Monday, 13 March 2017

TV Review: A solid Broadchurch narrows its focus and finds some potential

Contains spoilers.

Broadchurch is in a tricky place right now. On paper, things appear to be moving forward. New suspects are emerging, suspicious faces are growing more guilty and peripheral characters are beginning to find their stories for the series ahead. Yet, even with this in mind, it still feels as if Broadchurch is holding back on us this year - at least so far. After a solid and confident series premiere, the ITV drama has been content to just interview suspects and hop around between characters, only offering one or two notable scenes over the last two weeks.

Luckily, even when Broadchurch stalls its narrative, it remains a show so packed with stunning visuals and great performances that a dull hour still seems a long way away. This week, the guilty eye shifted over to Clive Lucas (Sebastian Armesto), the cabbie who took Trish (Julie Hesmondhalgh) to the party on the night of her assault. Of course, some other stories emerge too, and episode three does a better job than last week's instalment at integrating these subplots into the focal story without causing unnecessary distraction.

That isn't to say they feel necessary though, because as of now, they certainly don't. Mark Latimer's attempt to continue Danny's trial feels well intentioned but misjudged. I'm not fully sure what a better way to continue Danny's story would be, but hammering in on last series' horrendously mishandled trial plot is never a good idea. Tom Miller's new found porn addiction also isn't really clicking yet, but it seems as if it has a direction, so I'm willing to roll the dice with this one and see where it heads.

The majority of episode three is focused on the investigation, and it helps maintain a sense of focus. For the first real time this series, we feel just how daunting in scale Hardy and Miller's job is here. By taking us through a number of new faces the episode adds depth to the investigation while also forming a pathway, even if it still doesn't seem prepared to fully run down it yet. By this point in the show's first year I felt as if I'd lived in this community with these people for years, I felt the impact Danny's death had. This time around I know the faces, but there's little behind them beyond the structured enigma of every whodunnit series.

Luckily, Broadchurch corrects that issue with one suspect tonight - Clive Lucas. By focusing this week's episode on him, we finally get an understanding of who he is and what he could have been doing on the night Trish was raped. It deepens his character and advances the plot simultaneously, a balance that Broadchurch hasn't been striking particularly well so far this series. Armesto's performance is terrific here, he succeeds in finding something down to Earth about Clive during his interview, but when we gain more information later on courtesy of his rather unhappy wife, his final appearance in the episode feels like watching a whole new man.

Speaking of his interview, what a scene. Broadchurch has always been the kind of show that works best when there are fewer people in a room, when the conversations can be direct and focused and important. By withholding information from us and then only revealing it in the interview room, a simple piece of dialogue is transformed into an endless roller coaster of mini reveals and subtle character definitions.

It's the kind of scene that Broadchurch offered between every ad break back in 2013. We may only get one or two per episode now, but it just about makes each entry worthwhile. There still isn't quite enough here to chew on for me - this new supporting cast just aren't sticking and the actual crime is still too shrouded in mystery for that to be easily forgiven - but Broadchurch seems to be on its way to correcting this. If it stays moving in this direction, we could find that same greatness that the show forced on us back in year one.

  • Katie Harford feels like a character finally! Hooray! After calling for her to be fleshed out more last week, it was a delight to see her actually out on the case tonight. Her whiteboard of suspects was impressive too.
  • Miller's face when Hardy turned down food at the cafe was priceless. Olivia Colman may be a tour de force in the emotional department, but her comic timing is exquisite too.
  • After last weeks' visually lacking episode, we were once again treated to a mass of wide shots and scenic locations. Never lose them, Broadchurch. They're your saving grace in your weakest moments.
  • As well as the big sweeping shots, there was some stunningly intimate stuff on display tonight. Trish hiding under the windowsill while her husband is framed outside through the window above her was extraordinary.
  • You do need a rest, Hardy. Miller's right, she's always right, just listen to her.

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