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Broadchurch: “Season Two, Episode Three”

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When we started Broadchurch season two, a ruined Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) had already had everything taken from her: home, husband, son, job, town. Last episode, she learned that her (wholly understandable) rage against her husband after his arrest for a child murder might possibly lead to him going free. This episode, the one remaining relationship she has in her life—with her former partner D.I. Hardy (David Tennant)—is dragged through the mud in court and accused of being an affair.


The tragedy of Hardy and Miller’s relationship getting called up on the stand is how it turns the most positive relationship in both of their lives into something painful. At this point, they’re all each other have. I’ve said (and probably will continue to say) that the relationship between the two ex-partners is the greatest thing on this show, and is reason alone enough to watch. But never so much as when Hardy squirms in his seat as Ellie tries to explain their relationship on the stand. He clearly is in agony, knowing that his relationship with Miller is now the cause of even more hurt for her. How excruciating that is to watch is a testament to how completely committed Colman and Tennant are to these roles.

Ellie can’t even get a break on her one night out. At first, things look promising for an evening with Claire at the bar, mixed with a little snooping, until drunken antics and menfolk get involved. Then Ellie is having the worst sex of her life with an almost-stranger on top of her, and—did I hear this right?—she wants him to say that he loves her? Because she just needs to hear it from someone?

Broadchurch, it’s too much. This is the one character we unequivocally like, and there’s a limit to how much pain we can see her in.

I don’t know how you get to say such fucked-up things in British court (must be the wigs) without any evidence. Why does this lack of logic work for the defense, and not for the prosecution, when they pull out such outlandish speculations about Joe’s confession? Somehow it’s conceivable that Joe’s computer could have been used by other family members, but not that Ellie and Hardy were only talking for two hours in a hotel room after this horrible thing had literally just happened to her. That is one suspicious court.


I suppose it’s to Marianne Jean-Baptiste’s credit that I already despise her character so much, but I really despise her. I don’t care if she’s got a kid in prison or not. Her determination to put a child predator and murderer back on the streets eliminates any goodwill she might garner, which isn’t much to begin with.

Opposing counsel Jocelyn was supposed to be such a legal dynamo that several characters tried to lure her out of retirement to take this case, but there has been no evidence of this fortitude. Maybe she hasn’t really been bringing it to court because she’s too worried about her eyesight and getting everything transferred to audio files. But isn’t the prosecution supposed to go first? Shouldn’t this be her time to shine, before the defense? I am only a person who watches law shows on TV and I have no shortage of complaints with the way these proceedings are going, especially for Ellie.


Maybe all of these hardships are forced on Ellie to reinforce what an amazing person she is. After all, after Claire and Lee get away and she throws her car keys at Hardy (the episode did kick off in a exciting and engrossing fashion), she immediately focuses on Beth and her rapidly approaching baby. When all Beth wants to do is get away from Ellie, Agent Miller replies, “Tough shit,” and refuses to leave until Beth and the baby are safe, since asshole Mark is no doubt off with Tom again. Hey Mark, sure you’re exploring whatever weird feelings you have for your lost son’s best friend, or your son’s murderer’s son, or whatever you want to call him. But when your wife is super-pregnant: You pick up the frickin’ phone.

The Broadchurch baby turns out to be an absolutely beautiful girl, who actually looks appropriately newborn size. I don’t know much about home births, but isn’t there usually a midwife? Doesn’t a doctor at least stop by to check the baby out? Should you really take the baby to court right after? Fortunately for the Latimers, all goes well, and Mark has a nice tear-inducing scene when he promises the baby how they’ll always keep her safe: all those promises that are so easy to make to babies and just get harder as kids get older. Ellie also gets a thoughtful scene with Chloe, who wants to know how she lives with all of this: “What choice do I have?” Ellie the survivor responds.


But even after Ellie helps Beth, the new mother orders her out, effectively harming not one but two characters for us. Not only is it exhausting watching Ellie get relentlessly emotionally pummeled, but Beth’s persecution of her is making us turn against another character we used to actually like. Jodie Whittaker completely sold the role of the grieving mother last year; now Beth is a relentless harpy, lashing out at Ellie because there’s no one else around to attack. Sure, Ellie didn’t know what was going on, but Beth didn’t know her son was sneaking out of the house, either. And now she’s the one who has no idea what her husband’s up to.

On to more intriguing topics: The Sandbrook case is fortunately heating up. James D’Arcy’s Ashworth is so repugnant (let’s face it, he looks nothing but shady, magically appearing on the tops of hills and outside Hardy’s window), it’s actually stunning this episode when Hardy says Claire is also a suspect. After all, if the girl’s pendant was found in their car, either of them could be at fault. And if Ashworth is guilty, why would he go around collecting all this evidence for a crime he’s already been found not guilty of?


The way Eve Myles portrays Claire is masterful: She started as a bonafide victim, but only a few episodes in, Broadchurch has opened some windows of doubt. Her look at Hardy while she was kissing her husband was twisted (although Hardy’s bark at her afterward was pretty funny). The bluebell is the perfect mysterious clue: If it doesn’t come from Lee, then who? And why would she keep it?

I almost wish this season was only focused on Sandbrook, because all of the emotional baggage related to Joe’s trial is a lot to bear. Broadchurch’s third season has already been announced, so maybe by then we’ll have moved on to less painful criminal cases. Or Joe Miller’s appeal. Until then, though, we need something to break for our side, because it’s been nothing but a losing battle so far.


Stray observations:

  • Ollie’s unsubtle double-take at Lee will undoubtedly mean something later.
  • Mark’s rude dismissal of Paul’s teeny sign-of-the-cross: “God’s not in this house.”
  • This week’s random speculation: Claire looks way too guilty this week. Maybe the elder cousin escaped somehow but sent Claire the bluebell as a reminder? (I not only watch too many legal dramas, I also watch a lot of detective shows. Columbo for life.)

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