April 23, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Broadchurch”


The first season of BROADCHURCH was a phenomenon in the UK, one that prompted the ill-fated FOX US remake Gracepoint, and also, back in England, the somewhat controversial decision to renew the series beyond its seemingly self-contained initial season.  Against the odds, though, in Broadchurch Season 2, writer/creator Chris Chibnall wove a more inventively plotted, less monotonously paced piece of work than the red herring-strewn original.

Broadchurch 2 expanded the world of the show’s first season in two logical ways.  It became a courtroom drama when Joe Miller (Matthew Gravelle), the apparently nice-guy husband of local cop Ellie (Olivia Colman), who had shocked her and viewers by being revealed in the Season 1 finale as the killer of young Danny Latimer, decided to plead not guilty, despite having confessed to the crime.  This provided meaty new roles for his defense attorney Sharon Bishop (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) and prosecutor Jocelyn Knight (Charlotte Rampling), among others.  Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant, mercifully freed from his Gracepoint US accent) reopened the case that had sent him to Broadchurch in disgrace in the first place, the murders of two girls in Sandbrook, which Hardy wasn’t able to solve, and which led to a scandal when Hardy took the blame for a piece of critical evidence stolen from his car when supposedly he (actually his ex-wife, a fellow detective on the case) was having an affair.

Both of these plotlines had some issues:  there was what turned out to be a false expectation that Joe’s guilty plea at his trial was the set-up for an elaborate twist, rather than just a turn that allowed for the trial that took up much of the season, and due to his plea, we never got to hear Joe’s account of the murder.  In addition, the reveal that Claire Ripley (Eve Myles), a key witness in the Sandbrook case, had been hidden by Hardy in Broadchurch came as an odd contrivance, and her obsession with estranged husband Lee (James D’Arcy) may have been unduly soapy.  Once those were gotten past, though, they proved absorbing stories, with plenty of reversals and tension.

The Season 2 finale was as close to a happy ending as Broadchurch is likely to get.  The Sandbrook case was solved once and for all, with Claire, Lee and the father of one of the dead girls implicated in the crimes and arrested by Hardy.  In Broadchurch, although Joe successfully beat the rap for Danny’s murder, the entire town, including Ellie and the Latimers, united to exile him from their sight forever.  Even Hardy, who’s always existed on the edge of an abyss, seemed somewhat at peace as he left town.

Although Chibnall has provided tricky plotting, the strength of Broadchurch has been in the well-defined personalities of its setting and the excellent performances of the cast.  Colman was, as in Season 1, the backbone of the series, staggering at the shock of her husband’s actions but refusing to let it break her in a beautifully realized piece of work.  The advantage to Ellie and Hardy having worked together in Season 1 was that there was less schtick to their relationship this time, and they were more believable as partners, with Tennant able to show some vulnerability to Ellie and to us.  The stars were backed up by a large and high-quality ensemble that included, along with Ramping and Jean-Baptiste, Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan as Danny’s parents.

A third season of Broadchurch has been ordered, and it’s likely that the show will need to strike out in a new direction, since its original plotlines seem exhausted at this point.  Chibnall has shown the ability to keep his characters and narrative moving forward, so there’s every reason to hope that there’s more drama to be mined from the material.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."