WARNING: This article contains spoilers
The first season of Bafta-winning crime drama Broadchurch was one of the best series TV has seen in recent years. It’s unsurprising that expectations for the second season were high. Unfortunately though, they were not met as the series concluded last night.
The second series has followed the trial of Joe Miller (Matthew Gravelle), who confessed to the murder of the Latimers’ son, Danny, at the end of season one. Early on Joe Miller’s plea of ‘not guilty’ showed the series would follow a process of investigation which would shake the community, bringing many harrowing secrets to the fore. In attempting to sow the seeds of doubt in the viewers’ minds as to whether or not Joe Miller was in fact guilty, it appears that the producers of the show thought it acceptable to present wholly unrealistic courtroom scenarios and a plethora of subplots no one actually asked for.
But we can forgive them for the factual inaccuracies, as the show is a drama – not a documentary – after all. Just like Hollywood takes liberties, so too must TV producers. Anyone who has pointed out the fact the judge wore the wrong wig, or the fact that the Latimers would not have selected their own barrister must remember that the first season was not without fault: had Ellie Miller’s predicament been a real life one, had she been a real detective and her husband emerged as a potential suspect in a case, she would have been recused immediately. The entire premise of the drama relies on being accepting of these liberties and it is important to remember this when critiquing the show.
Less forgivable are the unnecessary subplots and red herrings which seemed to exist solely so the jury could utter the words ‘not guilty’. Mark Latimer (Andrew Buchan) was seen secretly playing FIFA with Tom Miller, Joe’s son; seemingly so that the jury were able to be convinced he could have killed Danny by the defence and Joe Miller enabled to walk free from the dock. Jocelyn Knight (Charlotte Rampling) and Maggie Radcliffe’s (Carolyn Pickles) romance and the addition of spaghetti carbonara simply came across as padding, enabling the producers to drag the series out for another episode. Not only that but Rampling’s character’s subplot seems like ammo for seasons three, as it was made clear her character will be working for the triumphant defence attorney, Sharon Bishop’s (Marianne Jean-Baptiste). Furthermore, there were no answers as to why Reverend Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill) kept his visits to Joe Miller a secret, or how as a member of the church he managed to consciously justify an affair with the Australian hotel manager, Becca Fisher (Simone McAullay).
In fact, the Reverend ensured, and indeed morally condoned, Broadchurch coming together and procuring justice community-style; even if that meant Ellie threatening to kill Joe if he went near his kids, and Beth Latimer (Jodie Whittaker) telling him nobody would care if he died. Whilst nobody sympathised with Joe Miller’s paedophilic behaviour, it was perhaps disappointing that there wasn’t some unique plot twist which meant the Reverend had been visiting Joe out of guilt – perhaps that he had somehow been involved in the grooming of Danny Latimer. Instead, rather than a clever commentary on the injustice of the justice system, which the series could have been, the viewer was left with an overwhelming sense of disappointment as the producers tried to be too clever.
The parallel mystery running alongside Joe Miller’s trial was the ongoing Sandbrook investigation, and in last night’s finale it was revealed what truly happened in an agonizing effort by the shows producers’ to tie up all loose ends. The ‘reveal’ was unbelievable to say the least; it was in fact Ricky Gillespie (Shaun Dooley) who killed his niece, Lisa, in a fit of jealous rage, finding her having sex with Lee Ashworth. But instead of calling the police, Lee Ashworth (James D’Arcy) decided the best thing to do was to murder Ricky’s entirely innocent daughter, Pippa, who had heard Lee having sex with Lisa, to ensure that he didn’t get accused of Lisa’s murder. Right.
Lee’s glamorous assistant – the bizarrely twisted Claire Ashworth (Eve Myles) – provided a chilling performance wherein she gave Pippa rohypnol, which allowed Lee to then smother the child and dump her body in the river. The three characters have been selfish, manipulative and clearly deceitful to DI Hardy (David Tennant) throughout the series so whilst it was somewhat of a relief to see them all brought to justice it was a thinly veiled attempt to wrap up the storyline in the remaining half an hour of the show.
The brilliance of Broadchurch rested on the unexpected; viewers were captivated throughout the first series as they attempted to figure out for themselves who killed Danny before Miller and Hardy did. Although ultimately cleared of the murder, Joe Miller’s overwhelming guilt was perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the show. Not because it showed how flawed the justice system is, but because our imaginations were not satisfied. What if Joe Miller hadn’t killed Danny – what if he was merely covering for his son? Or if it was in fact a collaborative murder carried out with the assistance of the Reverend? Over the course of the series it appeared that no such plot twist would emerge; the court case stagnated and valuable viewing time between the adverts were peppered with unnecessary subplots.
When the end credits rolled, I was relieved. Broadchurch sadly became Boredchurch by the end. Unless the third season moves away from the tired setting of Dorset, it’s more than likely I’ll be finding something else to watch on a Monday night.
Words by Beth Kirkbride