The question “What do you do for an encore?” appeared particularly daunting for “Broadchurch,” the U.K. series that traced a single murder to a clearly resolved (and what many deemed shattering) climax. Yet writer-producer Chris Chibnall has met the challenge and then some, not so much returning to the scene of the crime as reloading, continuing to follow the first season’s aftermath while introducing a new storyline alongside it. By that measure, it’s perhaps a more delicate operation than the original, but after Fox’s “Gracepoint” unsuccessfully tried to replicate the concept, fans will surely relish another plunge into “Broadchurch’s” seaside environs.
Anyone still contemplating starting with season one should read no further. But as it turns out, solving the murder of 11-year-old Danny Latimer — which led back to the doorstep of local cop Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) — hasn’t completely ended the community’s nightmare.
That’s because Ellie’s husband (Matthew Gravelle), who confessed for unsettling reasons, unexpectedly enters a “not guilty” plea. So that part of the story turns to the courtroom and battling barristers, putting a veteran but semi-retired prosecutor (Charlotte Rampling) up against a former protege (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), who quickly seeks to unravel the case by impugning the reputations of Ellie and her partner, Alec Hardy (David Tennant, mercifully divorced, after his U.S. detour, from his American accent).
Yet that’s only half the story, as one of Hardy’s old investigations also pops up to haunt him, involving the disappearance of two girls, age 19 and 12. Happily, in terms of the addition of talent, the mystery focuses on the neighbor (James D’Arcy, unrecognizable from his work in “Marvel’s Agent Carter”) who was Hardy’s primary suspect at the time, and said neighbor’s wife (“Torchwood’s” Eve Myles), whom Hardy has pledged to protect.
Initially, anyway, Chibnall does a fine job of juggling these two plots, while incorporating elements like the pain of Danny’s parents (Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan), Ellie’s attempts to get on with her life, and the memories revisited by the trial. Indeed, the writer has essentially kept just enough from the first season to get away with still calling this “Broadchurch” while morphing it into what almost feels like an entirely different show.
There’s risk in that, but it’s diminished considerably by the actors who have come aboard, and the fact that while most shows in this genre end when the handcuffs are slapped on, in reality the drama continues for the family and others connected to such a sensational murder.
In the interest of disclosure, this comes from one of the few critics who wasn’t completely over-the-moon appraising “Broadchurch,” feeling the haunted detective and identity of the killer were both cliched enough to slightly undercut its many admirable qualities.
“Broadchurch” has already concluded in the U.K. — triggering much debate about its merits — and a third season is in the works. Not every show is built to last, and this one hardly appeared like an ideal candidate for multiple visits. Midway through season two, however, those who knelt in admiration the first time have little reason as yet to question their faith.