THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Broadchurch Series 3 returned for its second episode last night – and the list of suspects is growing.
The action picks up shortly after the events of Episode 1 and the investigation into Trish’s sexual assault is ongoing. The premiere firmly set the scene for the case, so now it’s time for Hardy and Miller to get to work and find the culprit. This second episode, then, is essentially a whistle-stop tour of potential perpetrators from the local area. If you’re building a list of names to keep your eye on, prepare for it to grow considerably.
Every person that Hardy and Miller talk to seems to have a possible link to the attack. We’ve already seen that Jim Atwood (Mark Bazeley) has some dodgy secrets and he’s no less suspicious here. There’s also shifty taxi driver Clive Lucas (Sebastian Armesto), warehouse owner Leo Humphries (Chris Mason), as well as Trish’s ex-husband Ian Winterman (Charlie Higson). But, for every moment you’re sure they did it, they also have a credible alibi or seem to emit some innocence. It’s a teasing, almost agonising showcase of suspects that could be in the frame. Yet at this early stage, we’re almost inclined to think that everything is a red herring. With at least 50 men from the party to investigate, it looks like the search is far from over yet.
Something Old, Something New
Beyond the investigation, it’s also nice to see this second episode spending more time with some more familiar faces. If there’s one criticism of Series 3 so far, it’s that the new case is overshadowing the wider Broadchurch world. Excluding a couple of brief scenes, last week’s opener was all but devoid of the original supporting cast. Thankfully, they’re slowly – if still not entirely – pushed further to the forefront here.
While her link to the new case is somewhat tenuous at best, Beth Latimer (Jodie Whittaker) is just as much a scene-stealer as ever and it’s great to have her back in a prominent role. Meanwhile, her husband Mark (Andrew Buchan) is struggling with their separation. Elsewhere, editor Maggie (Carolyn Pickles) faces the closure of her local paper and Reverend Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill) feels unfulfilled in his empty church. There’s a sense that Broadchurch as we know it is falling apart, and it’ll be interesting to see how it all ties in with the main investigation. It’s also good (if unnerving) to see that Joe Miller’s impact still subtly looms large on the town. We could be in for some dramatic twists yet – he is walking free, after all…
However, not everything is completely perfect. Hardy says early on in the episode that “sexual offences never get the same resources as murder”. In a way, that encompasses a lot about this third series of Broadchurch. By so clearly backpedaling to recreate the magic of the original, Series 3 can’t help but come off feeling slightly lesser. The ‘whodunnit?’ formula does work best for the show, no doubt about it, but we can’t shake the feeling we’re just going through the motions at this point. We know we won’t find out the truth until the finale, so we know a lot of surprises this early on are just there to trick us. The decreased focus on the original Broadchurch cast only magnifies this issue as it feels like we’re starting from scratch. For all its faults, at least Series 2 directly built on and continued the story of the Broadchurch residents at its heart.
That’s not to say that Series 3 is forever doomed to live in Series 1’s shadow – it just hasn’t managed to catch up with it yet. There is still every chance that it might even surpass it, but it could do with a spanner in the works to shake up the tried-and-tested formula. As it stands, while the outcome remains uncertain, the journey itself isn’t straying far from the established norms. But, being in its third series, Broadchurch has one potential ace up its sleeve. Surely, the old and new narratives will eventually collide on a greater scale than they already have – and when it does, we expect it to be explosive.
We’re a quarter of the way into this final chapter now, and we’re still none the wiser about the culprit. There are so many suspects to consider and so much more still to learn. Frankly, it could be anyone. All we know at the moment is: trust nothing. Not even Trish. She’s just as heartfelt and fragile as she was before, but even she’s hiding something. The episode ends with a montage of the new suspects – including Ed Burnett (Lenny Henry), who we discover is the father of DC Katie Harford (Georgina Campbell) – and one final, chilling scene. Right on cue for a cliffhanger, Trish receives a threatening text from an unknown number. Is it a stranger? Is it someone she knows? Only one thing’s for certain: we can’t wait to see what happens next…