But before we get to this week’s episode, I think we need to revisit the debate about last week’s. The Daily Mail and The Guardian – both with a particular audience to keep happy, and apparently limitless online space in which to do it – have devoted plenty of column inches to the vexed question of whether Broadchurch is implausible and factually inaccurate, and whether it matters if it is. This culminated in Mark Lawson adopting a magisterial nothing-to-see-here tone and piling in. (As a general rule, when Mark Lawson writes about television I’m quite happy to be on the other side of the argument.)
To be clear about it, though, the issue isn’t just that Broadchurch is implausible. I like implausible TV and (as should be clear) watch lots of it. And I’ve always presumed that medical professionals, for example, roll their eyes when watching hospital dramas. As I’ve said on here a million times, though, shows can be stupid, clever, or somewhere in between, but they need to keep faith with their audience. Once that stops happening, they’re on an inevitable decline. If you watched the first season of this show because of its sober exploration of the effect of profound grief on a small, tight-knit community, you’re less likely to be impressed, I would guess – and the tumbling ratings would seem to confirm – by David Tennant charging about the countryside hiding witnesses. (Tennant, incidentally, seems to have forgotten how to act, or perhaps it’s the script.)
So the problem is twofold: firstly, that Broadchurch is way past that stage: it has been staring at Implausible in its rear-view mirror for a while now, and is rapidly moving through the outer suburbs of Just Plain Stupid. And, secondly, that it’s simultaneously using season 2 to review the unlikely events of season 1 (a point missed by Lawson), while allowing its characters to continue to behave how the hell they like. I predicted that, in due course, either season 3 would offer a reasoned critique of where the characters went wrong in season 2, or the show would start to consume itself.
And the latter point was reached rather sooner than I expected, when a local policeman is the recipient of accurate allegations that a senior detective (and one who, let’s not forget, has already been the subject of public derision for his handling of the very case in question) has imprisoned, illegally recorded, and attacked Lee, the suspect in the Sandbrook case. How do you deal with that? Well, obviously you march the detective, Hardy, into a field where Lee is battering something or other with a sledgehammer, and make Hardy apologise. And that’ll be an end to it. Next week: Local Plod is investigated for his inappropriate handling of a serious complaint? Who knows?
All of which would be forgiveable if the show had any sort of dramatic momentum. In truth, though, it doesn’t any more. The big Sandbrook development this week is the identification of some other suspects, including Claire. Even this, though, doesn’t make sense: if Hardy was actually keeping an eye on her, rather than protecting her, what’s to stop her just running away? And in the Latimer case, we’re back in the Wessex courtroom with its idiosyncratic rules of evidence, and the possibility that Joe’s not the killer. (Although, once again, I have to ask: if he’s taking the rap for someone else, why plead not guilty?) There’s a bit of Secret Pain news as well: Jocelyn’s elderly mother (?) is in care which she can’t afford to pay for, and Sharon’s son is in jail himself. I can’t help thinking that there’s more to come from both Pains. Did Sharon, for example, defend her son in court? Honestly, I wouldn’t put anything past this show at this stage.
The scenes with Olivia Colman and Eve Myles, once again, were good. But that’s about it. Plausibility and accuracy are the least of Broadchurch’s worries at the moment.