Battle Lines are Drawn in Season 2 Premiere of ‘Broadchurch’

Olivia Colman and David Tennant reprise their roles in season 2 of

Olivia Colman and David Tennant reprise their roles in season 2 of “Broadchurch.” Credit: ITV.

Caution: This review contains spoilers.

“Broadchurch” made a stunning return last night for season 2. Skipping forward, the series picks up a few months after the murder of Danny Latimer. Everyone expects Joe Miller (Matthew Gravelle) to plead guilty and then receive his sentence. However, he stuns the entire courtroom, including his legal representative, by pleading not guilty. Joe doesn’t want to go to prison, but he also seems intent on dragging down all of Broadchurch by exposing the town’s secrets through the trial. The lead-in to the courtroom scene was shot brilliantly, alternating between Ellie’s hurried approach and the slower pace of townspeople and officials into court, befitting the gravity of the upcoming moments.

The new plea throws the healing town into confusion, anger and dismay again; it manifests with the greatest intensity in Beth Latimer’s (Jodie Whittaker) outbursts toward Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman). Meanwhile, other battle lines are being drawn as legal teams are forming for the trial and an old case rears its ugly head. The former pits reclusive lawyer Jocelyn Knight (Charlotte Rampling) as the prosecutor against her old student and defender for Joe Miller, Sharon Bishop (Marianne Jean-Baptiste).

The latter pending showdown concerns the Sandbrook case from DI Alec Hardy’s past. Lee Ashworth (James D’Arcy), the suspect, was tried and then able to get away because vital evidence was lost. Perhaps just as surprising as Joe’s plea change is the revelation that Alec has been hiding Claire Ripley (Eve Myles), Lee’s wife, in Broadchurch all this time. He took the Broadchurch job just so he’d have an opportunity to protect Claire. Claire’s fears that Lee has come back turn out to be true, as Lee shows up on a hillside during the exhumation of Danny’s body from the church graveyard.

Other surprises are thrown into the mix here, which could make for a very loaded and potentially confusing season. Mark and Beth are still distant (not a surprise), but what’s disturbing is Mark’s secret video game sessions with Tom Miller. It was hinted that Mark may have hit Danny in anger, a fact that wouldn’t bode well for Tom. Becca Fisher (Simone McAullay) is dating Rev. Coates (Arthur Darville). Tom lives with his aunt Lucy (Tanya Franks) and cousin Olly (Jonathan Bailey), refusing to stay with let alone see his mother.

The standout performance is Olivia Colman as Ellie, who has been undergoing therapy for her guilt and anger from not knowing the truth about her husband. She runs through such a roller coaster of emotions and thoughts (fantasizing about killing Joe in the kitchen) without being overly melodramatic. She’s often exasperated, which plays well against Tennant’s straight demeanor as he lets her vent. “Am I going to be annoyed by this?” Ellie asks Alec on their way to Claire’s house. It’s amusing to see Alec trying to be on Ellie’s side in this installment, when the two of them clashed so much during the first season. Yet he fails often in his fleeting moments of being considerate, such as when it’s clear that he has no idea about the name of Ellie’s younger son (Freddie). The chemistry between the two characters is undoubtedly one of the aspects that makes “Broadchurch” so enjoyable to watch.

Reviews for the second season are mixed and starting negatively, but for now I’m siding with the more positive critiques. The “everyone has a secret” element is under scrutiny, but it was a theme that was very much part of the first season. One can’t expect the same tone to carry over to a new season when the town dynamics are set to change. And why the astonishment over the number of new arrivals in the town? Perhaps the timing stretches belief a little, but given the high level of attention on the town, outsiders are bound to trek in.

March looks to be a great month for David Tennant on this side of the pond in more ways than one. Firstly, there was the premiere of the second season of “Broadchurch” last night. Last week, ITV confirmed that the drama has been commissioned for a third season, with Tennant and Colman reprising their roles. Finally, the former “Doctor Who” star isn’t just coming to our shores via cable and digital channels. Fans have an opportunity to attend his Q&A panel at next weekend’s Wizard World convention in Raleigh, NC. It’s sure to be a treat for anyone heading out there!

New episodes of “Broadchurch” air Wednesday evenings on BBC America.

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