Is it possible to love a show just for one single performer? Usually, in these instances, the star player is supported by a powerhouse background—James Gandolfini in The Sopranos, Jon Hamm in Mad Men—that the lead character is indicative, but not isolated in their excellence.
I guess that’s why I have such a hard time explaining why Olivia Colman is currently my favorite part of Broadchurch, a show I like a lot. In director Jonathan Teplitzky’s second episode, the artistic integrity remains intact (some of these shots are indeed set up like still-life paintings; the camera angles go beyond inventive). And with only two episodes to go after this one, some valuable revelations are finally uncovered (well, one major revelation related to the Sandbrook case, but we’ll take it). All well and good. It’s not the A series it was last season, but still a solid B overall. And yet I would watch it into oblivion even if they only gave Olivia Colman one scene per week.
Fortunately, she has several such scenes, but this is the second week in a row she has reduced me to tears within moments. Unsurprisingly, both of these scenes involve her older son Tom. Last episode, remember how strong she was when she spoke with him, but still wanted to give him his space, and then crumbled as soon as he left the room?
This episode, she has had it. In Colman’s portrayal of Ellie Miller, while the detective is caring and compassionate (check out her warm and careful interrogation of Cate Gillespie in her living room: Who wouldn’t tell her everything she wanted to know?), she’s also strong. This is even after we have seen her emotionally battered ever since last season’s finale (if that was a suspense tactic, then well played, show). This week Ellie finally, finally, loses it on Tom after he perjures himself on the stand trying to save his waste of a father. Ellie demands that he cut out the bullshit and come home with her. Then she immediately gives him a project: to paint over her old room, signifying a new life for the Miller family. It’s majestic, and astonishing, and one of the main reasons I am still a Broadchurch fan. Even stubborn Tom can’t do anything but acquiesce.
Those technical aspects I mentioned offer more reasons to watch. Teplitzky pares down his art-film side this episode but still crafts so many wonderful shots: The overhead view of Mark and Beth’s hug at the courthouse, as the sound of ominous steps come closer; Hardy and his ex-wife at odds in the cafe, as every shot is taken from the opposite viewpoint, then on a sunnier, more equal footing after his surgery; Claire as a terrifying solitary black figure in a green field; the way every shot is set up during montages, like Lee standing in front of his tiny stone shelter at sunset.
Sharon Bishop’s horrific suggestion that the trial be tossed is a tedious, unnecessary hiccup in the Broadchurch case’s plodding path. (Yes, I know it’s her job to defend a child murderer by trying to throw the blame on an innocent father, but it’s a job she chose. She could just dig ditches or something.) The only interesting thing about it is the stylistic way it matches up with Hardy on the surgery table, where both he and the case appear to die momentarily. (Does this mean Hardy is one with the case? Discuss.) Fortunately, it has a satisfactory resolution. Mark’s testimony, unfortunately, has a devastating one, and we get to remember why we loved Jodie Whittaker so much last season as she screams her head off in the stairwell (comforted by Miller, of course).
Claire also has an epic meltdown, in her kitchen (who do you think is going to clean up all that cereal, Claire?) after she is dumped by Hardy. I’m not sure how she went from hiding-out afraid of Lee to house-hunting with him. And their crazy sex scenes (slapping! choking!) are so twisted as to be really uncomfortable. But I still suspect there’s more going on with these two than meets the eye: When she asks what they’re going to do, it appears that she’s referring to a conspiracy between the two. And the revelation that ends the episode—that Claire stole the necklace from Hardy’s wife’s car—is most certainly a game-changer.
As Broadchurch does, it tempers these revelations with small chips and chinks in the main story, as when Ellie, who we know to be a good detective, says she suspects that Claire’s been playing them all along. But if Claire is dumb enough to get her picture taken wearing a murdered girl’s necklace, she’s dumb enough to have left something else behind. As Hardy recovers, I am relying on my favorite detective since Columbo to find it within the next two episodes.
- In Hardy’s crazy portrait hallucinations of the Sandbrook players, Lisa is crying.
- Joe looks anguished over Tom’s testimony that he hung out with Mark in the trailer. That’s a bit rich coming from you, Joe.
- Also, saving many people while working as a paramedic does not give you a free pass from murdering someone. Even Paul the Priest is like, “That’s not how that works.”
- Anyone else cheer when Hardy said, “This isn’t working, Claire, I need you to move on”?
- Hey, anyone who knows British law: Why are the wigs on sometimes and off sometimes? What’s the rule there?
- Becca is the absolute worst: Last week she won’t listen to her priest boyfriend’s work problems; this week she invades Mark’s testimony, causing additional anguish to Mark and his wife, because “I want to know what’s being said about me.” It’s not all about you Becca!
- This week’s suspect speculation: Claire Claire Claire Claire Claire Claire Claire Claire Claire Claire Claire Claire Claire Claire
- Ollie and Abby = gross. And Ollie’s such an incompetent reporter that he leaves information around that his snoopy hookup can look up. Any guesses on the “juicy” item she found?
- That hairstyle didn’t even take!