Ellie Miller has been the heart of Broadchurch for us since the show started. That’s what made the first-season reveal so devastating. This warm, smart, strong detective who was hands-down our favorite character (especially when compared to cranky Detective Hardy) was absolutely gutted at the end, when she finds out that her husband is the killer, and she, a detective, didn’t know what was going on in her own house. The horror of this ending was saved by the magnificence of Olivia Colman’s performance: lashing out at her husband, going away with her boys, and fumbling toward some sort of friendship with Detective Hardy (David Tennant).

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Now at the start of season two, Ellie Miller is the most desolate victim we have, only behind Danny’s parents. She has lost her home, her family, her job, nearly everything that tethers her to this earth, except for baby Fred. Now she even gets turned down for a drink by the forensics guy, and her light attempt at polite chit-chat with Jocelyn (“How long’ve you been here?”) is greeted by silence.

Maybe that’s why the horrible development in this episode is so additionally devastating. I see how the bruises that Ellie inflicted on Joe caused a major problem. But I really don’t see the reason for such a nasty, pointless lecture by Jocelyn: “You have jeopardized my best chance for success, before we even got going.” Ellie’s attack leads to Joe’s confession getting tossed, which is unconscionable; and Joe’s assertion that he’s coming home soon appears to be a remote, horrifying possibility.

Maybe I have watched way too many episodes of The Good Wife (entirely possible!) but I think I am much too American to deal with these lame British courts. Where’s the “The witness is not on trial here!” outbursts? How about a few “Relevance, you honor”s? related to the Latimers’ marriage? What does that have to do with Joe Miller? “What’s that got to do with anything?” Beth rightly asks. “What’s going on? Who’s on trial here?” Right after the judge just said they don’t need to compound the family’s suffering!

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Beth is angry, of course; she’s even lost her mother in the wake of all this. And there really isn’t anyone around that she can take it out on, but poor Ellie. Unfortunately, this leads to the latest in a lengthening line of bad judgments by Alec Hardy, setting up the meeting between Claire and Ashworth. It’s maddening, and predictable, but it does nicely set up the Sandbrook mystery for the rest of season. Where is Claire? If Ashcroft is innocent, why did he take her? And what will Hardy’s many tape recordings tell us next week?

There were never many moments of levity in Broadchurch’s first season, but we as viewers were fueled by the desire to find Danny’s murderer. We were compelled by the mysteries of the town, the appealing yet suffering characters, our desire to see Hardy and Miller crack the case.

Broadchurch season two unfortunately extends this suffering. Just like the residents of Broadchurch themselves, our relief at finding Danny’s killer has been replaced by the fear that he may go free. We see a detective who literally made himself ill due to the derailing of a similar case, about to see it all happen again, and a perfectly nice, decent detective destroyed by the case. It makes for compelling watching, but it’s also, at this point, a bit depressing. Broadchurch dragged us along week by week with a few valuable revelations and pieces of evidence, but what could possibly happen here, with this court case? And are we invested enough in the Sandbrook case to care about what happens there? Not really. But through it all, Broadchurch remains difficult to walk away from, more due to the charisma of Tennant and Colman than anything else.

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Jocelyn tells the Broadchurchers: “Never lie.” Although Beth says that none of them have anything left to hide, the ominous glances around them would suggest that this is not true. But maybe they just feel guilty: This week, Mark says what happened to Danny is his fault, just like Ellie did last week, If there is any abiding, uplifting message from Broadchurch, it’s that in our own little communities, we have an irrevocable effect on the people we know. Mark fights with Danny, which leads Danny to befriend Joe, Danny gets killed. Ellie is clueless about what goes on in her own home, Joe befriends Danny, Danny gets killed. Neither Mark nor Ellie is the actual killer, so neither is technically guilty. But they both feel spiritually so, as for good or ill, everything we do somehow affects someone else. We can stay isolated from people so that this doesn’t happen, but then we have an existence as tomblike as Claire’s. It’s no kind of life, so like Ellie, like all of us, we acknowledge our mistakes, and try to put something right.

Stray observations:

  • Mark, even Tom knows what you’re doing is creepy, which is why he asks if “Mrs. Latimer” knows what you’re up to. And as Mark gets closer to Tom, it appears, he moves farther away from his pregnant wife. He can’t take her out for one night?
  • This Week’s Random Speculation: The body of the older Sandbrook girl was never found? Too suspicious to be an insignificant detail: This week I’m suggesting that she was the Sandbrook killer. Next week, will probably be a whole different story.
  • Random Speculation #2: I predict a Beth and Paul fling that would really stick it to Mark and Becca.
  • I love how much Hardy is still concerned about Miller: “What have you eaten today?” “A Kit-Kat and a Scotch egg.”
  • Beautiful shot of Hardy and Ashworth meeting up under the clouds.
  • Bishop’s really nasty, isn’t she? Exhuming the body for no good reason except to unnerve everyone. “The second autopsy provided no new information.” I fervently hope she will soon be taken down a peg or two.
  • I appreciated the bonding talk between Ellie and Claire, whose lives have both been changed irrevocably by the horrid husbands in their lives: “Look what these men have done to us.”
  • Why wouldn’t Mark and Beth at least ask Jocelyn on the phone first about counseling the witnesses?
  • So Jocelyn’s eyesight is failing: Is that why she didn’t want to take the case at first?
  • Becca, I know you are an innkeeper and they’re your customers, but I still think you’re being way too generous with the evil defense team.
  • “Miller, I could kiss you”? Ellie looked extremely taken aback. I could see where the show would want to steer these two completely alone people toward each other romantically, but I really hope it doesn’t happen.

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