potentially sensational Sandbrook case, and no-one really believes that a copper like Hardy could be so appallingly stupid as to let Lee Ashworth escape so easily. Also, how did Lee Ashworth vanish without trace? Unless he can apparate, it was a suspiciously quick exit.
But Broadchurch remains a deeply nuanced show on the whole, and contains a highly gifted cast. The introduction of Meera Syal (who I’ll have an eternal soft spot for as a fellow Wulfrunian) as the judge at the trial led to a beautiful moment in which three older female actresses, two of whom were women of colour, shared a tense scene together. On the whole, Broadchurch still delivers a beautiful and enigmatic hour of television each week- even if I have to stretch my belief that David Tennant could comfortably live in a cottage with such low ceilings.