Review: Broadchurch Season 2

This review originally appeared in Wessex Chronicle Volume 16, Issue 1 (Spring 2015)

Broadchurch returned this year for a second series. The first was always going to be a tough act to follow. Critics soon dubbed its sequel ‘Boredchurch’, accusing lead writer Chris Chibnall of implausible plot turns and of repeatedly disregarding legal procedure in the interests of a good story. And yes, there was a lot of legal procedure. The second series picked up where the first left off, murder suspect Joe Miller unexpectedly pleading his innocence in a trial that proceeded to challenge much of what viewers believed to be the case against him.

David Tennant returned as the sickly Scots cop DI Alec Hardy, with Olivia Colman as his sidekick DS Ellie Miller. So too did the sparse, tension-building background music by Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds. Alec Hardy’s ex-wife appeared for the first time in series two, her name being Tess Henchard. As it had to be, if he’s the result of Chibnall’s juggling of Donald Farfrae and Alec d’Urberville.

Chibnall seems to have great fun naming his characters, as when his barristers are the white Knight for the prosecution and the black Bishop for the defence. Note too how many Broadchurch locals have traditional rural trades for surnames (Carter, Fisher, Miller, Wright). The Latimers take their name from latimmier, a keeper of records in Latin. Mark Latimer is a plumber, the only one of these trades named from a specifically Latin base. And the vicar – well, what else would a man of the cloth be than the Rev. Coates?

With the trial unfolding as the main theme, there was plenty else building around it, centred on ‘the Sandbrook case’, the unsolved murders tormenting Hardy from his earlier employment with the South Mercia force. This introduced a range of new characters and took Hardy and Miller up and down the M5 and across to Portsmouth in pursuit of the truth.

As before, much of the action was shot at Clevedon in Somerset and Bridport and West Bay in Dorset. To the list of locations last time, which also included Bristol, Portishead, Shepton Mallet, Weston-super-Mare and Yate, series two added Bracknell, Charmouth, Exeter, Lynton, Reading, Weymouth and other Wessex places. The University of Exeter’s Forum Building served as both the Wessex Police Headquarters and the Wessex Crown Court. Hardy (Thomas rather than Alec) would surely have been pleased at such a variety of places, spread right across Wessex and apart from studio scenes shot in Surrey and Yorkshire making few forays beyond it.

There will be a third series but, for those who just can’t wait, Erin Kelly, in collaboration with Chris Chibnall, has already penned a series of eight short stories based around themes from each of the recent episodes