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Broadchurch: The Fragility of Justice

ByKerry Gilsenan

Jan 27, 2015

Secrets continue to wash ashore as Broadchurch returns for a second instalment of crime-fighting dream team DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman). The shocks of Series One’s poignant finale ring throughout as a heartbroken community pursues justice for murdered local boy, Danny Latimer. But with recent reports of falling viewing figures, is Broadchurch sinking into the sand?

As the guilty Joe Miller (Matthew Gravelle) took to the courtroom, the show faced a storm of criticisms concerning the legal inaccuracies of his trial. To the judicial expert, glaring blunders may have distracted from a glowing review of a superbly acted drama; frustrations running high at the pointlessly clumsy proceedings. Emotional investment could also be tainted by the crumbling plausibility of the nitty-gritty.

Yet still the absorbing despair of a Detective Sergeant doomed to contemplate the murderous deeds of her own husband draws in the viewer. Embittered by the unprecedented ruin of her world, the once lovely Ellie must rebuild an ordinary life under the town’s cold scrutiny. The misery of old friends and neighbours mistakenly wraps her up in their abhorrence of Joe’s crimes.

The grief of Danny’s mother Beth (Jodie Whittaker) is equally shattering as she awaits the trial of her child’s killer with another baby on the way. Lingering disloyalty adds tension to her marriage as her husband Mark (Andrew Buchan) continues to make unexplained disappearances. Neither the Latimer family nor Danny’s body are left to lie with their tragedy echoing on into Series Two. Despite struggling to maintain its opening audience in the second run, the show’s sharp narrative and unforeseen twists hold promise. Series One taught that unquestionable innocence is an impossibly rare quality in the hearts of any of Broadchurch’s locals. Whatever expectations may be for the next few weeks, the show will undoubtedly keep its audience guessing until the final monstrous turn.

Three episodes in, Joe Miller’s reluctance to go down without a fight leaves the viewer in shreds. Slow beginnings to the series, and expectations of a case closed have been annihilated by a complex criminal trial process. Could facts be overlooked by accusations of police brutality, and can the schemes of defence barristers Sharon Bishop (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) and Abby Thompson (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) relieve a guilty man of his judicial sentence?

Broadchurch shakes one’s faith in the justice of a legal system that obsesses in pure, out-of-context facts that can be bent or bur ied at the will of the defence. The decision of Judge Sonia Sharma (Meera Syal) to discount the confession that changed everything in the Series One finale, due to the fury of a grieving wife, fails to consider the humanity of the police force.

The legal inadequacies of the programme, although tolerable, undermine Broadchurch’s portrayal of an accurate criminal trial. Nevertheless, viewers tune in to tune out of their pedantic inner monologues, and await impatiently for justice to be done.

And what of Reverend Paul Coats (Arthur Darvill) and his visitation of Joe in custody? Struggling to keep his tightly bound parish afloat, the Reverend provides a welcome ear to both murderer and mother of the victim. His shady persona, once-scrutinised in Series One’s initial murder investigation, suggests more than a shepherd tending to his flock, and playing friend to all may leave him respected by none.

Each episode continues to be shrouded in mystery as DI Hardy’s past case, the infamous Sandbrook, returns to Broadchurch along with Claire (Eve Myles) and her husband, murder suspect Lee Ashworth (James D’Arcy).

Creator Chris Chibnall has thus far has not muddied its original brilliance. One can only hope that the audience is revived, and that the second series receives the justice of a good review. With two murder cases yet to be closed, the viewers’ dealings with Dorset’s coves are far from through. What the show lacks in fine-tuning, it continues to deliver in earth-shattering calamities as authenticity  is abandoned for the shock of the fall.

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