By Nivea Serrao
Danny Latimer may be dead, but as “Broadchurch” kicks off its second season, it’s clear he’s not forgotten. The BBC America series picks up just as his friends and family are preparing for his murderer’s trial. This gives us a chance to not just catch up on what’s happened in the months following the reveal of his killer, but we’re once again reminded that this show is as much about the effects and aftermath of a small-town murder as it us about a whodunnit itself.
Not that this season will be without its own mystery to solve. This series delves further into the case Alec Hardy was last working on before he moved to the once-sleepy seaside town. Nicknamed “Sandbrook” after the town the murder took place in, the case involves the murder of two cousins, allegedly by Lee Ashworth, the next door neighbor of one of the girls (James D’Arcy in a role that’s very far away from Jarvis from “Agent Carter”).
This introduces us to Claire Ashworth, one of the new characters who will be playing a big part this season. She is Lee’s wife and the witness who testified against him. She also allows us a glimpse into Alec’s past, letting us see the emotional tie he has to someone who isn’t Ellie. Up until now, DI Hardy has been using Danny’s death to escape the blowback of Sandbrook, while Ellie has provided the emotional weight of knowing and being connected to most of the people involved in this case. Season 2 switches things up: now it’s Alec who’s emotionally invested while Ellie throws herself into her new job as a traffic cop in Devon.
The inclusion of Sandbrook infuses this season with some of the tension that made the first one so compelling. No doubt the show is going to take on a journey through all of the possible suspects. After all, if there is one thing “Broadchurch” is not short on it is tension and questions — potentially this little town’s biggest exports.
But Alec isn’t the only one haunted by the Ghost of a Murderer Gone Free. Ellie finds herself in what might be a similar predicament when her former husband – and current murderer on trial – Joe pleads “Not Guilty” at his sentencing hearing. This gives us Series 2’s first WTF moment (seriously, WTF?!): if it was hard to believe that mild-mannered family man Joe was behind Danny’s death, it’s harder to believe that this confessed murderer could plead anything else. (Cue Olivia Colman’s quivering lip.)
However, his doing so allows series creator Chris Chibnall to not only mine Danny’s death for further effect and emotional turmoil for everyone involved, but it allows us to slowly investigate each of the characters’ actions and motives for their current activities as they take to the stand to testify over the course of the trial. This is heightened all the more by our knowledge of what each character might be hiding. Rev. Paul Coates has been secretly counseling Joe, while Mark has been lying so he can hang out with his dead son’s former best friend (who also happens to be Ellie and Joe’s son). If Season 1 was a guessing game, Season 2 is more of a chess match, as we wait to see when each eventual reveal will come.
Extending this trial also throws some more new characters into the mix, specifically lawyer Jocelyn Knight (representing the Latimer family) and her opposing counsel and former protégé, Sharon Bishop (defending Joe Miller). Not only do they come in with their own rivalry baggage, but Knight and Bishop’s familiarity with one another gives them a rich dynamic and adds another layer of tension to the trial. How do you face off against someone who knows all of your tricks? It also gives the show something to explore other than Hardy and Miller’s guilt and the Latimer family’s grief and anger. (Side note: Their names, which clearly aren’t an accident, only extend the second series’ chess metaphor.)
Their introduction highlights something that this particular season of “Broadchurch” is doing particularly well: featuring a wealth of diverse female characters. This makes the show stand out in what is a sea of “critically acclaimed” dramas that feature few, if any, women. Instead it casts women in job positions that would usually be male by default and we see women playing lawyers, judges, editors-in-chief, and police officers – much like we might in real life. What’s more, most of these parts are positions of power, and at least three of these characters are women of color. (A woefully underrepresented group on television, outside of a Shonda Rhimes drama.)
Most of this episode feels lines being drawn and troops being readied, with both the prosecution and defense receiving new legal counsels as they prepare to go to trial. With Bishop already digging up Danny’s body for an autopsy, it’s clear that the gloves have come off and things are about to get messier.
* With Eve Myles and Marianne Jean-Baptiste joining the cast, the show’s “Doctor Who”/ “Torchwood” alumni count goes up to four.
* David Tennant and Olivia Colman’s comedic timing has never been better. The duo’s friction as partners allows them to glide between drama and comedy quite seamlessly.
* I think we found the show’s unofficial tagline: “Nobody’s innocent. Everybody’s hiding something.”
* Where did Alec get that taxi? How will he get back? Does “Broadchurch” have Uber?
* Wouldn’t Lee have found Claire if he simply followed Hardy around for a day? Especially since he suspected she was in town.
* Wigs make everything better.
But what about you? What did you think of Broadchurch’s return? Do you need a hug? Drop a comment below!
Nivea Serrao is a staff writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.