06 January 2015

TV: Broadchurch 2.1 (Newsom)

review by Tom Newsom (Twitter | Flickr | Blog)

It’s back! The every-award winning 2013 drama returns to ITV - under complete secrecy, as it happens. The channel decided to give as few details away as possible before the series started, instead wanting to keep the plot totally secret until viewers watched it for themselves - which in the days of countless trailers and RadioTimes.com is only to be applauded.

So I don’t want to spoil the amazing feeling of sitting down to watch something - a sequel! - and having no idea where it’s heading or how they’re continuing it. (If you haven’t watched it yet, then do so!) There was plenty of speculation at the time as to what the second series would be like. Surely not another murder? Well, no and yes, as it happens. When I heard that a lot of the same actors were appearing again, I was sceptical - would this be featuring yet another earth-shattering event to hit the town, cheapening the first? Well, again, yes and no.

I wouldn’t say it cheapens the first series, it extends it into a bigger story. Chris Chibnall confounds the critics by simply writing a direct sequel - what happens next in the realistic thriller, after the murderer’s been caught? They have to prove it. And some of the frankly stunning new cast names (Charlotte Rampling!) are playing lawyers, splendid. And then Broadchurch - and David Tennant’s character Alec Hardy - unearth their secrets yet again, revisiting old ground. As set-ups go, this one was unveiled perfectly, slowly drawing us back in over its running length - if somebody was to write a preview of it to entice viewers to watch it, they’d probably spoil the entire plot, so I’m glad they didn’t. And whilst there’s no murder in sight straight away (though I’d keep an eye on those bluebells), it’s absolutely the same show everybody flocked to back in 2013, even having the same director, writer, actors, location.

By keeping it exactly the same style of show, it feels even more natural a continuation - once the characters came back onto the screen, it seemed like they hadn’t been away. But it’s not just that - now series two is upon us, I’ve realised the two key ingredients to what makes Broadchurch the show it is, rather than the exceptional writing or the setting or, especially, a whodunit.

The first is that it’s edited like a music video at times, unlike almost any other mainstream drama. There’s barely any dialogue in some scenes. Instead there’s shots of people glowering at each other mysteriously, close-ups of details in the landscape, and music blaring at full volume. But what music! Olafur Arnalds’s moody soundtrack was praised in the last series, and shows up prominently again in this one. And really it makes the show and creates a lot of the atmosphere. It reaches a crescendo at every advert break every ten minutes, or sometimes after every scene. And why not? Other slow dramas have people boiling kettles or jogging in near silence, in a bid to make it seem more realistic. This one wants to make you feel.

And the second is, naturally, Olivia Colman - or rather, Olivia Colman’s character Ellie and her use of language. She swears. Her attitude in life involves swearing. When her and David Tennant’s characters are reunited in this episode, it becomes something else: funnier, for starters. Later, she tells him “your plan is shit” and “you’re a wanker”. And in a way she’s right, and we love her for it. And she’s so un-ITV. Ellie’s almost been our eyes and ears through the investigation of the first series, we’ve been through her journey too, which will make it all the more rewarding to see how she copes now.

The first series was all about seeing how one small town dealt with the murder investigation of one of its residents, with our suspicions lying on all of them at some point during it. The main focus was realism, something that is strongly in focus here. Gone is the grief, replaced in the parents by regret and anger and bitterness.

Not that you’ll regret watching this, I might add, it’s glorious. If the series keeps this up, it’ll be among the top dramas of the year - again. I was slightly surprised that, in showing the identity of the murderer again, this episode would literally spoil the whodunit of the first series. But then as the characters themselves say, everybody has heard of the story of the ‘boy on the beach’. Everybody saw the first series. And now everybody needs to see this.

many thanks to
Tom Newsom (Twitter | Flickr | Blog)

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