‘Broadchurch’ Finale Exposes Challenge Season 2 Presented (SPOILERS)

Broadchurch Season Finale TV Review
Courtesy of ITV/Kudos

After a lukewarm critical reception in the U.K., “Broadchurch” has finished its second season, with a third already in the planning stages. Yet the griping about the just-concluded arc would seem to say more about the limitations of extending this sort of concept than the execution itself.

The BBC America show’s considerable popularity in the U.K. especially, coupled with a rapturous critical response, made a second season an inevitability. The problem was that the story had come to something approaching a logical and satisfying conclusion, with a solution to the central mystery in the case of who had killed a young boy, triggering shock waves across the small town in which he lived.

Season two sought to address that challenge by extending the first story – through a bitter trial of the killer, which reopened still-fresh wounds – and introducing a second plot, with the tormented inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant) revisiting an old unsolved case in which he was convinced the perpetrator had gone free.

The series certainly loaded up in terms of casting this time around, with Charlotte Rampling and Marianne Jean-Baptiste as the dueling barristers in the court case – the former her rival’s mentor – while James D’Arcy and Eve Myles played the central couple in the long-simmering murder mystery, which involved the disappearance of two young girls.

As with the first “Broadchurch,” however, the resolution – emotionally shattering as it was in laying the crime on the doorstep of one of the detectives, Ellie Miller (the brilliant Olivia Colman) – felt secondary to the journey and the various red herrings sprinkled along the way. As for the trial, much of the kick for an American audience came from differences in the rules of evidence and judicial discretion in reaching a verdict, while the outcome (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched) proved sobering but somewhat anticlimactic.

Ultimately, the boy’s killer, Joe Miller (Matthew Gravelle), walked free, but not without consequences, as the town essentially orchestrated an old-fashioned banishing. And if that didn’t bring closure to the boy’s devastated family, it at least spared them from the constant reminder of this miscarriage of justice – or worse, doing something to settle accounts and seek justice on their own that only would have escalated the tragedy.

Taking a (pardon the expression) broader view, “Broadchurch’s” second season underscores the challenge that goes with producing limited series that tell self-contained stories and, in success, introduces the daunting question of how to then keep the franchise alive. In this case, creator Chris Chibnall chose to try splitting the difference between starting over (a la the second seasons of “True Detective” and “Fargo”) and concocting new wrinkles to keep the existing cast together, even if it would have been just as logical for Hardy and Miller (or as he called her, “Miiiiiiiill-er!”) to simply go their separate ways.

In the final analysis, there was still enough to recommend season two to make it enjoyable and worthwhile – certainly compared with the ill-advised U.S. version, “Gracepoint,” which aired between these seasons – although watching it has also somewhat dampened enthusiasm for a third installment. With the benefit of hindsight, the second-guessing that surrounded this second iteration perhaps highlights just how hard it is to thread the needle between returning to “Broadchurch,” the place and those who inhabit it, as opposed to just “Broadchurch” the state of mind.

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  1. Laura Becker says:

    I thought it was brilliant! They tied up one main new plot, but left 2 open for further exploration, such as Knight and Bishop teaming up to help Bishop’s son and the plot/mystery of the first season is the one that will probably be ongoing and interwoven till the end of the series, as I myself am still suspicious of Mark, Nigel, and Paul and am not convinced that it was Joe or that Joe will be safe elsewhere. It’s a nuanced crime drama that works, because of the locations (the cinematography is so fantastic) and the way it goes about examining people’s lives and how they can change their minds or emotions towards each other.

    I think most likely there will be something, some new crime, or new piece of evidence that brings Miller and Hardy together again and that will be the interesting thing…to see what it is that makes everything in this show inextricable!

    • Hola_1 says:

      Thought the photography was the best part of this. The pacing and writing though were very “off “. To be frank, I recorded and fast -forwarded this from around half way in as I had no interest in the Sandybrook mystery or the Hardy storyline but did like seeing the bits in court and thought Charlotte Rampling along with Olivia Colman was the pick of the acting. The landscape and photography though were the stars which says something about the fact the whole thing never held together as a drama. No interest in season three – they should have ended at season one but it seems these days, producers, actors and networks need to bleed out the creativity of anything to make more money or get a bigger profile.

      • Laura Becker says:

        Well I feel that the concept of Broad–Chucrh is about a broad spectrum of opinions, perspectives, and judgements that can be placed when we look closer at anyone’s life.

        The first season I think was not just about the murder of Dany, but more over in respect to the two leads, a stranger comes to town and turns life upside down, especially for A. Miller. Season two was then stitched a threw line (that seemingly will go into season 3 and perhaps is the end game of the series) from unresolved season one, but then brought the baggage of Hardy (unresolved murders/his own personal life) onto Miller and had the Sandybrook murders personify and juxtaposed the Miller and Latimer conflict, which then was also segwayed through another juxtaposition of an opposing chess match (black and white characters with a mentor past with surnames Bishop and Knight–which also play to the concept of “faith” and “justice” and “games”) that also played to life cycles—which also connected to the idea that people change, but more over in some cases, be “revived”—and it’s the revival of Hardy that pushes through one unresolved case, which may not of happened if he never met A. Miller and came to Broadchurch….

  2. Hannah says:

    A complete mess – pointless sequel which never needed making.

  3. Fenwickspeaks says:

    Colman and scenery great, everything else grated. Can’t recall such a marked drop in quality between seasons of one show.

  4. Terri_H says:

    A very underwhelming finale for a thoroughly disappointing season 2. As in the first season, Olivia Coleman was captivating and believable but alone in season 2 in bringing genuine emotion to her part. The other actors appeared disengaged and delivered mostly cliched and tired performances, not helped of course by a confusing story arc stretched beyond endurance, lazy writing and poor characterization. Sadly this has diluted the pleasure of the first season and season three will certainly not be stopping by in this household, notwithstanding the wonderful Ellie Miller’s return. An excellent example of why more is often less.

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